What It Means to be an Entrepreneur in Private Practice

A few weeks ago I was at a family gathering and I was chatting with my sister-in-law who is also a therapist. She was updating us all on the details of the new site she was working at, a drug rehab facility where she is gaining a tremendous amount of skill and experience working with trauma and early childhood attachments, and loving working within the structure of this particular site.

When the conversation shifted to my work and specifically updating on A Perfect Practice and the launch of my latest course, I was admittedly surprised by how drastic my professional path is from my dear sister-in-law.

Here we are, both therapists. Both passionate about connecting deeply with others and joining on someone’s journey of healing and growth. And yet on completely different pages about our professional goals.

When I went into this field I never saw myself working in any other capacity besides private practice. I never saw myself in an agency, or even as a contractor in someone else’s private practice.

I always knew and saw myself being in business for myself.

My sister-in-law on the other hand has absolutely no interest in having her own business. She is very comfortable in her role working in a clinic setting and, if she does move into private practice, says she will likely find a place where she can work in that environment but for somebody else.

She just has no interest in being a business owner.

Obviously, all of this to say, this conversation was very enlightening for me and got me thinking and genuinely wondering, what makes some of us more or less willing to move into the role of business owner and even entrepreneur.

My guess is you wouldn’t be here, reading this post if there wasn’t at least some part of you that was inclined to move into private practice and take on the role of business owner. But what about entrepreneur? And what exactly does this mean?

Entrepreneur is definitely a hot word right now and we are living in a time where more and more people are stepping into and embracing themselves as entrepreneurs, especially with all of the opportunities afforded to us with the internet.

But does going into traditional private practice qualify us to call ourselves entrepreneurs, or are we small business owners?

I think the difference between the two comes down to our leadership styles and our thoughts on how we run our business. One is not better than the other, they are just different, and I think that difference is an important one to understand about ourselves. Consider the following distinctions and notice where you fall.

Small business owners have a great idea.

By choosing to open a private practice you are helping to solve a problem in your community. The business model is known and understood and you have a target audience (hopefully!) that you are serving in a way that ideally will make your “customers” happy.

Entrepreneurs have BIG ideas.

As an entrepreneur in private practice you dream big. You think big. You come up with ideas to grow and run your business, beyond the traditional therapy model, that maybe haven’t even been tested or worked through yet. Perhaps you don’t even know if your ideas are possible, which may be even more exciting.

Small-business owners hold steady.

Sure, there may be natural fluctuations in how many clients you’re seeing, or possible schedule changes but for the most part you’re pretty clear on the direction of your business. Decisions are likely more calculated and you might not be as willing to put yourself out there in a way that doesn’t give you a guaranteed outcome.

Entrepreneurs take risks.

As an entrepreneur you may step out on the ledge more often. There’s a willingness to jump in with both feet, trusting that if you put in your full effort chances are the risk will have been worth it.

Small-business owners think about the things they need to finish this week.

There are daily and weekly to-do lists. Oftentimes, in the form of seeing clients, writing notes, maybe supervision, or a networking lunch. But beyond that there isn’t much to concern with.

Entrepreneurs are thinking months in advance.

This goes with the big ideas mindset. While there is still the day-to-day tasks to run, you may be more likely to hire someone else to help with those so you can think about the future of your practice.

As a small-business owner, private practice may be the end goal.

Chances are you don’t have plans to scale your business or grow out of it. You enjoy making the decisions of the day to day and are happy to enjoy the lifestyle and experiences that come with this business model.

Entrepreneurs focus on scaling.

You want to grow and chances are you will. You will probably find ways for your practice to run without you, or to build a brand that helps millions.

Again, it’s not that being one of these is better than the other, but it is important to be honest with ourselves about who we are and the visions we have for ourselves. I have many friends that fall into both categories.

Some therapists I know are more than happy and fulfilled with their private practice and it’s set schedule, perhaps they have a few interns, but beyond that they have no need for their practice to grow beyond what it is.

And, I have some friends that are pushing the boundaries and challenging the model of what it means to be a therapist.

So the question to be asked is: Are you a small-business owner or an entrepreneur?

I’m genuinely curious about your thoughts and would love to hear from you in the comments below. How do you see yourself? What thoughts do you have about the distinction between being a small-business owner and an entrepreneur? And, if you see yourself as an entrepreneur, what qualities specifically draw you towards entrepreneurship?