James M. Cahill, MS, BCB, is a recent graduate of the Saybrook University College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Here James Cahill presents strategies for cultivating and promoting a clinical practice in mind-body healthcare services.
Working from the Heart
I have noticed, here at Saybrook, that there is a wide continuum of experience among us with regard to marketing. We seem to have much greater, and more natural, strengths in our beloved field of Mind-Body Medicine (MBM). Most of us are authentically motivated by its wise paradigms, practices, and worldview, while we may be hesitant—or even disdainful—of the business-end of clinical practice.
But the gap between competence in marketing and that in MBM skills is sufficient, I think, to determine whether an MBM “business” or practice succeeds or fails—economically. Just like the MBM skills and professionalism we cultivate at Saybrook, marketing is a skill and a profession essential to sustaining our practices. There are rules, things that work and don’t work. There are those who have been serial successes and those who have been serial failures—in marketing.
The basics never seem to change: offering value for value, developing clear messaging, countering competing messages, overcoming resistance, crafting imaging, positioning the produce/service, and penetrating the market. And there are the many less-tangibles: timing, shifting cultural values, suitability of oneself to the business model, nuances of service delivery and follow-up, and heartfelt connection with the business process (or ability, at least, to tolerate it).
It is not the case, in my experience, that If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Many superior products and services can languish and be obscured by poor marketing and business models, or a poor fit between the developer and a marketplace. It is all too easy to wrap oneself in the flag of clinical focus, and to retreat to the moral high ground high above the petty concerns of finance, imaging, and networking. Yet, when seen as essential to optimizing the delivery of your MBM services—offering the greatest good to the greatest number—marketing and business savvy can become as virtuous and worthy of careful cultivation as our clinical skills.
We are fortunate that the commitment, staying-power, infectious enthusiasm, and obvious authenticity of a highly committed and competent MBM practitioner confer advantages that no amount of business-school, boilerplate approaches to business can equal. The committed practitioner can weather storms that the money-driven dabbler and opportunistic entrepreneur will flee. We are already successes in this regard.
But there is still work to do. One cannot serve two masters, it is said. I might add that mastery comes to those who serve wisely, who cultivate their skills daily, who live and teach in alignment with reality, and who can face fears and obstacles with both wisdom and compassion. The world is hungry, as ever, for such luminaries. This marketplace has never declined, and our edge in this marketplace is to realize its power and then cultivate this way of being.
Working on What Counts
There are many forms of income, which I have envisioned as ranging from green to pink, that is, pocket-filling green to heart-swelling pink. Among these, I am most moved by the pink forms. This is where self-appraisal of one’s lived experience becomes the ultimate accounting ledger. There is nothing inherently wrong with the green, but it’s the pink that soaks in deepest and that ultimately sustains us. Our awareness of this green-to-pink (money-to-merit) ratio can remind us of the many forms of wealth—especially during tough times—and the value of cultivating a clear view of what we seek and what we can ever hope to truly own.
Wealth of spirit—that genuine happiness found, and cultivated, within—is the greatest wealth. The greatest, most consequential poverty is that arising from wrong view: looking outward for what can never be found there. It leads to a cycle of poverty of imagination and methods that leads us away from genuine happiness.
Taking The Long View
If our first iteration of our clinical practice fails, we must know that there are others. There are lessons to be learned, experts to consult, paradigms to re-examine and re-tool, and opportunities to re-engage, with a bit more experience, wisdom, and consciousness of method.
Whatever our level of success in our enterprises, we must take care with the conclusions we draw. Initial success does not guarantee ongoing success. The same goes for failure. If we embrace complexity, do our homework, closely attend to all, tap our deepest values (for sustaining power and coherence in work/life values), move incrementally and humbly but with sincerity and right effort, we have major ingredients for success, already.
It was a great insight—and relief!—to me to realize that loneliness is not required in our enterprises. Neither do we have to be good at every aspect of our businesses or clinical practices. In fact, it can be folly to believe so. How many of us feel equal love of accounting and clinical work? Marketing and researching new findings? Programming web pages and sitting in deep contemplation? It takes a village to run most businesses; so contractors, interns, mentees, colleagues, and the like can be your best friends in leveraging your assets and proclivities.
Let It Be So
Do right and fear not. Move incrementally, organically, and authentically. Keep your risk outlay in proportion to your knowledge: “don’t eat your seed corn” (know what you can afford to lose; save something for the next cycle). Recruit friends and helpers (it hurts to be alone, and is unnatural). Cultivate deep values and take the long view: it’s easier to weather storms when your destination is worthy and you know where you are.
Examine successes and failures, equally: there are hidden treasures in both. Develop a tolerant relationship with uncertainty and doubt: they can be on the bus—you have little choice about this—but you don’t have to let them drive. Know that action often delivers realizations that no amount of timid perseveration can divine. The essence of knowledge and reality is direct experience: get as close as possible to everything that concerns you, if you wish to know it well.
There is no failing when we authentically seek truth, virtue, wholesomeness, love, compassion, joy, equanimity, kindness, wisdom, and healing.
There are just a few details.