Episode 24 | Do You Need a Business Plan?

Do you need a business plan?

One of the things I get asked relatively often in my Roots course is whether you need to have a formal business plan before you open your private clinical practice as an herbalist or nutritionist.

The short answer: Nope. Not really.

In this episode, I share why I don't think you need one and a few things to consider instead. 

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Transcript of Do You Need a Business Plan episode

Episode 24 | Do You Need a Business Plan? - powered by Happy Scribe

Well, hi there. Welcome to In the Clinic with Camille. My name is Camille Freeman. I'm a licensed nutritionist and clinical herbalist and I mentor other highly trained practitioners who are looking for help with complicated cases or building, growing, running, managing clinical practices.

So today's question is whether you need a business plan or not. I get this question fairly often in my Roots course that I teach, which is all about getting started, getting up and running with your practice.

So we cover things like setting up your website and getting your forms ready and forming a business entity and all that sort of thing.

And people will often ask, do I need a business plan? I'll also hear this in some of the private mentoring work that I do, especially for people who are recently graduated and just starting out.

And here is my short answer. No, I don't think you do. So that's a pretty short podcast episode.

Why don't I expand a little bit on why I don't think you need a business plan.

So if you look up what a business plan technically entails, it is a long and comprehensive document.

There's a very specific format that most people require as for a business plan, and it's going to involve things like doing a competitive analysis of other people in your sector and looking for holes in the market and detailed sales and marketing strategy and an operating plan and a financial outlook prospectus in this sort of thing.

And you'll listen. Is it good to have a plan? Yes. Is it good to know a little bit about what's going on in your industry and who else is doing something similar to what you're doing in the same type of way? Absolutely.

I'm certainly not saying you don't need a plan, open up your business, your practice and go for it. But what I am saying is that for most people who are just a single person wanting to open a clinical practice, especially if you're not going to have a physical location, but even in most cases, if you are going to have a physical location. You don't need to do the whole business plan. Nobody's going to ask you for a business plan, for example, when you go to set up your business bank account or anything along those lines.

They're not going to ask you for a business plan. The only time you're going to be asked for a business plan is if you are looking to get some kind of a loan. In that case, you may need a business plan, although often you can do a shorter one or if you're seeking some kind of funding. So if you're looking for investors, there will probably be a requirement to have a business plan. If neither of those things are applying to you right now, I don't think it's a great use of your time and energy unless you want to do a modified business plan.

So, here's why. When you're doing a business plan and you're just starting out and you've never even really seen a client on your own outside of student clinic, but even if you have even if you're out there practicing already, most of what you're doing in the business plan is going to be theoretical.

If you're talking about a sales and marketing strategy, you haven't done it yet. You haven't promoted your service or your product or whatever it is that you're going to be doing as part of your work.

You haven't actually gotten out there and done it yet. So you're not sure if people are going to buy it, if you're going to change it, if you're going to shift a little bit. Most people, when they're just getting out of school, aren't really clear on their practice focus or their niche yet. They're feeling a little bit open minded about who they're going to work with, what kinds of services they're going to offer, how it's going to work and so forth.

So everything that you're doing in the beginning of your practice is really a guess.

It's an informed guess. You're going to try it. You're going to see what happens and you're going to shift and grow and continue for at least several years. I would say two to three years at the minimum. You're going to be engaged in this process of trying things out and observing what's happening and doing this sort of deeper work about what your practice is about.

So when you do a business plan before you've done any of this other stuff and you don't really know what your service is going to be yet exactly. You don't really know exactly who you're going to be working with.

It's hard because you're just making it up. You're like, well, I guess this is how much I'll charge. And, you know, if I'd like to make this much and I'll just divide it by 10 and that's how much I'll charge for a visit.

You're really just throwing it out there. It's very similar to doing what some people call the ideal client avatar exercise, where you think about who your ideal client is. And then you start to imagine that person and you think about where they shop and what their dog's name is and you know what their job is. And all these kind of come up with this whole thing. And it's great that has a purpose in some places, but it's imaginary. You made it up in your head.

And that is kind of like what a business plan is for most practitioners.

There are certain parts of it that you can research that will be helpful for you. But for most of us, doing a business plan before you're actually in business is going to be an imaginary exercise.

And in my opinion, what works better is to have a loose plan.

I want you to know how much you're expecting to spend, how much you're expecting to bring in. Generally speaking, who you'd like to work with, a loose idea of your services, getting a feel for who else is doing that kind of work, etc. That's all great to do. I think having a loose business plan is a really good idea.

Get a mentor to help you walk through this, but don't spend hours and hours doing a traditional business plan with all of the different components before you have a more clear sense of some of these other actions. That is my advice. I know other people disagree or have different opinions. I'd love to hear them. And if you need help coming up with a loose plan for your own practice, come on in and come into Monday mentoring or set up a private mentoring session and we can talk through it or get with another mentor, that would be fine too. All right. I hope this was helpful for those of you who are just starting out or maybe those of you who have been in practice for a while and were wondering if you maybe do need a business plan, you need a plan of some sort, but you don't need a traditional business plan.

All right, y'all, I'll talk to you next week. I hope you have a lovely day.


About Camille

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and licensed nutritionist specializing in fertility and reproductive health. I mentor other practitioners who need help building and growing their practices, working with complicated clients and getting clinical hours. I have a doctorate in clinical nutrition, and I'm also a professor in the Department of Nutrition at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I teach physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating. 

My pronouns are she/hers. 

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