As a lot of you know, starting a small business is difficult. It can be one of the most frustrating experiences of your life. And it can also be one of the most rewarding, self-satisfying endeavors you ever take upon yourself. There are so many details to learn, and no matter how prepared you are, you are going to fail at parts along the way. In fact, you are going to fail - a lot! I have failed so many times in my quest to be the best chiropractor in the Flathead valley that I sometimes wonder how I am able to stay afloat and serve my community. As frustrating as it is sometimes, I am grateful for the people I have been able to help. I’m grateful for the lessons I have learned on this journey. I am grateful for my family that has stuck with me through fun rewarding times and some of the most difficult times.
When I was in chiropractic school in GA, my wife and I had visions of opening our chiropractic office to help the multitudes of people that have never had the opportunity to be under chiropractic care. Our dream was to move back to Kalispell, where Amy and I first met and started dating, and open up a family practice that we would fill with happy, healthy, like-minded families. We naïvely assumed that we could spread the word and everyone would want to come to our office to have their spines checked for vertebral subluxations – so that their bodies could function and work to the best of their abilities. I mean, who wouldn’t want to live a life clear of the interferences that can lead to sickness and disease? We did what anyone starting a new business would do- we went out and tried to meet as many people as we could!
There were many times when we had absolutely zero money to advertise or market. But we did have a computer, paper, and a printer. We printed off hundreds of fliers (we just learned that “flier” means to “take a risk”!) with coupons that Amy cleverly made up. We drove, and mostly walked, all around town in neighborhoods where we could efficiently walk house to house, door to door, and introduce ourselves as the newest, most motivated chiropractor in town! We wanted to let everyone know about the great offer we had for them! Unfortunately, the reactions we received weren’t exactly what we had envisioned – it was definitely going to take a lot more work, patience, and thick skin!
There were times when the door was slammed in our face, people didn’t answer the door after looking through the window, and worst, rude comments from people that could care less about the benefits a chiropractic adjustment could have on their lives. We would carefully avoid the homes that had the “solicitors will be shot” signs on their porch, and the homes with big, angry dogs that were just daring us to get near them. This wasn’t like the stories I had heard from other successful chiropractors before me that proclaimed to have done the same thing as we were doing. Only they somehow managed to make 50 new patient appointments as they canvassed their neighbors, got referrals from all of those people, and had a full schedule before they even opened their office doors. Obviously we must be doing something wrong!
Fast forward three and a half years later, many booths at events, dozens of talks with businesses, and thousands of adjustments on patients later….we are in the middle of our first “office remodel”. We changed our office logo, updated our educational supplies, painted the walls, and are continually finding ways to improve our office so that when people do come in, they understand what we do here, as well as feel the love and warmth that radiates from our hearts. We are passionate about chiropractic and really want our office to be the place where people can find refuge from all of their stresses in this wild world.
Looking back today, I can see some of the mistakes we made as clear as day. I know with the upmost confidence that I can show you in great detail some things not to do as a new chiropractor, or small business owner. But at the same time I can tell you that Amy and I have also had life changing experiences along the way that can only come with “trial and error” approaches to our business – none of which would have been possible if we hadn’t made some of those “happy accidents”. Not everything is going to come easy; we have learned that perseverance and hard work is vital to surviving the first few years of opening a new practice. The result of pushing through with sheer determination is seeing the lives of so many people change for the better after getting an adjustment. Having that beautiful experience and literally witnessing miracles of people getting their lives back through a higher level of health keeps us moving forward with our mission to help as many people as possible with chiropractic care!
Although I don’t think one single person came to our office from passing out fliers, I am glad we went out and put in the work to do what it takes to bring business to a new office. We definitely learned humility through that experience. Not everyone is ready for the kind of healing that chiropractic can offer. We realize more and more each day that showing love for all mankind is what ultimately builds a practice. Accepting those that walk into our office and treating them the same way we would treat a dear family member is what builds a practice. Treating people with compassion, respect, and honoring who they are and where they have come from will build a purpose-driven practice. When people are ready for the extraordinary transformation that is possible under chiropractic care, Amy and I will be patiently waiting for them with open arms, ready to greet them like a long lost friend.