Starting any new business can be an exciting but challenging time. As a counsellor, your forte may be in helping clients make changes in their life but may be unsure of where to start when venturing out on your own in the business world. This post is particularly useful for those counsellors (or other mental health professionals) who are thinking about starting their own practice but have limited understanding on how to go about doing this. There are many aspects that the counsellor/business starter will have to consider. In this post, the following topic areas will be covered to help you set-up your own business:

  • Assessing your own entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviours — By examining your attitudes and behaviours, we can begin to compare them to those of an entrepreneurial mind-set. The entrepreneurial mind-set may be used and/or developed to contribute to your success in the business world.
  • Generating business ideas and defining your concept — Business opportunity ideas are those ideas that may create profit or assets, and/or develop or advance the business.

Assessing Attitudes and Behaviours

“What type of business to start? A good starting point in deciding what type of business you should start, or if you should consider starting a business, begins with understanding who and what you are. In a society such as ours, few people understand themselves-a fact borne out by the number of counsellors and psychiatrists employed. Most people are running to satisfy expectations and demands placed on them from the outside. They never stop long enough to spend time with themselves to get to know that person inside. To get to know that person inside generally requires a degree of isolation and quiet. Our world is one of overstimulation, where most people hide from themselves, constantly in a state of overstimulation. Surrounded by people and noise even when alone, the television, stereo, or radio are on: something, anything, to drown out the quiet.

A period of reflection and meditation in solitude to acquire a degree of personal understanding is often required before making life-altering changes. Without a sense of self, the tendency exists to continually chase that “something out there.” “I want to go into business to get rich.” “I want to make a lot of money.” Such reasoning is dangerously superficial. Begin with the right reason for you; go into business if doing so will bring a sense of fulfilment to you.

Every person brings himself or herself into business. Personal strengths and personal weaknesses within the context of a level of skill and talent will tend to create for the entrepreneur a realm of opportunity and a realm of constraints. One’s personal strengths need to be strong enough on which to base a workable business concept, and personal weaknesses must not be such that they could cause the business to fail. For some people, the entrepreneurs always knew the type of business they wanted to start.”

Source: Urlacher, L.S. (1999). Small business entrepreneurship: An ethics and human relations perspective. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Simon & Schuster.

In the next post we’ll start to investigate some of your attitudes and behaviours to help you identify relevant business opportunities. By looking at your attitudes and behaviours, we can begin to compare them to those of an entrepreneurial mind-set. The entrepreneurial mind-set may be used and/or developed to contribute to your success in the business world.

Please note: You may notice that this particular reading is talking specifically about “coaching”. Due to the similar nature of professions, the information in this reading is applicable to counselling.

Developing the Right Mindset

Developing a business mindset means knowing how to think like a successful entrepreneur, by adopting an optimistic yet pragmatic attitude in order to make the right business decisions. Let’s look more closely at how your mind works when it comes to minding your business.

Are you a worrier — dwelling on worst-case scenarios, feeling down about your lack of success, rejecting possible ideas because you assume they won’t work? Are you a planner — making a mental list of what to do next, staying focused and motivated? Are you overly optimistic — seeing many opportunities, not able to prioritize, needing direction? Are you a procrastinator — coming up with good ideas but never feeling ready to start?

How you think about your business influences your abilities and your actions? Negative beliefs and critical self-talk hamper your efforts, while constructive, optimistic yet pragmatic thinking helps you to take big steps. Developing an entrepreneurial mind-set— the combination of thinking, feeling and sensing that is the hallmark of successful business owners— is the next step in your business education.

Counsellors often have a part of this mindset developed, but need to activate additional elements. For example, we are often very skilled at sensing, and can read subtle cues and unspoken signals. This is good and can be very helpful in business situations.

But we must also learn to use the linear, unemotional thinking that is necessary in business. Successful entrepreneurs tend to display the following six qualities in their thinking:

Given a set of challenges, successful entrepreneurs see opportunities. Counsellors face particular challenges just from being in a profession that is not well understood by those who could benefit from its practices. To deal with this, you need to see the opportunities inside each challenge and keep an optimistic yet pragmatic attitude. Can you see the opening in every rejection, the break in each obstacle?

Given a problem, successful entrepreneurs are both optimistic and pragmatic. Being a successful entrepreneur means that you can balance dream with reality. Can you stay upbeat and at the same time assess the truth of a situation? Taking right action when you are in a challenging situation means that you have the skill of combining a confident stance with levelheaded expectations.

Successful entrepreneurs expect a lot from themselves and others. They want a lot for themselves and other. Expecting a lot from others — those who work with you, be they staff or clients — means having clear boundaries around your requests with clients or staff. Express your needs and wants directly.

Expect those around you to come from the best in themselves, and hold yourself to this expectation as well. Wanting for others means that you can hold a big vision and goals for those around you.

When one of your clients sets a goal, you will support the achievement of the goal by staying interested, by brainstorming, and by celebrating when it is met, but you don’t demean the client by reminding or nagging about the goal. You are there as a very interested party for your clients to report to, but not for babysitting goals.

Successful entrepreneurs operate from a state of abundance. When you, as an entrepreneur, begin to feel that there is a profusion of resources in your environment, it is easier to hold a big vision for your clients and yourself as well. You come to believe that there is enough in the world for each client you see to have a meaningful life, satisfying work, enough money to live well, love and happiness.

Successful entrepreneurs are persistent. Business is not for the faint-hearted. It takes effort to land a contract, set up a thriving counselling practice, identify and cultivate referral sources, fill a workshop, land a training contract, get a book deal. It’s nothing personal when your goals take more effort than you thought they would. Can you find it within yourself to stay with your goal long enough to get results? If so, you have persistence.

Successful entrepreneurs enjoy making a profit. As an entrepreneur, your developmental task is to develop an adult relationship with money. You need to understand that as a business person, making a profit from your counselling practice is as much part of your job as being a counsellor.