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7 Critical Steps to Building a Successful Weight Loss Practice

If you’ve been thinking about adding weight loss services to your practice or taking your weight loss program (and profitability) to the next level, now is your chance to make that a reality.  Below are 7 steps that have been shown to effectively do just that.

  1. Have a Passion for Helping Others Lose Weight and Improve Their Health

There is no denying the fact that if you love what you do, you are happier and much more effective.  It doesn’t even feel like ‘work’.  Rather, your passion creates joy, motivation and positive outcomes with faster results.  This may sound a little surreal or unrealistic, but it is so true!  You can’t fake passion.  When you are passionate, your actions are much more believable and inspirational.  This is especially true when it comes to building a successful weight loss program.

Let’s face it, weight loss is hard!  So, having a practitioner that is passionate about helping others lose weight and improve their health is very important.  If it’s not you, don’t stress it – the passion can also come from your employed clinicians and/or staff.  This passion (and overall vibe) will differentiate you from others who may be building a weight loss business for the wrong reasons.

  1. Practice What You Preach

It is easiest to coach people to success when you are successful yourself.  It also feels congruent when your personal values match your professional values and goals.  This can bring extreme enjoyment and peace.  I am not saying you need to be perfect, but I am saying that you should be able to walk the talk and practice what you preach.

You wouldn’t seek financial advice from a company that just went bankrupt just as you wouldn’t likely seek health advice from someone who isn’t somewhat healthy themselves. There is the thought that misery loves company and if your practitioner is “in the same boat” they will better understand, but that’s not the way to the path of improvement.  Similarly, in any sport, it is better to play with those more skilled than you – that’s how your game improves and how you challenge yourself to get to the next level.

Another natural outcome is that your level of accountability for your own health usually becomes more intense when you are providing weight loss services.  As a result, you are healthier, happier, driven and more creative.  When you feel your best, you tend to bring out the best in others.  Positivity and great results are contagious!

  1. Surround Yourself with GREAT People and Treat them Well

As you build your business, you will drive yourself crazy (and limit your success) if you try to do everything yourself.  You must surround yourself with a competent, loyal, self-directed and motivated team.  This includes your key employees along with your advisory team (corporate attorney, accountant, investment advisor, marketing specialist and coach/mentor).  You may have a desire to cut corners here to save money.  However, in the long run, you will actually spend more money due to staff turnover and potentially costly mistakes or “spinning your wheels” while getting nowhere fast.

I am one of those people who like to figure everything out and do it myself because then I know it is done right (or so I thought).  I used to micro-manage my team (which drove everyone crazy) and then I started to delegate…with trepidation.  Something I should have done a lot sooner.  You see, I found that by micro-managing, I was limiting the creativity of our employees, discouraging them from problem solving, limiting their ability to grow and preventing myself from becoming a true leader.  To make matters worse, I was spending little quality time at home with my husband and 4 children because I was so “busy”.  While the business was still doing quite well, another outcome was stagnation of business growth and less joy.  I micro-managed because of my perfectionist personality and because of fear…fear of losing control and discovering that someone else might do it better – crazy I know!

Once I trusted the wonderful team we had built and challenged them with desired outcomes instead of tasks, they rose to the occasion…and are much happier.  They work hard and we reward them accordingly.  This has afforded me the opportunity to build 3 additional businesses and actually relax knowing that processes and people are in place to keep moving in the right direction with a focus on stability, growth along with above average patient outcomes and satisfaction.

  1. Build Systems

Systems create calm from chaos and service consistency that patients and staff both appreciate.  Effective systems also create predictability for your business and extra time for you.  You need them!

The top systems that need to be in place include, scheduling (patient & staff), clinical documentation, patient education, retail sales, marketing, financial, patient outcome tracking, patient testimonials and office patient flow for each practitioner.

Systems simply mean that you have an organized set of procedures in place that can be easily performed to create predictable outcomes and utilized for staff training as necessary.  These systems need to be documented and updated regularly.  I find it is easiest to review them at the end of the year and anytime throughout the year when your ‘flow’ is disrupted which is usually caused by the constant of change.  No need to take this on alone.  Your staff is the best one to document what they do each day.

  1. Be Intentional

We are creatures of habit and usually don’t like change.  So often you may go about your day doing the same things even though your actions aren’t creating the outcome you desire.  You may feel stuck and simply used to doing things the way you always did them.  And frankly, that feels comfortable and safe.

You also are extremely busy or overwhelmed and taking time to really think about what you want personally and professionally isn’t possible with your schedule.  Or so you believe…

No one can do this for you, but it is critical to your success and happiness.  If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t be intentional about your day to day activities and before you know it, years have passed by and you just continue to be in the same rut.  And one day, you may regret not pursuing what you really want and deserve.

Believe me, I fought this for a long time and wouldn’t have succeeded in building a number of successful businesses unless I overcame my fears and reasons for procrastination.  I also worked with a coach to help me break out of my rut and create my vision.  In addition, I shared this with my husband.  He is a great sounding board and helps to support my vision/actions.  This method also works for our children as well.  We like to break it down this way:

  • 3 Year Vision – My ‘Why’ or motivation. I describe exactly what my life will look like in 3 years from a personal and professional perspective.  I write this in present tense as if it is 3 years from now.
  • 1 Year Goals – My ‘What’ I have accomplished over the next year. I write this in present tense as if it is one year from now.
  • 90 Day Strategy – My ‘How’ to accomplish my goals. I list my ‘Top 3 Projects’ along with the most important 4-8 actions that will get me where I want to go.
  • This Week’s Actions – My ‘Now’ actions that relate to my 90 day strategy. I revise this weekly and then make sure the actions are incorporated into my schedule that week.

I document this in one table with 4 boxes and keep it in front of me each day to keep me focused and ‘Intentional’.  This is key for me because if my actions are intentional (deliberate, conscious, done on purpose), I see progress.  Otherwise, I let others drive my schedule by constantly volunteering, putting fires out and being ‘busy’ instead of accomplishing my weekly actions…which contribute to my top 3 projects…which lead me to attaining my goals…and living the life I envision and desire.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Add a Retail Store

I used to think retail felt a bit weird.  We are healthcare providers and the thought of sales felt terrible.  We dabbled with a very small store (literally in a closet) and soon I realized that the products we carefully selected actually improved patient outcomes.  I discovered that they loved having products available to them and that our retail store helps to build a stronger relationship since it keeps them coming back.  Believe it or not, our retail store generates $480,000+ gross revenue each year.  And, once you have a wonderful retail manager (again surrounding yourself with great people) with systems in place you don’t have to be the salesperson.

Key considerations for a successful nutritional retails store is selection of the best products, putting effective systems in place, creating effective (simple) marketing campaigns for product promotion and monitoring your return on investment.  Retail doesn’t have to feel salesy.  You are actually helping your patients get better results and adding another revenue stream into your practice.  If they aren’t purchasing quality nutritional products from you, they are purchasing them from someone else.

  1. Learn from Your Experiences (success & failures alike)

Just like long term weight loss, business success and life is a journey that is experienced minute to minute and day to day.  We need to take it one day at a time and learn to enjoy it more.

In your practice, you will experience success and failures.  These lay the foundation for positive growth – if you let them.  I try to view failures as a learning experience and then move on.  I encourage you to do the same.

Learning from your past can be hard to do.  You may think your past defines who you are today.  The reality is that your past does not predict your future.  Only you have control over your destiny.


Karol Clark, MSN, RN is the best-selling author of How to Add Medical Weight Loss to Your Practice: 7 Steps to an Enjoyable Business, Healthier Patients and Increased Profitability and owner of Weight Loss Practice Builder.  She has over 20 yrs. of experience working with surgical and non-surgical weight loss patients and assisting physicians build an enjoyable weight loss practice. She partners with Nutritional Resources (d/b/a HealthWise- for creation of educational programs/articles for weight loss practitioners.