Now that we have a sense of the 5 acupuncture business systems (fire/executive, earth/facilities, metal/finance, water/marketing, wood/operations) I want to suggest how you might actually use them to get a handle on an overwhelming situation you are confronting in your acupuncture business.
Before continuing, I want to acknowledge that I am here trying to make concrete and teachable a process that is quite vague and variable.
I don’t always follow these steps, and often truncate parts of the process to suit my situation. Just read through, take what serves, and adapt it to suit your way of working or your business situation. Really, the utility of this process is how it forces you to evaluate your situation in a comprehensive and systematic way. By just taking the time to step back and evaluate, often the space will open up for you to gain important insights.
Step 1 – Brainstorm without reservation!
Brainstorming both the nature of the overwhelm and its potential roots is a good first step in finding center. Your overwhelm may be centered on an obviously identifiable problem – not enough patients to generate the revenue to pay the bills for instance. Or it may be multi-factorial, or vague, or too emotionally charged to get a good read on. Regardless, it’s helpful to articulate your experience and the things you believe may contribute to your overwhelmed state.
Brainstorming involves letting yourself write whatever comes to your mind when you consider your situation. You can do it in a list format, on a whiteboard, using a mindmap, or even by audio while you’re out walking with your headphones on. The goal isn’t to sound smart, nor to follow any particular path, but just to think about the situation that is overwhelming you, letting your mind travel where it travels, and recording the results. In the end – you may still have a bunch of vague impressions and not much clarity on any solution, but the effort will be worth it.
When I need to brainstorm about an overwhelming situation, I’ll often engage in some kind of centering activities first.
A walk in nature, sitting on my back porch with tea and doing some meditation, or doing shaking qigong all help to get my head into the right place, particularly if the situation I’m confronting is emotionally sticky. You may find this helpful as well.
Once you get your initial brainstorming done, feel free to return to it and add more as you need to. I suggest you keep your brainstorms handy as you engage the rest of the process.
Step 2 – Review & map your acupuncture business systems
I’ve spent the majority of this article series discussing the acupuncture business systems that I associate with the five phase elements. Using the information in those articles and the four quadrant diagram on this page, you can easily create a “system map” that orients you around each major aspect of your acupuncture business.
The system map can take on any format you like. I like to have a sheet of paper for each quadrant. Ultimately, the document isn’t as important as is placing your attention on each part of your business systematically.
Each system can and should have a distinct style, structure and set of information, but each map should explore:
- What people are involved in the system? This can include employees, partners, contractors, major software providers and even friends, coaches and other support people. Are the roles and responsibilities well identified and working out? How is communication between these people?
- What major equipment or technology is involved in this system? What do you use on a regular basis to keep this system moving? This can be space, software, hardware, furniture or really anything else. Do you have all the equipment you need to carry out your functions?
- What are the inflows and outflows of resources into this system? What resources (money, time, energy, reputation) does this system consume, and what resources does it produce? What is its role in the overall production of your business? Is this in balance?
- Finally, what are the goals, vision, plans and projects associated with this system? Is this system actively evolving? Are there problems not being addressed? Do you have a sense for how this system is growing and changing – and does that support your larger goals?
- BONUS: What’s the energy of this system? If you were to read its pulses, what would they reveal? What’s the vibe, really?
This doesn’t have to be detailed. I don’t suggest you read all your documentation related to this system, nor dig into your deeper planning work. Instead, think of this like skimming an article you’ve already read a couple of times. Watch for the high points, get the overall scene, and then move on.
Do a map for all five systems : executive, facilities, finance, marketing and operations.
At this point, you may already have seen the sun through the fog of your situation. Often, I find that an acupuncture business owner is unconsciously avoiding looking at a system that needs support. Once they “force themselves” to take a look, it immediately begins to resolve. Sounds simple – but I’ve seen it work dozens of times.
If you’re still needing clarity, you can move on to the next step in the process.
Step 3 – Inhabit each acupuncture business system in turn
With the overview of your systems in mind, I want you to “put on the hat” of each system, one at a time and look at your problem from the perspective of that system. When I do this, I like to think about the five phase symbolism associated with the systems as I’m proceeding. So, if I’m going to “put on the hat” of the executive system, I spend some time meditation on the symbolism of Fire. This isn’t necessary, but it works to open up my creative mind and seems to result in more interesting work.
With the elemental energy and systems map in mind, you want to think about your problem from that perspective.
As an example, imagine I’m facing overwhelm due to not having enough patients to pay the bills. A very typical early practice problem for acupuncturists! I’ve done my brainstorming to get to that formulation, and I’ve done my systems maps. Doing the maps didn’t help me clarify, so now I’m putting on the executive system hat and thinking about my situation from that perspective.
Here are some questions that come to mind that are related to this problem but from the unique perspective of the executive system:
- Has the business failed to meet any goals or metrics I identified in my business plan? If so, are they patient # related?
- Is there something about taking on more patients that conflicts with my fundamental vision or values?
- Are the efforts I’ve been taking to get new patients conflicting with my fundamental vision or values?
- Am I too burned out to take on more patients?
- Have I been going through personal difficulties that might influence the energy I show my patients?
- How is my balance among all the systems – is there one particular business system that is sucking all the energy out of me? How can I restore balance? <—- This is a question you could easily ask of any system.
I suggest you work through each system this way.
When you’ve worked through each system, I encourage you to take a break from thinking about the problem.
Take a couple of days off, rest, relax, let your brain percolate a bit. There’s plenty of research to show that our brains do a ton of work behind the scenes when we think we’re “doing nothing.” Use that natural heritage to help your acupuncture business!
In my experience, and that of most of the acupuncturists I’ve coached, at this point you will very likely have fewer symptoms of overwhelm. You may even have the beginnings of a solution. If you still need clarity, revisiting each systems map and each “systems eye view” of the problem may help shake things loose.