Close this search box.
over 200,000 downloads

Episode 115 | Leading in a Pandemic with Michael Blumberg

mike blumberg


  • Episode 115 | Leading in a Pandemic with Michael Blumberg 00:00


Hi Group Practice Listeners! In this episode, I’m talking with Michael Blumberg all about leading in a pandemic and the Group Practice Owner’s summit.

In this episode we cover:

  • Our virtual Group Practice Owner’s Summit
  • Transitioning to a virtual practice
  • Leading your practice virtually
  • Keeping up workplace culture in a pandemic

This episode is sponsored by TherapyNotes. TherapyNotes is an EHR software that helps behavioral health professionals manage their practice with confidence and efficiency. I use TherapyNotes in my own group practice and love its amazing support team, billing features, and scheduling capabilities. It serves us well as a large group practice owner.

Do you ever wish for a financial therapist who could relieve you from the last few months’ bookkeeping, talk you off the edge when you’re running into issues with Quickbooks, or help you work through a profit plan for growth? GreenOak Accounting does just that! GreenOak Accounting is an accounting firm that specializes in working with group practices. Their value goes WAY beyond bookkeeping; they can help you get on track for financial success. Schedule a free consultation by going to


Maureen Werrbach

Hey, everyone, so today I decided–or I should say Mike and I decided–that instead of doing just a traditional podcast episode, we’re also recording this on video so that people can watch us as well. So we’re going to be doing a real talk episode and talking about something that is front of mind for most people, which is teletherapy working from home during COVID. And what’s going on as leaders are having to shift in all this in this arena. So Hi, Mike.

Michael Blumberg 

Hi there. How are you?

Maureen Werrbach 

Oh, so good. Fun. Yeah, it’s a blast. I think that actually relates to one of our most recent posts that we put up on Group Practice Builders. That really, it was like one of the fun memes that you’re making because you make the best memes. And it said, who said who said leadership isn’t fun. And then it says everyone!

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, it’s super great.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. So we wanted to start by talking about Group Practice Builders, and then we’re going to shift into a real talk episode. But for those of you who don’t know, we own co-own together Group Practice Builders, which is the company that hosts the conferences that we do each year, Group Practice Owner Summit. And as most of you know, we’ve shifted to a virtual conference. This year in July, I don’t know the exact date and so bad, you know, I think it’s the­–

Michael Blumberg 

seventh through the ninth. Now that isn’t it? Oh, that’s right. You’re right. It’s the it’s the 24th and 25th.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yes, 24th of July 2020. And obviously, we’ve gone through a lot of fun making that shift and trying in a different way. But we’ve also added a ton to this conference that we wouldn’t have been able to have had it been in person!

And one of those things is adding that COVID track or pandemic track.

And you and I are adding a training each so yeah, yeah. So you’re doing one, what’s your topic on?

Michael Blumberg 

On leadership through the pandemic.

Just kind of outlining the steps that I took in my practice to ensure as smooth as possible a transition. And obviously, we’re still in it. So it’s still playing out. But, um, yeah.

Maureen Werrbach 

And then we’ve got me who added a training on how to tele-support your team, you know, leading in a distance. How to best support your team when you have to do it virtually and not in person. And I feel like it’s something that I’m slowly starting to see the benefits of, you know? It takes a while, like you said, we’re still in it. So we’re all learning as we go.

This is new for literally 100% of businesses. Really, right? I mean, when was the last pandemic was for most of our time, what 1918? Yeah, so every business owner is going through this and learning as they go through it.

So we’re excited to talk about what we’ve learned and things that we see going well, things that we’ve tried that maybe didn’t go so well. We wanted to give a little snippet of that today in this podcast slash video episode and just have a real talk episode where Mike and I can talk about what it’s been like to transition to a virtual practice and lead virtually. The good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, I’m excited to talk about it.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. Okay. So I’m like, where do I start with this? Um, start with just in cases. I obviously know your practice well, but where are your practices at I mean, obviously, physically, but also in terms of–you and I started our practices, literally right around the same time. So we’ve been kind of going through this journey together. But tell us where you’re at and kind of your leadership style because I think that that’s one of the things that I really like about our little duo here is that you and I are very different. So you’re going to get both ends of this spectrum when it comes to how we do things.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, so I mean, so I’m in Glenview, I mean, probably 5 to 8 miles from your nearest location to where you are.

And this a pandemic came at a strange time for my practice.

My practice has been very, very steady for a very long time. And recently, I had hired five people within the span of a month. And just for you know, for reference, I only have 13 clinicians. So, a couple people were leaving, I decided to expand a little bit more, take some new directions. And so those hire dates, two of them were February 15 and three of them are March 1. And I mean, wonderful, wonderful timing. I usually hire about one person per year.

As as we’ve grown, and Maureen and I have different ideas for what our practices are going to be. Mine is always going to be well, at least, what I’ve always envisioned is one location, relatively small, no more than 10. But that didn’t work out. We’ve got a little bit more than that. Um, so I’m used to hiring one person per year, maybe because turnover is very low.

So to have five new hires at the same time, regardless of a pandemic was already extremely difficult for me.

I do a lot of that myself. I do have an amazing office manager who does a lot of the clerical stuff and some of the training, but a lot of it’s on me one of the costs of having a smaller practice.

And so I hired these people, some of them left jobs where they were making a living. And all of a sudden referrals start coming in within weeks or days of some of them starting. So that was pretty scary. And so we had to figure out what to do. And one of the things that I’m going to talk about in my presentation at the conference is what what those steps were, how I decided on those steps and where, where it’s taken me so far.

Maureen Werrbach 

I kind of was in a similar space because I had decided to expand my one location by like a lot. And one of my locations went from six offices to 16. So, and March 1 was our official, so we hadn’t been able to slowly move in piece by piece because as many people who were listening in on my journey, we, the whole building essentially got kicked out December 27, on my birthday and the holiday week. And my user base was not yet ready because it wasn’t expecting us to need to be in there so soon.

So we did move, they were able to build up six of the rooms so that we could just exactly replace what we had. But it was like a construction zone until the beginning of March.

And obviously, I have now more than triple the amount of rent for that space with never really been able to use it. We also hired for it. So I think we had two or three people hired in February that started late February and like we have one person starting right this week. We have two people starting the first week of June and we have one person starting the first week of July that we had all hired.

And obviously, it’s staggered that time, but it’s now a really interesting thing to hire during this pandemic.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, I’ve had somebody reach out for a job. And, you know, we’re not advertising obviously, we’re not because we’re absolutely not hiring. I feel like like a sort of like a delinquent father duck, unable to feed the ducklings. And then you know, somebody. So he’s coming in and saying, hey, I want to work there. Now, no you don’t, right now, no you don’t. So it’s just very strange.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, as I say, you never know what’s going on and yet we get we get a few. And we did do a one hire during teletherapy. So we shall see how this all goes. I figured out this is I mean, I know this this of you as well, your risk level is just slightly lower than mine. I kind of just jump in with two feet usually and then figure out how to swim. You are probably the person who reads the directions first ensures and then does it.

Michael Blumberg 

Yes, my wife says I’m a rule follower and she doesn’t say it in a nice way.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, I literally said that about my husband yesterday and couples, they’re like you just follow it. He’s the one that gets mad at me when I don’t read the directions when I cook. Which is why he doesn’t like that I cook. I don’t cook well at all. But I like to just wing it. I don’t want to follow the rules. I don’t want to look at the directions, I don’t know it just annoys me. And same with furniture. I just built this piece back here. Well, I mean, “build” meaning put the two legs on and that little bottom shelf thing here on. But again, I didn’t even open the directions. I like the challenge of trying to figure it out and maybe screwing it up and then having to undo it. Where my husband’s like, the directions are there for a reason. If you follow the directions, you’re going to get the right product. And I will tell you, I sort of broke one of the drawers because–

Michael Blumberg 

Obviously! How could you not do that? If you didn’t read the directions?

Maureen Werrbach 

Yes, because I pulled on it too hard. Ah, but it is totally my style. And I don’t get mad at myself. And I happen to like, Oh, darn it, and then I got some wood glue.

Michael Blumberg 

It’s funny, we’re talking about this because it makes it sound like I am fastidious, and that you’re carefree. And that’s actually the opposite of our managing styles.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, that you are.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, I’m a lot more loose. When it comes to my management style. And you are much more regimented.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, maybe that’s the product of your carefulness to begin with. It allows you to be less rigid and more laid back because you’re definitely way more laid back than I am. And maybe because I tend to be more, take risks and I’m like, I will figure this out that I then expect, you know, everything, everyone and every person and that comes in contact with me to follow the rules that I put in place because I’m taking the risk of just trying something. And then I’m like, you guys can’t fuck it up. I can, because I took the risk. You guys all have to do what I say. So that it works, you know, it’s interesting.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, yeah.

Maureen Werrbach 

So, what have you been doing since shifting? I know obviously, the hiring process is all fun and different. Have new referrals have gone down? How have you been leading through it? How are you keeping your workplace culture? What shifted what’s worked for you?

Michael Blumberg 

Sp basically, I’m in contact with people significantly less. It’s always been my management style to have the least amount of meetings as possible. Because I don’t like them. And other people don’t like them too. So unless we really have things to talk about I’m just very direct. If I have an issue with somebody, I’ll just knock on their door and say, hey, can you talk? But without having that now I had like a big staff meeting over zoom, and just kind of let everybody know what I was doing, what steps I was taking, and I let them know I applied for the government sponsored loans and grants.

And I let them know that I have hired at your recommendation somebody really good to renew our Google Ads.

And I’m spending quite a bit of money on that, for the referrals to come in for them. I also, you know, as time has gone on, I’ve reached out to them by email and just said, hey, you know, is everybody comfortable? You know, one person said that their chair at home really sucks. They have like a folding chair. And I was like, okay, so I loaded up one of the chairs from the office into the back of my car, and I sprayed it down and I drove it to their house and I dropped in their driveway.

Maureen Werrbach 

Like that should be added to your means list in the future is like the, you know, the pie chart that you made with the time that it is bringing furniture to our employees houses.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, absolutely. And then, and then, you know, I’m at home now, I’ve been doing most of my sessions from the office. Just it’s easier for me to concentrate and and there’s nobody there. So it’s my own space. So I don’t have them here. But I did get at the recommendation. I think somebody on one of your posts on Facebook, somebody recommended like these these gamma ray glasses or whatever, that they reduce the blue light and things like that. Those have made a huge difference for me to have that. And it makes me look like a chubby Clark Kent.

Maureen Werrbach 

Where are the glasses Mike?

Michael Blumberg 

They’re in the office. I’m at home now! I know, I know. But I emailed my staff and I said, Hey, here’s a budget. It’s enough to get a couple pairs of glasses. Please go buy them. Send me the receipt. I’ll reimburse you right away. And several of them did that and you know, it makes a difference, trying to attend to some basic needs. Your eyes not hurting, your backside not hurting, things like that. And communicating about what’s going on with the PPP loan, which we did get funded for the first round, which we’re just lucky. I spoke with a banker recently at Chase and he was just telling me that in the first five minutes of them opening it, there were 120,000 applications.

I didn’t go through Chase, it went through US bank where I bank for my other business, but you know, I applied the day it opened, but a lot of people did, and a lot of people didn’t get it. We did, which has been tremendous.

And before we got funded for that, one of the things that I had done is, especially so for the new people, for the people who are basically sitting around doing virtually nothing, maybe seeing two or three clients, four clients, five clients. I allocated some money for them to get training. So that when we are back in the swing of things, they have some kind of niche or some kind of something to come back to that they that makes them more marketable in our area. So we did that. And then when the PPP loans came in, that was a whole, you know, figuring out how to allocate that money was extraordinarily difficult. Yeah. But we did it.

Maureen Werrbach 

Leadership is also happening now, too, is just making types of business decisions we weren’t anticipating ever having to make. Especially when the decisions we have to make have consequences that we don’t yet know what they’re going to be because the people that are setting up these policies and grants and loans and all that stuff, haven’t yet figured out themselves. Yeah, what’s going to happen once people receive it? So it’s definitely an interesting thing to lead during these times and make decisions decisions like these.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, it’s like you said, it’s something that we never thought that we’d have to do. How do I allocate money? That is intended for everyone fairly? And equally? Is there such a thing? And am I the right person to make a decision on what that is? And the answer is no. But I’m the one person who can do it, so I have to.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, really tough. Have you had any shifts just your confidence in leading or though your liking of leading or has there been any changes? I don’t know, just through this pandemic, where either there’s light bulb moments or realizing something about yourself as a leader that maybe you didn’t know before? I’m putting you on the spot, but I’m just trying to think of, I mean, yeah, no, it’s just fair. It’s a fair question.

Michael Blumberg 

You know, what I think is that although it’s much harder, I’m definitely working harder than I’ve maybe ever worked even when I was starting this thing right now. I feel like I can do it, because I’m doing it. Right? And by and large, in fact, maybe 100% I guess I’m not thinking about everybody but I’m trying to, and the response from my employees has been a very appreciative.

Maureen Werrbach 

Since we have such different styles, and you tend to be, you know, prefer to be as hands off as you can be in with regards to like meetings and check ins and all that kind of stuff. I was wondering how is it that you are able to see whether–and I don’t know if that’s with the team meetings that you’ve already have had before. How do you know if your people are feeling supported?

Michael Blumberg 

Well, I’m checking in, right? Oh, I’m sorry, I missed you.

Maureen Werrbach 

And appreciative, because obviously you just said that they’re very appreciative. So that means that you do have data or feedback from your team.

Michael Blumberg 

Correct, but that’s based on on data or feedback that is individualized. So it’s not, it’s not based on you know, having a big meeting or anything like that. But referrals have definitely declined to, you know, catastrophic amounts. But it’s not like there’s none. So I’m still communicating with my staff. I’m still figuring out where they’re at what they need, where their numbers are, what I can do, so on and so forth. And when, when the PPP loan came in, the first thing I did was give every single employee the same amount of money like that day, just to get some money out.

Then I figured, okay, I’m just going to do that. And then at the end of this month, I’m going to see what the numbers are. So I’m going to figure out how to do it differently, which I did.

I wanted to have an individual call with each of the therapists, which I did earlier this week. And I explained to them, why they were getting what they were getting, if they were getting anything at all. And the feedback was, wow. You know, it’s funny, because they’re always saying, Oh, that’s so generous, and I and I have to tell them, it’s not my money. Thank Uncle Sam. You know, I had to wrangle his throat to get it for you. And I’m glad to do that. But it ain’t my money. You know, it’s your money. But they were extremely appreciative of how that was done. You know, one person who is been in the in the process of leaving for a little while was hoping to get more and I just you know had to be like, yeah, you’re not going to.

Maureen Werrbach 

The fun part of leadership! Yeah telling people stuff they don’t want to hear.

Michael Blumberg 

But even that employee was very thankful for all the stuff that I’ve been doing so you know that’s the feedback that I’m that I’m getting. Are they calling each other when I get off the phone with them and saying what a jerk he is you know behind my back? I suppose it’s possible but because of my lax leadership style people typically don’t have a problem saying that to my face. So I don’t think that’s happening.

Maureen Werrbach 

I was gonna say it sounds like, I’ve known you for a while that the your leadership style and just your personality as a whole I can imagine people feeling comfortable even though you are you know, like you said that the beginning you will tell a person, you’ll walk right in the room and say, hey, we have to talk. You don’t sugarcoat things. But I can imagine that people, the people that work in your practice would feel comfortable being able to say, hey, I don’t like something either, which is really hard. Most businesses don’t have that.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, I mean, you know, yes, that’s, that is true. And it’s a really good thing to have. Sometimes it makes me work a little bit harder. Yeah. But I think it’s worth it. You know, being accessible that way or feeling like people feeling approachable. Yeah. So, yeah, I mean, that’s what we’ve been doing. It’s been really tough. You know, the people who have had large caseload for a long time, for the most part they have, maybe dropped five or 10-15%. But you know, for the people who had just started, they’re sitting around. Yeah, at least they have some money, which is great, but they don’t want to be sitting around.

Maureen Werrbach 

I hear that. It’s made us make shifts in what we think is important. You know, as you know, as a lot of people who listen know, is community engagement is one of our main ways. It’s just part of our mission is to be engaged in the community. Offering, you know, at least one free speaking engagement a month somewhere, whether it’s the YMCA or at a school or whatnot. But we also know that we get referrals from that, which is why it’s okay for us to do it for free, you know, but we’ve recently focused on increasing that right now.

And we are finding that it’s really beneficial for us in terms of referrals is doing, you know, a live webinar.

We recently, it’ll be coming out in the next couple of days, but Chicago Public Schools, it’s Teacher Appreciation Week right now, and the CPS is going to be sending an email to all their teachers with like, you know, Teacher Appreciation related stuff. And one of those is going to be a webinar that we did for them on secondary trauma as a teacher working with kids and all that kind of stuff.

But we’re finding that focusing on that right now is, and I’m able to pay my staff a little bit more for it, because to me feels like it’s considered marketing money, even though it’s a training. You know, if we don’t get paid for it, I know that it’ll yield a few people seeing us and hopefully a few of those people then calling in for an appointment. So that’s kind of what our focus has been on and we’re enjoying the shift of, you know, team members who really like to present being able to try their hand at webinars and stuff. So that’s what our focus has been lately. And we’re having fun with it.

So alright, I want to wrap it up, cuz I think we’re longer than normal. But I want to talk and close up on the Group Practice Owner Summit.

So let’s talk about it now. We mentioned in the beginning. July 24 25th. We added training tracks, right? What are training tracks? Private pay training track, insurance based, co owners for people that are co owners, diversifying services or going outside above and beyond just one on one or testing. We also have like a general track or we have some kind of random trainings that don’t fit nicely into another category.

A tech track, right? We’re gonna have someone talking about how to incorporate podcasting to grow your practice, and, obviously, ROI in life was the HIPAA stuff.

And we have our pandemic track that we added or I keep changing the name of it.

Yeah, but that’s where you and I will each give our training and really in life so nicely added a second training for those that are coming we have other ones oh we have a private paid and an established track and then I have the kind of little new practice, new group practices. So a track for people who are just starting and then we have one for well established group practices. And then we also have a little add on for seven figure groups it’ll be a round table. I think that’s it right? Those are all the tracks and obviously we have, what, we have 25 trainings now or so.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, I mean, and because we’re doing it virtually everything’s gonna be recorded. So you know, if you had attended this conference, in person, you know, you go to the one that you want to see, but maybe you miss out on something during one of the tracks that hey, that that uh, applies to me too. And so we’re recording these and people are gonna have access to them afterwards. So like, if you really want to watch something that at the same time as something else that you want to watch, you’re gonna have the option to do that, which is really nice.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah, it is, which I think is a real high value thing. And because we know that we’re offering so many trainings, we’ve extended 30 days beyond the actual summit for people to be able to watch the recordings. So there isn’t a need necessarily to be in hour after hour watching live if you don’t want to, you definitely won’t need to, which is nice and something that I think will be seen as a real bonus, once they’re in it. Because obviously watching a computer screen for you know, six, seven hours at a time, could be hard.

Michael Blumberg 

You need to get your gamma ray glasses. There we go. My recommendation. We are not sponsored by gamma ray, but actually, I think I’m gonna reach out to them anyway.

Maureen Werrbach 

Go. So way to diversify services. So for those of you who haven’t yet signed up, we have a couple hundred people already signed up. It’s amazing. We’ve had a ton of support, while we’ve made the shift to virtual, which is a hard thing for us as new business owners in this realm and conferencing realm. That also is a hard shift I understand for people who are expecting to come in person. And so we’re really excited about how many people chose to support and continued and in common.

Michael Blumberg 

Yeah, big, big, big thank you to the people who stuck with us. We know that you’re getting something extremely valuable for a good price. And that’s great. But also you could have said, Well, we don’t want to do that anyway, and you didn’t. So thank you very much.

Maureen Werrbach 

That’s one of the reasons why we keep thinking about how we can make it better and that’s why you and I added our two trainings and Ryan’s live training because we want to make sure.

Michael Blumberg 

And it was it was that support that allowed us to sign on the dotted line for 2021.

Maureen Werrbach 

So thank you, for those of you that are still thinking about it, obviously, because it’s virtual tickets are still open and you can go to Group Practice Owner Summit. And tickets are there. They’re $400 you get the 25ish trainings, plus access to sponsors and speakers doing consultations. We have an app that is a specific conferencing app. It’s pretty amazing. We’re excited to actually be able to use it. It’ll, I think it’s going to be great. And obviously having the extra 30 days there beyond the training to be able to watch all of them. But there’s a ton of opportunity in there as well for communication and group chats and we have we have so much going on inside of the apple as it is. I’m excited to try it out.

Michael Blumberg 

You know, one of the things I quickly want to mention I know we’re low on time, but that within the you know, a lot of people ask, you know, how do I ask the speaker a question, you know, you’re getting these amazing speakers that are, you know, world renowned, blah, blah, blah, how do I get to interact with them and, and through the app through when you’re watching the presentation, you can ask questions that will be answered at the end of each talk. And the great thing is, is that there’s it’s sort of like, the crowd will get to decide which questions they want to answer. Right. So that sort of ensures that the most relevant questions that you all have will be answered by the speaker that you know, which is which is such a cool thing.

Maureen Werrbach 

Yeah. Normally, when you see someone present, they present and they walk off stage, right? This this is kind of going to be interesting because the app allows you to ask questions in there, and then other people can like thumbs up it. And what that does is if a lot of people like a specific question, it moves that question up higher in the queue to let the speaker know that hey, this is a question that a lot of people want to know the answer to which is kind of great. And I’m excited to see that in action. Yeah. So go ahead and sign up. We’d love to see you in there. And, of course, as those of you who came last year to our first year know, those that are at our conference, get the lowest price available for the following year’s conference, and it’s only available on the day of the conference. Well, we’re likely doing the same thing again this year. So if you sign up for this year’s conference, you then have the early early early early bird for next year. All right, Mike, it was so nice to talk to you.

Thanks For Listening

Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard? Give us five stars on whatever platform you’re listening from. Need extra suppor? Join The Exchange, a membership community just for group practice owners with monthly office hours, live webinars, and a library of trainings ready for you to dive into visit www dot members dot the group practice exchange dot com forward slash exchange. See you next week.


Here are the resources and guides we recommend based on this episode

therapy notes

*Need a good EHR for your group practice? TherapyNotes is it. I’ve been using it for years in my own group practice, and it does really well when it comes to having the features group practice owners need. Try it out for FREE for 2 months by clicking here.

* I am an affiliate for some of the businesses I recommend. These are companies that I use in my own group practice, and make recommendations based off of my experience with them. When you use some of these companies through my links, I receive compensation, which helps me continue to offer great free information on my podcast, blog, Facebook group, and website.

Related Episodes

13 MIN

Episode 127 | Tracking New Metrics for the New Year

20 MIN

Episode 180 | Branding + Marketing Considerations for New Group Practice Owners with Lisa Noble

12 MIN

Episode 183 | Recruiting Strategies to Find Your Ideal Clinician


Episode 135 | COVID HIPAA Considerations with Person Centered Tech

26 MIN

Episode 75 | Intensive Therapy Models with Aimee Kotrba


Episode 102 | Google My Business for Group Practice

Meet your host


Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:


The show

The podcast is structured so that you get practice building tips in small doses, where an episode can be listened to (and a group practice building lesson can be learned) in a single car ride.

Episodes are structured into categories: coaching sessions where I coach a group practice owner on a specific topic, tips of the day by yours truly, real talk where you get to be a fly on the wall while an established group practice owner and I talk about the highs and lows of ownership, and trainings done by experts in the field.

Don’t miss an episode! Download The Group Practice Exchange Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or Google Play and don’t forget to subscribe and rate TGPE

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.

Subscribe To The Podcast

On your favorite player