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Building a Successful Acupuncture Practice with Dominic Stape, DOM
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Happy Memorial Day weekend! 🇺🇸
Welcome back to another acupuncturist interview. Today I’m talking with Dominic Stape, DOM, super-successful acupuncturist in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dominic has been in practice since 2001 and his practice has grown enormously since that time.
Dominic has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from the University of New Mexico and he worked in genetics and pharmaceutical studies for years before becoming an acupuncturist. He got his doctorate in acupuncture from the International Institute of Chinese Medicine.
He also teaches a comprehensive practice-building online course with Brad Whisnant right here: The Complete Acupuncture Business Success Program . And Dominic and Brad have an upcoming LIVE seminar where they share even more strategies for growing your practice in late November 2018. More info on that to follow!
As an aside, Brad is having a Memorial Day Sale right now where all of his live recorded seminars are 50% off! Check out now before it ends at midnight, Monday, May 28th.
If you’re not familiar with Brad, he’s an expert in Master Tung style acupuncture and he teaches literally all around the world. His recorded seminars are in Paris, Sydney, Portland, and more. Click on each seminar and scroll down to the see the sale price (half off for a limited time) .
I’m so excited to pick Dominic’s brain today! Let’s get started. Today Dominic and I talk about: What marketing has worked for him (and hasn’t!) The big shift that made a difference in feeling like he finally “made it” The approach he takes when he teaches practice building to other acupuncturists Why having systems is essential in your clinic And much more! Hi Dominic! How did you get into acupuncture?
I got into acupuncture because I was interested in practicing medicine. I had some family members that really got great results from acupuncture.
Plus when I was told I could possibly have a tumor on my adrenal cortex, I sought other solutions. I was in my early twenties and I had seen a specialist for my symptoms: digestive trouble, back pain, poor sleep anxiety, spontaneous dizziness and cold sweating. I saw a few physicians and one wanted to do a biopsy to rule out a tumor of my adrenal cortex. I changed a lot of things about my lifestyle and I started to get acupuncture and drink Chinese herbs. That helped me out immensely and I never had a problems to the point that I had to go back. I give acupuncture credit for helping me change my life. At that point I was sold I started to pursue my degree as a doctor of Oriental medicine. How long were you in practice before you felt like you’d “made it?”
I started practice in 2001 and I could tell with the first year that it was going to be difficult to grow my practice in order to survive comfortably. I started with consulting firms and doing my own research and trial and error with different parts in the clinic. After a few years, maybe around 2004 or 2005, we started making a good profit and investing in real estate. Ooh, can you tell us more about investing in real estate? Did you buy the building you were practicing in?
When we were at our busiest we still experienced so many ups and downs in the clinic. When I had the chance and the money I wanted to diversify and put it into real estate. Real estate is one investment where you can have some security with your money; you can make it grow and be in control of it. At the point that I was making the most money, I started to invest it and bought four houses, an apartment complex, started saving for my kids, and we bought the office building that we’re in now.
Real estate helped me look at running my business in a new way. You can buy real estate without having a whole lot of money down or even getting money from the bank if you’re creative enough. This also applies to business: if you’re willing to be creative and proactive with your practice, then you’re in control and you can make things grow and happen for you. For example, marketing, treatment plans, day-to-day talking to patients and motivating them to keep doing treatment to get them better: it’s all about mindset. I think it’s about being creative and getting out and doing the things that we need to do to have what we want. When you say consulting firms, what do you mean? Business mentors?
I’ve worked with many different consulting firms and individuals, including several practice consultants, motivational consultants, real estate investing consultants, and a few others.
They all had one thing in common: The idea to have a plan and the mindset to follow through.
I decided to start working with them because I think it’s good to learn from people that have experience doing what I want to accomplish; not just some bonehead rattling off his ideas. I think it’s good for all of us to have an experienced mentor like this. For those people who want to have a successful clinic and a career, I want to offer that and help them in the same way that I was helped. We may know what we want but we don’t know how to get it or how to grow it. Sometimes we can be our own obstacles and not see that. I’d like to help people see where they stand and show them the things they need to do. I definitely agree. Finding mentors to guide me and look at my goals from an objective standpoint has been enormously helpful in actually achieving my goals. Did you have a period of struggle when you first got into practice, or did you find success right out of the gate?
The first year of practice I struggled for sure. Once I started to see growth I could tell that business was an art in itself. It’s combining different parts of the clinic together to understand how the whole thing works and how to really strengthen that.
The course that I have with Brad Whisnant Seminars describes a lot of this. I want to help more people understand how to have a successful clinic and how to reach the goals that they want. The course that we recorded really gives a lot of tools for people to do this. Also we will be doing a course and seminar series and November and December. This one’s going to be good because we’re going to make sure people walk away with valuable tools to see results immediately I couldn’t agree more that running a business is an art, just like practicing an acupuncture is an art. They’re two separate disciplines that both require trial and error and the willingness to learn and improve with time. Was there a big shift for you in your practice that helped you get to where you are today?
I would say the big shift that really changed for me was understanding the clinic as a separate entity. And I mean this as an entity with different working parts like I said: marketing, report of findings, clinic systems… Once I understood that the clinic runs almost like a machine with different moving parts, that’s when I really started to understand how to make the clinic work for me instead of me work for the clinic . What do you mean by that, making the clinic work for you?
An example of systems is having a checklist that everyone in the clinic uses. Each person has specific jobs to do with the patient before the patient is passed on to the next person. If the system is implemented then you know that your patient has been educated and understands why he or she should come back to you. This is one system that is a big help.
If more systems like this are implemented in the clinic it will start to operate on its own without the clinic owner having to be there in order to make money and treat patients. In my course I talk more about these systems that the staff should follow. It helps to create the same end products with every patient; we need to generate more confidence within the patient that we can help them and that they need to keep coming back in order to get results. What do you think has been the biggest determinant in your success as a business owner?
Wow, that’s a big question to think about. There’s been a lot of things that determined how I became successful. But I think for the most part it was to starting to think outside the box – not the same way that most people think. To do the things that most people aren’t doing or don’t want to do.
There’s a lot of bad advice out there and there’s lot of good advice. It’s about really looking at all of it and picking out what is effective for the long term and putting that together as a system in the clinic. I describe a lot of this in the course that we recorded and will be talking more about that in the seminars in Portland for December and November. What marketing efforts have worked best for you?
The marketing efforts that work the best for me are usually when I’m talking one on one with people. This could be screenings, referral programs that I’ve designed, workshops, etc. Advertising can be expensive and it has been okay for me but not great.
The best type of marketing is to ask for referral or have referral programs. Initially it would be good to have some screenings or some public outreach programs. And then add the referral programs inside the clinic. This is by far the best way to get new patients.
In the course that we recorded there are a lot of really good tips for marketing. Plus we’ll be diving more into the details of how to do this in November Any types of marketing that fell flat, that you wouldn’t recommend?
I wouldn’t recommend doing television. A bad idea! I did a whole year of advertising. I got maybe a handful of patients out of it and lost a lot of money. I’ve talked to some other people in our industry that have done it and they agree that it’s not a good idea.
Radio, on the other hand, helped a lot in marketing for certain symptoms. Not so much for digestion, depression or allergies, but a good response for weight loss. Maybe I shouldn’t say a good response; but I got a response that seemed to pay for itself.
I did talk radio: the host asked questions and we talked about a subject or special and that help to get a response. Then we also did do some advertising in commercials on the radio to reinforce the talk show. In your online course with Brad Whisnant you cover a lot of ground. What do you think is the most important message from that course? The big picture way that you approach growing a clinic?
The first part of the course covers mindset because that’s the one thing that most of us struggle with. Your mind has to be focused on the right things. Work your planning backwards. Start with the goal in mind and work it back to the things that need to get done. In order to accomplish those things, what are some things that you need to research or study?
The big picture way to approach the clinic is from a distance. We need to step outside the clinic and look at it from an objective point of view. For example, we need to keep statistics on everything we do so we understand whether it’s actually working. We may have a very good week and then a very poor week and this can happen over and over again. If we implement statistics we can see the numbers change and really understand why we had such a good week and how we can repeat that over and over again.
I also talk about how to use statistics and numbers to manage staff. The stats will show the staff their performance and maybe even bonus pay. Now the staff is working harder and not watching the clock. I go into more detail about this in my course.
Another big topic that I cover in the course is marketing. We may want to market but really don’t know where to start and don’t want to sound like we don’t know what we’re doing. There are certain ways to talk to people and create more interest in what we do and how we can help them. One reason people don’t like marketing is because we sometimes sound like sales people. In my course I cover how to talk to people in a way that doesn’t feel salesy but is still effective in getting people to make an appointment. We have to introduce ourselves as a confident and capable of helping this individual. I talk more in detail about this in the course. What’s the best advice about running a business you’ve ever been given?
The best business advice I’ve ever had was to just enjoy what you do. When it becomes work and regrettable, then the fun dies and creativity wanes. It’s also about having a daily routine and keep in the right mindset. Do you currently have any mentors?
One of my first mentors is Robert Kiyosaki. Another one would be the Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich. Wayne Dyer also had a lot of influence on me. What advice would you give to current acupuncture students about getting ready to run a business?
If you’re getting ready to run a business don’t look at it as a business. Look at it like a board game and think about what moves you want to make. Just go for it and have fun! I think any new person should watch my course and learn from it and do the things that I did that are successful so that they can be successful as well. And these things that I go over anybody can do them and get a great result. Stop looking at words as being negative connotations instead start thinking about marketing as a way to really connect with people and a report of findings to really help your patients understand how you were going to help them. They should also attend the seminar is in Portland in November. What advice would you give us all right now to increase our patient numbers this week?
To increase your patient numbers this week stop having your patients come in once a week have them come in two or three times a week. They’ll get a better response and your patient will be happier with you. Also ask for referrals from each and every person and get them in as soon as you can. Start a marketing program today and start talking to people outside of your clinic anywhere and everywhere you are. Anything else you’d like to add?
Don’t whine or complain instead talk about the solutions to the problems and what you are going to do to grow your clinic. Start planning your daily routine‘s. Buy my course study it well attend the seminar is in November in Portland and you will have what you need to grow your clinic to any size you want it to you.
Thank you, Dominic, for sharing your experience and expertise!
Don’t forget to check out Dominic’s online course, The Complete Acupuncture Business Success Program .
And if you’re interested in attending Dominic and Brad’s upcoming LIVE seminar where they share even more strategies for growing your practice in November 2018, feel free to shoot an email to Brad at