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Know Your Business

By ATPI Staff

You might think that once you have your degree, you can stop learning and just get on with the business of running your practice. The reality, as it is for so many other things in life, is that we can never truly stop learning and growing. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states: "Learning is like rowing upstream. To not advance is to fall back."

This brings us to the question of what we might need to continue to learn after graduation. We asked some of the top acupuncture and Oriental medicine educators to give us their top things practitioners should learn after graduating from school.

Have a Head for Business

The top recommendation from educators was to learn about the business of running a business. This can include everything from marketing to networking to determining what sort of practice will be the most rewarding.

Brady T. Chin, LAc, Dipl. OM, who is dean of clinical education at Yo San University (www.yosan.edu) in Los Angeles, sums it up very neatly: "It is an unfortunate truth that the master's program, as it exists, does not devote enough time to business building and marketing. While in school, devote as much time as possible to learning about business, incorporation and tax laws. Even a small amount of study in this area will pay off in spades later."

Business management is the one area where many schools may well be lacking agreed Robert Doane, LAc, with the Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine (www.elotus.org), based in the City of Industry, Calif.

"Spend the year that you are interning learning everything you can about business management," Doane said. "This is an area where most graduates struggle because the basics taught in school do not usually prepare you to be successful in running a business. Find successful acupuncturists and talk to them about how they started and grew their business. Talk to some practice management consultants and see if you agree with and feel motivated by their training, as great practice management ideas can significantly improve your chances for success!"

Sometimes, it's all about the nuts and bolts of what goes into managing your business. Theresa Dale, PhD, NP, who is founder and dean of the California College of Natural Medicine (www.traditionalnaturopathy.com), located in Oxnard, Calif., feels that some of the basic building blocks to learning to run a business include such matters as marketing your skills and practice, establishing a mission statement and working on goal-setting, either on your own or with any other staff you may have in your practice.

In other cases, simply deciding what sort of practice you wish to have will determine how you eventually run your own business. Acupuncture Today columnist Martha Lucas, PhD, LAc, who runs the Colorado Center of Traditional Medicine (www.acupuncturewoman.com) in Denver and lectures around the world on the topic of acupuncture and anti-aging, suggests that clinicians think about, "whether you want to be in private practice, a larger clinic, a partnership, or even do community acupuncture. Each of these settings is dramatically different and your personality may not be a perfect fit for some of them. I advise visiting each type of setting before you graduate so that you have a notion of how each works in the real world."

In addition to educating yourself, our experts also feel that educating prospective patients is very important. Dirk Tousley, of White Dove Publishing (www.whitedovepublishing.com), based in Laguna Beach, Calif., states it very succinctly: "The top three things an acupuncturist must learn is how to educate, educate, educate." Tousley goes on to explain how best to do this: "An educational referral network based on satisfied patients passing authentic acupuncture information to their friends who pass it on to their friends, ad infinitum, is the answer; and there is no shortage of people lacking information. Millions of Americans needing acupuncture more than anything else in the world never consider that ancient healing method because they know little or nothing about it or have false information that keeps them away."

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