The Practitioner’s Journey

Dan Clements was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his new book, The Practitioners Journey.

1. Dan, can you give us a bird’s eye view of what your book is all about? (Or maybe this questions is better phrased “Why did you write the book?”)

After a number of years of working with practitioners, and growing our own business, it was becoming more and more evident to me that the biggest challenge facing practitioners wasn’t information, it was complexity.

Time after time we discovered that practitioners had plenty of information, and no shortage of things on their to-do lists. What they had trouble with was how to look at their practices in a way that made it easier to make decisions and continue to move forward.

2. In the first section of the book, you use the metaphor of traveler getting lost in a cave. I see a lot of chiropractors lost in dark caves like you explain in the book. Do you think we’re seeing more chiropractors lately wandering into the darkest parts of their career?

Between economic shifts, health care changes and the sheer amount of competition in some places, I think the idea of being lost in a dark place is something that resonates with many chiropractors.

What’s important to remember is that being lost is temporary. The cave—how we describe that dark stretch—is really a tunnel. There’s an end, and finding it is something that’s within your control.

CE credits aren’t usually what you need to get out of the cave—the dark parts of your career are almost always related to a lack of NON-clinical development. A new technique or tool might be part of it, but it’s usually about embracing the idea that you’re in business, and continuing to develop that side of yourself.

Invest in your non-clinical education. Learn to manage, to lead. To take risk. To market what you offer. Each lights the way a little more.

3. I’m always telling chiropractors that they need to niche their practices, focusing on certain conditions or types of patients they like to work with. How does this compare to your metaphor of “the crystal” and the story of Maya the chiropractor?

Maya is like many other chiropractors today. She’s in a busy market, with competition right down the street. The appointment book is never as full as she’d like. She’s struggling, and stressed.

The real reason that her competition is a problem, though, is that what she offers isn’t any different from other DC’s.

That sameness means she has to compete. And when she competes, there will always be someone who will be cheaper than Maya. Or closer. Or open later. Or with better parking.

The result? Her existing patients don’t have a compelling reason to stay, and new ones don’t have a compelling reason to choose her. Focusing on one type of problem, or one type of patient is one way to avoid that no-win competition.

4. One line I really found helpful in your book is on page 31: “And there’s the great irony of the CAM industry: no one starts out to be in business, yet everyone has to be in order to succeed.”

I think cash practices are on the rise in chiropractic. It’s going to become the new normal. And that means that you don’t just get to be a chiropractor. It means you run a health care business in which you also happen to be the person providing chiropractic services, too.

It’s not a choice. You have two hats to wear (at least), and you have to find a way to get comfortable in them. Your DC hat only gives you the license to provide services. It’s the business owner hat that lets you find the people to deliver them to.

5. There a great section in the book where you give 6 tips to help alternative health professionals bridge the gap between them and MDs. How important is this?

For me, it’s critical. MD’s are still the gatekeepers to the sick in our culture. If you want to reach and help more people, you need to go where they are. In our society, a huge number of them are still in hospitals and MD offices. And that system is being overwhelmed.

Continuing to fight over the same people who already use chiropractic is a race with no winner. The real opportunity lies in the huge chronic health challenges in our culture, and most of those people who need that help are still inside conventional care.

6. Your second strategy for finding more time in our busy lives is to follow Parkinson’s law. What is Parkinson’s law and how can it help chiropractors?

Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to fit the time available for it. In other words, if you give yourself a “day” to do admin work in your practice, it’ll take all day – regardless of how much of it there is to do. The same goes for patient hours. If you offer thirty patient hours a week, it’s common to only bill for half of those or less.

That makes Parkinson’s Law critical for balance. What most DC’s miss out on is the fact that they can almost always earn more in the same time or less. My suggestion is to put your focus on your percentage booked. Start measuring it in your practice, and if you’re not consistently booked at a rate of 75% or more, start cutting back your available hours.

7. How do you think your book can help chiropractors thrive in this tough economy?

I recently interviewed Dan Clements, author of a very helpful book entitled The Practitioner’s Journey.

People find three things helpful in the book. The first is simplicity – the book gives practitioners a way to rise above the overwhelming minutiae of day-to-day life in practice.

The second is a practical way to look at growing your practice. The framework of the book is the same framework we use to do our strategic planning every year—it’s a way to look at your practice from 50,000 feet and make smart decisions about what needs to change so that you can find success on your own terms. When you take a simple framework, and combine it with small, practical and consistent steps forward, you get something very powerful: progress.

Last, I think it’s a book about hope. About believing that there’s no special advantage required to find your way to success – that if you’ve made it far enough to be in practice, you have what it takes to do it successfully.

Thanks for the interview Dan.

Dan Clements, B.Comm., B.A. is the author of The Practitioner’s Journey, and Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple, which has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Success Magazine and on A-list blogs such as Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek.  Dan and his wife Tara Gignac, ND operate StoneTree Clinic in Collingwood, ON. Together they are Contributing Founders of, the premier online community for integrative health care professionals, joining such health care luminaries as Joseph E. Pizzorno, Jr., N.D., Mark Hyman, MD, Alan Gaby, MD and many others.

Their popular practice management blog,, attracts thousands of practitioners in diverse health care professions.

Dan lectures at The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine on practice management, and speaks regularly on health, business and work-life balance.

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  2. I consider it a privilege to go to work every day and teach patients how to live well and feel good.

  3. This will be in my son’s Christmas stocking. I wish I had a guide like this before I started my pratcice. Luckily, I had a great mentor.

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