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Hey folks, welcome back to The Testing Psychologist podcast. We have a business episode for you today and I think it’s a really good one. This is a meaningful and entertaining conversation for me in the sense that it gave me a lot to think about with regard to my [00:01:00] practice.
I’m happy to introduce you to Jessica Lackey. Jessica is a strategy and operations advisor who is on a mission to radically disrupt mainstream business culture in an effort to create sustainable businesses with a human-centric approach. She has a background in corporate leadership, McKinsey & Company consulting, and a Harvard Business degree.
She knows a thing or two about hustle culture and what it feels like to judge success by the bottom line at all costs. Now, she combines her deep experience in consulting, Fortune 500 operations leadership, and coaching to help businesses grow without sacrificing the well-being of their clients, teams, and community.
Jessica and I talk about scaling with integrity. This is a pretty wide-ranging conversation where we talk about the difference between scaling and growing. We talk about first steps if you’re thinking about scaling and how those might differ whether you’re considering administrative [00:02:00] support or hiring another clinician, we talk about why a VA may not be your best first hire to help with administrative tasks and a variety of other things.
I really enjoyed talking with Jessica and I think that you will enjoy this conversation as well. I think it applies to anyone at any stage of practice, but it will be particularly relevant for those of you who are thinking about growing in some form or fashion, whatever it may be.
As always, if you’re a practice owner and you’d like ongoing support with running your practice or growing your practice, you might check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. You can get more information, and schedule a pre-group call at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting.
In addition to that, you can find Jessica’s information in the show notes. She has some fantastic resources on her website if the content of our conversation felt [00:03:00] helpful for you.
All right, let’s jump to my chat with Jessica Lackey.
Hey, Jessica, welcome to the podcast.
Jessica: Excited to be here.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. I’m excited to talk with you. I love this topic but I don’t know that we’ve had anyone on the podcast specifically to talk about it in detail. So I’m thrilled to dive in a little bit and talk about scaling and how to do it in a meaningful and fulfilling way. So thanks for being here. I appreciate it. Well, let’s start…
Jessica: Is on the internet is where nuance goes to die. So I’m excited we’re having a much longer conversation than what you [00:04:00] might see on social media about scaling your business.
Dr. Sharp: That is such a good phrase. I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere, but it’s been a long time and I can’t place it. And that is so true. It’s so true. You scroll and look on all the socials and get a lot of inspirational quotes but not a lot of action or meaningful content. So, that’s a great way to frame it.
So let’s start with a meaningful question, I suppose, why this? Out of everything you could spend your life doing, why do you care about scaling businesses like this?
Jessica: I spent my formative professional years working for big business, working in consulting, going to a top-tier business school, and climbing the ranks of the corporate ladder at Nike. Scaling and growing was, there was always another rung to hit. There was more to do, more to grow, [00:05:00] more money to make.
I just saw that and experienced that relentless pursuit of growth was damaging to the relationships we build with each other, the relationships we have with ourselves, the relationships we have with our bodies, and how can we do business differently and think about different measures of success than unchecked growth?
So how do I take the business principles I’ve learned and combine it with a more human-centered perspective that strengthens our ecosystems of local businesses who maybe didn’t have the privilege to go to business school or that business acumen and training, how can we bring those lenses together and how can I make a difference with strengthening our local ecosystems and bringing people together through what I’ve learned in a way that’s more sustainable and humane?[00:06:00] Dr. Sharp: I love that. I wonder, are there any instances that stand out or stories or people, or maybe it was your own experience, one within a bigger corporate setting that were like flashpoints or was this a slow burn over the years? How’d you get to that point?
Jessica: Slow burn over the years, but it all culminated when I worked in a big job at Nike. I looked at it from the outside and said, this is a two-person job. There’s a reason why the people that come into this job flame out after a year. It’s an unsustainable job. I asked for support and they kept telling me it’s not in the budget.
We would spend millions of dollars on the ramifications, I was working in inventory management at the time for Nike, and the costs we would incur by not funding these positions were millions of dollars. I was looking for [00:07:00] $120,000 headcount employee, but the company said, no, we need to prioritize profits and it’s going to come at the cost of your sanity in some cases.
That was the moment I realized that they didn’t care about me. I was a cog in the machine. I was going to need to take care of my own mental and physical health because in that system, I was getting chewed up and spit out and they didn’t care.
Dr. Sharp: I know you’re not alone in that story. I feel like there are a lot of folks who have had that experience. I’ve not worked in a big corporation like that but I get touches of that. There’s a part of me inside. So I’m excited to have this conversation, just knowing from the business owner’s side, how you can get in that mindset and really, what’s the phrase, shoot yourself in the foot or cut off your nose to spite your face or whatever, [00:08:00] where you think you’re making the right choice for one reason but it’s really detrimental in the long run and really hurts people in the business. I get it.
I wonder, maybe we start off with, I would love to ask you for an impromptu clarification. I’ve heard people describe a difference between growing and scaling in the sense that any business can grow but it takes art and skill to scale. I’m curious if you would agree with that and if not, how you might tweak that.
Jessica: Yeah, growing in my mind is doing the same things you’ve always done but bigger. And so from a mathematical perspective, the way I think about it is your revenue grows at the same rate as your costs or less. You have a business that operates the same way, just at a larger size. [00:09:00] We also tend to find that as the business grows up, if you’re just growing, actually, your profit margins probably go down because you haven’t gotten any more efficiency and leverage in the way you’re doing things.
Scaling is when you start to put systems, infrastructure, and people in place, where the revenue growth can start to outstrip the cost of your services going up. So you start to actually make more profit as you grow by doing things that generate more leverage and that generate more return on the investments that you’re making. That’s the definition I see between growth and scale.
Dr. Sharp: I like that. I think we’ll hopefully dig into the scaling part and how to do this artfully and deliberately. There are so many different places that we could start. I wonder if we might [00:10:00] start with mistakes that people make in scaling or trying to scale and things that you’ve seen over the years, especially in small business, I think most of us are small business owners, with our practices, maybe one, two, five, maybe 20 to 30 employees for the larger practices. I’m curious, what are some of the main mistakes that you see people making when they get it in their mind that they want to expand?
Jessica: The biggest mistake that I see is that there is what I call a discontinuity point when you’re going from growth to scale, when you’re adding a second office, when you’re adding multiple practitioners, when you’re adding a support staff. The way I call that it discontinuity is growth keeps going but for a period of time, the costs are much larger as you’re building out a new part of your business.[00:11:00] The biggest mistake is jumping in to that next transition too quickly without enough runway to make the transition successful because running a business where it’s just you, bringing on a team member, but then starting to add more services, more office locations, more systems, and structure, that all requires a lot of effort to get that return quick.
There’s the change management trough as we refer to it, everyone has the image of what it’s going to look like, but you have to do the thing. You have to build the plane while you’re flying the plane, and then it costs something to add this new part of your business on, and we have to be able to make it to the other side of that trough to see the return.
The biggest mistake is moving through that, thinking that, oh, it’s going to happen in a month or two months when really those kinds of [00:12:00] transitions tend to take 6 to 12 months. If you’re not prepared for that level of fortitude through the change, it can be a costly lesson.
Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I was just talking with someone yesterday about- they were saying they want to hire someone. Their vision for the practice is to hire someone, grow, do more supervision, and have passive income. I hear that a lot. I want passive income.
I talk a lot with folks about like how we get from here to there. The idea of passive income is a little bit of a red herring because there’s so much work that goes into hiring even one person, training them, and making sure the systems are in place. I’m glad that you’re starting with all of this. It’s not just like an easy step from [00:13:00] point A to point B.
Jessica: No. Thinking about what we’re sold about growth is that, oh, we want to expand our practice so therefore, we must need to keep growing our revenue, but that’s actually not the only way to grow the practice because it’s not about necessarily just growing the revenue. It’s how do we be more sustainable, really sustainable at where we’re at.
Are our profit margins where they should be? Are our systems and processes where they should be? Would we be even able to bring someone on board with, usually the founder has every practice in their head and only when it’s someone that comes on board is bulletproofing the processes and saying, oh, this doesn’t make sense for anybody that’s not you. There’s the stage before scale, which is, how do we have an incredibly profitable streamlined, structured business that’s just us, that’s going to build a cash buffer so that we can then [00:14:00] have the time and space and the money to bring on another person.
I think we forget about how much actual money it costs to bring on someone. You’re like, well, they’re going to make me money. Well, not out of the gates, not probably within the first 60 to 90 days if you don’t have clear processes in place, if you don’t have a client pipeline of people just waiting to work with you.
We’ve rushed into thinking, well, I need to keep growing my revenue. And I’m like, no, you should focus on growing your time freedom and your profit and your sustainability at the level you’re at. Yes, that may mean that you turn away clients, but you’re actually making way more money.
Dr. Sharp: I just want to drive that home in case people are distracted and working out or driving. Just to make it super clear, you are saying, Jessica, that we need to have a solidly functioning solo practice that’s profitable and systems-oriented before we [00:15:00] think about taking on employees or growing.
Jessica: At least a minimum of taking on additional practitioner; how do we automate the systems? How do we stop doing work that shouldn’t be done? You may bring on a back office employee or a virtual assistant or an office manager that will help you structure and streamline that, but too often we think, well, I just need to “make that passive income” and that’s how I’ll make money. That’s how I’ll actually recoup some of the fixed cost of maybe my office location. If it’s not profitable for you, it’s certainly not going to be profitable with you and somebody else.
Dr. Sharp: Yes. Let’s get super concrete. Do you have a sense, I know it may shift and vary depending on the practice, but do you have any rule of thumb as far as this is the runway you might need, or this is the profit margin you might be shooting for before you think about bringing on another practitioner, or this is the buffer you might need, [00:16:00] the financial buffer. How can people start to approach that?
Jessica: If you don’t have a waiting list, you’ll want to build some waiting list of two months to make sure that when you bring on a practitioner, they’re going to want to be busy unless they know how to market and sell themselves. You want to have at least a waiting list for two months to get your new practitioner started.
Rule of thumb is that most new employees aren’t going to be returning on investments their hiring until about 3 months in, so be prepared to make sure that you can absorb their salary without any increase for roughly three months. You’ll probably, I say, three months to prepare to bring on an employee and then three months of training them to bring that on. Usually, this is a 3 to 6-month change.
And then from a profit perspective, depending on [00:17:00] if they’ve got a physical location because rents are rents around this place. I like to see business owners that are getting at least 50% of the revenue as take-home. That feels really solid to make sure that there’s a stream of clients coming in, that what you’re spending on operations, what you’re spending on technology, and what you’re spending on marketing means that you’re still getting paid. You’re really taking home an actual paycheck that meets your needs with three months at a minimum of your own operating expenses and three months of their salary before you really think about it.
I know that’s going to scare a lot of people to say, I need that much cash buffer before I scale. And I say, yes, you do, because the worst thing you want to do is to bring on somebody as another practitioner in your business, especially if they aren’t marketing inclined and sales inclined, and then be worried about how you’re going to make [00:18:00] payroll.
Dr. Sharp: Of course. Yeah, that’s the worst feeling in the world. Yes. I’ve been there probably once in the 15 years of my practice for a number of reasons, it’s terrifying. It’s the worst feeling. You don’t want to live with that.
I know people out there, this comes up a lot in my work as well, where folks are like, well, how do I do that? How do I realistically do that? That sounds great. I’m drowning in my practice. I don’t have time to train someone. Maybe they’re saying, I don’t have any more time to work more, to bank more money.
So there’s this, it’s like a chicken or the egg thing, I think that is where people get panicked and think, oh, if I just hire someone then that’ll bring in more money. I’ll be able to even it out. I don’t know, how do you work with folks in that situation?
Jessica: I’ll give people an acronym they can remember called TACO.[00:19:00] Dr. Sharp: Uuu, I like tacos.
Jessica: When we think about, I don’t have time, I’m already working. We want to look at the systems that we have and ask some really hard questions, especially around time.
T in TACO stands for terminate. What are you doing that shouldn’t be done anymore? Maybe you’re finding that you’re spending a lot of time on social media, marketing your practice but you look back at your client history and realize that none of them found you through social media. Maybe it’s time to have a static social media grid on Instagram or Facebook and leave it alone. So how do we stop doing things?
A is Automate. So look for friction points. Oh my God, I’m invoicing. I’m writing these notes. I’m doing repetitive tasks over and over again. How can we automate those things? And if your clients or any like mine, automation is not your love language, so this is an [00:20:00] opportunity to find your friction and hire someone that can help you in a short-term capacity, streamline, and automate. That was that thing.
The C is Consolidate. So if you’re checking email every hour or something like that, how can you batch some of your tasks and create big blocks of time where you can really focus and say, maybe I need to limit my client days to Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday so Monday I can work on the business and Friday I can take care of admin so that you’re not distracted and wondering where everything went and which invoices got sent and which sessions got logged and what’s notes didn’t go out. Those are the types of things that you can consolidate.
And then we think about whether we outsource. Even outsourcing, I think there’s the default to full-time employees. I would most argue that, look for specialists who don’t need as much time and don’t need [00:21:00] you to do as much training, thinking about outsourcing, accounting, potentially having a dedicated scheduler or something like that. Maybe if you do have marketing, you have a team that does it. Look for people where you don’t have to do the training. You have to teach them about your process but you don’t have to develop processes. You plug into them. That’s TACO.
So that starts to free up your time to then say, okay, let me take more of a granular look through my time, my finances, my client roster, my sales and marketing strategy to say, okay, what are the things I need to put in place first to get more profit, to free up my time, to start to put in these systems?
Dr. Sharp: I love all of that. I’m going to push a little bit and maybe try to define how even people can find the time to do those things. Is it just a matter of, [00:22:00] Hey, at this stage, you’re in a hustling stage right now? You may have to work on the weekend. You may have to work at night after your kids go to bed or whatever. There is a space. Maybe it’s this trough that we’re talking about where you just have to hustle a little bit and work a little more than you want to, or is that too capitalist and whatever of me to insist on that?
Jessica: I think that it’s not forever. It’s a short-term grind. I don’t think that’s a bad thing to say but I do think that most people who I work with can’t see the forest for the trees, where they’re just so constantly in the work. That’s why I work with clients.
It’s nice to have an outsider perspective who can look at this like, you’re just doing this day in day out, you don’t know any different. You don’t know any better. And you’re exhausted. So I want to honor that you’re exhausted. This is why people like me exist. [00:23:00] Coaches, consultants exist, to help you get focused on what matters, because I really think that we’re so used and we’re so afraid to give up things that we think are working and don’t necessarily know where to start peeling the onion back.
One big question, this is a question that’s more for some of my clients who have sales calls, is how many no-shows do you have show up to your first appointments or book with you once and never book with you again and never finish, or how many invoices are left unpaid? We don’t step back and stop to think about, what are the simple practices that we could do to stop doing things or adjust just a little bit, that have a big impact because we’re just so fried from surviving.
So this is when you, I would say, [00:24:00] take a half day and look critically at your marketing channels, where are clients coming from? Get your accountant to help you with looking at your profit numbers and saying, are there expenses I can cut that aren’t working for me anymore?
Do a time audit, which doesn’t actually take any more, it takes a little more time, but do a time audit and say, where is my time actually going? What are the two to three places in my work that are really causing me friction? How can I think outside the box besides just brute forcing it? How can I think outside the box to tackle that process, streamline and eliminate it, or outsource it?
This is where you do need a little bit of work to, if your eyes are hovering around the waterline, we do need to kick a little [00:25:00] harder just to get our heads above the water so we can breathe a little bit but’s not going to stay that way forever.
Dr. Sharp: That’s a good way to put it. I like that analogy. I’m admittedly trying to find a way to work this TACO into the swimming analogy and I can’t quite pin it down yet but we’ve got some time. I might pull it together before the end of our interview, where you can be eating your taco and swimming at the same time. You look like you want to expand on that a little bit.
Jessica: Well, there’s this concept of the CEO day. It feels like it’s like yet another thing we need to do but how can we make it joyful? How can we go take ourselves to a place that’s not our office and yes, maybe it’s on a Saturday or a Sunday, and just spend some time where we’re not getting pinged by our clients and we’re not getting pinged by our office administrators, and we get [00:26:00] to think; and three hours, once a quarter will change your business.
Dr. Sharp: I totally agree. I have been doing Think Weeks for, I don’t know, 5 or 6 years, maybe. I’ve talked a lot about it on the podcast. I’m just a huge advocate of people trying to carve out, maybe it’s a day, maybe it’s whatever, three hours a quarter.It doesn’t have to be a lot, but it’s amazing what we can get done, reflect on, think through, or create just by stepping out of your traditional office environment and the rat race that we are constantly in. I love that.
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
Jessica: I have sticky notes on the wall in front of me, which are all of my creative visions about what I want to do with my business that I don’t have time for yet. These are all my friction points and all the things I want to do. I have them and I get them on a Post-it note and I just stick them on the wall. And they never come when I’m at my desk, they always come when I’m out for a walk with my dog or I’m in the shower. That’s when they come.
Dr. Sharp: Of course, I know. I’ve started a running list of just notes thing or a reminder list on my phone. So when I’m running, because that’s when I think of everything, I can just tell Siri to take a note and add it to the list, and that at least that you could keep track of it somewhere.[00:28:00] Jessica: Exactly.
Dr. Sharp: I know you have a, I don’t know if you call it a framework necessarily, but certainly some things for us to think through before we scale or hire. I wonder if we might tackle that and really operationalize some of this stuff. I’d be curious to go at it from two directions. You tell me if this makes sense but if you’re in a solo practice and you’re thinking about how do I get some help, what does that look like? And then if you are thinking of hiring another practitioner and actually growing your clinicians, then is that process different? And if so, maybe what comprises that process?
Jessica: So I would look at the, I’m going to call it the five M’s in your business. Look at the metrics. Look at all the KPIs -the key performance indicators that matter to your business, your [00:29:00] revenue, your profit. If you have different types of service offerings, what is the profitability of those? Look at your sales numbers. How many new clients do you have? Is there a churn rate? Do you have renewal rates for working with your business? Look at it. You’re compiling some marketing data. Marketing channels are working for you. Working means that they lead to money.
Dr. Sharp: Just to be clear.
Jessica: Just to be clear, it’s not social media followers, I promise. We look at where you’re spending your time. So we look at the metrics in our business.
The next M is management. So as you’re thinking about like, if you’re always behind on tasks, if you’re just overloaded, where’s your time being spent doing that time on it, but also what are the tasks that always get done and what are the tasks that never get done and is there something we can learn [00:30:00] from what never gets done? Because if it never gets done or it’s arduous, these are the areas where we say, how can we make them not arduous either through hiring someone or before we hire?
We look at the methods in our business and look for friction, essentially, sales processes, where does it feel hard? Client attraction, where does it feel friction? Friction is more of a feeling but you’ll know it when you’re like, oh God, this just doesn’t work for me.
Dr. Sharp: This is hard.
Jessica: This is hard. Delivery, what part of the delivery is not an exquisite experience for you or your clients? So we got methods. We’ve got the model.
This is like looking at the very fundamentals of your business. Are you making money? If you’re not making money or your client load is unsustainable for the money you’re making, [00:31:00] do you need to change how it’s structured? Do you need to change the new pricing? I know insurance regulations related to some of this may limit things but are you making money with the business model that you have?
And then ultimately we get to the last M, which is mission. The mission of a solo practice is you’re getting to do the work. The mission of bringing on a partner or bringing on an additional clinician means that you’re leading a team. Those are two different missions that have two different scale that requires a different skill set: how are you leading, and training your team? How are you providing feedback? How are you ensuring good quality?
Some people are like, I don’t want to deal with any of that. I just want to do the thing I was trained to do, do my craft, and call it a day. And other people are like, no, I want to build and train and lead the next generation. I [00:32:00] want to make sure that there’s someone that can take over my practice someday.
Those are two very different missions. And we have to, before we hire, before we scale, we got to make sure that our five M’s are, plug and solve the holes for the five M’s to make sure that this is a streamlined practice.
When you’re ready for hiring someone, then it’s like, very focused on training and systems and communication and quality practices and making sure it’s a really solid experience for your employee and your clients, because it’s such a careful field that just because you bring on someone, that you have to make sure that you and them have the same operating philosophy and that they have the same, that essentially, they’re going to be part of your brand and how do you ensure that that brand quality doesn’t get diminished by bringing on someone that may or may not have the same philosophy you do.[00:33:00] Dr. Sharp: I think that’s one of the primary fears that folks have when they think about bringing others on is how will this dilute or even ruin my reputation and my practice. I know that I certainly struggled with that in the beginning. I’m curious, from your standpoint, are there ways to combat that that we can engage in? Any exercises we can engage in, strategies, things to ask? I’m curious how you see people overcoming that hurdle.
Jessica: I think there’s the, how do we put in place processes before and after that can really strengthen the experience. For example, client feedback surveys and things like that are, those and things in place where you can actually read feedback. Onboarding forms for clients and onboarding videos and processes, like what can they expect? How can you make sure the experience is really good before they meet with you and that they’re being [00:34:00] embedded into your way of working?
But then I think from an interview process and a practitioner process, I would have like grand rounds type of experience where you take a client scenario and almost hear how they would think about it. What would they say? What tools would they use and do some scenarios?
And maybe those are things you do in the interview process. And those are ongoing. Here’s a client’s conversation, how would, pretend like I’m the client and work with me on this thorny scenario and observe how they would handle that situation and how they would respond and react? I think you’ll get a good sense of, are we operating with the same standard of care?
Dr. Sharp: Sure. There’s always so much we can do right ahead of time, like to predict or get to know someone but I’m a big fan of the, as close to a working interview as you can get. That’s tough [00:35:00] with therapeutic or testing work, but we can try.
I’m glad that you brought that up. That’s a huge concern for a lot of us, I think. And it’s this real push-pull of, hey, I think I want to grow and I don’t know how to let go and bring someone into the fold, so to speak.
Jessica: But there’s a lot of growth that can happen by and releasing of your time so that you can train and work with someone and provide oversight by streamlining the rest of your business so that when you’re ready to bring on another practitioner, that is your number one focus versus making, prepare for them to come before they get there so that you’re not trying to prepare the operational processes for them and train and mentor and oversight at the same time. That’s a lot, especially if you’re also trying to fill their roster with new clients.
Dr. Sharp: Exactly. [00:36:00] I love that point that you made a little bit ago where you said that when you start to hire folks, it immediately shifts your focus to, hey, I’m leading a team now. I am a manager; I’m leading a team. I’m a growth-oriented CEO kind of person versus I see clients and collect payments from them. That’s a very different kind of deal. And if people aren’t willing to step into that manager or development role, then probably not a great idea to start hiring other clinicians, anyway.
You’ve talked about systems quite a bit. And just knowing, mental health practices, even testing practices, I’m interested to hear what systems you think are most important. We hear this word a lot, systems and processes. So in a mental health practice, what are some of those systems that we need to be focused on [00:37:00] first to get the most bang for our buck?
Jessica: So I say systems here, I’m talking like big S-system. So I’m not saying like tech. I’m thinking, your processes around client acquisition, client onboarding, client scheduling, and delivery experience, what are the notes? And then invoicing and client feedback. And potentially insurance reimbursement, if that’s relevant for your industry. But those are the big “systems” that you need to think about.
And I would say, write out how you want the process to work and then start thinking about tech, so invoicing, for example, some industries they pay after, and it’s billed later. Some, you buy a package in advance and it’s invoiced up front. Some are you buy you pay at the desk. [00:38:00] You got to decide for your practice, what’s the “invoicing system” and that then dictates what tech you need.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I love that. That’s super simple. I will call that the client journey. Basically, those are the major steps along the client journey; how do you get them? How do you onboard them? How do you schedule them? How do you document them? And then how do you build them? That gets you from start to finish.
Jessica: Yeah. And then how do you track progress along the way? How do you, again, maybe not as relevant for this industry but the best clients are the ones you’ve already been working with and they love you, and so how do you turn a good client into a recurring client or to a rating fam?
Dr. Sharp: Do you have thoughts on it? How do you do that?
Jessica: I think it’s how you mark progress. How do you have different engagements that grow with the client? And then [00:39:00] are you getting reviews at the end? Are you getting testimonials? Are you asking for case studies? If you can do that in a way that doesn’t breach confidentiality.
So those are some of the things that you can do to make sure the client has a really great experience because, at least with the people I work with, there’s progress, they are not aware of the progress they’ve made so how do you go back to the beginning of the journey? How do you help them celebrate where they’ve come from? Because everyone, we’re always looking ahead. We don’t ever stop to look back and be like, oh, that is right. This is how far I’ve come on my transformation journey. How can we embed that as a formal part of the process that also collects feedback?
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Yeah, I like that. I know you mentioned a little bit ago that we weren’t talking about specific tech necessarily, but I am going to ask about it anyway. My question [00:40:00] is, when you’re talking about documenting these systems or documenting your processes, do you have a favorite way for people to do that?
I actually get this question a lot. Like, should I be writing it in a Word document? Should I be recording videos? Should I be using some fancy software that records a video but then transcribes it for you? You know what I mean? How are you seeing and helping people document these SOPs and so forth?
Jessica: So documenting SOPs, I have been using, well, I put all of my operating procedures in a database. It’s a system called Notion. It’s not client-front. It’s not HIPAA compliant. It’s an open-sourced database system but I really like that because you can search it, find it, can tag it. It’s a very flexible cross-reference type of thing.
There’s lots of screen share videos. I use a combo [00:41:00] of Loom but there are so many AI tools, now there’s Trainual that I haven’t used that helps you do that. I also like it.
From a process flow perspective, my favorite is Miro, which is an online mind-mapping whiteboard type of digital canvas as it were. So you could have your process documentation in Miro and link those boards into Notion. You can have Loom videos or other videos that you take on, there’s lots of screen-sharing things. Loom is simple and pretty cheap. You could organize your operations handbook in Notion with process maps in Miro and videos in Loom.
Dr. Sharp: I love that. I love software. I could talk about software all day but spare our audience. Those are some great resources and I’ll put them in the show notes for people to check out.
Jessica: There’s probably more comprehensive ones but I [00:42:00] also find that I use Loom for lots of things and I use Notion for lots of things. So I’m less of a purpose-built solution kind of gal and more of a, how am I using something that’s already in my tech stack kind of gal.
Dr. Sharp: Yeah. That’s a whole other problem that I feel people go down this path of trying to streamline and automate things, and they end up with like 15 to 20 different software programs that each solve maybe an incremental problem, but it gets overwhelming and it’s hard to sort through.
Jessica: Yeah, the all-in-one solutions tend to be all-in-one but not very good. So I’d rather have two that I know what to do and I’m using the functionality versus very specialized or all in one.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. Okay. I can get on board with that. Yes.
Let me see, I wanted to go back, you said something in our [00:43:00] pre-podcast conversation that was really interesting to me and I think might be of interest to the audience. We were talking about hiring some type of assistant, like an admin kind of assistant or something to help with the nonclinical side of things. You made a comment that was something like hiring a VA may not be the best first step. I will be the first person to admit that I have pushed hiring a VA as a great first step so many times on this podcast. And so I want to hear the other side of this story because I think it’s really interesting.
Jessica: So you are a busy founder and you are a busy practicing clinician and you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off most of the time. And then you bring on a virtual assistant who doesn’t know your business, doesn’t know your processes. And if you haven’t done the upfront documenting of things, you’re kind of, I’m holding two fists up. You’re on the left side and they’re on [00:44:00] the right side.
And you, as the clinician, have to translate everything that’s in your head into something that your virtual assistant can action on. So you have to do the work to kind of, there’s a chasm there. I have used that now two times but there’s a gap between what you know and what your assistant will know. And you will be the one that has to cross the gap.
Many times virtual assistants, especially ones that are brought in at $20 to $30 an hour or maybe you’re overseas, aren’t going to have the skills I’ve seen to cross the chasm and get from your brain, what needs to happen. They’re waiting for you to document the playbook so that they have steps to follow. And a lot of times you’re like, well, I don’t have time to do this. And so you end up having a mismatch of expectations where you’re expecting them to figure out the process and run the process, which isn’t really clear, or you have to slow down and document it.
The flip side is the [00:45:00] first hire you make might not be a VA but it might be a much more expensive yet potent operations process consultant to almost be your wing person and pull it out of your head for you, write it down, test it a few times, and then you can hire your virtual assistant because they’re the ones who are trained to, they know what systems are supposed to look like and they are not just going to…
Also if you hire a VA, they’re just going to try to do it the way you did it. They’re not going to necessarily, depending on who you hire, look for opportunities to streamline and improve it and be like, why are we doing it this way? This is repetitive and busy work, why don’t I do it this way and put some process improvements that you wouldn’t have thought of because you’re just trying to do it as quickly for you but that may actually not be the most efficient in the long run.
So instead of bringing on what I call a generalist that’s [00:46:00] going to work a lot of hours but maybe isn’t going to look to improve your processes, how do you bring on a specialist that’s actually going to cross the chasm, pull out of your brain what needs to happen? Look for an opportunity to make it streamlined and bulletproof, and then pass it over to someone that’s more of has something to follow.
Dr. Sharp: I love that idea. I am getting excited just thinking about that idea of someone somehow reaching into my brain and intuiting and documenting things that I’m thinking about. Tell me more about this person. You’ve used the term operations person. I’m guessing my audience is like, where do I even find that person? How much does a person like that cost? Is this a full-time thing? You mentioned that they jump in and document, and then you hand it off to a VA, so is it short-term? I have so many questions about this person. So tell me.
Jessica: They could be a process [00:47:00] consultant. They could be an online business manager, or director of operations type. Usually, you bring them on for a short period of time where they go through and almost like set you up for success by documenting what’s going on with your processes.
For example, I did this with one of my clients. She’s like, I hate writing proposals. I’m terrible at writing them. So I watched her do two and I’m like, oh, you’re missing these five steps. You’re missing a rate card. You’re missing this. You’re missing this. You don’t have an easy-to-use template to you. So I created all those templates.
Now it’s very simple. It’s like, these are the questions I need to ask during a proposal process. This is the way I do it. This is how we document pricing. This is where it gets saved. Those are things that someone, like I almost watched her do and I’m like, oh, I have ideas of how to do it. Write it down.
And now it’s a process that her [00:48:00] person on her team can actually execute and follow because what was missing was some fundamental process things like, for example, on client onboarding, we send over this PDF form and then they have to sign it and it’s not automated. A virtual assistant may or may not be able to automate that stuff for you but a process consultant can look and say, here’s some software I recommend. I’ll load it up for you and we’ll automate it.
So now actually the virtual assistant doesn’t have to send an onboarding form. They don’t have to send the compliance form. It’s triggered automatically from some other workflow. So you can look up process consultants that work in a particular system or are more general.
A lot of these might say, run you $150 to $200 an hour and you’re like, oh my God, that’s so much money. I can hire a virtual assistant for $35 to $40 an hour. I will tell you that they are bringing [00:49:00] 10, 20 years of experience. I’m solving your problem in an hour. They’re going to look at it in five minutes and say, yes, I get it. Here’s how we can do it better versus you having to pay a VA to spend 10, 20 hours trying to figure it out versus having someone come in and that can look at it in about 10 to 20 minutes and say, yes, here’s what’s going on.
Dr. Sharp: I would imagine people are listening and really fascinated with this idea. Maybe I’m projecting. I consider myself a systems, like a processy kind of person but I, gosh, the thought of someone coming in and observing everything that we do and figuring out ways to make it more efficient sounds amazing.
Jessica: Yes, short-term engagement, short-term specialist. This isn’t a long-term thing, this is a while I’m getting ready for the next stage of growth, bringing in a specialist to work in a very potent manner over some time to really free [00:50:00] up time and cash.
Dr. Sharp: Okay. That sounds great. Again, very granular but if people want to look for this person, we would literally just Google process consultant.
Jessica: I would start there. Look for a process consultant or director of operations. I would also say, talk to other people who are in your local or online network and be like, who here has hired someone to help with fix their processes and systems? I bet they have referrals.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. That’s great. That’s maybe the takeaway of the podcast, at least from my perspective.
Jessica: You can’t fix it when you’re in it. Even I look at my business and sometimes, I have my own team that’s helping me with these things. I do this for myself but sometimes you just can’t fix it when you’re in the business and you need someone else, you’re gifted in your craft and we’re gifted in system thinking [00:51:00] and processes and strategy and where to focus and where is going to be your biggest friction point that’s going to unlock growth.
We can’t run these businesses by ourselves. So I think looking for more specialized help, seems like it’s an investment in the short run, like why can’t I just hire somebody but the potency you get from a senior-level talent coming in and fixing things is very different than bringing on someone full- time that you’re now going to have to train and manage.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. A theme that’s coming from all of this is really questioning this idea that we are the best ones to train the individuals who are going to help us, whether it’s from a time standpoint or even a knowledge standpoint. I think a lot of us do fall into that trap. We started our practices. We know how to run things. We’ve hopefully been successful and it just naturally comes to us that, I should be the one to train [00:52:00] all of this and to find the time to create these processes and whatnot, but that may not be the case.
Jessica: Yeah. You wouldn’t train people on how to do your bookkeeping. So those are the types…
Dr. Sharp: Definitely not.
Jessica: That’s why when you’re in a big company, you have lots of these departments, and as a small company, we think we wear too many of the hats. I’d like to offer your audience the invitation to take some of the hats off and give them to other people who can be a much-needed source of support.
Dr. Sharp: Sure. So as we start to close, I want to go back to where we started at the beginning with the story of getting out of the corporate world and the chew you up, spit you out to more of a a human place as we run our businesses. I’m curious about your thoughts on I suppose, I’m not sure if it’s practices [00:53:00] or philosophies that can help us stay anchored in the human part of our business and you stay grounded, stay sane while we’re going through a process that can be a rollercoaster and very exciting but very trying all at the same time.
Jessica: We’d spend so much time in the cerebral part of our heads, how can we have more embodied practices? How can we reconnect with nature, spend some time outside, and spend some time away from our phones?
There’s two concepts I want to leave your audience with. There’s one concept called mimetic desire, and it’s where you want things because you see a model of what’s been wanted but those are thin desires where, oh, I want a seven-figure practice because I see other people having a seven-figure practice when really, do you really want a seven-figure practice or do you want the time and freedom and [00:54:00] space to spend time with your family and make a solid living and take Fridays off to go hiking?
I don’t know. What do you really want for your life and when you’re connected to the web where you’re just inundated with everyone being like, I’m living the best life ever and you should want to live this too? So how can we get some time detach from the matrix as it were, and spend some time back in nature and reconnect to our deep thick desires versus what we’re told we want?
And then one of the books that’s really helped me stay grounded is a book called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. It is about how we can learn about wisdom and teaching from plants and indigenous wisdom. It has some really interesting concepts about how we respect the harvest. How do we respect ritual? How do we [00:55:00] think about growth and nature, and all these practices, I keep going back to nature but how do we reconnect to the rhythms we were meant to be in versus what’s been industrialized and commoditized?
Dr. Sharp: I like that. Definitely going to check that book. I’ve seen it floating around. My wife may even have it on our shared Kindle. So maybe I’m going to go, it’s a good reminder to check it out.
Jessica: It’s the least businessy book, but the business book I most often recommend because it has so much teachings for how we can think about how we navigate within the world, and that shows up in our businesses.
Dr. Sharp: That’s great. Definitely, I’ll link it in the show notes as well. This has been fabulous. You’ve given me so much to think about, Jessica. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know exactly where the conversation was going to go but I like the places that we ended up. I’m guessing that my audience has their interest peaked as well. I’d love to hear, if people want [00:56:00] to reach out to you, get in touch with you, how do they do that?
Jessica: They can go to my website, jessicalackey.com\welcome. It links to my services, a quiz that helps you know your stage in the business life cycle and your readiness for scale. It has a link to my newsletter where I send out a deep dive every Sunday that talks about business at the intersection of strategy and humanity.
Dr. Sharp: Ooh, I like that. Okay. Very cool. Is there anything in particular that you want people to know about or is it just letting folks check out your website and we’ll see what that newsletter is about?
Jessica: Yeah, the first place I start with all of my clients, I work again as a business strategist and operations advisor, so if you’re thinking I’m ready for growth but I don’t know where to start. You talked about friction and I don’t even know where to even begin. I offer a service called the deep dive, which is a month-long structured experience to [00:57:00] uncover your brilliance, uncover your bottlenecks, and help you craft the path forward to the next chapter of your business.
Dr. Sharp: That sounds great. Okay. I’m definitely going to your website after we’re done again. Well, this is super cool. Thanks for coming on here and talking through and bearing with some random questions and detours here and there. I really enjoyed our conversation.
Jessica: None of them were random and I really enjoy when podcast hosts make it a conversation versus a list of questions, so I was thrilled to be on here.
Dr. Sharp: Right. Well, hopefully, our paths will cross again soon.
Jessica: Thank you.
Dr. Sharp: All right, y’all. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and in your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes so make sure to check those out.
If you like what you hear on the podcast, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or [00:58:00] Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast.
And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development; beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework. We have accountability. We have support. We have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.[00:59:00] The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.