As a small business owner it is incredibly easy to feel like everything that makes or breaks my business is on my shoulders. I'm the sole member of my Limited Liability Corporation (LLC), established in 2010. As a psychotherapist, mindful-empowerment coach, and Reiki master my work usually centers around sexual trauma and gender identity. That may seem like a lot of hats, but as the owner and operator I must also be an accountant, office manager, receptionist, and well everything else. Thankfully, there are at least these seven people I needed to make my business work that I can consistently rely on, and, honestly, probably many more that aren't named here.
None of us go through this thing called life alone. That's true for business, too. Honestly, I'm glad that's the case and I'm not solely responsible for my career successes, or any other fact of my life. How horrible would the world be if we each stayed in our little, painfully isolated cubicles, only responsible for ourselves and never making meaningful connection with others? Just the thought makes me shudder.
You see, I love connection. As I say on my website, "I love connecting to people, helping people connect to each other and — above all — helping people connect to themselves." The following list of people deserve huge shout outs for helping me make my business work so that I can focus on doing what I do best: connection.
President Barack Obama
Yes, I'm actually thanking President Obama. You know what the most vital thing I needed to make the jump from employee to full-time business owner was? Health care.
I was informed of my lay off from my previous employer exactly one week after the 2016 presidential election night. I was privileged enough to have severance for a few months, which included continued health insurance coverage for my family of five. Once that ended, though, I would've been forced to go back into the thankless, underpaid workforce in order to provide insurance for my family. Enter Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.
If you've never been in this situation, you may not grasp how meaningful it was to have that essential lifeline. As a parent, the last thing you want is to put your kids' health in jeopardy for the sake of your career. I would do anything to make sure my kids are protected, and that includes settling for a soul-sucking job with benefits versus following a career path I'm actually passionate about without health insurance. But I didn't have to make that choice, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
With health care covered I could focus all of my energy on building my tiny 7-year-old private psychotherapy practice into a sustainable business. Unquestionably, making much more of a positive impact on my community by providing direct services to survivors of sexual trauma and people seeking support around gender issues.
My clients, my children, my partner, and I all thank you, President Obama.
Nothing beats the feeling of knowing others believe in you. I know, I know, we're all supposed to forget about what others think and do it anyway. To some extent, that's true, especially when faced with the haters who are going to find something to hate regardless. But I have this tribe of friends, some of whom I've never met in person, who cheer me on my successes, comfort me in my failures, and are ready with a raucous round of f*cks when I have none left to give.
One of my fantastic friends goes so far as to continuously use her mad IT skills to support my website ,so I don't have to wear an IT hat, too! Like, seriously? This is the best gift a creative-brained healer could ask for!
You know who you are, you badass warrior goddesses. You give me an untold measure of strength.
Though many are also part of my tribe, I'd be remiss in not calling out my colleagues. Other psychotherapists who've held me up, referred clients to me, taught me how to effectively network, and value my services: you are irreplaceable. You share your tips and tricks of how to make a business run swimmingly, even when our hearts are in connection. You showed me that making money is not inherently evil and, hell, how it will actually make me a much better therapist when I'm not worried about how to feed my kids. You've shown me how to be me without compromise, even in business.
Left to right: Shaayestah Merchant, PsyD; yours truly; Chatti Brown, MA; Ana Balzar, LCSW RYT TIYT. These are just three of the glorious colleagues who have been instrumental in helping me to grow as a clinician and a business person.
My Business Coach
Yes, I totally had a business coach. It took me a while to find one I resonated with because, as you can probably imagine, the all-too-common, glitzy-abundance-manifesting craze wasn't really my scene. Ultimately, I found a coach who knew her sh*t about business building, was unapologetically direct, and just soft enough on the yoga and spirituality side to work for me. I couldn't afford her at all, but the investment in my business was worth every penny.
Her words are the ones I still hear when I slip and think I might not be able to do something. Her advice — hurriedly scrawled across my 2015 planner's used pages — still guides my daily business decisions.
She's the one who gave me the know-how when all I had was the passion, and that is absolutely vital for business sustainability and success.
OK, OK. Full disclosure here: I've never actually met Tara Brach in person. But this incredible teacher, unbeknownst to her, has been my mentor for a decade. No matter how far I've come in the work of being a mindfulness-based psychotherapist and coach she always has something new to teach me.
No matter how far I've come in my own personal work, I always come back to her teachings on radical acceptance and learn something new. Her teachings are the foundation of the majority of trauma work and authenticity work I do in my practice with clients. Without her tireless dedication to sharing these teachings I honestly can't imagine where I'd be.
She said, "Be yourself and help others," and I took her at her word.
It might seem cliché to thank my partner for helping me build a successful business. But, honestly, that's not at all what I'm doing. I'm not thanking him. I'm attributing my company's existence to him. My partner, Nate, is the one you said, "You got this. You can and must do this." And when I pushed back he said, "This is what you do. Do it."
When I first started my private practice, I did so because some people approached me about filling a sexual assault support group need. I wanted to do this clinical work, but I had never, ever envisioned myself becoming a business owner. Frankly, I didn't want to wear all the aforementioned hats, I wanted to do excellent, targeted, focused clinical work, and that's it.
Since we started having children, I've been the sole income earner for our family with Nate staying home with the kids. Whether out of misogyny or misunderstanding, some people will question that decision. "If you're so hard up for money, why doesn't he get a job?" Believe me, we have thought about that several times over the years. For many reasons, not the least of which is the undeniable fact that his salary wouldn't even cover half of what childcare would cost, ours was the best decision for us.
Neither of us come from money. There is no financial cushion or safety net for us. Making a leap from employee to full-time entrepreneur with three kids and a mortgage is frightening as hell. My partner could've said, "No, it's too risky." He could have said, "Let's be pragmatic, here. Let's wait until the kids are in high school." But did he? Once? Ever?
My partner never once even hinted that he wanted me to stop my private practice. He never complained about the additional nights I'd be away from home to see clients, even though I had a full-time job. He always understood that, for the first six years, I lost more money than I made because of sliding scale services to dedicated, long-term clients.
Nate is just as much a support to my clients, and an advocate and fighter for survivors of sexual assault. He is just as much an advocate for transgender rights. He is just as much a facilitator of dismantling the systems of oppression that drive me to do the work I do every day. Because without his constant support, including but definitely not limited to being the primary caretaker for our children, comforting the separation anxiety-induced cries of my still-nursing 16-month-old, providing daily nutritional sustenance to all of us, keeping our cars maintained, our driveway shoveled, and my windshield scraped, I would not be able to do the work I do. He makes my work possible.
And, this is the kicker, when severance was about to run out, and we still weren't breaking even with my lost-salary, and I asked, "Should I become an employee again?" he said, "Hell no."
No one, and I mean no one, does this alone.
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