048: Are You a Clinician or a CEO?





Ronda Nelson: Well hello friends and welcome back to this episode of The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m your host, Ronda Nelson. Whether we like it or not, each of us is a business owner. We had to form an LLC, get a business license, and have insurance contracts. We have all the things we have to do as business owners. As clinicians, when we have these businesses, we often think of ourselves as the business even though our business is separate. I want to talk to you today about the difference between working in your business as a clinician versus working in your business as a CEO. There’s a very distinct difference. There’s always space in our brains to get one more little part of this conversation cemented in there so that we don’t forget it. 




Ronda Nelson: When we open a business, we think that we are the business. The business is me, and I am the business. But that is not true, at least according to the IRS. When you have a business like an LLC, LLC is its own distinct entity and requires someone to run it. Now, the person running that LLC has certain obligations like paying your taxes, or the responsibility for the profitability and filing a tax return every year. Also, someone has to be responsible for hiring, marketing, and all of those business decisions within that business. Now, last I checked, Clinicians don’t have to make those decisions. Clinicians have to look at the patient, evaluate what’s wrong, make a decision. 


Like you and me, clinicians have their clinical glasses on, and that’s how we see people. But the clinician isn’t the business owner, and the business owner is not the clinician; there are two different hats that you have to wear. If you have a brick-and-mortar practice and unlock the door in the morning, or if you work from home and open the door to your office, you are the CEO. You’re responsible for what your office looks like. Now, play this out a little bit. When you walk in the door, the first thing you do, you probably go into your office and put your things down. Now, right there, you are acting as a CEO. You’re not seeing patients, so you’re not the clinician. You are the CEO, and as the CEO, there are things you’ve got to do.


As soon as 9:00 rolls around, automatically, that CEO hat comes off, and it sits on the desk as you walk out with your clinician hat on. As a clinician, you’re interacting with patients and helping them, which we all do. You continue to do what’s suitable for the patient, but as soon as you walk back into your office, you’ve got your CEO hat on. It’s a distinction that we don’t often make. But when you’re hiring someone, who do you think is the better person to conduct that interview, the CEO or the clinician? My vote is on the CEO because we need the CEO to come in here and say, “All right. What kind of value are you going to bring? How much are you going to save the company?” And the clinicians are never going to think about that. 


A business owner, a CEO, will think about that because your business is more than just the name of your clinic or the balance in your checking account. It’s dynamic. It’s living. It’s an interactive thing that requires management and oversight, and your guidance and direction as a CEO are vital for your business to thrive. Having your CEO hat on means that you are leading your business, not showing up as a clinician. I did this for many years, so listen my friend, I’ve been there. I once fired someone over a text message sitting at a rest stop on I-5 in California. That’s not my proudest moment. I didn’t have the confidence to do it because I was coming at it as a clinician. If I had made the mental switch and put my CEO hat on, I would have had a completely different conversation. 


But that’s why I really want you to understand this about being a leader. You are a CEO. We always think of CEOs as those who sit up in the C-suites at some big multibillion-dollar corporation, but that’s not true. Every single business has to have a CEO. So, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book E-Myth by Michael Gerber, and he redid it some time ago, so now it’s called The E-Myth Revisited. Now, the E-Myth Revisited gives you the perspective about how business owners have to wear so many different hats. 


We don’t wear the hat of the CEO often enough, but we continuously wear the hat of the cleaner, the bookkeeper, the front desk person, or the biller. We have all these different hats that we wear, and then we miss out on business opportunities because we’re so dang busy trying to keep all the plates spinning. But listen, how do you make that mind shift? Let’s look at this scenario, like when you need to hire someone. When you have that clinician hat on, what would you do when you know that you needed an employee? Would you randomly write up a job description and put it on Indeed or wherever you’re going to put it? I would think that a good CEO would sit down and be very clear about what is it that this person needs to do. You write down a good job description, decide what your range of pay is, and think about any benefits. As a CEO, you take the time to get clear about what their role is.


But what do we do as clinicians? Unfortunately, I hired people I liked, and we got along so they would stay and just kind of fuss through it until we all figured it out. I was spineless when I was hiring as a clinician. I was spineless because I didn’t know to put things in place to hire appropriately. But as a CEO, I’m going to be thinking, “What do I need to do to get this person up and running quickly? Do I need to create some training videos?” And I know that might sound a little over the top and maybe a little high-end, but it’s really not. As a business owner, you have to know that you’re responsible, my friend, for the bottom line. You are responsible for whether your business makes a profit or not. And if it’s not profitable, man, oh, man, you better figure that out quick, or you’re going to be living under a bridge, and we don’t want that. 


With that, I have a question for you. What decision do you need to make or haven’t wanted to make, leaving you stuck? What’s a decision for your business that you know you need to make, and you’re on the fence? What I want you to do is I want you to think about that decision, and I bet that you’ve got your clinician hat on. If you put your CEO hat on and you just thought about it, like just made that mental shift, how would you make that decision differently if you were the boss in charge? Or imagine someone else coming in being the boss; how would they make that decision? It is a subtle distinction, but it is a powerful one.


Here are your action steps to wrap it up. Number one and most important, schedule 30 minutes every single day to work on your business as the CEO, not in your business as a clinician. This means if you need to get to work 30 minutes earlier or maybe stay 30 minutes later, spend 30 minutes a day working on your business as a CEO with your CEO hat on and not in your business as a clinician. There’s lots of time to do the clinical stuff because that’s what makes rain, right? You’re the rainmaker when you’re the clinician. Number two, look for something that isn’t working well and begin designing or implementing a solution. So, let’s say that you’ve got an employee that continues to show up to work late, and she’s maybe 5, 10 minutes late three out of five days a week, and this irritates you. You’re thinking, “Oh, why does she do that?” As a CEO, I’d march right over to her, and I would say, “Hey, listen, I’ve noticed for the last three or four weeks you’ve been late in the mornings. Is there something going on that I can help you with?” And she might say, “Oh my gosh, my mom is living with us…” and she may have this whole thing going on at home that I knew nothing about. Now, we have all the cards on the table, and I can help her find a solution. Number three, take action. Sit in your boss’s chair with your boss hat on and start making those decisions. Your practice has to have someone leading it. 


When you lead your business as a CEO, your business automatically becomes more productive, more profitable, and has higher work satisfaction. You’re investing the time to run it and to do something with it. And once you start making that shift, I’m telling you, the whole world will open up for you. I have done this coaching with hundreds, probably thousands of practitioners, and I have never seen this fail yet. I think out of every podcast I’ve done so far, and this might be the most important one because once you get this clear in your head, the difference between being a clinician and a CEO, it’s a game-changer in your practice. Now, go out there, my friend, and be that CEO. I know you can do it. I believe in you. 




Ronda Nelson: Are we still friends, or did I just bust your chops? I didn’t mean to bust your chops; I just wanted to give you some inspiration about how you can change your practice. You can change the destiny of your business by just making this simple shift. And I know that all of us can use a little kick in the backside once in a while because sometimes we get too comfortable, right? We get so comfortable that we don’t make any changes. I hope that this podcast for you was a pivotal point where you’ll start making that change and making that shift. And you may want to go back and listen to it again because when you’re feeling a little like things are not working, this podcast could turn your brain around so that you can really think about your business differently.  




Scroll to Top