Understanding your practice style is fundamental for building a sustainable and enjoyable career.
What type of naturopath are you?
Small business is the cornerstone of traditional naturopathic practice. But not all businesses, or their owners, are the same. As our industry diversifies, so too do the ways we ply our trade.
Historically naturopaths have had limited options for self-employment. These have largely been based on choosing a home-based or external clinic, working on your own or with others. For many, it’s meant staying the course for the long haul, unless we burn out or our business is no longer viable.
In this age of entrepreneurship, digital and scalable ventures – three main models of small business have emerged, regardless of profession. Understanding which model suits you best can help you stay focused and ultimately succeed.
Three naturopathic business styles
The Stayer: This is the most familiar template for naturopathic business. The practitioner often enters naturopathy later in their career, or may take a mid-career break to travel or parent, but plans on staying in the profession for the rest of their working life.
The Stayer may think of themselves as a clinician first and businessperson second, or not at all. They’re prone to thinking small, working from home or subleasing a space in an existing clinic. The Stayer tends to slowly refine their clinical skills and remedies, cautiously adding new products or techniques.
The Entrepreneur: Two key words associated with entrepreneurship are “initiative” and “risk”. The naturopathic entrepreneur may start with the same training as the traditional Stayer. However, they’re willing to invest a lot of time and/or money into building a business with the aim of diversifying, creating passive income or selling their business at a profit and moving onto another venture within or outside the industry.
Traditionally naturopathic Entrepreneurs tended to develop multidisciplinary clinics or natural products-based businesses, involving considerable financial involvement, partnerships and time. Now our Entrepreneurs are thriving in the online space, creating digital programs and products with multiple active and passive income streams. The digital model relies on investing huge amounts of time but not always the same risky financial investment of the traditional Entrepreneurs.
The Butterfly: While these practitioners are attracted to new ways of improving people’s health, they tend to move on quickly to the next novel treatment. The Butterfly is a perennial seminar attendee and may have a string of diplomas after their name. Whether it’s a change of modality or exploring new remedies for treating their clients, the butterfly is constantly adding new skills to their services.
Some naturopathic butterflies move sideways to different careers, while others stay long-term in the profession. Regardless, they are always seeking a new approach to the way they work.
Can’t relate to these styles?
Naturopathic business in Australia have become wonderfully diverse, increasingly so as each year passes.
Perhaps you’re a Hybrid, a blend of two or three practice styles, or a Multi-passionate Unlike a butterfly who goes from one technique or way of working to another, a Multi-passionate is running many mini-businesses at the same time. For example a herbalist who consults face to face part time, but also has a fermented food business and is a yoga instructor or professional writer as well.
On the other hand a Maverick has a way of working so unique, that no one else has the same style or skill set. They’re truly one of a kind.
Regardless, you may still find some useful tips from the healthy models below.
Working with your business style to achieve success
Once you’ve identified your innate style, the key is finding out how to improve your business for greater success.
The Healthy Stayer
Working within the traditional practice model, it’s very important to pace yourself. This means being conscious of self-care, having regular holidays and maintaining a balanced life outside of work to avoid burn out.
The Stayer needs ongoing interactions with other members of the profession for inspiration and to avoid feeling isolated, especially if working on their own. Professional supervision can help prevent stagnation or fatigue.
While some Stayers have very profitable businesses, the problem is their income is dependent on turning up to work and ensuring a steady stream of clients. Business mentoring, to learn how to market your skills, while remaining aligned with core values, can increase the business’ bottom line.
The Healthy Entrepreneur
An Entrepreneur may be sprinting, rather than running a marathon, but still needs good self-care and boundaries to stay nourished and grounded. The Entrepreneur often starts with a lot of enthusiasm and is prepared to work long hours, with the aim of growing their naturopathic business or online ventures as fast as possible. But a disproportionate number of Entrepreneurs tend to burn out within a year or two, before they’ve reached their goal.
Traditional Entrepreneurs may require professional financial and legal advice to structure their ventures from the start. Entrepreneurs usually invest more time and money on their website and social media strategy, than a Stayer or Butterfly.
Online entrepreneurship often portrays a holiday-like lifestyle, with glamourous Instagram posts and a location-independent life. The reality for almost all naturopathic online entrepreneurs is that a lot of time is invested in networking, building community, creating posts, producing downloadable content and ongoing promotion.
Working with a business mentor to learn how to pace yourself, create boundaries and identify profitable strategies beyond the cookie-cutter model, is an important investment.
The Healthy Butterfly
The Butterfly might share some of the characteristics of Stayers and Entrepreneurs. Their naturopathic careers could be brief or lengthy but are peppered with frequent changes in clinics or styles of practice.
While a Butterfly loves learning and innovation, sometimes it’s useful to get a trusted second opinion before completely changing clinical focus after learning about a new product or technique. The Butterfly often attracts clients who are drawn towards the latest trends but frequent changes in approach may deter some potential long-term clientele.
Butterflies can find it useful to create a basic, DIY website (such as WordPress) that is easy to update, and an accurate database for keeping wide ranging clients informed about new clinics or techniques. Choosing a personal domain name, rather than a business name, can save time and money as your professional focus evolves.
All professionals benefit from sharpening their critical reasoning skills but Butterflies in particular are more vulnerable to investing in fads or new techniques without examining independent research to back up promotional claims.
Butterflies are prone to not giving each new approach enough time to become financially successful, before moving onto the next iterations. A business mentor can help evaluate opportunities before financially investing in the next best thing, sharpen marketing skills and vital business administration practices.
As the profession continues to evolve, recognising your inherent practice style and learning how to work with it can make a huge difference – not only the success of your chosen business but your enjoyment of it along the way.
Gill Stannard is a naturopath with almost thirty years experience. She ran a successful multimodaltiy practice in Melbourne for 23 years, before taking her business online and relocating to Sydney. Gill splits her time between naturopathic/herbal consulting and business mentoring and professional supervision for health practitioners.
This article was originally commissioned by Integria Healthcare in 2016. Practitioners with a current Integria account can log in and view all Gill’s articles in the ‘communities’ section.