My start up as a sole proprietor was a gutsy move for a single gal working inside a benefits company. I enjoyed the cushion of all the benefits that my employer (an EAP!) offered. Why ever leave?
Something inside me was growing. Those of you who know me or have heard me speak know the story of my caring for my aging parents and then folks began to come to me for help. And while that felt nice and I surely tried to assist the requests did not stop. In my case my calling had become louder than the cush. Decision finally made I was determined: I was going to do somebody some good. Brazen and naïve and I was full of gumption and cause, and I had my cape on.
I gave notice to my employer, formed the LLC, sought professional liability insurance, procured a phone number and had some business cards printed. You know what came next, I’ll bet: an excruciatingly long period of time until the first-First: the First Call leading to the First Case.
As a coach for small business owners and sole practitioners in healthcare I will often meet one on one with folks in start-up mode and they agree: it’s this hang time that is so hard to endure and is full of not-so-pretty emotions like fear, doubt and anxiety.
Am I doing the right thing?
I am ready; I’ve announced my new business, and I am networking (why isn’t my phone ringing?).
I have a little financial cushion but right now I am overextended in my start up costs.
I am itchin’ to get to work! I like to work! I see the need and am compelled to provide solution.
What will my family/friends/colleagues say if I don’t make it? (What will become of me?)
How do I find clients (they had always been provided before)?
I see such great need, but how do I find, connect and get clients to hire me?
Then for me it came together. I had my First Case and successfully alleviated the client’s situation. I did somebody some good! I myself was challenged with sorting out my processes for service delivery.
I was on my way.
Fast forward six years and I felt called to launch a new initiative. Requests for coaching were coming from professionals within the healthcare and small business arenas. The inquiries were increasing and I felt compelled to respond. This was a “calling” as loud as when I’d left the corporate world to found my advocacy agency, scary-good. I would reorganize my business and my time.
What happened next was, in a word, flurry. (I’d add vice clamp but that’s two).Two years of learning and planning this new division and its marketing requirements, how to wean myself from participation inside the agency I’d founded so as to follow my instincts. I was Patient Advocate, speaker, consultant by day and creating a business model and writing coursework for groups and individuals by night.
All that made for stimulating times for this All-In, love to learn Patient Advocate, I was riding the waves of learning, envisioning, curating, writing and producing. I was well into losing my work life balance and becoming overwhelmed when the unexpected words came.
The coach helps a coach
I was working with my coach (shouldn’t all strategic persons utilize one?) when her honest observation stopped me in my tracks.
We were having a conversation about the new initiative, my new course and design, and the myriad of tasks remaining. I remember blathering on about processes and To Do’s and To-Learns, and my plans to handle social media and such. Listening quietly my coach finally said to me “You know I don’t say this very often to people, especially people like you, Nancy, but…so start already!”
Yikes. She was right.
After a moment I finally responded “Holy Cow! I’m doing the very thing that I see my coaching clients do. I’m over-preparing and allowing that to distract me. I need to take a dose of my own medicine”.
The remainder of our coaching session turned to outlining what I would do, and by the next time we met. (Ah, assignments and deadlines, the Great Motivators). With this dose of my own medicine I was forced to consider why I wasn’t launching yet.
What Was Stopping Me (is it stopping you)?
My thoughts went back seven or so years ago when I was first striking out on my own. I experienced a bad case of what I call “This and This” (as in I had to ready This and learn This, and put This into place, and subscribe to This and attend This networking and must become proficient with This social media platform).Some might call this perfectionism. (‘Takes one to know one).
Procrastinating? Evidently. Underlying self-doubt (Will this start up work, can I succeed?) was more like it.
I worked out my This and This’s while waiting for the professional liability insurance underwriters to figure out what a Patient Advocate indeed was (so as to assign risk, dontcha know) as ours was a new industry.
In truth I may have been hiding behind that insurance challenge, and I justified (and certainly perpetuated) a rather extended period of preparation.
Emotions + Hang time, not a good combo
Oh, the emotions! During thhose first months of Patient Advocacy I was feeling everything from jazzed-psyched-pumped and invigorated to “What am I doing? What was I thinking?!” Self-doubt, Imposter’s Syndrome, Over-Preparer’s Anonymous, I was there. Learn, question, create, doubt, ping, pong.
The time arrived when I was ready, insured (and nearly broke). The phrase “Ready or not” never seemed more daunting, or appropriate.
And then the First Call came. I met with the client for a full intake and we created a plan. Returning to my office I smartly typed up notes in a simple Word document, recording the encounter in fine Social Work fashion (SOAP noting still calls me). I concluded by recording the amount of time for my work activity. When my first real Month End arrived the time would be manually transferred over to an invoice, a downloaded template found online somewhere. It was fine.
Looking back at that First Case I thought about the services and the solutions provided for that client. I had done a good job. I also thought about what it did for me. It felt good to be in action, using my education and expertise. I was in motion and gaining confidence in my business model and in myself. I had a notch in my belt. It all worked out like it was supposed to.
I continued, again and again, and I helped more people. I bootstrapped and grew organically. I networked (like a banshee!) and I gained the trust of referral partners. I worked among my peers, shoulder-to-shoulder and in concert with other disciplines. We’ve provided some serious remedy over the years, and in large numbers. Today I am both proud of and confident in my abilities and accomplishments. It all just needed to start (already!).
It will come together for you. My hunch is that you know enough. You know that you have the expertise, the smarts and the wherewithal. I believe, and you must also:
You are somebody’s whole package.
Among all the resources that support small business professionals you’d better believe I feel that coaching provides a distinct advantage. Yes, inside coaching resides the teaching, the savvy, and the keys to proven results. Coaching also holds the third party vantage point and observation. The obvious message for me it was that it was time. Time to go, and do.
“So start already!” said my coach that day. Those are my words now, to you.
10/2/20 Nancy Ruffner
Nancy Ruffner is a Patient Advocate – Consultant – Coach offering services for patients and advocates alike. Contact Nancy if help is needed inside the patient journey or if as a provider you’d like to more confidently reach the people who need your services. Nancy gladly offers her comeuppance and exptertise when working inside the profession to help both client and professional to connect and achieve their goals.