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Learn to Speak the Language of Business

by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff

Whether you are talking to your accountant about your practice finances, negotiating a contract with a payer, or providing organizational consultation, understanding and speaking the language of business can help you communicate more effectively and achieve your goals. This article highlights simple ways to build your knowledge base about business aspects of your practice.

Recognize the Benefits

The health care system’s growing complexity is increasing the need for practitioners to be familiar with business concepts. While many psychologists who work in hospitals and other institutional settings grapple with organizational and larger systemic issues on a daily basis, even those psychologists in solo independent practice find that they must deal with business issues such as budgeting, contracts, billing and marketing. For psychologists functioning in this complex environment, learning to speak the language of business can have a variety of benefits.

Communicate more effectively. Chances are you interact with a variety of business and financial people who affect your practice. When you deal with managed care representatives, accountants, hospital administrators, or practice consultants, having a firm grasp of business concepts and terminology will help you communicate your needs more clearly, give constructive feedback, and provide others with the information and resources they need. In turn, this will streamline your interactions, reduce the likelihood of conflicts and misunderstandings, and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Understand and manage the business aspects of your practice. Even though you may turn to consultants for expert guidance or outsource some of your business functions, it may not be in your best interest to completely relinquish decision making about your practice to non-clinicians. Understanding the language of business will help you build and maintain a successful practice by integrating business data with the clinical, legal, and ethical aspects of your practice. This in turn allows you to make better decisions about your practice finances, staffing, marketing and business strategy.

Tap into new markets. Increasingly, psychologists are finding innovative ways to apply their expertise in human behavior outside of the traditional mental health realm. Branching out, whether by entering the business world via organizational consulting or executive coaching, or launching a new business venture requires psychologists to be well schooled in the language of business. Developing your business vocabulary can be the first step in starting to think like a businessperson and an entrepreneur.

Advance your career. At some point in your career, you may want to shift the nature of your work, take on additional administrative responsibilities or make contributions at a larger systemic level. Psychologists who have developed their business competencies are well suited to leadership positions such as heading up a department or facility, running a larger group practice or starting a new business.

Develop Your Knowledge Base

Learning to understand and speak the language of business often requires that psychologists access new resources and create a new frame of reference — that of a businessperson. Thinking like a businessperson is not meant to replace the foundation you have developed during your education, training, and experience as a psychologist. Rather, it should provide a new tool that will enhance your ability to successfully provide high quality psychological services. Below are a few simple steps you can take to get started.

Read. Keeping up with the latest psychology literature can be extremely time consuming, especially with today’s busy schedules. As a result, many psychologists rarely venture outside the world of psychology. Picking up the latest business books and browsing relevant periodicals are great ways to build your business vocabulary and knowledge base.

Talk to nonpsychologists. As psychologists, like many other professionals, we spend a lot of time talking among ourselves. Despite the diversity of perspectives within our profession, this somewhat cloistered existence can inadvertently result in missing important information and opportunities that may ultimately facilitate successful practice. Getting out of the office and talking to business people, networking with other professionals, and joining organizations such as the local Rotary Club, chamber of commerce or small business owners association can expose you to a variety of business-related topics.

Ask questions. When business concepts or terms come up that you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask trusted sources to explain or clarify. In addition to asking friends, colleagues and family members, use your consultants (e.g., accountant, attorney, graphic designer) as resources to help build your knowledge base. After all, you pay them for their expertise.

Use the Internet. A wealth of business knowledge resides on the Internet. Utilize search engines and reputable websites to research unfamiliar business territory and fill in your knowledge gaps. See the Additional Resources section below for a selection of Web resources to help you get started or visit the practice technology section.

Take a course. You don’t have to go to business school to start building your basic business competencies. Many colleges and universities will let you register for or audit a single business course and may even offer weekend and evening seminars or online courses. Similarly, local community colleges may offer basic business courses through their adult education programs. And small business associations and other community business groups often offer seminars and workshops at low or no cost.

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Date created: 2004
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