As a part of my interview series with prominent medical professionals about “How To Grow Your Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Maiysha Clairborne.
Dr. Maiysha Clairborne is an integrative family physician, and the founder of Stress Free Mom MD and the Next Level Physician Entrepreneurs Institute. With over 14 years of experience, Dr. Clairborne is passionate about transforming the experience of being a physician. She completed her undergraduate training in psychology with Emory University, her medical degree at Morehouse School of Medicine, and her Family Medicine Residency at Florida Hospital. Dr. Clairborne delivers talks worldwide having spoken at the International Conference on Physician Health, WELLMED Conference, and multiple hospitals and academic institutions.
What made you want to start your own practice?
I think being a business owner was in my blood. My mother owned two dental practices growing up, and so I was exposed early. In my training years in residency, I realized that my path in medicine would be different. Being interested in integrative medicine, I knew that in order to be able to have the autonomy to build my career and honor my gifts, I would need to be my own boss. That is what led me to start my practice.
Managing being a provider and a business owner can often be exhausting. Can you elaborate on how you manage both roles?
As a business owner, how do you know when to stop working IN your business (maybe see a full patient load) and shift to working ON your business? I don’t think it’s so much “when” as it is “how”. I think as providers we love seeing patients so much that even when we want to transition to working on the business rather than in it, we feel a fierce loyalty to our patients. I know that I did….even after I sold my practice, I was still committed to having the new owner and providers win, and that meant continuing to be affiliated with the practice as a collaborator. In my current business as a physician coach, it is still challenging however, I have learned better ways to leverage my time with my clients and students so that I can give them my best, grow the business, and still have time for myself, my family, and my life.
From completing your degree to opening a clinic and becoming a business owner, the path was obviously full of many hurdles. How did you build up resilience to rebound from failures? Is there a specific hurdle that sticks out to you?
Actually, the path to my first failure was pretty short for me. I had my first practice startup attempt right out of residency. I had no business sense back then and within 6 months it had failed. For me failure is simply feedback. I’m pretty analytical, so I just analyzed what was missing, so the second time around I’d know what to put in…what I’d need to do to succeed the next time around.
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Grow Your Private Practice” and why?
- Get to Know the community you serve — While so many docs are on social media There is nothing like getting to know the community you want to serve. When I first started my practice, I volunteered for every health fair, spoke about wellness in churches, volunteered at health drives. This allowed me to get to know the community as much as it allowed them to get to know me. From these interactions, I was invited to speak, gained referrals, as well as scheduled patients. Getting to know the community was one of the primary ways that my practice was able to grow through the recession in 2008.
- Speaking — With so much community participation, I was often asked to speak at various community (and many corporate) events. I did both paid and unpaid speaking. Once again, this allowed the community to really get to know me and my expertise. I often got referrals, more invites to speak, and even collaborated with corporations to see their employees.
- Creating referral relationships w/ “like minded” providers — When I first started my practice, I did what we would call “beating the streets”. I literally drove around the area near my practiced and stopped at every wellness center, chiropractic office, massage therapists, med spa, and similar “holistic” type practices that I could find. My purpose was to find other providers who could see value in my services, and that were complementary to my services rather than in direct competition with me. In doing this many referral relationships were created (some that were even created indirectly). I can’t tell you how many of my patients came from Dr. “So and so” that I met 5 or 6 years ago and had coffee with once or twice. Once my practice was more established, I didn’t have to “beat the streets” so to speak, but I did continue reach out and create mutually beneficial connections with health professionals that were complimentary (massage therapists, chiropractors and psychologist proved to be the best referral partners in my case). It was great for me, and of course my patients as through those relationship we could provide a more team-based approach to our care.
- Online advertisement — Of course, I did some advertising, but the former 3 strategies made it so that my advertising expenses were nominal compared to what they could be. I used two or three sites with very good SEO that were specific to integrative medicine to advertise. Those two or three sites brought hundreds of patients. The key here is to be strategic about the advertising channel you choose. I learned very quickly that print advertising was ineffective and very expensive in my practice model. I also learned that you have to research an online advertiser to see whether the traffic they proclaim to be able to get you, is in fact likely based on their rankings online (I just did a quick search to see if they even came up on the first page to know).
- Social media — My entry into social media was much later on in the game. By the time social media advertising got popular my practice was doing well just off the above four strategies. However, adding this advertising channel to the mix proved to be helpful. I was able to grow a quick FB following, post You Tube videos, and host an online radio show, all of which contributed to the growth of the practice in the latter years before I sold it. The social media also did wonders for my branding. From social media I began to also get referrals. When someone asked for a medical acupuncturist or an Integrative “holistic” medicine doctor, people would tag me. Now, having transitioned to physician business and entrepreneurship coaching, social media is actually my MAIN method of marketing. The techniques I learned in social media marketing had me replace my income as a physician in less than a year. So, it’s definitely a valuable marketing channel.
While, there are many other strategies I used to grow my practice successfully (networking events, hosting office events, exhibitions, media appearances), these 5 were by far the most effective. With these strategies, I not only grew with patients, but also I created a brand with a legacy that still exists (and is being expanded) in the hands of its new owner.
Furthermore, I have continued to utilize these 5 strategies as a foundation for my physician coaching practice and physician entrepreneur’s institute and have found them to be both timeless and universal.
Many healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization”. How did you overcome that mental block?
Knowing your value is one of the most important principles as an entrepreneur, and what I tell the physician clients I coach is that if you provide excellent care and excellent service, people will see your prices not as “cost” but as “investment”.
What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?
I “phone a friend”. I learned how to reach out back when I was running the practice. Now, as a physician coaching other physicians in career transition, business and entrepreneurship, it is critical to know when I’m overwhelmed so I can take action early. I have to be focused and over there with them mentally. When I’m unfocused, I reach out to my network of fellow coaches, fellow physician entrepreneurs, and my personal coach. These are the people who help me to re-center and re-focus. That coupled with making sure I’m taking care of my own self-care needs usually brings me back to myself.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career — None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
My mother was my first mentor as she is the one who modeled entrepreneurship, and helped me to learn to think outside of the box. She was always coming up with creative ways to grow her business. She also showed me what unstoppable looks like. She side-stepped every obstacle and used failure as fuel for forward movement. Second, Dr. William Richardson who was the first to inspire me to take the road less traveled in medicine. That’s how I found my ‘integrative medicine’ roots. My friend Dr. Dawn Aldrich never let me give up on my visions (even before the physician coaching). She embodied what it looked like to truly follow your “assignment” (life’s purpose). I’m still inspired by her today. As a physician coach (and one of the few physicians who has managed to make a full successful transition into full time coaching), I have to thank Dr. Dike Drummond & Dr. Draion Burch for being my personal coaches along the way. They demonstrated to me that making this transition as a physician was 100% possible, and they empowered my path and journey along the way. For that I’ll be forever grateful.
What resources did you use (Blogs, webinars, conferences, coaching, etc.) that helped jumpstart you in the beginning of your business?
Oh goodness! I probably signed up for every business workshop that came my way in the beginning. I hired a business coach. Read business planning, social media, marketing, and sales blogs. There are so many that I cannot remember them all. Most impactful was having coaches along the way. I had a business coach in the beginning, then a marketing coach, followed by a social media coach. When I transitioned and started my physician coaching business, I hired a physician business coach (twice) and went through an online marketing program that taught me all about marketing automation, FB advertising, and social media marketing. I’ve probably read as many books on business as I did in medical school at this point.
What’s the worst piece of advice or recommendation you’ve ever received? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had a lot of bad advice along the way. People have told me I wouldn’t succeed even when I was in college applying to medical school. However, I’d say it’s a tie between two people. The first was a medical professor at Emory University that told me (when I was a senior) I should not apply to medical school but go into research instead because my grades weren’t “good enough”. Had I listened to him I’m sure I would not be where I am today. The second was from a practice manager I hired when I was about to start my practice; he told me “you have to build traditional practice first then transition over to holistic style”. I subsequently fired him and went on to successfully build my cash based integrative medicine without any outside initial funding.
Please recommend one book that’s made the biggest impact on you?
One of the books that made a huge impact on me was Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth. It opened my eyes to the difference between being a “small business owner” and a CEO. It changed not only the way I saw things but the way I ran my practice from then on.
Where can our readers follow you on social media?
They can find me at:
For other incredible interviews, please check out our podcast: Healthcare Heroes.
A special thanks to Dr. Clairborne again! The purpose of this interview series is to highlight the entrepreneurs, innovators, advocates, and providers inside Healthcare. Our hope is to inspire future healthcare providers on the incredible careers that are possible!