17 Feb Who Is The Private Practice Ninja?
Medical Doctor By Day. Saving Private Medical Practices Through Digital Marketing
By Night Also By Day!
Dr Catherine Spencer-Smith AKA The Private Practice Ninja
Is there any info that you would like people to know about you and what you do and why you do it that I can’t find on your website?
Half the time I’m a doctor and the other half the time I’m a ninja and people often ask me why I want to be more ninja than a doctor and I probably don’t talk about that so much but I basically fell in love with content marketing a few years ago and so the passion has now switched from helping people to now helping people who help people. That’s me in a nutshell.
What do you do and why do you do it?
I work with my hubby Jules and we have a company called Private Practise Ninja and what we do is we help Doctors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Surgeons to learn how to grow and market their private practices in an ethical sort of way.
So most doctors are rubbish at telling patients how they can help them and have no idea about marketing and a few years ago, or actually about a decade ago I was working for a firm as a sports doctor and there was an occasion where there was a lot of horrible bullying. I decided ethically I couldn’t work for them anymore so I effectively got myself sacked and overnight I had to find £150k’s worth of replacement income per year whilst all the people I had been connected to were cut off from me.
So basically I had to grow a private practice flipping fast and people said to me, “Well gosh suddenly you’re really busy already, how did you make that happen?” and that’s what I teach people now. How to quickly and successfully grow in a way that means that they can then spend more time with their families. They might be able to drop some hours elsewhere with the NHS and do some other benevolent things.
Lots of people I work with also have a kind of legacy project so it might be that they trained abroad and want to go and take some surgical skills back and having more dosh from private practice landings means they can do that.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome? What lesson(s) have you learned or are you still learning?
That’s a good one… I think I’ve always been used to trying to do everything on my own and so my biggest challenge is actually learning how to ask people for help. And it’s not because I’m afraid of looking foolish, it’s just that I’m so used to helping other people that it hasn’t come naturally to me at all. So it’s been quite refreshing to come to a coworking space like this where you feel like you can go and talk to people and it’s ok to ask questions! So it might seem like a small challenge to other people where that stuf comes naturally, but from somebody who is a total people pleaser and a total giver all the time, for me it doesn’t come easily!
How have you succeeded because of your failures eg: experiences or situations that brought you to where you are now.
So when you’ve had a really nice income and a job that you’re very proud of, and then suddenly you go and square up to the bull and get yourself axed, that feels pretty terrible – everything you’ve worked towards has sort of tumbled down.
So with all these sorts of things, I think you have to, if you’ve had a small failure, it’s ok to have a tiny grieving session for a moment or two and then the next day crack on with something that’s going to be a positive change.
So, in that particular respect I realised that I had myself and everyone and my husband to take care of income-wise so I had to get on with it. But it’s ok to feel the pain of the failure and I think we should, and give ourselves some time for reflection and then just take some structured steps to make the change and get out of your pickle that you’ve found yourself in.
And the brilliant thing about it is, when you’ve messed up as many times as I have, there’s a certain amount of resilience that comes with that now, because you know that actually the worst-case scenario is “whoa I lost my job!” – Well if that happens again, I know what to do next time so actually it’s not a bad thing.
What are the structured steps that you use to get over failure?
You have to give yourself a little bit of thinking time because a lot of people when you’re in this scenario will want to rush up and give you suggestions about things you need to do and rather than instantly thinking that you might need to try and duplicate.
Let’s say that you lost your job tomorrow, rather than suddenly going and duplicating going and getting a similar kind of job, give yourself space of say 24 or 48 hours and ask yourself, “what is it I actually want to do now?” and “is this still the right path for me?” because part of the reason I might have ended up in this scenario is because it wasn’t the right thing.
So, it’s ok then to step back and think, “well what am I good at?”, “what do I really enjoy?” and if you need a safety net because you’re panicking financially, reach out to people that you have worked with before and just be really open with them.
I reached out to a couple of people and said, “heck I haven’t got a job t the moment, you know I’m a grafter, I’ve worked with you before – can we do something together to help tide me over?” Everybody came back with yes. In fact, I was too booked to even move on with my own projects at that point. So don’t be afraid to ask people and open up to them to say “I’m in a little bit of a pickle here, what can I do to help you?” and that will give you more confidence and you won’t suddenly find yourself panicking so much that you can’t think.
And also, really really importantly, as I’m obsessive about diaries and planners, write it down and reflect on it each day and then you’ll be able to see the next day – “actually, I did something positive today” and so the structured steps are: reflection in a diary, give yourself time to pause, make sure it’s still the right thing you want to do going forward and just ask for help, for a safety net.
What do you need/want right now that will help you progress in your business and life?
Oooh that’s quite deep, isn’t it? I need to move into more speaking areas of my life to be able to help get people over their own anxieties about promoting themselves in private practices. I need a little bit more awareness that I do speak.
I love speaking – so that would help me with my business. And then in life, I want to cut down on the doctoring so I can spend more time with my hubby that’s less business-oriented – although we love working together, it would be nice to not work quite as much as we do.
What is your husband’s role in the business?
He’s a videographer and also does lots of editing for us, and also, he is really techy so he, for example, helps people with their GDPR compliance, sorts out any of the back-end tech stuff that might be needed, like email migration, or setting up IT systems and processes, and he also is a good photographer. So, he’s a real digital asset for doctors who need to get GDPR compliant and then need help with their businessy processes, and then editing our videos – which he’s really good at!
When you say you want to do more speaking, do you mean public speaking?
Yes, so speaking to arenas where my potential clients would be. I also like to speak on other topics as well, like helping patients exercise who have cancer which is a bit more radical. I want to get in front of more marketing gigs. There’s a lot that I’ve learned from coaching doctors through the promotion of the self and Private Practice which is I think applicable to a far wider audience so it would be nice to get on the stage and talk about that.
What message to humanity would you put on a billboard?
It’s cool and ok to be kind to people. I think we’ve lost that a bit and hopefully, this is going to be a kinder decade. But by kindness I don’t just mean be nice to people, chatting with them and opening doors. It’s more about, because I think there is an awful lot about corporate responsibility and giving back that still feels a little bit lip service to me.
I think it’s ok to structure your business so that rather than it making the maximum profit to also think about what we can do that means that all the people that this business connects with are having a kinder human experience.
Wasn’t it in New Zealand where their Prime Minister changed what they thought was the successful thing – so rather than it being the gross national product or whatever it’s called, it’s now into wellbeing for people? So, I’d like to see that kindness as almost part of the business plan and actually being kind doesn’t mean to say that you’re not going to be profitable. In fact, the two often weirdly go hand in hand.
How do you think businesses could incorporate more kindness into their daily operations?
I think it’s letting go of the fear that the money dictates things, whereas actually when you start exhibiting in your messaging when you’re reaching out to people and you’ll naturally foster trust that way – the old sort of no like in trust, but in a very much more empathic way. So if you put kindness at the beginning of your signalling, saying, “yeah it would be great if we worked together but p.s., here’s some really useful stuff, hope it’s useful to you”, then you’ll often get a far greater and organic engagement that way and if everything that was sent out was in fact like an offering or sales offers, if there were an element of that that was non-committal and didn’t have to involve cash but was almost like a pro-bono or something along those lines. So that way you get very used to giving as you are selling, and bizarrely you’ll grow more customers that way.
How can people contact you and find you online/social channels?
Ninja mostly lives on Linkedin so we’re at linkedin/practiseninja and I am very emailable or you can hunt us down on the website which is www.privatepractiseninja.co.uk
What brings you joy
My hubby, I love running although I’m a bit broken, my small Italian greyhounds, nattering and I like fiddling around with tech and singing as well.
Can you tell me a little bit about your latest achievement?
I’ve recently, well yesterday in fact, I was awarded an entrepreneurial award , which is each year, F Entrepreneur has something called ialso100 award, where they award women in business (small business), who are inspiring leaders and this year I was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the 100 which is great and I’m looking forward to meeting all the other amazing ladies and it’s a real privilege because it will hopefully unlock lots of meetings and relationships but also we go to the House of Lords, and No 10 – whatever you think about going to No 10 and it’s just really exciting and it feels really good because it means that all of the effort and work that has gone into Private Practise Ninjas has been seen.