No matter your industry, friends, family and professional colleagues who are “non-business owners” can have a bit of a skewed vision of what "owning one’s own business” means. “Business ownership” can suggest a bit of glamour, even a sense of clout. It sounds thrilling, adventurous and full of endless possibilities — but as most any business owner can testify, the reality can be (and very often is) an entirely very different story.
While recently shoring up and otherwise cheering on a colleague who is also in my industry (mental health/counseling), that truth came forward. The colleague was relating some recent successes that she had in a company that she worked for. Listening to the colleague, her excitement was engrossing. Later in the conversation I told of some notable news about my business. Her response came as a surprise: She clammed up and made a seemingly dismissive comment about business ownership.
The truth is that I should not have been surprised; this has happened before. The lesson: Reciprocal enthusiasm, when exchanging business achievements, may not always be the expected two-way street, particularly when the traditional “care-giving” professional is also a business owner.
One irony in this dynamic is that business folks of other stripes, generally accept and champion my position of therapist. However, the mental health industry does not necessarily automatically understand how one can be a business person as well as a mental health professional. Finding a way to incorporate two seemingly opposing fields and the varying perceptions can be a challenge in building a practice and a thriving business. This is made all the more arduous since the traditional mental health field does not offer a wealth of business models to follow.
Over time, given this dynamic and history of mental health and health care industries meeting and joining traditional business, I’ve learned of and adopted some steps to encourage me and help my business thrive. A few of them include:
1) Find a mentor/business buddy in your field because chances are good that no one else will understand you.
2) Check resentment. Some folks may not be able to be your cheerleader the way you would like them to be. After all, they would look a little silly in those tiny skirts!
3) Be your own cheerleader. Look for positives and successes and write them down in a journal so that you can read them on days when you need a boost.
4) Remember that the “grass is always greener" mentality exists within us all. This is really helpful in understanding others posing opposition or resistance may be doing so because you are your own boss.
Non-business owners may think that owning a business is glamorous or freeing, and while we wouldn't do it if we didn't love it, the reality is that it takes a lot of hard work. It also can feel a little lonely sometimes. Other people may be unable to relate to your work, they may feel intimidated, or they may even be jealous of your success as a business owner.
It is vital to professional growth and sanity to find like-minded and supportive people that are accepting of a role that is both therapist and business owner. History is full of brilliant, successful incongruencies — that’s where brilliant and innovation are birthed.
Keep a handful of people nearby that are open, supportive and great listeners. Find them in Mastermind group, or in a valued mentor, or within your family. After all, your sanity and your business success are at stake.