Episode 190 | Adding Corporate Wellness Programs with Amy Johnston
WITH Amy Johnston
- Episode 190 | Adding Corporate Wellness Programs with Amy Johnston 00:00
Hey Group Practice listeners! This is a super exciting episode! I’m talking with Amy Johnston about corporate wellness and getting into corporate wellbeing. We will go into the entire process, letting everyone get a little piece of her brain on what she has been going through in building the program. In this episode, we cover:
- Structuring the corporate wellness program from scratch
- Having the right person in the right seat, putting someone in the position
- How will the program be known and be in the right hands
- Creatively getting yourself out there and building relationships based on trust
- Setting more realistic timelines on how long each phase will take
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Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the group practice exchange podcast. Today is a super exciting podcast for me because I actually have one of the plays that my practice, Amy Johnston with. And we’re going to be talking about something that a lot of you have been asking about, which is corporate wellness, getting into corporate wellbeing.
And she and I are just going to chat about kind of the process that she’s been going through in building this thing. And some of the pretty parts and some of the nuts are pretty part. So. Hi, so excited to have you on, as we were just talking right before the recording started, you have another potential, big name that you’re going to be meeting with tomorrow.
And so it just feels like. I was saying this to you in one of our last chats that it’s the snowball at the top of the hill is just starting to roll downwards and it’s just going to start getting easier. And so I’m so excited to see all that, but I know so many people are starting to ask about this.
It’s really interesting. I think with COVID and all that group practice owners are in, leaders are trying to figure out ways to be more preventative. Not waiting till the clients come into the office for therapy. And so this was something that you started, what does is it’ll be two years, right? And July ish.
Yeah, I think we first started talking about doing something like this about a year and a half ago and probably a year since we’ve had our first client. Yeah. So I figured what would be cool is to just have people hear what the process has been like since I have really been the person that has let you kind of fully run with it.
I know a lot of group practice owners have their fingers in a lot of the programs. Other services that their practices offer. But what people will be hearing is really a program that is built by you completely as your brainchild. And hopefully, it inspires some group practice owners to also feel like they can let go, because obviously the more services that are offered if they’re a part of all of those things that just is not possible.
I just want you to chat a little bit about how it started. We can talk about what our expectations were and where the reality is, and just give some realistic timelines and expectations of what it is like to actually build a fricking program. Like, so about a year and a half ago that I started talking with you about it when I was like, I’m seeing clients.
It’s great. I really like it, but I also am interested in doing something more or different. Right. And you were like, oh, I am working on this thing. That would be great for you. And that’s when we started talking about putting together programming for the community and for clinicians, and we were chatting about that and I was like, Ooh, what about businesses too?
Like, we could also do businesses. And so we had that sort of brainstorming conversation where it’s like, yeah, this is exciting. We could do all these things. It was like, yes, we can do business. We can do communities. We can do clinicians, we can do training for everyone. And then it was a full six months probably after that, of just trying to put the pieces in place.
Right. So we had to first build out something on our old site. Before we even got the new website, we made ourselves a web page that kind of explained what we were planning to provide like services. Actually created yet, but we had just started to think about things we could provide. We realized pretty quickly that the business piece was very separate from the community and clinician piece.
And so we sort of had to separate those projects out. And the business side, we started thinking in terms of like, what would it be structured? Like how would we provide services? How intensive, what would our pricing be? Like? I had no idea whatsoever. Like I’ve never built a program from scratch. I’ve never marketed a program before.
So much of a learning curve started reading a lot of books and a lot of articles. And it was jumping in at the deep end, in a lot of ways. And like you said, the fact that you were sort of like, you know what, this is your program. I trust you, build what you want. It was great. It felt like I had a lot of freedom to come up with ideas and try things out.
But also being able to text you or email you and bounce things off of you to be like, what does this sound like? What do you think of this? Does this make sense? Because sometimes I have ideas in my own head and I’m thinking through them for so long that, you know, when you’re looking at something up close for too long, you don’t realize that makes sense to anyone.
Six months was not what I expected. I thought we’d like to jump right into doing business. And it was six months of just figuring out our own ideas. I was going to say that I remember cause I’m pretty metric C as you know, and as everyone who listens knows. And so Julie, my CFO, and I kind of made a breakeven analysis for things.
And how long do we project? Because at least have things set up. People in leadership like you are salaried. So we invest in urban wellness. So we, we just do it as we invest in that ahead of time, which means if something doesn’t pan out, we have to have some kind of line in the sand of like, how long should something take before we say, oh, this maybe wasn’t a great plan for our business.
And so I had initially set this up with you, or I was like one year like by one year we should be at breakeven, right. For what it costs to have you and all that. Programs and technologies that you need to run everything. I was like, what’s in one year that gives you time to build it. It gives you time to like market it and get us just to break even that profitable, but breakeven and a year in, not at all near it.
And I think that was one of the big things because it was really easy to build a group practice. Profitable in that sense that building a program of this, it’s interesting watching you build it. And I want to say as an aside, I think that’s one of the most successful things I’ve done. And I want to pat myself on the back is having you in this position because I don’t think it would have been.
If it was anyone else because of the level of risk you’re willing to take and the initiative, you have, you just do the things and if they don’t work, you’re like course-correct yourself. I have so little stress in it, knowing that you’re behind the wheel. And I think that’s a big stressor for a lot of business owners is just having the right person in the right seat to do the thing.
And out of all things, that’s the one thing I don’t have had you in it. It’s like, I know for a fact that the most right decision I could’ve made, but we definitely realized we needed way more than a year to be profitable because of the building, just of what it is that you were going to put out there.
Right? Yes. First, we had to decide what our structure and framework were going to be. So we figured we were going to do the educator, which is our like one-off webinars or quarterly training, the consultant where we do a wellbeing assessment, which I had to create from scratch. And this first one says health.
You guys, I just want to show it off, but also I don’t want anyone to steal it. You did such an amazing job that that packet is literally worth so much. Okay. I’m pretty proud of it. Yeah. I mean, we had to write the content, which took a while, and then I had to figure out how to use technology to make it something people could access and you know how to turn it into a report.
So like, As long process of figuring that out. So our wellbeing assessment, where people get this report at the end, with all this comprehensive information about what other people are doing, and then our top tier our CWO, we call it right. So that’s where we do the training and the assessment, and then ongoing support.
Um, so we’ve got one client right now who hired us for a full year for CWO last January, and they just renewed us for a second year. So we have a hundred percent renewal rate, or, and now that was so exciting to see, and we’re going to get into this in a second. Once you build, how do you get to people? And I was saying at the beginning of us chatting that we’re really starting to roll down this hill because of all of the work you then put into not only buildings, such as.
Product and system for leaders of large organizations to support the mental health of their employees, but like how do you put it, get it in front of them. And that is something that you’ve been working on again a whole year it’s like relationship building and it’s not just putting a. Facebook post out there and people are just going to grab the thing that you have to offer.
And so it took you all this time to build all the technologies, to find, uh, an attorney who can make contracts, all of that stuff. Right. And then you get to this other end of it where you’re like, now I can finally deliver the stuff, the goods at night to find people to actually to buy them. What is your process been like to get this program known in the right hands?
I know we initially brought it up in the first round up. It was attorneys, right. And signed that pledge, the wellbeing pledge, or something like that. Yeah. So I had been reading about the American bar association and it’s all being pledged lawyers. Huge amounts of risk factors for substance abuse and anxiety and depression and suicidal ideation and all kinds of mental health issues that only recently are sort of being talked about.
So I thought, well, law firms are places that have resources to invest in a program, and they also have a lot of people that are struggling with it. So I spent a long time looking up things like which law firms have mental health programs, where their well-being, people who are their HR people. I have a spreadsheet looking back.
That was probably not a great use of time because. The cold calls or the bold emails really didn’t pan out, but I didn’t know anything about marketing at all at the time. So it was a lot of trial and error kind of full circle. It sort of is helping out because what I found over the course of the last year is every conversation I had with people who knew more than I did about this really boiled down to you need to build relationships.
People need to know you and trust you. You need to be someone who can offer support sort of on a casual basis. LinkedIn has been a fantastic platform for that. I’ve never used LinkedIn before in my entire life or this project. And now I’m just loving it. LinkedIn’s new favorite social media site. Whenever I go on LinkedIn, I don’t use LinkedIn very much at all, and I have no strategy behind my use of it for urban wellness or for the group practice exchange.
There’s not a need for me to grow really. I have it kind of organically. So I just go on there just to see what’s going on. And we’ll randomly post things, but it’s so funny it seeing your stuff now. I mean, as most of us know if we are new to LinkedIn and you post something, you either get no likes or one light by your past coworker who saw.
That’s probably what 99% of people’s engagement on LinkedIn looks like it’s been fun watching you because you get to know your posts get dozens and dozens of likes and dozens of comments on them. And that doesn’t happen without a lot of work, a lot of networking relationship building. And then I can see on my own posts, how many views I get.
So that’s another metric I get to see. So at first maybe I was getting 26 views or 31. The post that I put up about our well-being advocate has 2,700 views tell people about this. You’re kind of going in multiple directions with it now with people really wanting to buy them, but the purpose behind those advocates and what is it that some people might not know that.
So a couple of months ago, when you were saying you were reading the books that your friend had written about. Marketing in a different way, right? Creative ways to get yourself out there. And that one strategy was to send people real things like channel objects to catch their attention because people aren’t reading emails, they’re not looking at flyers.
What can we do to get ourselves in front of people? So they’ll pay attention. And so we were kind of brainstorming about different things we could be sending. Settled on this well-being advocate, which is a deck of 30 cards that cover the five aspects of our well-being assessment. So stress and anxiety, burnout, stigma, trust, connection, coping, and resilience.
And then I added in a little section for leadership and culture. So it’s a card deck and it’s got like facts and information and easy interventions that you could use. Tools. And then it has some reflection, questions, and ways for leaders. And whoever’s looking at them really to think about mental health at work.
But then we also put some QR codes on the back with ways to contact us. So one QR code, auto-populates an email straight to me that says, I want to learn more about your CWL program. When can we meet? And then the other one, I’m sending them to one of our pages on our wellbeing at work site. It’s a resource for people and it’s a marketing tool.
So, yeah, we started out, I made it on Canva. I’m now also a graphic designer on top of my other skills. We sourced the printer. We sourced someone to make the boxes. You were making boxes on your crickets. Oh my gosh. The evolution of making a product again goes to the right person in the right seat type of thing because you went to local printing companies and literally would feel the thickness of their paper to like, make a decision on what the.
We’re going to look like and feel like, and glossy or not glossy, curved edges or rounded edges so much went into it for those listeners. For my launch program that I’m running right now, I pulled one-week marketing as the topic. And for those. I don’t know the book that Amy was talking about that started this whole conversation was Mike McKell.
It’s his book, his newest book on marketing, but I was showing different things that we do that is, you know, air quote different. That’s the whole theme of it. And I was talking about our stickers for laptop stickers for like young adults and college-aged students. And then I showed your advocates and people were like, wait a minute.
What are. Yeah. And I was like, oh my gosh. Also, group practice owners are going to be buying these things. And it just really goes to show you find the thing that is not a crazy amount of money to make and build once you do right. The printing is, is it like $10 a box to print the cards and the boxes all in.
6 25 bucks. Yeah. But the goal for you initially was that this was going to be something that you give out for free and you mail it out to particular people that you feel would be good candidates for your CWO program. Right? Like HR directors, wellbeing directors, and organizations, basically going back to that spreadsheet that I had made of the law firms.
And you seem like who are the people that I need to get in front of and in other organizations too. And I started. Doing that, but really quickly, right? At the same time, I was at a virtual conference for wellbeing at law and met a bunch of people there who are also people that were on my spreadsheet, and started connecting with them.
And then they got connected with me on LinkedIn. And then I posted my wellbeing advocate and next thing you know, I was getting. Dozens of requests from people. How do I get one? How do I buy one? How much do I need to send you? And so I was like, oh, we’re just sending them out. Like these are, you know, just spark conversation in the workplace.
We’d love your feedback, but I’m not charging right now. But the more and more people were asking for them, the more I was like, well, maybe we can charge for some of these. Like, I’m still sending them out as marketing people. I really. But folks are just really interested and we’ve got a handful of sales now on them.
And then the other day, one of the people that I had sent one out for free to an attorney, she messaged me back and she was like, my husband is a manager at Google and he thinks these are amazing. And he wants to know how we get these in the hands of people at Google. So I need to connect with you, we haven’t gotten in touch yet about possibilities, but just like that idea, things grow right.
All of a sudden, it could turn into like this as a marketing tool to like, this is a product that people really want. And it also can introduce us to people in bigger organizations that might not have heard of us before. Yeah. It’s interesting watching you have had connections and conversations with a lot of big names.
That just is going to yield long-term good results. So obviously we’ve had places like local hospitals and Ulta, and we’ll go ahead and be interested. Yeah. I had a great conversation with the global director of wellbeing at Twitter, a couple of months back. And her advice was the same, just build these relationships, making sure people know your name.
She was like one of these days, someone’s going to say, I need a mental health program. And somebody that you’ve talked to is gonna say. I know somebody for that, but it’s that slow. Like I am not good at slow motion. I’m a doer. I’m like, how can we do this fast and now, and let’s get in there and let’s make it happen.
And so this has been a real learning process for me to sit back and nurture those relationships and wait it out and keep the faith that this is going to have a good return in the end, because it’s been a lot of time and effort on my part. A lot of investment on your part in the past two weeks. We’ve had five or six incoming requests for information on our website, which hasn’t happened before.
We’ve been sending stuff out and sometimes people are like, yes, that’s great. We’d like to do that with you. But now we’re starting to get people that are seeking us out. I feel like that is from a business owner’s lens is I think the most important thing and biggest learning. Curve for me is to set more realistic timelines on how long things will take, because at least from a financial perspective if you’re planning on bringing a product or putting a person into a position that you are anticipating bringing X amount of income in, and you give yourself some kind of timeline for how long can I front it before I can’t anymore?
I am happy that we’ve been able to do it beyond the one-year timeline that I initially gave, because I’m now really starting to see that it’s literally taking that term that we’ve been looking for and that the expectation of really building a quality thing and not just throwing something out there really fast, you could have thrown something out there in two months time, and it would not have yielded you getting a yearly CWO person who renews for another year.
And I think that patient. And giving you the space and the time to just really build something without feeling this pressure, which I’m sure you did feel some, a lot of pressure, but really not feeling like there was this timeline of it. And you have to have X amount of people buy six months from now.
And you have to have so-and-so many people by this amount of time, but that we had this like a loose timeline of, for an opening where around break, you can, at one year it’s allowed me as a business person to change my expectations. It’d be like, Reality. And what we saw are two different things. Not that it’s bad, but like neither of us knows what it’s like, it’s never done something.
Yeah. I was on a call with somebody a few weeks back. Who’s in a different type of startup, but they do like a resilience training for leaders program. And he said the first year they made. At all, like all costs, because they were building the second year, they came close to breaking even. And then by the third year, they started to make a profit.
That was nice to hear like, okay. That feels more like the timeline where right now that the first year was just investing in the foundation. We’re just sort of in our second year of having clients, but this is the year that I’m hoping that we can break even then by next year, make profits this year.
That’s fantastic. But you know, expectation-wise by next year is a more realistic time to start seeing. That’s helpful to have a more realistic timeframe because you don’t know at the beginning, am I failing at this? Is this going anywhere? How long does it take to build something like this? And I’m a one-woman show kind of, so in a way, it’s great.
Cause I have all the authority to do all the things I want. And then in another way, sometimes it’s like, it’s just me. So I have no idea if I’m doing well or not. I don’t have anyone to sort of use as a barometer. And for me, that was also hard because it’s. Program. I’m not an expert. I don’t even know how to tell you what to do other than what you say, these are some of my ideas.
And we either say, oh, that seems way far off or great. And you really haven’t even needed me for that. Cause everything you built. Amazing. So it’s hard as a business owner who doesn’t have the ability to really tell you where to go with things with these things, because it’s such a brand new program for me, even watching you build it for us owners who are thinking about doing something like this or thinking about putting somebody in a position to create a program, the most helpful things have been like if I send you.
Something I’m working on, or here’s a draft of a proposal, or here’s a draft of the assessment I want to put out there, you know, just being able to read through it and give feedback, whether it’s just like, that looks fantastic. You’re on the right track, just like validation and encouragement that I’m not crazy.
And this looks cool. You know, edits are like, oh, well maybe you can say it this way or it comes across this way. So just having somebody to bounce things off of has been the most. I was gonna say on the other end of it, what I think most group practice owners are probably not likely. So hands-off with it.
I said, I feel very lucky because I watched you from the beginning and it just all is watching you figure things out. I have no idea. No need to metal, but most of the time, even myself and other leadership roles at urban wellness, and even in the group practice exchange with the team that I have, I can get into a place where I feel like I want a medal.
And that’s how most group practice owners are. They want their hands in everything and you know, are afraid. They’re too. They don’t maybe either fully trust the people on their teams or they’re afraid that their teams won’t be able to do it as well as they could do it. Most group practice owners listening to this are probably going to have the opposite issue of not being totally hands-off and completely trusting, but being this person who wants to step in and do things, which I think how much.
Creativity, could I have support from you? If I would have been a person who really wanted to equally be a part of every single thing, I would have probably slowed the whole process down, I would have stifled your creativity. And I think it wouldn’t be what it is. If I had been. Overly involved in it, aside from being a support side, I’m like a cheerleader on the sidelines.
And so I think maybe for those listening who are thinking about this as if you’re going to put someone in the position, put them in the position, don’t name people into it, but not really give them that authority. I mean, I guess it’s how people are telling me. I need to build relationships with potential clients, for them to trust me.
Like if you have good relationships with the people on your team and you know who the people are that can work independently. Get the job done, then let them do the job and let them make mistakes and fix it. I think that comes into if they see something that moving fast enough and they feel like, oh, I need to get involved now.
And it’s like, Nope, just, this is all a part of the process. When we started our group practices, there was no one there to say, you’re not doing it good enough or fast enough. I don’t know how many times I thought going in one direction was the right way to go. And it wasn’t until I went in that direction that I was like, I need to go in a different direction.
I’m sure it’s a quote by someone. I feel like failure is what leads to success. You have to just mess it up, try things, throw something against the wall. And as long as you aren’t throwing a hundred things at the wall to see if they stick, do one thing at a time and know why didn’t it. So that you can effectively course correct.
You’re going to make anything. I mean, that’s sort of our marketing strategy at the moment. It’s like, okay, let’s try to get accepted to speak at some conferences. Let’s try to, which I have. Yeah. I’m going to Cincinnati in may for 22 hours to speak at a conference for HR and then a big one in New York, the international association of business communicators in times square.
You’re doing it. When does that? That’s in June. Yeah. And then you just didn’t want to December, right? I did one and then I have another one coming up. I don’t know if I told you this. I’m also going to speak at the tri-state Sherm society for the HR conference. It’s virtual, but it’s for Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, I think since speaking at that in April, I think, and then I have a couple of other ones that I’ve put in applications for that haven’t come up.
Oh, no. And there’s another virtual one to the association of change management professionals accepted to do that one at the end of June also, but that’s virtual. Right. I see. And I feel like you’re getting in front of hundreds of your ideal clients. Yeah. The other advice I’ve gotten is that HR folks are the right people to get in front of if you’re trying to build this kind of a program because they.
I want this for their organizations and they also don’t have the bandwidth to provide it themselves at all. So it’s not like stepping on toes or getting in their way. They’re the people that want to set these types of programs up within their organizations. They have access to either the funding or the people who have the funding, but they don’t need to do it themselves.
So we’re really focusing a lot on that. HR change management, the folks in organizations. Are interested in mental health and well-being as a resource for their team. Well, I really appreciate you coming on and chatting about what the process has been like for you. I’m just so excited to see it keep growing because I feel like you’ve set something up really well.
And I hope for those people that are listening, who are in this kind of interest stage, or just beginning to build stage, you feel inspired by. The process that Amy’s been going through and accepting that programs like this are big programs. I mean, it’s really robust and takes time to build and you have to be consistent and not putter out with the relationship building at all has a long-term positive effect.
And it’s just not one of those. Type of you build it and they come type of thing. Yeah. This is, you know, having the phone calls, doing the freebie support that someone has some questions you can answer over the phone doing a one-off webinar for maybe not as much money as you really want to charge, but building that relationship where they go, oh, can you come back and do something bigger and better for us next time?
In a process, but so exciting. It’s so much fun, and a great way to be creative. And, um, one of the things that for me was, is important at just at my group practice. And I know people who are listening know that that’s one of my own just personal values is if I can do it, I want to be able to offer opportunities for people to be able to grow and do different things at urban wellness.
There’s always going to be people who are more than. In radical candor, they call superstar types. They’d like that growth and movement. And so this was when you kind of brought this up, I was like, it is totally in line with urban wellness. I’m not going outside of the vision of the practice to say yes to this.
And I know that it allows you to diversify the stuff that you’re doing. So you’re not just doing client-facing work and can use that creative side and leadership side that you have. And that’s being down to earth. Practice is woven through all of these parts of the business. So like when we go into organizations, it’s not super corporate, I’m not showing up in a suit and tie.
I’m not a type of whatever I go in telling people like we’re not that big digital, mental health platform. Right. Real human beings were therapists who were going to get to know you on a human level. And that, you know, we’re the opposite of those big tech. And so that’s fine. Like if people need a giant platform, then that’s not us, someone like gets to know you and be part of the fabric of your organization.
That’s who we are. And when we talk about mental health, we talk about it in a way that’s so accessible and it’s not like you’re taking a psych course at a graduate program. You’re just learning about the real stuff you need to know to help your people. So we just try to come at it from that point. This is down to earth.
This is part of everyday conversation and so far so good. It’s been really well received. Well, I appreciate you coming on and sharing what the process has been like for you. And yeah, for letting everyone kind of get a little piece of your brain when it comes to this, hopefully, I can come back next year and talk about the explosion of success we’ve had.
Yeah. All right. Well, you have a good rest of your day. I know you came on here and helped me do this episode on your day off. So I want to let you go back to whatever fun stuff you’re going to be doing today. All right. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the group practice exchange podcast. Like what you heard?
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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.
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Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here:
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