5 Lousy Excuses for Walking Away from an Advocacy Practice – and 1 Very Good One

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The blame game has been on my mind recently after several emails or phone conversations, plus the results of an exit survey offered when APHA memberships expire. In all cases, people gave reasons (as in, excuses) for why they felt like it was time to give up their practices or let their memberships expire.

In almost every case where someone actually started a practice, then decided to step away, they blame some part of their practice that didn’t work out. They wanted to be independent advocates. They certainly expected to succeed when they got started. Their passion and drive were clearly there!  But – they failed. And there is always a reason, or more like a lousy excuse.

It makes me sad, because they have given up dreams, because there will be people who don’t get the help they need, and because if they had been more diligent, those negatives didn’t need to happen.

Thus today’s post. Because the rest of us can learn so much from lousy excuses!  Here are five of them (in no particular order), along with the reasons why they don’t hold water.  Plus one great reason to walk away – one we can all admire.

Here are the excuses I hear, and a response to each.

Lousy Excuse #1. Healthcare changes so fast I can’t keep up with it.

Seriously? The whole point of being a professional advocate is knowing the basics of the system. The truth is, the basics don’t change that much. The details might change, but they generally adhere to the “follow the money” rule. For the most part, staying in touch with your profession by being part of a professional organization, or subscribing to professional listserves or discussion forums, or reading blogs, or even just the news – these are important requirements for any profession. In that way the amount of change advocates must keep pace with is no more or less than any other profession.

And don’t forget – one of the most important reasons someone hires an advocate is because clients fear those changes. It’s worthwhile staying up with them because the more the system changes, the more “job security” we advocates have.

Lousy Excuse #2. I listed myself in the directory, but the phone never rang.

This excuse stems from the wrong-minded idea that once an advocate is listed in the AdvoConnection Directory – or any other directory – then they don’t need to do any other marketing. They somehow expect that everyone will magically discover they are now in business.

Wrong!  A listing in the directory can prove your commitment to the profession. And it certainly needs to be there when someone goes looking for an advocate. But what makes them look for YOU? Not a directory. Other marketing is crucial: a good marketing website, public speaking, email newsletters, blogging… no directory by itself will ever be enough to make your phone ring or your email inbox fill up.

Lousy Excuse #3. There are too many other advocates in my area.

It’s true that some areas of the US have more advocates than others. But no area has too many – and we are probably decades away from that situation.

For years I’ve used the Yellow Pages metaphor that says – when there are as many patient advocates listed in your Yellow Pages as there are lawyers, then you can worry about too many (competitive) advocates in your area.  Of course, yes, I realize that some areas don’t even have Yellow Pages any more, and for those that do, they are very thin!  But I stand behind the metaphor because it still works.

Lousy Excuse #4. I lowered my prices, but still couldn’t get a contract.

The minute an advocate lowers her prices, she’s saying she’s not worth as much. And that just isn’t true.

People equate the price of something with its value. While there may be exceptions to this, for the most part, the more something costs, the more perceived value. Think about it: what’s the value of a polo pony or an alligator on a shirt? No matter what species is tacked on, it doesn’t mean the shirt will be more of a shirt. It just means people will be willing to pay more for it. What about a Mercedes or BMW or Lexus?  If you need to get from point A to point B in a car, you can do that in a basic Chevy or Hyundai. But so many people have this sense that those more expensive cars, because they cost more, have more value.

The same is true for advocates. One young woman told me, “I kept lowering my prices. I’m charging only $10 an hour. But now I can’t make enough money!”  She clearly didn’t understand that by charging only $10 an hour, people didn’t trust she could do the work either. In their minds, she had erased her value.

If you think your prices are getting in the way of someone’s willingness to sign a contract, then raise them instead!  Or, even better, learn more about how to handle client phone calls so they will be eager to engage you for your advocacy.

Lousy Excuse #5. No one wanted the services I offer.

OMG. I have heard this so many times. And while the answer is actually crystal clear, too many advocate wanna-bes have trouble stepping into a potential client’s head, and out of their own.

Think about this yourself. If someone wants to sell you a pink polka-dotted car with corduroy seats for $25,000 – do you want to buy it?  I suspect most will say no. The same is true if you continually offer services people don’t care about.

The key to successful business is NOT offering what you want to offer unless it’s identical to what people want to pay for.  If they aren’t willing to pay for what you want to do, then you need to change what you offer to them. You need to accommodate their needs.

Bonus!  Lousy Excuse #6.  It’s so much harder than I thought.

So many people start an advocacy practice because they believe that since they’ve been doing advocacy for years (decades sometimes!) it will be an easy transition.  I hear this all the time: “I’ve been an advocate all my life. Now I just want to get paid for it!”  Then they hang out their shingle, and wait for the phone to ring.

Too late, they realize it doesn’t work that way.  Too late, they realize that if they don’t attend to business details, if they don’t market their services, if they don’t truly focus on building a viable practice, they will fail.

The first few years of an advocacy practice are (educated guess) 80% business and 20% advocacy – percentages that shift toward advocacy as time goes on.

The Good Excuse!

“It’s time for me to retire! After several successful years as an advocate, and helping hundreds of patients get the care they needed at a cost they could afford, I’ve now sold my practice. It’s time to focus on me. To bake cookies and play ball with my grandkids. To enjoy the fruits of my labor.”

Now THAT’s a good excuse!

Lousy excuses cost us our dreams and cost clients their opportunities to find the support and assistance they need.  Review those lousy excuses above, then take steps to be sure they aren’t YOUR excuses.

Your turn!  What excuses have you heard?  Are they good ones?  Or can they be overcome?

 
 

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Comments

  1. Anne Llewellyn  November 14, 2017

    Trisha, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I hope people who read, take what you shared to heart. As a nurse for over 40 years, who has had a diverse and successful career, your words ring true. For those who have branched out on their own and are successful, congratulations.

    I know there are many who have put their toe in the water and are trying to make it as an independent advocate. It is not easy, but nothing worthwhile is easy. Take your time, evaluate where you are. Just as you develop goals with your clients, I hope you are developing your own goals for your business. Be creative, be innovative and never give up.

    When I was developing the educational company that I had with a business partner in 1994 we both kept our ‘day jobs’ as we needed our incomes. Together we planned and networked and grew our business from ‘dust’ to a successful company that allowed us both to leave those day jobs and concentrate on our business. It was the best years of my career, but it was hard work. I enjoyed the early days, as we were trying to find our niche in a crowded space. What could we offer that was unique, made a difference, and could provide educational resources to help professionals improve themselves. It was a lot of work, but we did it. I decided to leave the company in 2006. My former business partner is still in business and is doing well. I went a different route and it worked for me.

    Today, patient advocacy is needed in every sector of the system and for many people. Some have the money to afford an advocate but many don’t or don’t know how an advocate can make a difference. As advocacy is in its infancy, we all have the obligation to get the word out to the public. Growing a new area of practice is a slow process, but it can be done. If you have the skills, the ambition and the fortitude to do this work, there is a place for you. The Alliance has good tools to help you and there are a number of people who can give you guidance. Don’t give up, as you are needed!

    If I can be of help to run ideas past, provide suggestions and connect you to others who can help you on your journey, please let me know!

    Anne Llewellyn

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