And They Called it Puppy L-o-o-ve

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firstlove< ….cue Paul Anka or Donny Osmond…. >

….  Remember when you were a teenager in puppy love?  Oh! You couldn’t stand to be away from the new person in your life!  You knew you would love each other forever – but the rest of the world that was getting in the way of that love. THEY thought you were too young, but you knew better! ….

And they called it puppy love
Oh I guess they’ll never know
How a young heart really feels
And why I love her so

It was the highest of highs, finding love for the first time!  Like no other, you couldn’t imagine feeling any better than you felt at that point in your life.

Hormone-driven passion… the dopamine, serotonin, estrogen and testosterone… Giddy with new-found love, you took chances and made stupid decisions….

And, as happens with any risk… sometimes you got caught in compromising positions – sneaking out, passing notes in class, or even the ultimate in getting caught when you thought no one else would be home….

At the extreme you might have even paid an “ultimate” type of price. Your reputation, a teen pregnancy, a total rethinking and reshaping of your future….

Of course, what we all know about puppy love is that it doesn’t last. The reality of puppy love is that you eventually have to deal with the real world (like parents and money!) no matter how distasteful that might seem and no matter how much it appears, at the time, to shatter your dreams. Few puppy love relationships last longer than a blip on the radar of a lifetime. Yet, we learn so much from the experience.

Eventually, you did fall in real, mature, let’s-make-our-lives-together love. Initially it might have felt like the same as that first puppy love, but it evolved far more maturely, when you were old enough to understand the long term benefits and consequences, and use that wisdom to make mature decisions, most likely with support from those around you. Together you learned that keeping your relationship intact was hard work, and required sacrifices, but was oh-so-worth-it.

Fast forward to today. You’ve had this grand idea; that is, you’re going to start a private patient advocacy business. The more you think about it, the more excited you get. You’ll help people!  The quality and quantity of their lives will improve! They’ll be healthier and they will heal! Or their life savings will remain intact! They will be grateful!  And you’ll know you’ve made a difference.

Double bonus… you can step off the merry-go-round of a job you’re not happy with, then build a career you love, be appreciated, support yourself, too!  Importance, passion and stability all rolled into one. Can it get any better than that?

Yes, it’s true – the passion and excitement of starting a private advocacy business can be as seductive as falling in love!

The real key – and the important message here – is that you make sure that passion isn’t puppy love. You must be sure you aren’t building a “puppy practice.”

How will you know the difference? Let’s begin by looking at what distinguishes puppy love from more mature, adult love:

  • Puppy love involves all those adolescent reactions of tuning out the rest of the world, taking stupid risks, ignoring the signs that tell you you’re doing something you shouldn’t do, letting passion rule your head, making decisions based on wishful thinking and more.
  • The more mature, adult emotion involves assessing your new relationship in terms of the world around you, studying risk and using it wisely, making decisions based on the long-term likelihood of success, using your passion to drive your information-gathering and more.

And so it follows…

  • Puppy practice means you believe that your passion and drive to help others will be all you need to build the foundation for your new career. No hard work needed!  Tell the world you’re an advocate, your phone will ring, and people will pay you for your skills.  They NEED you, so they’ll HIRE you!
  • But the mature approach will mean your passion and drive will help you build your foundation out of the reality of learning to be a smart business-person. You’ll plan ahead, you’ll have money in the bank, you’ll cover yourself with liability insurance, you’ll draw up smart contracts, you’ll price your services fairly, you’ll learn to ask potential clients for signatures and checks. You’ll know how to answer the phone, and get the signature, and keep records private, and approach providers – all of it. Like mature love, It’s hard work and requires sacrifice!  But it mitigates the risk of turning “puppy.”

And more….

  •  Mature practice building means you do the hard work of marketing to bring in the right kinds of clients – the ones who need your services and are willing to pay for them.
  • Puppy practice means you keep agreeing to do pro bono work because you HATE to ask for money, and because you feel so USEFUL even when you know that pro bono ultimately won’t help you build a practice.
  • Finally, like puppy love, your puppy practice will eventually fizzle and die. You’ll run out of energy, or money, or you’ll be making excuses to your partner, or….

So – the question for you to answer for yourself…  are you building a smart, mature practice, with a strong base in the realities of business?  Legal, marketing, insurance, client service, contracts, privacy…

Or is your practice based on passion and little else?  A puppy practice that will fizzle and die?

If you decide you’ve begun a puppy practice and want to make a correction, you can do it if you aren’t far down the road; if you haven’t already ruined your reputation or burned up your savings.  But you must take it seriously, truly delve into the business of advocacy, and realize that your passion may be good for ignition, but it’s going to take study and implementation of business skills, and plenty of good marketing, to keep your new love for as long as you want to keep it.

And they called it puppy love
Just because we’re seventeen
Tell them all it isn’t fair
To take away my only dream

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Comments

  1. Co  December 1, 2014

    Having been a patient advocate throughout my career as an RN I didn’t go into business with puppy love blinders on. I knew this would be hard work and after one year of full time advocacy, I’m in the black, and bringing in at least 2 paying clients a week. But the cases are getting tougher and tougher — and sicker and sicker. If I’d come into this career with puppy love blinders on, my career would have been over months ago.

    Go into this with blinders off. Ask for your fee at the very beginning and don’t waiver. Don’t EVER accept payment at the end of the work. And, don’t hesitate to ‘fire’ your clients, especially when they lie or become belligerent (have these clauses in your contract). Many clients are in the position they’re in because they’ve put themselves there. It’s your job to be their advocate – and helping them get the best care possible – not be their friend.

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