Kami is one of those therapists who not only has a lot of experience and expertise, but you can tell she genuinely has fun doing her work. From building a private practice to adding retreats and even being on TV, there is a lot to learn from her story.
Kelly: All right, you guys. Welcome to another episode of Building a Private Practice Success Stories of therapists in the real world, and today, I’m joined with Kami Storck. She’s a licensed marriage and family therapist in Northern California. Welcome.
Kami: Thank you.
Kelly: I’m also joined by Houdini, my cat, so if you hear purring, that’s who it is. Really, for those of you guys listening or watching, the purpose of these talks is for you guys to be encouraged and to hear the many different ways people go about building their practices, and I’ve known Kami for a couple of years. She’s been through many twists and turns and so I’m excited to talk about how that’s been for her so why don’t you start off with why go into private practice in the first place, and when did you decide to do that?
Kami: So the why, for me the why would always kind of set from graduate school. My husband is a firefighter and so his schedule is very flexible in the sense that he has a lot of time off. I knew if I wanted to be able to have a flexibility and a lot of time off with him I do like running a business from previous background before working in mental health so I knew that going into private practice would allow me to run a business and have flexibility and earn a really good income while doing that. It was kind of always my goal in getting through my hours. I started running a private practice kind of through a nonprofit. Back in 2007 is when I started and then I went completely on my own into straight private practice in 2009.
Kelly: How did you bridge that gap?
Kami: From going from the nonprofit to just private practice?
Kelly: I think it’s the biggest question I always get. How do I bridge it?
Kami: Well, luckily the nonprofit that I worked through was ran very similarly to a private practice so once I was fully licensed and on my own, in 2009, I had a supervisor that I was working through the nonprofit and who’s very encouraging, let me understand the business, and I knew how much our rent was. I knew how much it was costing for advertising on Psychology Today so I kind of had -- I was planning the business before I was able to run it on my own.
Kelly: That is so important. Say that one more time.
Kami: I was planning the business before I was able to run it on my own. So that was something that was really key for me because once I became fully licensed and was able to set up my own place, it was within the month of being licensed that I was renting my own lease, and I was buying my own furniture and moving all that. I felt very confident and comfortable at that point of knowing what to do as far as the business end of things, and it's been profitable and successful ever since and continues to grow in the different ways that I twist and turn. So my interest changed throughout year or my timing changes where I want to spend my time. It’s been nice to run that business and not somebody dictate that for me.
Kelly: So what does that look like, like as you're saying as your life changes? Can give some examples of what you mean?
Kami: Childbirth. So having kids obviously. Running the private practice I’ve been able to decide what days I go in to work and how many hours do I want to spend in my practice and when my kids were really small I did more teaching than I do now because I could go into teaching in the evenings at the university when my kids were asleep so I could still make money in my business without having to compromise my family time which is my ultimate goal is I want to make meals with the children, I want to be able to take a vacation when I want with my husband so that allowed me kind of the flexibility of being able to do that.
Kelly: Okay, cool. What are some of the things that you did like you planned before you launched but what are some of the things that you’ve done that have helped you grow the business?
Kami: I would say that there is no reason that’s acceptable to not have your business cards with you and to not talk about being a business owner. My husband gives me a hard time because he says I can weave it into any conversation, but as a therapist, especially when I work with interns and trainees myself I always say people don’t come knocking on your door and say, “Hey, I need therapy today.” They have to know who you are and since we are the product, you have to be promoting that all the time. Any interaction that you have with somebody, they may not become your client but their neighbor might, or their coworker might. It's really a matter of people understanding what you do and where you are and how to find you so I say you just have to always be willing to talk with pride about what you do and realize that you are an expert in a field that you work in. I always have my business cards with me. I’m always finding a way, if it's obviously appropriate, to talk about like -- or connecting other people with services. Even if I'm not appropriate for them, I want them to know that I could still be a resource for them. It’s just something that you can kind of weave into most conversations, I would say.
Kelly: Yeah, and I think it’s sort of you’ve got a priority. It stays on top of mind and you want to make sure that you’re helpful in whatever place that is and if there's a place where that does fit, it's important to share it.
Kami: Right, exactly. I think just for therapists, in the beginning I like many other people at graduate school heard, “You’ll never make money in this business” or “You’re going to work 60 hours a week in this business” or “Therapists don’t do marketing” and I just called it baloney. I think that thinking sometimes outside of the marketing box is what, especially in the very beginning of my business, made it so successful and you know, getting other clinicians that are like-minded around you to do that. There’s plenty of business for everybody so getting groups of people together to promote each other's businesses and really thinking outside of the marketing box was really, really important in the beginning.
Kelly: How would you define success in your private practice?
Kami: You know, I just had this conversation with somebody yesterday. I feel like success is an ever-moving bar because what I would have said as successful in which you asked me in 2007 was different than 2009, and it’s different now in 2015. For me right now success is really just honing in my time in the sense that you know what I want to get my clinical hours down to, what projects outside of my clinical hours do I want to be doing, but for me success has been going on truly successful since 2007 when I feel like I can wake up every day and it doesn’t feel like work. I mean, I don’t know everybody that can say that. My husband and I are very blessed. We both love our careers. I love that. I wake up and I don’t feel like it’s work. There simply is a schedule being on my workday and I get to talk with a friend via a conference call and this is a check box. This is part of my workday so it’s just super cool. I feel like in this field especially, there are so many different things that you can do, if you want to write a book, if you want to teach, if you want to do just clinical hours, if you want to do conferences, you can really do whatever you’re passionate about and find your niche in that and that to me is amazing because nobody tells me when to take lunch, nobody tells me when I can take a break. I get to live my life around a career that I love, and to me, I feel like that is success but it’s always raising that bar to how do I make that even more efficient and even more happy? I want to live life. I guess that is what it boils down to.
Kelly: Let's talk about the stuff that people are probably wondering about when has it been hard?
Kami: I would say, when has it been hard? I think that every life shift makes it a challenge because when I shifted over from Corporate America and working in going to mental health, I felt like there was this huge tunnel. It was and now I have to get into graduate school, and then I have to do so many hours. Then when I do that, then I have to sit for a licensure exam and then how am I ever going to find the clients? It felt like, it always feels like there’s a challenge ahead as life events are changing. So explaining that to my spouse initially, like you're going from this Corporate America, secure job or somebody pays your vacation and now you want to do what? Then having children, and then maturing in my business and really doing that from the perspective of that I can kind of hone in my dreams a little bit more. I think it gets challenging when you are shifting any part of it, but I definitely operate from the place of abundance so I kind of always just have this belief that it'll just work out, and I think that it does if you put in the effort and treat your business, like a business. So just like anything else you have to put in your time with your marketing and people knowing what you’re doing is different. If you do that I just think that it’s hard for it not to be successful and it feels like it’s just kind of like that formula. You know, two plus two is generally four. If you put in your marketing, if you put your face out there to people, then it's highly likely to be successful. I think that the challenges just come with life shifts. My personal challenge tends to come when my husband just comes home randomly and says he’s living on a strike team for two-and-a-half weeks. That can be a challenge because as a business owner, I’m also a mom and as much I love my business, I’m a wife and a mother first. So they're always my first priority so I have to make sure that that lines up with my business commitments. To scramble with that I would say is probably my biggest challenge which I think a lot of people face especially if you’re coming from like a full-time job either with an organization or coming from Corporate America and shifting over to mental health it can be scary to not know where those things are coming from, but I feel like what you do just builds that house for you, puts brick by brick and builds on itself.
Kelly: So if anyone listening and watching, if you can't tell already, Kami is a very like positive person, and I think that there is something about that because with your positivity my experience with you is that you’ve seized opportunities where other people have feared them.
Kelly: From that it’s opened doors. I think there is something about too, like what you’re saying. There’s the planning, there’s the going forth, there’s having confidence, but there’s also this believing in yourself, believing in what you do and knowing that it’s valuable. It’s so important.
Kami: Well, I think it’s just a matter of sometimes you just have to put yourself out there and kind of see where everything falls. There's been several opportunities that have come up where it's just like, “Screw it. I'm just going to go for it. I'm just going to do it.” An example of that was the Most Awesome Conference when we were there and Julie Hanks was doing her media presentation and we were doing a writing submission and I’m like, “Oh, whatever. I’m not going to do it. I don’t know if it’s perfect. I don’t know if it’s right. Screw it. I’m just going to hit send.” Then of course, it gets quoted in an article. It’s kind of one of those things where if you just kind of throw the deck of cards up and see how they land, with the belief that however they land, you can make that work. That’s kind of how I tend to operate with my business, overall.
Kelly: For someone that’s starting out what kind of advice do you have for them?
Kami: The best advice that I have is link up with positive colleagues and positive coaches that have a belief that the business can be successful. One of the very first mentors that I had, I think one of the best books that she ever recommended was Wayne Dyer, The Power of Positive Intention, which is clearly where I operate from but really hooking up with the right people that believe in this business and look at it not only as a business but also as a healing profession. I think that that’s key. I think there can tend to be kind of a lot of naysayers or negativity, and I believe in the company you keep, I guess. That’s a nice way to say it.
Kelly: True. What is that like very successful as the top six or seven people you hang out with like look around you.
Kami: Right. I’m really a firm believer in that and I also know and can humble myself too that there may be somebody that can do something better than I can and so offering maybe a balance and a benefit to them so I think working with people where you can recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and recognizing their strengths and weaknesses and kind of pairing those two things up so that you both are mutually beneficial to each other.
Kelly: Before we started recording, you and I were talking about like your website or whatever and the point you had made was like you’re at the point where --
Kami: When in doubt hire out.
Kelly: I think there is this sense of like there’s a lot of bootstrapping in our communities like you have to do it all. I was very much a bootstrapper. I did it all and that is probably like one of my struggles is hiring out. It’s like trusting other people when I’m like, “I could just do it”, but I’m learning. It’s taken me some time to delegate in those kinds of things and also to acknowledge like being a business owner you need to know the big picture but some of the tasks you can’t do it all.
Kami: Right, absolutely.
Kelly: You know, let the designer be an amazing designer and let the writer be an amazing writer and let them help you shine, where it’s maybe that’s not your skill set.
Kami: I completely agree, 100% and I think that part of that too comes from, at least for me, was kind of that control piece. I felt like nobody was ever going to love my business as much as I was and really understanding again, I think especially in our profession, if you link up with other professionals that are of the feeling of abundance that you are and have that positive feeling that you do that really, everybody has so much to give and kind of letting somebody into that and their expertise come into play is huge. So for me the initial part of it was control. I wanted to understand it. I wanted to be the one that if I got screwed up I had nobody to blame but me and I really feel like now like you said kind of knowing your own talents and knowing where those don’t like and for me it was, I don't also want to spend 20 hours doing a website like it's not worth it to me. I can think of 20 hours of other things I’d rather be doing than doing that and so it’s finding a really good recommendation and somebody that you can really connect with I think is important that has a like-minded vision that you do and kind of just letting go of that, that control piece of it for me was huge.
Kelly: You just need to know enough to know what to ask for.
Kelly: That’s about it.
Kami: I completely agree.
Kelly: Well, when you think too about where your practice – okay. You were talking about the success markers. I’m just curious. What was like your first marker? Oh, when I hit this, that’ll be awesome.
Kami: Okay, I’m going to be extremely transparent and honest with this answer. My spouse and I, my husband, I said works as a fireman. For years, he was very much like, “Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. This practice thing, this business. Yeah, yeah. Have fun with the hobby.” It literally took three years of tax returns of beating out his salary of him going, “Okay. I guess this is kind of legit now, right?” I’m like, “Did you think we bullshitted it the first couple of years?” and the CPA I hired was in cahoots or something? That to me honestly was a huge marker of success because it was like, hey, here you have all of these stipulations of the employer that you work for and they tell you when to work and they tell all these things. I have all the freedom that I want, I have all of the income that I want with being able to set it and work it as a business owner. For me that was a huge kind of like Aha moment. It was like this is real. This is amazing, and it’s sticking because in the beginning it was very much like, “Okay. Yeah, this is a good year, but next year should be pretty good, too. You know, hopefully.” Now, it’s like, no. It’s just pretty consistent, but that comes back to being I think a good business owner in knowing your numbers and really seeing down and knowing where your income is coming from and what your expenditures are and when you can manage that and measure it, I think more appropriately enough from a zero-base place. But my Aha moment was like three years of beating him.
Kelly: Mine was beating my salary at the county.
Kami: Yeah. It doesn’t matter. My husband and I are very competitive.
Kelly: I am married to a teacher. It’s not that hard.
Kami: Yeah. Him and I have our own little competitions.
Kelly: Oh, my gosh. You sound like Joe Sanok. He can make everything into a competition. One time we were at Kinkos making copies and he’s like, “Let’s see who can staple faster.” I’m like, “Seriously?”
Kami: He might have made a good fireman then too because everything is dice roll or a competition or something. So, yes we can be a competitive couple that way.
Kelly: Okay. Tell me now where’s the bar. What is the next vision here?
Kami: So my next vision, oh, gosh. You have to ask me this in such an interesting time like I feel like my career’s got kind of a lot going on. For me my next bar is I’m really getting into doing retreats and I would like to have those booked out kind of like a year in advance. That would be my ultimate like next kind of goal and getting my clinical hours down. We can close down to here for some people but getting them down to free me up to do those other things. That's part of my overall goal is getting the client load down just a bit, and I’ve recently hired two employees. We’re kind of getting them up and launched and having them on that success training also is kind of where I am.
Kelly: So you’ve expanded by having employees and then now you’re looking at other ways of helping people that leverage your time and kind of make a good impact in the lives of the couples you're working with.
Kami: Yes, correct.
Kelly: That’s pretty awesome.
Kami: It’ pretty done. Build up dreams. Build it and they will come.
Kelly: Yeah. I think too it’s like there’s many paths like what you're saying. There's many paths to how you do your practice or how you work as a contractor independently, and there's also many paths as to ways you generate income and it's all timing like you're saying, like maybe there’s an opportunity that came up when you were pregnant. We were talking about that one point in a prior conversation and like it wasn’t good timing. You’re about to give birth, but then other things come around and I think that’s the case too with any multiple stream of income, very few time and a place and for those retreats. I mean, you’ve been preparing for that for a couple of years of like thinking about when is the time and where is this going to fit in. Yeah, and now having staff I would think that that would allow you to do more of the multiple streams.
Kami: Yes, absolutely. It’s definitely it’s really a time leverage. It’s kind of where everything I think of right now with my business is kind of that time leverage. Just that how am I making the most efficient use of my time and still bringing in the income that I want to bring in but really having fun? I mean, that's the big thing. I've tried and done a bunch of different things and that’s my gauge. If I’m not loving it, if I’m not walking in and feeling like it’s not work, then it’s not my thing.
Kelly: Yeah, that’s a great monitor. I love that. So what are some ways if people want to connect with you or learn more about what you're doing? Where can they find you?
Kami: So you can find me at soullegacytherapy.com or you can find me at kamistorck-mft.com. Either one will direct you to my website and kind of let you know a little bit about what’s going on and the new employees and all my good stuff.
Kelly: All right, guys. Thanks for spending some time with me and Kami today, and I would love for you guys to post below what you learned just from hearing Kami’s story. I hope you're encouraged because Kami’s built an amazing practice and it's not without hard work and dedication but there’s huge advantages to her positivity and her efforts and just trying things and seeing what fits and knowing that something will and having trust that there is a path that’s perfect for her. So thank you so much, Kim. I really appreciate it.
Kami: Thank you for having me. Take care, Kelly.
Kelly: All right.
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