Maybe you’ve heard that old joke:
Know how to start a winery and make a small fortune?
… Start with a large fortune.
On my recent visit to California, I was reminded of that joke. I was teaching APHA Workshops in San Diego and it came up twice: first because one of our attendees brought me a bottle of wine from her northern California neighborhood (thanks MR – delicious!) and second….
Because we followed the money to improve attendees’ chances for success – great success! – as private, independent health and patient advocates… amidst some “whining” – because it’s a topic very few like to think about.
Here’s why and how:
Most of the huge-hearted souls who decide to shift their careers to advocacy haven’t been business owners before. They have been doctors, or nurses, or even teachers or social workers, or enjoyed a career in something totally unrelated to healthcare (like me!), many of whom have worked in large bureaucracies or practices or corporations, but weren’t in charge of the money as it came in or went out. They haven’t had to deal with capitalization, or cash flow, or budgets, or balance sheets, or other workers’ paychecks before….
In short, they really don’t know how to deal with the money aspects of their business.
As a result, too many end up losing so much money that they decide to (or are forced to) step away from where their passion lies. They go out of business not because they weren’t great advocates, but because they didn’t handle the money well enough to sustain it.
Who loses? Those advocates – and the hundreds of patients they might have helped during their careers.
Every job, whether we’re working for someone else or for ourselves, or (in our cases) for clients who hire us, has its tasks and requirements no one likes to do. They are the necessary evils of work and success.
- When you work for someone else, those tasks are assigned to you whether you like it or not.
- When you work for yourself, whether you own a pizza shop or you navigate people through the healthcare system, you have to suck it up and take responsibility for the financial aspects of your business or yes, you will fail.
I wish I had a nickel for every advocate-wannabe who told me, “I already know how to be an advocate, so it won’t cost me anything to start my business!” (Those nickels would certainly help my cash flow!) It makes me cringe.
The Advocacy Practice Financial Quiz
I’m not going to try to provide business financials lessons here. There are plenty of resources to help you with those. But you can take this short quiz to help you figure out whether you need lessons or resources to improve your knowledge and their maintenance yourself.
Now – score your quiz:
- 5 points for every “Yes I know exactly what the answer is!”
- 2-3 points (depending on whether you are more or less sure) for every “I think I know the answer but am not sure.”
- 0 points for every “I don’t have a clue.”
If your total is:
- 16 or more – you understand the concepts, and just need to make sure you implement and maintain them
- 14 or 15 – you have a basic understanding, but have more to learn and probably implement – see the resources below
- less than 15 – you may be setting yourself up for failure in your own practice unless you tap into the learning resources and implement those lessons
Resources to Improve Your Financial Savviness and Chances for Success
Most of us can use help when it comes to improving how we handle the finances of our advocacy practices. Unfortunately, and so true, is that we don’t know what we don’t know – so hopefully this has given you a quick sense of what you still need help with.
To learn more about financials and improve the chances you’ll succeed with your practice, here are some resources for you:
- Tap into SCORE or an SBDC near you. Their help is often free, or they offer inexpensive courses.
- Purchase The Health Advocate’s Start and Grow Your Own Practice Handbook and read chapters 7, 8 and 13.
- Attend an APHA Workshop – the Business of Advocacy (Day 1)
Yes – I realize that having to face the music on this financial stuff may seem to rank right there with a root canal, so – go ahead and whine! Alternatively, invest your time in your financials, and then grow your large fortune in advocacy.