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Session 1: Identifying Your Values and Philosophy

One of the most important things about starting a business is getting to know who you are and what you are made of.  To get started, we'll be talking about some of the ways that you can ask yourself questions to better evaluate your values and philosophy.

 
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Knowing your philosophy

The first question you should be asking yourself is, “What makes my practice different?” The field of dietetics is booming and dietitians in private practice are becoming more common especially as more states are seeing reimbursement opportunities. This increase in entrepreneurship has provided a whole new outlook on private practice and is allowing dietitians to do new and exciting things.

For example, I knew from the beginning that I wanted my practice to be perceived as more than plastic food models and a dietitian in a white coat. This was my opportunity to raise the bar and make my coming to my office something inspiring for people. I always say my job isn’t to tell people what to eat, it’s to help them identify their barriers and how to get around them. This is what makes my practice different. Here are a few of my tips for making your practice stand out.

 

1. Always be authentic

  • Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do something different from everyone else. People can tell when you have an authentic presence.

  • Being different is what gives you a competitive edge. Although we collaborate and help each other as dietitians, your authenticity is what will create your niche or make you stand out.

  • Your work will feel more natural and not forced if it is authentic.

 

2. Evaluate and have a firm understanding of what are your nutrition philosophies are

  • Your philosophies can evolve over time just as nutrition information evolves over time, but it is important for your clients to know what you believe and why it is important to you.

  • Even if you aren’t 100% sure what your niche will be, start taking action anyway. Clarity comes in taking action.

  • Your ultimate goal is to build your “ideal clientele” and identifying exactly what your philosophies are will help you achieve this.

  • You will attract people who either agree with what you are passionate about or who are intrigued by it.

  • Once you know what you are most passionate about you can use this to drive the success of your business. You may be most passionate about something that has impacted your life or an experience you have dealt with.

  • One way to identify what you are most passionate about is to remember how energized you are in your most successful client or patient sessions.

ACTIVITY

Identify client qualities that help you outline who your ideal clientele is. 

STEP 1: Make a list of the reasons you love working with your favorite clients or patients. 

STEP 2: Make a list of your favorite past client or patient sessions and describe what you liked the most about them.



Session 2: Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Let’s now dive into a few strategies that you can use to start identifying your strengths and overcoming other areas that you may need improvement on. After all, starting a business and becoming an entrepreneur is not only about providing a valuable service to others; it’s about really knowing and owning your strengths, and how you maximize those qualities.  This is how others will be influenced in finding value in your business.

 
 

1. Remember to put your strengths first

Being an entrepreneur is an iterative process of understanding who you are, what you’re made of, and then aligning your business with your strengths. Your personal strengths should be put at the forefront of your business, which will help you:

  • Feel proud and fulfilled while running your private practice
  • Avoid getting stuck in the mentality of doing things the way you think you should, even if it’s not really the right path for you.
  • Say “no” if it is not something that is aligned with your principles and values
  • Fuel positive thoughts to remind yourself that are capable of amazing things during challenging times.

 

2. Identifying your personal strengths

This relates to your personal interests and where you currently are at in life, which will help you bring out your authenticity and will later help you identify your ideal client profile (which we’ll get into during the Week 5 Module).  It’s incredibly important to define your personal strengths before starting your business.

 

By having a strong sense of self, you help others feel confident in knowing they can trust you with their own health and business. By knowing your own strengths, this will give you the confidence you need in yourself to propel you forward as you are initiating the building process of your business, which will become an extension and reflection of YOU.


ACTIVITY

Identify what your strengths are and understand how you can leverage those traits in your business.

STEP 1: Ask yourself the following and write down what some of your key traits and strengths. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • Where are you currently in life that really inspires you to be your best that you want to pass along to others?

STEP 2: Next to each of these traits, ask yourself and write down how might these factors differentiate you?

 

Some examples of strengths to identify about yourself:

  • You’re a home chef and foodie who is talented at whipping up delicious restaurant-worthy healthy recipes.

  • You are a working mother, multi-tasking and juggling your home and family, while still managing to keep your health at the forefront of your priorities.

  • You are the most reliable person that your family and friends turn to in times of need, because they know you will help nurture a positive environment that they need to rebuild their confidence.

  • You are efficient at breaking down far-reaching health goals like weight loss or lowering specific biometric numbers into detailed, manageable steps for clients or patients.


3. Identifying your strengths in relation to others.

Knowing how you relate to others will help you better convey and communicate your strengths, which in turn will draw people towards working with you.  It is important to remember that business is about your ability to form mutually beneficial relationship with others through the values and interactions that are exchanged. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Observe how you carry yourself, and note how others react to you.
  • Be mindful about how you interact with other people, it can help you figure out the types of people that you can relate to the best.
  • Be aware of certain types of people that you get along with the best.

Admittedly, it is not always easy to step outside of yourself and to see how you interact with others. Another way to do so is by using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a constructive framework to analyze where your strengths are when you engage with others. It provides a relatively objective way to see where you lie on the spectrum of complex personalities by gauging where you are within 4 traits:

  1. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  2. How do do you take in information, by sensing or through your intuition?
  3. How do you make decisions, based on how you’re thinking or how you’re feeling?
  4. How do you deal with the outside world, by judging or perceiving?

Activity

Take this full ~12-minute version of the MBTI, which will provide you a detailed report on your personality traits.

STEP 1: From this report, take the time to write down the strengths about yourself in how you interact with others

STEP 2: Ask yourself how may that specific trait help carry you forward in your business, and write it down next to that strength.

STEP 3: Use this information to begin thinking about how you will reach your ideal client profile, and how they may perceive you and interact with your business.

Remember, you can take this test as many times as you need as you continue down your entrepreneurial journey to reassess and gauge where you're at.


4. Overcoming your weaknesses.

Knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths. It’s important to understand and know them, so you know areas that you need to actively work on and improve.  You MUST set goals for yourself to overcome them...yes, that means that you need to get outside of your comfort zone in order to grow!

Here are a few tips to remember:

  • Set a measurable goal and practice - Settle on a cadence to practice and observe how you do each time.  Note your improvement and notice how it gets easier each time..and just keep trying!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask others for feedback - You must be willing to open yourself up and allow constructive feedback from others in order to improve. It is especially important in the very early stages to get feedback so you know you’re headed in the right direction with your business.
  • Find people who can be constructive AND encouraging with you - Be sure to tell them that you need their honesty and constructive feedback, and assure them that you will not take it personally. The goal is to obtain the feedback you need to highlight areas that you may need to work on.

ACTIVITY

Identify areas that need improvement and actively find ways to make progress in these areas.

STEP 1: Write down some of the areas that you know you need to improve on.  

STEP 2: For each of these areas, write down a small tangible goal that you can do that signifies making progress in that area.

STEP 3: Write down the names of people who may be able to be a sounding board and give you constructive feedback.



Session 3: How To Plan Ahead

Having a visual of your workflow is essential for productivity. Being able to see your day on paper will help you prioritize the tasks and events you have each day and in your week. As a dietitian you know how many directions you can be pulled in at once and how busy your day can be. Now add being a business owner on top of that. We convince ourselves that we are well-organized, when in fact the combination of work, school, family, daily responsibilities, hobbies, social life and events tend to take a toll on our bodies, and more specifically our minds.

 
 

Getting Organized with a Planner

Although I have the calendar on my phone and online scheduling through my electronic medical record (EMR), my planner is my most valuable tool. Being able to organize thoughts and a to-do list keeps anxiety low and increase overall efficiency.  To get started, create a template or running master to-do list of all of the projects (and sub-tasks within these projects) you are currently working on. Use a project management tools like Todoist or just a Google doc. 

Start each day by pulling three items from this list to work on for that day so you don't become overwhelmed. It’s actually therapeutic to begin each day with a clear head and a feasible plan.

  • Putting events on a calendar to solidify intentions and keeps you focused and accountable to follow through. It also helps in visually organizing your time and prioritize your responsibilities.

  • Don't look at your master to-do list of all your projects, which can easily overwhelm and decrease productivity.


Activity

Every day, write your top 3 goals to accomplish that day and then set your master to-do list and goals aside.

Examples: 

  1. Post new recipe from blog to social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter

  2. Update diabetes handout and print off copies

  3. Check on B. Smith's insurance claim rejection


Know when your most productive time of the day is. This should be when you are working on your biggest projects or tasks that require the most concentration.

Example: Mine is early in the morning before I have used brain power helping others. So I use the early morning to answer emails and write or work on collaborations.

Use your planner regardless if you have a client schedule on your EMR. Schedule non-client events here as well, such as business Skype sessions, doing research, workouts, meal planning for yourself, etc.

Being a business owner is not a 9-to-5 job, but instead a constant job. You must be able to mesh your life and your business together into one schedule. We all have 24 hours in a day, so there is time for everything you want to do. You just have to choose how efficiently your time is spent. Your planner is also a great place to write you daily gratitude which we will be talking more about in Module 6. Here are a few of my favorite planners:

 

Goal Setting

Goal setting is powerful because it provides the focus you need to shape your dreams. It gives us the ability to identify the exact actions we need to perform in order to achieve everything we desire in life. Goals are incredibly helpful in helping us stretch and grow in ways that we never have before.

A business owner should be able to look at their business through the macrolens and the microlens.

  • The microlens is the day to day plan that should be implemented.
  • The macrolens is the big picture or the flow of your business as a whole.

Evaluate and reflect to know where you are currently at, and where you want to be. For example, recognize that you currently may be seeing 10 clients a week on average. Know that your goal is to see 17-20 clients on average per week. 

The reason evaluating and reflecting is important is so you don’t get stuck in the thought process that you aren’t good enough or don’t get enough done. Understand that goals take time to achieve and that reflecting on the progress you have made since day 1 is what will keep you grounded. Not only is goal-setting essential for an efficient and productive business, but it is the best way to measure your success. In particular, evaluating and reflecting on your own progress also keeps us from going down the destructive path of comparing ourselves to others.

Remember: our own success is not measured by what someone else is doing or has already accomplished.

Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and have a set time frame. Some examples are:

  • Specific: I want to see 17-20 clients on average per week
  • Measurable: 17-20 on average per week
  • Attainable: What is the national average for a full-time practice? 17-20 clients per week may be harder to obtain in the first few years without accepting insurance.
  • Realistic: Committing to seeing 30 clients per week by yourself may not be realistic for you without compromising the quality of counseling or taking time away from other aspects of your business.
  • Time frame: I want to be seeing 17-20 clients on average per week within the first 18 months of my practice.

Making both short-term and long term goals are important to making progress in your business:

  • An example of a long-term goal could be your 5 year plan you have to complete for CDR.

  • An example of short term goals could be the breakdown of your long term plan into monthly goals.

  • Daily and weekly goals keep you on track to achieve these monthly goals.

Remember that that goals do not have to be permanent. As you are personally changing and growing, so is your business. New goals will be formed or old goals will be adjusted according to where you are at.



Session 4: How To Stay Accountable

It takes more than just hard work to become successful. No matter what industry you are in, your growth will depend on who you surround yourself with. Having the support of a personal board of advisors provides access to diverse professional wisdom. One of the biggest mistakes young professionals make today is thinking they can have one mentor who is going to meet all of their professional needs.

 
 

Why do you need a board of advisors?

Your board of advisors should be a mix of friends and professionals you trust. The friends you reach out to should be the ones that you feel good about being around and who make you feel better as a person.

An example of those who can be on your personal board of advisors include:

  • Another business professional
  • A friend outside the field of dietetics
  • Another RD

No single mentor can provide the vast experience that a board of advisors will have, which is why it is so important to have multiple perspectives. Mentorship is essential because you can learn from other people’s successes to be a better business owner and dietitian. 

You cannot be successful and operate from a place of jealousy or fear. Jealousy and fear comes from a lack of confidence from within, and it is something you must overcome in order to grow professionally and personally.

Your mentors will give you that motivation you need on the days you are struggling, and they will push you to make bold actions happen. They are also someone who can be there to listen to you as you vocalize your ideas, struggles and successes.  Outwardly expressing what you are feeling will allow you to get out of your own head and gain more perspective on the situation. And who doesn't love vocalizing success and having someone to celebrate even the smallest wins with? Your mentors will be there for you during these times.

 

Types of professionals who can advise you

When choosing professional members of your board of advisors, keep in mind the following types of people:

  • You may want to seek legal advice from an attorney for choosing the right business structure (ex: LLC) or professional liability insurance.

  • A banker will be able to assist you in setting up your business bank account, credit cards and credit card reader. You will also need a bank contact to reach out to for any future issues or advice regarding your account.

  • An accountant can help you set up your EIN and will function as your tax advisor.

  • If you will be accepting insurance, using a company such as Healthy Bytes may be helpful. They will complete all the paperwork necessary to contract you with each insurance company. They will also be able to perform all your eligibility checks and file and track claims for you. All of these things are very time-consuming and will keep you from seeing clients. 

If you are trying to do everything in professional areas that you are not familiar with, you may end of using most of your business hours on areas unrelated to making money or growing your business. Sometimes, it is better to defer to a professional expert so that you can get back to working with or growing your business with clients.

Remember, time is money, and an opportunity cost that needs to be appropriately managed.



Session 5: How To Gain Confidence

Confidence is what fuels the business fire. Anyone can obtain the tactics to set up a business, but it takes a confident leader to grow a business and not fall apart in times of adversity. But what we often question is whether we need to already have confidence going in and starting the entrepreneurial journey, or is it something we gain along the way.

 
 

While we all want it, confidence is not innate and is a skill that must be developed. I’m calling it a skill because you have to work for it to become confident. Just as you develop muscle mass by repetitive action, you must develop your confidence the same way by doing what you are scared of over and over. For this reason, you can’t wait to start chasing your dreams until you feel confident. Start chasing first and confidence will continue to build.

1. Push yourself to do it anyway

Repetitive action is key. The first time you speak in front of a crowd your heart starts pounding, palms are sweaty, and you may even be physically shaking. The more you push yourself to get uncomfortable and do it again, the symptoms become less each time. The same is true with everything you do as an entrepreneur. It is scary and won’t feel comfortable at times, but continue to put one foot in front of the other. Do what scares you most over and over, and over time, it will become routine.

 

2. Silence the negative voice in your head

As entrepreneurs, our biggest fear is not being liked or approved of. We fear making a mistake or being judged. The more you silence this voice, the more you can develop your skill of confidence. The truth is that there will always be someone that doesn’t like something you do and that is OK. In fact, the more confident you become and the more real and authentic your voice is, the more likely you are to encounter a hater. In other words, if you receive that negative feedback, know that it just means you are impacting people in a big way.

 

3. Put your attention on the message

Instead of putting all the pressure on yourself, think about how what you're trying to do will support other people. Ask yourself: what is the message I am giving and who is this going to help? 

Often our confidence is stripped when we make it too much about ourselves, and we are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. Understand that no path is wrong and always teaches you something. Quitting is the only way you will fail.

 

4. Have people around you who support you and push you forward

No one can be positive and reassuring for themselves 100% of the time. Sometimes we are scared of what having confidence will actually bring us. Will we get too much responsibility? Can we handle it? Make sure to surround yourself with people who will encourage you that you can do anything. Fear that you aren’t enough or aren’t deserving can stop you from progressing forward.

 

5. Find your fuel based on past successful experiences

In Session 2, we talked about finding your fuel based on past successful experiences and overcoming your weaknesses. You have overcome previous struggles to get to where you are currently at, so the future will be the same. With each struggle or weakness, new tools are learned and confidence is gained.


ACTIVITY

1. Ask at least 10 people to describe you with 3 adjectives.

Facebook is a great way to achieve this through a single post, and you will probably help you get more than 10 people to comment. Did you expect to see these adjectives?

 

2. What 3 adjectives would you use to describe yourself, and how do they propel you forward in your successes?



Session 6: Understanding the Basics of Your Brand Message

The personal journey and realizations you discovered along the way can be such a powerful 'why' and motivating story that can capture your audience. Your focus is now to bring all that together into a message to share with others who will look to you as their guide, because you have been in their shoes and came out on the other side with a renewed perspective.  That is the essence of what your brand message is…and you need to know it in order to communicate to your audience why you can help, and why you’re the best one to do it.

 
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It can be overwhelming to jump into a full brand development in this beginning stage, which we will review in Module 5. But you do need to have a general idea of how to describe your brand and articulate how you can best help as you start out in your business.  You may even feel like you need to stay in Module 1 a little longer to get this brand message right, because you’ll want a solid foundation to grow upon.

Now is the time where you need to take all that you have learned about yourself in the last few sessions in this Module, and really ask yourself:

What do I want out of my life that makes me want to step out on my own, and make my mark in this world?

Here are some of the key areas to consider as you are developing your brand message:

 

1. Be authentic.

Don’t look to define yourself based on what you think other people will want from you, or try to fit a mold of what already exists or is successful. Ask yourself what your special gifts are that truly make you shine. When its comes from you, you aren’t chasing anything. That is the best way to grow your business because you take full ownership of who you are.

When you own your strengths that your business is derived from, you will grow naturally and organically, without it feeling contrived or forced. This is the most important element of your brand message.

 

2. Your brand is not a service or specialty.

One of the most common mistakes is to describe your brand based on the functional service you are providing (e.g. nutrition counseling) or an area of specialty or practice philosophy (e.g.  intuitive eating). Rather, it is  important to focus on the end point value, and the 'feeling' or experience that you are helping them achieve.  

People pay for outcomes and experiences that fulfill a need or pain point, so don’t focus on ‘what you do’, but rather, ‘what will they get out of working with you’. The true value lies the experience that you provide, not the actual service that you are delivering. That value can either be something that’s tangible and measurable (like saving money or weight management), or more emotional and intangible, such as feeling more confident in their bodies and regaining love for themselves.

Find out what really pains you to see in others’ problems, and ask yourself what drives your ‘why’ and how you want to remedy it. Focus not only on the problem you’re solving, but the experience your client will receive while getting there.

 

3. Don’t distract yourself with the visuals and find a way to emotionally connect.

There are more specific components in a brand that we will touching on in Module 5, but the main thing to remember at this stage is that your brand is more than just a visual identity, like a logo or colors on your website. Your brand components are the actual core values that you stand for, what you’re trying to accomplish with them, and how they will impact your audience so they’ll want to follow your lead. And when your audience follows your lead, they will take action by spreading the word for you, and eventually buy from you.

The key thing to remember is that people are drawn to messages and stories that emotionally connect with them. Make sure the message really emotionally resonates with you first...otherwise, how can it resonate with your audience? A good brand has the ability to elicit an emotional response in an individual, which drives up the purchasing potential. 95% of people make decisions based on emotional drivers to their perceived problem, then follow up and identify logic to validate their decision to follow a solution. Examples of emotional drivers include:

  • Achievement and competence

  • Fear

  • Sense of belonging

  • Feeling secure

  • Regaining control

Think of your brand message as the outcome and experience that you are specifically passionate about helping people achieve. Picture this in your mind, and use it to harness your excitement and passion behind the emotional elements of your brand message.

 

4. Listen to what your potential client audience is asking for.

The best way to understand your audience is to go out there and actively research what they truly want. Start with who you know, and ask them what their issues and problems are.  

As you get start growing your audience and have a consistent way to communicate with them (such as through an email list or FB group), don’t be afraid to set up ways to communicate their interests and needs with you from time to time to get their feedback on what they need.

That can come in the form of a survey, number of email sign-ups for an offer, or by looking at their click-through rates and engagement on your email or post analytics.  Your market will always be the best at informing you of what your value is to them, and what should be your next move.

Follow along in the activity below to start developing and writing out your brand message. Remember, this is something that can change as you learn more about your audience. Having it written out will be a helpful way to remind you of what you’re in it for.


Activity

1. Identify up to 5 words that embody your core values and describe the driving forces behind them.

 

2. Step through and write down your most basic brand message:

  • ‘Why’: The problem you are trying to solve and the reason you created your business

  • ‘How’: Your solution that will address this problem based on your unique experiences and knowledge

  • ‘What’: The way your solution will be delivered and achieve the desired outcome.

 

3. Develop a brand story and narrative that steps your audience through your story:

  • Origin: This sets the foundation and paints a picture for your audience. It grounds their expectation of who you once were.

  • Shift: Share the revelation that moved you away from that origin, and took you out of that mindset and into the new one that you’re currently in.

  • Now:  Tell them what you current focus on because of that shift, and the audience you are helping because they will benefit from the newer understanding that you have. This will relay why you’re the best one to help them.

4. Write down 3-5 possible emotional reasons that your audience will be motivated to take action and work with you through your business.