Whether your practice is a solo operation or employs a staff of financial personnel, it has a distinct money personality that steers many financial decisions. It can be invigorating to begin taking a fresh look at the financial health of your therapy practice, by thinking of it in terms of money personalities.
One of the beauties of being in the therapy business is the opportunity it affords us to honor our desire to help others, utilize our natural talents, and pursue our passionate interests. We are not 100% recession-proof, however, as evidenced by a sluggish economy that stubbornly refuses to exit. If we have our own practice, we aren’t vulnerable to layoffs like a traditional employee, but we need to be financially prepared for periods of downturns in our therapy business. We must not neglect basic, prudent, and yes, sometimes boring financial principles, such as developing an emergency fund for surviving a period of lost income.
An organization’s money personality develops from a combination of sociological and experiential factors, and often stems from the practitioner’s, CFO’s or accounting department’s personal perceptions of money and spending. The prevailing money personality becomes a money “rascal” when it is out of balance or overly dominant in the firm’s spending style and creates mischief on its balance sheet. Fortunately, just as our clients can change some of their habits, a business or mental health practice can change its habitual behaviors with money. The key is to identify your organization’s dominant money style.
Identifying the money personality is vital to any organization’s long-term success, as it can help you understand why you opt to grow your practice either too aggressively or too conservatively.
What’s Your Practice’s Money Personality?
Let’s characterize the eight money personalities that drive organizational spending habits. Each represents a way you can balance out the spending habits that are problematic to your firm, whether you have too much of the trait or not enough. Once you identify your company’s dominant personality, you can create greater financial balance by borrowing useful traits from the personalities you lack, practicing them, and finally owning them as your business experiences a new and improved financial life.
Before you identify your money personality, realize that each money rascal type has potential advantages and disadvantages, yet none is superior to another. Some have habits that are more difficult to change than others, especially if societal systems reinforce them. It is up to each practitioner or financial department manager to determine whether any of the money style patterns are creating problems in the firm’s operations.
Below are the eight money rascals. Identify the one that best describes your organization’s view of money and then learn how to balance the money personality so it’s most useful to your firm’s longevity.
• Flasher – Just as the name implies, Flashers have an urge to splurge on flashy purchases so they can feel and look successful. Flashers will open shop in the most upscale part of town and will spend lavishly on client gifts, office space, or impressive equipment even though they may not be able to afford it. Why? Flashers often enjoy the recognition, power, or attention they believe their purchases give them. While such an “investment” may contribute to short-term growth, it also can result in the practice’s eventual inability to afford the perpetual nature of such an expensive splurging style unless the spending is tied to effective marketing campaigns.
o Taming Tips for Flasher – The best way to tame the Flasher rascal is to be aware of its tendencies so you can identify whether a purchase is necessary for long-term business growth, or if it’s more about trying to “look good.” Ask “Is this Flasher trying to dominate or is it a genuine business need?”
• Rasher – Like Flashers, Rashers urge to splurge, though not on such lavish items as Flashers. Known for frequent, rash, and impulsive financial decisions, Rashers’ spending is like the mechanical bunny – it keeps going and going and going. Rasher, for example, may steer you into buying more office gadgets and supplies, more motivational books, or more how-to material than anyone could possibly use in a realistic timeframe. Rashers rarely budget, plan, or track expenses, which can result in unmanageable debt.
o Taming Tips for Rasher – The best taming tip for Rasher is to discover the spending triggers and have a minimum 48-hour “no buy” rule for the impulsive “urge to splurge.” Hiring an outside advisor to help you tie your business spending to strategic marketing activities can be one of the best moves for this tendency.
• Clasher – The classic saboteur, Clashers urge to splurge one minute, and crave to save the next. In essence, their two equally strong desires to spend and save clash with one another on a regular basis. Clashers will work long and hard cutting back on expenses and saving money, but they might unexpectedly spend their entire savings on a large purchase, such as a new computer system (even though the current one is adequate). Clashers have difficulty achieving a healthy balance between spending and saving, causing the business to go through sporadic cycles of growth and stagnation.
o Taming Tips for Clasher – To keep Clasher from getting the best of your balance sheet, organization and planning are the keys. Develop a spending plan that allocates a fixed percentage of money to each category so you can resist the urge to liquidate assets or create debt on the latest “hot idea.”
• Dasher – Always on the go, Dashers dash from one activity to another, all the while ignoring the financial side of things. Dashers aren’t consumed with the thrill of spending; rather, they simply never get around to their financial matters. As far as Dashers are concerned, there are just too many other things to do. Such a disinterest in financial matters can cause the business to be caught off guard when a financial dilemma occurs.
o Taming Tips for Dasher – The best way to keep Dasher under control is to slow down. Schedule financial reviews with an advisor just as you would schedule a client appointment. Don’t overextend your schedule so there’s no excuse to dash away from your financial obligations.
• Basher – Overly critical Bashers are suspicious of wealth and success, believing that too much success is a sign of greed, evil, or selfishness. They reject any urge to splurge or craving for saving as selfish and instead opt to run their business as modestly as possible. Bashers may appear outwardly generous because they often under-charge for their services. They feel uneasy talking about financial matters and addressing the topic of profitability or operating in the black. Consequently, they are often uncomfortable or financially unable to invest in their practice and never grow much beyond their initial start-up phase. Many Bashers grow frustrated with their modest income and never truly understand its link to their belief system.
o Taming Tips for Basher – Keeping Basher “tamed” involves clarifying your values and taming any of the unnecessary extremes that may have become overly dominant. Create career goals you can accept as both virtuous and financially rewarding, and then plan a strategy to accomplish them.
• Asher – The classic worrier, Ashers are ashen and pale from continually fretting over financial matters. They feel chaotic financially and fear debt. Ashers are skeptical of the cash flow commitment business growth requires and therefore resist investing in it. They also don’t want to part with their money in case an opportunity comes up that requires the funds. An untamed and dominant Asher can easily end up feeling burned out and bitter from a lifetime of slow income growth and constant financial worry.
o Taming Tips for Asher – The first step to calming Asher is to analyze the over-responsible, self-pressuring beliefs you impose on yourself and your practice. In most instances, Ashers can ease some of their money fears by adding more structure to market research. Track results with small networking events before committing to larger scale marketing that seem too risky.
• Casher – When it comes to “squirreling away” assets, Cashers are the leaders in cash savings. Cashers like to keep track of their money, control it, budget it, and keep it safe. Cashers fear market risk with money and prefer conservative, cautious, and steady savings accounts for their accumulation. As a result, Cashers are sometimes too narrowly focused on saving pennies for the short-term, and they fail to calculate the long-term benefit of making choices that go beyond cost factors only. Their flaw may have become “penny wise and pound foolish.”
o Taming Tips for Casher – To keep the practice strong, Cashers need to examine the big picture and long-term perspective of their operation. As the expanded choices pay off, Cashers can gain confidence in modifying their narrow view from “expense = spending” to “expense = investment” in the successful growth of the practice.
• Stasher – Dominant Stashers may take undue market risk in a wide variety of equity investments in personal investing. In business, on the other hand, the biggest problem of Stashers is they aggressively invest too exclusively in their own business. All their eggs are in their “firm’s basket,” and they lack diversification, which puts their future financial security at risk.
o Taming Tips for Stasher – Stashers, especially sole practitioners, need to take care to have long-term savings and investments outside of their practice. Otherwise, Stashers in business may mistakenly take on traits of Flasher, in terms of putting too much money into the business, without assessing the projected strategic outcome of the decision.
Whether you are just getting started or have a seasoned practice, it is important to regularly set aside a portion of your income for emergencies and long-term goals like retirement. By examining the unconscious part of your professional practice and personal spending, you will make healthier decisions and have the financial freedom to act on opportunities that align with your true passions.
Whether your therapy practice’s natural style has an urge to splurge or a craving for saving, you can still experience business growth when you identify and work to resolve your organization’s dominant money rascals. The sooner you determine your firm’s financial habits and personality, the better your chances for taming the mischievous traits and achieving stellar professional success.
NOTE: The money rascals had an exciting makeover in 2012 that adds money motives to their personality profile. Check out the Motivated Asset Pattern Quiz here.