Tracey Feltham from Core Psychology is a Clinical Psychologist.
Listen to Tracey’s podcast interview here
Many health professionals start out being employees in their own business. Tracey tells her story of how she went from working 3 jobs as she started her own clinic to now running a successful Practice with multiple clinicians and they also have a Practice Manager who keeps them all in line!
When asked what she would say to some one thinking of starting their own business:
“Find some one to support you”
“Do your home work for a really long time before they even made their first move”
Would she swap what she has now: “No … ” listen to Tracey’s interview to find out what she enjoys most about owning her own business OR you can read the entire transcript below.
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You can read the entire transcript of Tracey’s interview here:
Ingrid: Hi Tracey, and thanks so much for being available today. It’s going to be great to talk to you about your business start-up. And here we are in Tracey’s home and we might hear a dog bark or a bird tweeting because Tracey gets to spend a couple of days a week working from home. Welcome Tracey.
Tracey: Thank you Ingrid. Nice to be here.
Ingrid: Thank you. So the first question, why did you start your own business?
Tracey: As a psychologist I’ve been working in the Department of Health for nearly 10 years and then I went to a managerial role and lost sight of why I’d become a psychologist, the clinical work. I knew that I needed to get out of that environment, that organisation. So at that time, it was before Medicare was rebating psychologists but I knew that was an option for me, to go back to what I wanted to do, which was to be a clinician. So I decided to start my own practice.
Ingrid: Was it just you from the very beginning?
Tracey: Yes, it was just me on my own for quite a few years actually. When I started the practice I had 2 other jobs at the same time, so I couldn’t just launch straight into it, I had to supplement my income in other ways.
Ingrid: So when you say you had two other jobs, you were working one or two days a week in other practices, or…?
Tracey: Yes, I was working for another psychologist, actually I had 3 jobs. I was also at Sydney University in research, and for a while I was still in the Department of Health. So juggling all of them.
Ingrid: Wow that’s amazing. So 3 jobs and trying to create your own business. I think a few of the people listening might be able to relate to that quite well. So when was this, say 10 years ago?
Tracey: Yes, I’d started my practice, I’d been in the Health Department nearly 10 years, and I started my practice nearly 8 years ago now.
Ingrid: Great, so right from the beginning you knew you were running a business or were you providing a service? Did you think of yourself as a business person right from the beginning?
Tracey: Hmmm, I think I liked to think of myself as a business person but really I was just a service provider. I was an employee of my own business really.
Ingrid: And when did you feel like you went from being an employee to actually running a business? What triggered that? Did you wake up one morning? When did that happen?
Tracey: I think I’m still largely an employee of my own business but I think it mainly changed for me when I hired other people to do the clinical work. So they haven’t taken over my client load, but now it’s not just me.
Ingrid: It’s not just you. How many clinicians?
Tracey: Two other psychologists and a practice manager and I also have someone who comes in and runs workshops.
Ingrid: Fantastic so you have a team of 4. Have you changed staff a few times or are they the ones you hired from the beginning?
Tracey: They’ve been there from the beginning. I have also had other people, like students, and placements, who have stayed on after that but both of those have gone onto other parts of the Health Department to work. But everyone else has been there from the beginning.
Ingrid: Fabulous, thank you. So you funded the business with 3 jobs and other people’s clinician business, but how else did you fund from the beginning?
Tracey: My practice wasn’t an expensive practice to set up, which was lucky. I didn’t have to have stock, or carry, I get paid when people come and see me, so I didn’t have the cash flow problems that others seem to have. So I didn’t have to fund it, but I did have to be careful with my money.
Ingrid: Yes. So did you practice from your home office, or did you have to rent premises?
Tracey: I rented an office space because I didn’t want to run clinical work from my home.
Ingrid: So when you went into your rented premises, and had to pay a bond of 3-4 months, that can be quite difficult for some business to find $3-4000 for 3-4 months, that’s a big chunk, did you have to do that?
Tracey: Yes, I did have to do that, but luckily I wasn’t over extending myself with the premises I rented, so I didn’t. It was lovely, but I didn’t get myself in trouble with anything really flash on Macquarie Street.
Ingrid: And now are you flash and big. (Laughs)
Tracey: (Laughs) Yes much bigger and much flasher, we have moved in that time, and I’m in a much bigger place and hope to expand even further.
Ingrid: And each time the funding of that, and this is one of the things many people ask is how to pay for things – did you use the money you had, to fund the next expansion?
Tracey: Yes, I’ve always been very careful with the money that’s come into the practice, it always goes straight back into the business.
Ingrid: So a couple of questions now around what you wish you’d known and what you could have done differently. Is there something you’d wish you’d known, if someone could have told you that?
Tracey: Yep! I really wish I’d understood financials. And what I should have been looking for, and how often I should have been paying attention. I knew that it was useful and that I should be doing it, but it’s not my skill-set, so I really wish someone had forced me to hire a book keeper from the start. Umm, and just that I’d taken the time to really understand why it’s important to keep your eye on what’s going in and going out.
Ingrid: Did something specific happen that triggered that, or did you just become more aware?
Tracey: I just became more aware of it. I haven’t had any big losses or anything like that but there’s been times when I’ve had a lot of money owing to us, like from Medicare, but I wasn’t doing regular reconciliations, so just those sorts of things. It didn’t make me nearly go out of business or anything, but it’s crazy to think I didn’t notice thousand of dollars wasn’t coming into my bank account.
Ingrid: Well yes, and given you said yours was the sort of business people paid for as they went, and as you would increase those numbers of Medicare patients, it isn’t quite immediately apparent that the money stopped coming in straight away.
Tracey: Yes, that’s right.
Ingrid: So really that whole thing about a bookkeeper, understanding finances, what did you do to get yourself financially more aware? You hired a bookkeeper, but how did you come to understand the numbers better?
Tracey: So I hired a bookkeeper and got them to very painstakingly go through the accounts with me, ummm, and I also got onto MYOB online. I got a rudimentary understanding of it so I could see what’s coming in and out, and I could pull up the reports. So I just learnt the bare minimum, and then found someone to make sure I was doing it all correctly.
Ingrid: This isn’t one of the questions I said I’d ask you, but which report do you use, when you pull one up, and you have a look at it? And how often do you do that?
Tracey: I probably mainly look at the profit and loss statement. I try to do that at least once a month, definitely every quarter when I’m doing the BAS with my bookkeeper. There’s probably lots of others I should also be looking at (laughs).
Ingrid: (laughs) Profit and loss is a pretty good one, and the bank balance.
Tracey: Yes the bank balance. Because you’ve got to have the money in the bank every week or fortnight to pay people.
Ingrid: I remember years ago when I worked in the manufacturing environment we had systems that could tell us virtually every hour how much money we were making, and we were making plenty of it, so that was good.
Tracey: That’s good (laughs).
Ingrid: Just a question about someone who has been of great assistance to you – maybe the name, or not the name, apart from yourself, who has been the greatest assistance to you and your business?
Tracey: That’s an interesting question, I’ve all along drawn on other people, so I’ve had various business coaches and I’ve had a good accountant but probably the person I speak to the most about my business would be my brother who is a lawyer and he has had alot to do with contracts, and employment contracts, so he’s good to talk to from a business sense. Apart from that I’ve hired specific business coaches who understand psychology and I’ve done business programs to make sure I’m getting the whole picture.
Ingrid: So you’ve paid for some and some you’ve got from family and friends.
Ingrid: Great, would you recommend that people do that if they are getting into business, even if they’ve been working in business in the past. What benefit…..would you recommend that someone do that when they are starting out?
Tracey: Get a business coach?
Tracey: Yes, absolutely. Running your own business is so much harder then you imagine and there are so many intricacies to it, and I know my strength is with my clients and it’s not with detailed administrative work, or there’s lots of things I’m not really good at. So if you don’t have people around you that can either guide you really clearly through that stuff, or who can help you find someone that will do that for you, then you end up neglecting things like I did with the banking.
Ingrid: (Laughs) And fortunately you were able to recover that, but some things can’t be recovered.
Tracey: Yes, that’s it. If there were big units of money coming in and out there would be a real problem. And it could be well and truly gone before you realise.
Ingrid: So which 3 characteristics do you think you have, that makes you successful with your business? You are good with your clients, so maybe that’s one of them – but in terms of what makes you successful?
Tracey: I think one of the other things is that I’m prepared to back myself. I guess I’m not a massive risk-taker but to start your own business you have to be some sort of risk-taker. I had a mortgage so if this didn’t work, I was going to be in real trouble. What else? Hmmm, I’m always keen to learn, so as much as I am not good at some of the business related stuff, I’m always keen to think about it, talk about it, read about it, go to a course about it. So I never think I know everything I should know. Probably those things.
Ingrid: And just as well we mentioned we were in your house because we can hear some dogs barking in the background. (laughs) It is one of the joys of working from home, isn’t it?
Tracey: Yes. (laughs)
Ingrid: So in terms of flexibility, people often look for flexibility in having their own business. But flexibility is more then just choosing about when you work – what sort of flexibility have you had to demonstrate? I guess the finance is one, getting your head around that. Marketing, websites, what other sorts of flexibility?
Tracey: For me, more so in this last year, I’ve had to think about different ways to do what I do well. Rather then just getting stuck in how I deliver a service, so I guess you have to be a flexible thinker and open to adaption as things change.
Ingrid: Yes, thanks. One of the things I hear people say often is that they want flexibility in their own business but it means a whole lot of different things. It doesn’t just mean going to a yoga class in the morning and seeing a client or a patient when you want, it’s all about being able to being flexible in the business.
Ingrid: Great, so just coming to an end here now. So if you were recommending, let me rephrase that. So if one of your clients came to you and said I’m about to start a business, what would you say?
Tracey: I’d really want to ask them why? To make sure they were being really considered and realistic about what it really means to run your own business, its so much harder then being an employee but it does have its rewards, but you work really hard for those rewards. So there has to be a good enough reason for doing it. That’s what I’d ask them. I’d also ask them who was going to be around them to encourage and support them, and who else believed in what they were doing, because it’s a really hard thing to do on your own. And I’d really really suggest that they do their homework for a really long time before they even make their first move.
Ingrid: That’s great advice Tracey. And my final question, would you swap what you have now, for what you had 10 years ago? In terms of say, you’ve got this business, its successful, its giving you the lifestyle you want, its paid the mortgage, its given you work satisfaction, client relationship.
Tracey: That’s a tricky question. There are some days when I’d love to be an employee and have sick leave and annual leave and being in a meeting and daydream by looking out a window. I miss that. That’s what it was like in the Health Department. But no, I couldn’t go back. I’m really glad I left working for such a big organisation. Being a business owner has made me a much more interesting person, and my skill level is so much broader, and I come into contact with interesting people now, and its really really satisfying to have something work pretty well.
Ingrid: Thanks very much Tracey, that’s a great interview.