SBM 19 - Julie Lopez - lessons from a therapy practice that broke the mold 

Lessons from a therapy practice that broke the mold.  

In the last edition, we learned all about Michael Greenberg and the future of digital operations. 

In this edition, we’re moving from digital operations to therapy practices. 

Fast Facts:

  • Behavioral therapy is a big business in the US collecting $18.8b in revenue in 2023

  • Over 41m Americans sought therapy in 2021

  • An estimated 37,000 mental health professionals provide services in the US 

Chart:

Overview: 

  • Julie Lopez is the Founder and CEO of Viva Partnership a clinical practice that offers a variety of trauma-informed therapy services 

The Story:

When you think about opening a therapy practice, what comes to mind? 

Hanging out your shingle, seeing clients one-on-one, maybe hiring an assistant or two? For many therapists, that's the pinnacle - a steady solo business that pays the bills. 

But what if you want more? 

This week, we're diving into the world of therapy practices through the story of Julie Lopez and her business, Viva Partnership. 

Julie's experiences provide valuable lessons for anyone running a personal services business and dreaming of scaling beyond themselves.  

Therapy practices can be great lifestyle businesses, but they aren’t very scalable and saleable. And let’s be honest, most therapists are terrible business people. 

They run away from the things they need to do to scale and eventually sell.

But Julie Lopez's Viva Partnership is different from your average therapy business. 

What's her secret? 

Differentiation and a damn good business sense. 

Julie entered a crowded field and executed the classic business value creation move. 

She niched down and specialized in a very particular and increasingly popular form of therapy: non-talk therapy. 

Viva specializes in techniques like eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, body-based therapies, and brain spotting.

She even wrote a book about it and became a go-to expert in the field. 

This attracted both clients seeking that approach and practitioners wanting to learn from the best. Even the most commoditized and crowded industries in the world can be good if you find a good niche. 

By applying sound business principles in an industry allergic to "selling out", Julie broke the owner dependency trap and built a practice that can thrive without her.

  1. Entry Bar: (2/5) On the plus side there are licensing requirements but every year brings a fresh crop of newly licensed therapists. It’s pretty hard to distinguish yourself from the herd. 

  2. Steady Cash Flow & Profits: (4/5) This is a plus for most good therapists. You can build a nice steady business with you as the practitioner. 

  3. Scaling Potential/Owner Dependency: (2/5) Once someone builds a client base, why would they work for you? Your ability to scale to work on the business role versus in the business role is very limited.

  4. Differentiation: (1/5) The vast majority of therapists are offering the same thing. The only distinguisher is referrals. You can’t sell a practice.

  5. Pain in Ass Level: (3/5) Your clients are often emotionally needy and dependent but you don’t have to work weekends or after hours usually so 3 out of 5. 

  6. Wrap-up: Therapy is a bad business. That’s why I’m so impressed by what Julie has done with Viva. If you want to run one of these practices as a real business:

  • Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. Become the best at something specific

  • Apply good business practices even if - no, especially if - you're in a field that shuns them

  • Use your niche to attract top talent and offload owner dependencies

Of course, even Julie would admit therapy practices have limited exit options. 

But by cracking the scaling code, you open up possibilities like building a self-managing business and selling to employees or partners. 

The bottom line? 

Generic businesses can become exceptional with the right formula. 

Hats off to Julie for showing us how it's done.

📅 Next Week:

Next week we are going to deep dive into Hunter Durham and his life as an entrepreneur. In particular, we will cover his experience facing bankruptcy on his entrepreneurial journey. 

Keep growing,

Alan

P.S. 

The most recent episode of The Small Business Mentor Podcast is live. My guest this week was Brian Beers. We discussed a range of topics mainly focusing on his experience taking over a family franchise and building a franchise empire. 

Check it out here: 

P.P.S. 

Do you have a small business growth story and want to be featured? Ping me on X @apentz, or submit at http://www.fame.so/sbp-story 

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