When therapist Allison Carey wondered if she should open her own private practice, she knew that her Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Antioch University in Keene was serving her well. What she didn’t have at that point was training in business management.
“I felt like I had a pretty good grip on accounting; I was managing my numbers, but I really wanted a second pair of eyes on them,” she explains. “Being in solo practice, I was the only one reviewing my methods.”
That’s what led Allison to seek help and, when a colleague suggested the Keene office of the NH SBDC in 2013, she became a client of former advisor-now state director Rich Grogan there.
“He immediately helped me in so many unforeseen ways,” Allison says. “I was merely using an Excel spreadsheet. He helped me advance the system, making it more accurate and more user friendly, and easy to use on a day-to-day basis.”
Allison’s solo practice thrived for three years until she began noticing how many times she had to turn people away when they called to ask for help. Her schedule was simply full. “I was building on a good reputation in the community and getting lots of referrals, lots of calls. I couldn’t fit people in and there was a shortage of therapists in the area.”
Would it make sense for her to expand, to take on another employee? Again she turned to the NH SBDC advisors in Keene for help. She wanted assurance that she could sustain having enough work and revenue for another therapist.
Together she and Rich worked on projecting how adding an employee would change revenues and her profit and loss picture over time. Rich assured her the projections looked good and she was making the right decisions. So Mindful Balance Therapy Center was born, a thriving practice on Main Street in Keene.
Now—5 new counselors and 1 part-time office administrator later—Allison’s revenues have increased substantially over the last year. She currently meets with business advisor Melanie Patterson when there’s another decision to make or changes to contemplate.
“They [SBDC advisors] are such a source of comfort, support and assurance to me, especially since I am otherwise navigating this place 100 percent on my own,” Allison said. “It’s really nice to have that support from them.”
Melanie and Allison recently have been discussing how much time and energy goes into the managerial and administrative aspects of running the practice, how her role has to shift, and how she wants it to shift.
“[SBDC] is really helpful in providing guidance in terms of H.R. and the hiring process, and whenever any issues come up with employees,” Allison said, adding, “I’ve been really fortunate here with our employees. I’m very blessed. It couldn’t be a better situation.”
Allison is hoping to expand the therapies her practice can offer, perhaps by having several therapists receive advanced training in alcohol and drug addiction counseling. A recent grant she applied for may go toward that effort, as Allison explains how the state “really, really needs more treatment options for substance abuse.”
“I have recommended SBDC to several people already and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to invest in their own small business,” she said. “I feel like, in part, the success of my business is because of SBDC. They’ve given me the clarity and confidence to get to this point. I otherwise wouldn’t have had the tools to really make the decision to hire new employees.”
Allison said she hopes to be associated with SBDC for the life of her business, no matter what stage it’s in or what she needs. “I just adore them. They’re great people.”