Many acupuncturists begin business planning in the last year of their medical education, or just after graduation. Acupuncture business planning resources are relatively rare. Because of this, most engage with at least a few conventional business planning resources. These are abundant on the Internet from organizations like SCORE., and in most small business startup books.
Conventional business planning resources are primarily intended to help you secure funding from a bank or other organization.
Because of this, they are focused on market research, threat assessment and financial projections – the kinds of things potential lenders want to know. However, when you’re just starting out, you want to build a plan that goes far beyond this, particularly in a highly personal service based business like Chinese medicine.
Business planning should be a process of establishing your vision for your business, how you’re going to manifest that vision, and what the parameters are that define success and failure. Instead, many acupuncturists end up spending time writing summaries and calculating figures that don’t suit their situation.
Further, conventional business plans offer little support as you proceed.
The conventional business plan is not really intended to be an instrument used in running your acupuncture business. Once the business secures funding, the plan ends up in a file in the cloud, or in a binder on some shelf, often never to be reviewed again. This can make acupuncture business planning feel like a waste of time and energy. Why spend a weekend (or several) creating a business plan and still feel confused about the focus and direction of your business?
Given all of this, it’s not surprising that many acupuncturists opt out of making a business plan at all, unless forced to do so. But, in my work on my own business and in teaching this material, I’ve seen the power of an inspiring and useful business plan. You just need to create a plan that has a structure and energy that supports the unique complexity of Chinese medicine businesses.
To address this need, I’ve developed a framework called Whole Life Business planning.
Like in conventional business planning, the goal in whole life business planning is to ask and answer important questions about the past, present and future of your acupuncture practice. A whole life business plan may also include similar information as a conventional business plan including financial projections, market research and executive summaries.
A whole life acupuncture business plan includes much more
A whole life acupuncture business plan isn’t for bankers or investors. It’s for you. And it won’t sit on a shelf after completion, but will become an integrated toolkit to help you grow and enjoy your acupuncture practice. You write and nurture your business plan, and it offers up insight and encouragement as you proceed along your journey. It’s a virtuous cycle that will make you LOVE the planning process. No, really!
A whole life business plan includes information about your personal life, your career trajectory, and the fundamental orientation you have as the owner of your business. It digs into not only *what* you will do to keep things running smoothly, but *how* you will manage it as an owner and practitioner. The full whole life business plan also includes detailed information about every system and aspect of the business including: executive, marketing, operations, facilities, finance, legal and human resources. A comprehensive source of reminders, accountability and inspiration as you build your ideal acupuncture clinic.
A whole life business plan is inspirational and relational.
As such, its form and ultimate structure must feed YOU. This means that some people’s whole life business plan documents include art, poetry, yijing readings and much more. The plan itself becomes a living representation of the beating heart of your acupuncture practice. You come into relationship with it, and that relationship will help you build a successful practice.
I’ll be talking more about this concept and how you can engage in it in future articles. For now, consider the three following principles of whole life business planning. Do you see how approaching acupuncture business planning with these in mind could be useful?
#1 – Whole life business planning is holistic
- It considers all of you, your whole life is valuable in the process. Work and life are intertwined, and your planning should reflect and honor that.
- It doesn’t isolate one aspect of the business, or one business system, but discusses their interrelationships. Marketing informs the executive, operational details guide marketing language, financial principles show up all throughout. It’s an interdependent system.
- Your whole life business plan becomes an integrated part of your life, not something that is set apart. The tool will become part of you and your thinking process.
#2 – Whole life business planning is flexible
- A whole life business plan can expand or contract to suit your situation. If you need more financial projections and bank-relevant information, that can be included. If you’re just going to be renting a room for a while but want to start thinking through your vision, you can make the plan reflect that. It is what you need it to be.
- Whole life business planning can fit into little chunks of time or be done at long retreats. Everybody works differently and has different opportunities. The way I teach planning you can make it suit what’s most possible for you.
- A whole life business plan can use language, formatting, content and accountability tools that work best for you. Again, this plan is yours. So, while I teach some structures that work for me and others, I’ll often given encouragement to adapt the plan to what works for you.
#3 – Whole life business planning is enjoyable
- The process I teach engages the senses, includes creative expression, and utilizes the evocative symbolism of Chinese medicine where appropriate. This richness enhances the experience of acupuncture business planning.
- Because you are actively building a plan that is based on your dreams for the future and your wholeness as a person, it’s fun. And, hey, why not – right?
I’ll build on these concepts in future articles and, eventually, a free online course for acupuncturists looking to plan their business with these ideas in mind.