Episode Seventeen| Season Three

The Four Powerful C’s to Steer Your Practice in The Right Direction

On this Episode of PsychBiz, Howard and I are talking about how you can use the power of the 4 C’s to steer your private practice in the right direction. 

Howard shares his insights on:

  • How therapists can benefit from using the 4 C’s instead of a traditional SWOT analysis
  • How to identify your personal and professional capabilities, challenges, chances and concerns
  • And more!

Download your copy of Howard’s Private Practice Business Plan for FREE here: https://howardbaumgarten.com/resources/

This is the fourth episode in our mini-series for therapists based on the graduate counseling program curriculum Howard taught for 12 years at the University of Colorado, and can also act as a side-template for his book, Private Practice Essentials.

We hope you find this episode insightful and inspiring. If you do, please consider subscribing, leaving a review or a comment.

Episode 17 Transcript:

Intro (Sarah): If you are a mental health professional who wants to have a bigger impact on the world, help more people and grow your business all at the same time. Then, you’re in the right place. With every episode, we’re here to help you discover new ideas, gain new insights and get the step-by-step strategies that you need to grow your private practice with confidence.

I’m Sarah Gershone and along with my co-host Howard Baumgarten we welcome you to Psych Biz. We’re so glad you’re here.

Sarah: So today we’re going to have a conversation about the four Cs and Howard can you tell me what those are?

Howard: I would lGive an idea of what we’re talking about today?

Howard: Yeah. Well, it’s funny that you asked me to get right into it. I love that we’re going to do this because there’s a funny thing I came up with the four C’s as an adaptation to the concept that is often in a business plan called a SWOT analysis. And we’ll kind of get into what that is as well. It’s the same thing, basically. But where the idea of the four C’s came from is around the time I was developing this curriculum, it was after maybe a couple of years after I had gotten married and if you ever walk into a jeweler, they will talk about the C’s of picking the right diamond – clarity, cut and carat. Right?

Sarah: Right.

Howard:  And in fact, our jeweler wrote a book about it.

Sarah: Wow.

Howard: Yeah. He’s an interesting guy. But so anyway, I thought, well, that’s kind of cool. Let’s find a creative way to rename what a SWOT analysis is. Now, a traditional SWOT analysis would be, what are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What are your opportunities? And what are the threats? Okay. And partly why I renamed them is some of those concepts have negative overtones. Right? I don’t like thinking about weaknesses in the form of what am I not good at or, or whatever. And there’s, in other words, there’s this negative bias about it when you hear the word weakness.

And so I’ve replaced that word with a word that connotates like a really positive way of looking at it, which is challenge. What challenges do you experience? And so that would be one of the C’s that we’re talking about. Right. If you start with strengths – strengths are really capabilities, right?

So what are your capabilities? That would be the first quadrant. And I like to break this into four quadrants. If you can imagine a four quadrant system like a window pane divided into four, your capabilities would be in the upper left. Your challenges would be in the lower left. So on the left side, you would have the capabilities and challenges.

Okay. And the next one would be chances, right?  Opportunities. Another C word and that would be in the upper right. And then the lower right would be concerns, and concerns as a kinder way of thinking about threats. That make sense?

Sarah: Absolutely. And I like that it takes some of the negativity out of the other kind of phrasing because there’s no reason to feel threatened by things that you might feel like you need to pay attention to or prepare for whatever the situation might be. But to term it threats makes it very kind of, it’s a judgmental negative term. And I think your approach is a lot more positive and constructive.

Howard: I appreciate that. And that’s how I wanted it to be for my students and for the people that I consult with to try to help them. Because when you hear a word like threat it immediately shuts you down it deflates your balloon, right? It doesn’t allow you to want to move forward. And so I like the word concern as much as I like the word challenges, right? Something that’s challenging for us could be seen as a weakness, but when we think about the actual word “weakness” it stops us from wanting to go in that area and do work.

Whereas if you’re challenged by something, your brain-wiring says, “I’m up for the challenge, let’s do this!” And so, I was really careful about thinking about these words and making them easy to remember. That’s why every word starts with a C and also in such a way they really breathe positivity. They’re doable. Does that make sense?

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, maybe you can talk a little bit about why do you think this is part of a business plan? Because it sounds like a great activity, a great thought process to go through, but why specifically do you want this to be part of crafting a business plan?

Howard: Great question. That is really important in this. It’s an exercise that seems quite a bit different from a lot of the practical mapping of a business plan. And the reason that we do an exercise like this, and I think it’s probably one of the most important components of your business plan, is because it becomes an infrastructure of linking to your business persona. And it has a lot of personal investment in that. And so you’re able to make better business decisions by knowing what is going on in each of these categories.

So in my book, Private Practice Essentials –  I don’t remember exactly the page. Actually, I can look it up. It’s right around the beginning of the book –  it’s page 15. There’s a chart in there that basically allows you to actually create a table and list the personal and professional breakdown in each category. I recommend that you look at what are your personal capabilities? So for example, if I were to ask you, “Hey Sarah, what are you really capable of personally in your life? Like personal attributes that you know are about who you are.

Sarah: Wow. That’s a big question.

Howard: Yeah, just the first few that come to mind. Maybe.

Sarah: No, I mean, I think one of my core capabilities in this case would be empathy. And I think that that has a big impact on my professional work because I’m able to talk to people better, communicate with people, better understand what they’re looking for, better.

Howard: And actually my guess is that empathy may have led you to choosing to work with therapists in terms of who you work with. Because therapists obviously are an emotionally intelligent, empathic bunch. And in my view, you might not have as much job and overall career satisfaction doing the exact same thing that you’re doing now with say a group of engineers and not to say that engineers are all not emotionally intelligent, many of them are, but the reality is that they’re not interested in the business of empathy. They’re not interested in the business of care so being in the business of being a web designer, you are in fact, working with people who are in the business of the kind of attributes that are strong in your personal value system.  What you’re good at, what attributes you have.

Sarah: Yeah, I really agree with that. I think that’s totally a good point. And that really, you know, as opposed to me wanting to work with engineers or something like that, you know, it makes a lot of sense that that personal attribute would lead to a particular career path. And it’s nice to actually see how those things correlate.

Howard: Exactly. And then, then I might ask you. Okay. In the same category of capabilities, what have you learned over time? Because sometimes we have to work in the field for a while, or maybe you already knew something about this, about you, but what is something that is professional that you’re capable of. Maybe you learned it along the way in your job or a previous job that transferred your skill over to your business. So do that exercise to say something about that.

Sarah: Yeah. Okay. That makes sense. Do you want me to actually answer or …

Howard: I’d love for you to answer it?

Sarah: So I think actually something I’m starting to do more and more, and that I think is really interesting is doing more education of my clients because what I’ve realized is that there’s a lot about what I do that they don’t understand. And the more that I kind of teach them about how things work and why things work a certain way, the more I’m empowering them to both understand the decisions that we’re making about their site and their digital marketing, and then also giving them information that helps them in a lot of other ways. And so I’m kind of building education into the process of working with people now.

Howard: And, and that’s great. And how that translates into your four C’s is, this is really cool you brought this up because it is, you would put in the capability under professional, you would put, I’m learning that I’m a really good educator. Like I like to teach people about my business when they’re interested in, and that actually helps. Right? The other thing you might do is this is a great example, is where, what other CS does that fit into?

Sarah: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah.

Howard: Can you name the other three Cs that it meant like, like go through the three, the other three Cs.

Sarah: So, I mean, I think for chances, right? So one of the things that I’ve started to do is I’m going to start making YouTube videos, like educational YouTube videos for people about therapist websites because I actually really enjoy it. And I used to teach and so like it’s giving me an opportunity to do something that I really like and that increases my impact. Like lots more people kind of get to know who I am and what I do.

Howard: Exactly. So it becomes an opportunity, becomes a chance that you can take. And you’re writing that in there now. The other piece is how might it be a challenge? Would it fit in that category for you?

Sarah: Well, it’s just another thing to juggle, right? Because if I’m trying to do a YouTube channel now, which I am, so that’s like a whole bunch of, I have to learn new skills for video editing. I have to have a production schedule. I have to come up with content. It’s very time-consuming and I already have a lot of time stuff going on.

Howard: So look, what doors were opening here. So now all of a sudden, the way you would put that into a challenge is around balancing the many hats that you have. And if I were to say to you, what’s one personal challenge in your life, my guess would be that you would say?

Sarah: Balance and time management.

Howard: Balance and time management. That’s the personal, the attribute and then how that looks in your business is when I make a decision to do something new, it can throw me out of balance. And I know that one of my challenges is maintaining that balance. I’ve known you for a few years now, and I know that that is one of your challenges. You really do it very well. So as an outsider, looking into you. Because we work closely in different ways and especially now with this podcast. And so I see that in you, you might even make up, “Gosh, I don’t know that I’m doing so well”. And you know, I can only imagine that that’s part of the struggle and that’s why we want to look at this and really examine it because you may think you’re doing poorly and other people around you might think that you’re doing just fine. And so there’s this, it becomes this sort of tool for evaluation as well. It’s really kind of cool.

Okay. Last thing real quick. How could it be a concern? How could this education and educating be concerning?

Sarah: Well, I mean, I have to do it right because there’s a lot of people who make videos that are essentially technical tutorials, and those are not videos who will appeal to my clients because my clients are people who want to hire someone to do their website for them. Not people want like a highly, highly technical, how to, step by step, do this very technical involved things. So I have to make sure that I don’t kind of get off in the wrong direction and make a lot of content and invest a lot of time in something that doesn’t actually move me any closer to my goals.

Howard: That’s great. That’s great. Like I have to be careful that the concern is that there is the diminishing value of doing this and how it might impact my bottom line in terms of my ability to help people and the financial bottom line, all that stuff. Right? So that could be a concern. Here’s one I thought of, which is if it is construed as a tutorial and somebody takes that information, they could steal privileged information. So you have to protect your information and have that balance of letting go of your “secrets” if you will, and know what you’re willing to let go of and what you’re not. That’s a concern. And then the liability of maybe somebody coming back and saying or made a comment in your YouTube video, that this would happen if I design my own website and I did this and it didn’t happen and I’m coming back to sue you.

Sarah: I hadn’t thought of that one Howard, now I’m nervous.

Howard: No, don’t be nervous. You, as the listener, probably also are saying, I don’t think about that either or most clinicians don’t think about that. And I grew up in a family of legal experts in my extended family and I think that there’s always that little part of me that is thoughtful about that. And of course, we’ll have a little section on limiting liability in the legal side of things and of its own we’ll do an episode on that. I never predict how these things are going to go but this is a wonderful example of how the information can flow within the template of these forces. And can you begin to feel the relevance, Sarah and importance of why we do this?

Sarah: Yeah, 100%. And I really like the way it integrates the personal things that you’re passionate about, things that come naturally to you and helps you integrate those into your business so that it’s not two foreign things where you like, this is who you are and then you have this business that you’re forcing yourself to do. But you’re figuring out how does who you are inform and inspire and guide your business decisions. And I really, really like how those two things can be together.

Howard: I love how you said, inform, guide and inspire. That is why the four C’s exist – to inform, guide and inspire. And that you said that beautifully because it’s not something that is necessarily directly going to lead to, “Oh, I put this down, so I have to do this”. So when you, the listener, are developing your four C’s, it’s not a model that is going to instantly lead to something. In fact, one of the things I recommend and I recommend this in my book is that you on-goingly go back to this because things are always changing. And so you’re going to want to go back to these four categories and update them once every six months, once a year. In the beginning stages of your practice, if you’re ramping up, I would do it every once, every three months so that you can really see because a lot of things change fast in the first three years of your practice.

Sarah: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And for it to be an effective tool, it has to be accurately representing where you are right now.

Howard: So I want to introduce one other concept and then we’ll wrap up and summarize everything. The other concept here is that if you look at the map the way I’ve kind of described it with strengths and weaknesses being on the left side. Right? Left upper and left lower. Maybe in the show notes we can maybe even get a template of it up or you can go to my book on page 14 and see it. This is very interesting, if you look at the left side versus the right side, the right side are the chances and concerns. The right side is something that is occurring from outside forces. Okay. This is really cool. So outside forces are the influencing here. That’s where you want to be thinking when you’re thinking of what chances do I have? What concerns are I have? So this is where your research is really about the external factors. Go ahead, sorry.

Sarah: No. I just think that’s fascinating.

Howard: Yeah. How’s this going to affect my population or what is my population telling me about this? Or what’s the market bear? Those are things that we look at for opportunities and threats are what I call challenges. I’m sorry, chances and concerns. On the capabilities and challenges side, those require an internal examination of what’s going on internally with you. What am I capable of? What are my challenges? That’s why I asked you the question very specifically, what’s challenging for you? You said balancing everything, right? That would be, you know, what am I capable of? You talked a little bit about being a good one of the things you said was being a good educator. And then the first thing you said was very empathetic, right? So these are things that are internal in nature. Then in the very last thing is this, if we bifurcated on the horizontal lines, okay. On the horizontal line, the capabilities and chances, are typically the things that we think of as being positive in our lives, right? Like they’re automatic positive things. What am I capable of? What are my chances? Right? And then of course we mentioned this earlier, the bottom part or what we would call challenges and concerns. I don’t want you to think that they’re negative in the sense of like, they’re way, way down below. Okay. Like a depressed person for those of you, clinical people, which is all of you. But that really basically it’s just slightly below the line, meaning that these are things that we typically associate with as difficult, right? Challenging themselves. So even though one of the words is challenges, the lower half is more challenging and the upper half is more capable. Does that make sense?

Sarah: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great way to think about it. I think that’s really informative. It gives you a lot to think about and make informed decisions. So I think that’s great.

Howard: Right? So homework assignment for you, the listener, take this information. Sit down, do this exercise. I typically don’t recommend that you do it all in one sitting. Some people can. And then this is a fluid changing thing. This is a flowing river that sort of morphs with the land. Right? Come back to it, look at it, examine it from time to time, be insightful and curious about it and then watch how it begins to be a guidepost for decision-making around the critical business decisions. It’s helpful for projective decisions and it’s super informative for having a lens of evaluation of what’s currently going on. And that’s what I really like about the four C’s.

Sarah: That’s fantastic!

Howard: So I hope today was helpful and that this episode is meaningful to you as we’re, you know, sort of going through the elements of the business plan episode by episode. It’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy doing this with you, Sarah. And I hope you, the listener, will leave feedback and provide comments about today’s episode and as always, we appreciate reviews and please stay in touch with us.

Howard (Closing): We hope you found today’s episode thought provoking and helpful. We’d love to know what you think. So leave us a comment and don’t forget to subscribe. You can find the show notes and additional resources at PsychBiz.com. Thank you for listening.

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Howard Baumgarten

Licensed professional counselor, author of PRIVATE PRACTICE ESSENTIALS, international speaker and small business consultant. Learn more at Howard’s website.



Sarah Gershone

Web designer and digital marketer specializing in therapist private practice growth. Owner of Strong Roots Web Design.