In the Time of Covid, Part 2: Taking an Honest Inventory

Depending on your background, the concept of taking inventory may be either a business or a moral task.

Those who have worked in business know that taking inventory means the tedious and exacting task of checking on your products. But participants in a 12-step program know the phrase from the internal rigors of the 4th step: taking inventory of one’s flaws to be accountable for one’s current situation in life. 

For our purposes, I want you to take a quick inventory that combines the best of these two concepts: I want you to become part accountant, part accountable. I want you held accountable for the finances, assets, strengths, debt and weaknesses of your business.

I can already hear the groans from some of you. This is not punishment, I promise. Instead, think about this inventory as though it were a camera. You are going to record an unemotional, but accurate snapshot.

It’s time to tell the truth of your practice as it stands today. Only you can do this task. And you need to do this right now, before you make any major changes.

Take a True Snapshot

To complete this first step in your crisis-proofing process, you need to be courageous. Fess up. Take note of the realities about your private practice right now, good and bad.

If we were working together, I would be asking you a series of questions to direct your attention, but the process of looking carefully and closely, without fear or judgment, is always up to you. For example, I would ask you to give me a profit and loss statement and a list of assets and liabilities, and I would want to understand your basic budgeting to know how money moves in and out of your small business. I would ask you to list your obvious and hidden resources, strengths, weaknesses and debt.

Time is of the essence today, so let me show you an easier way to take a snapshot. Take my Strong Start Survey.

Lynn’s Strong Start Survey

I began giving this survey to my business coaching clients and readers of my books, over 30 years ago. Here’s what I know: Reflecting on your practice this way is not a waste of time. It helps with business decisions. It allows you to quickly understand patterns and clues to decipher your practice’s health and well-being today. It suggests a path forward. Here are the 10 questions to answer:

Strong Start Survey

1. Where do you get your energy from?

2. Where are you most personally limited?

3. What do you love about your work — being a therapist, coach, healer, consultant, or other type of service provider? What are your unique strengths and talents?

4. What motivates you to take action?

5. What challenges and problems regarding your practice are you currently facing?

6. What challenges and problems regarding your personal life are you currently facing?

7. Of these challenges, which need attention immediately? Which are lower priority that can be corrected over time?

8. What are the 5 business opportunities that you are currently not making the most or anything of?

9. What are the 10 goals you want to accomplish in the next ninety days?

10. If you have an existing support system (friends, colleagues, mentor, therapist, coach, peer group, etc.) what should they know about you in order to best understand the challenges you face now? How can they best support you (strong feedback, gentle encouragement, listening, direct suggestions, advice, accountability?)

Understanding What Your Survey Reveals

Each survey explains a lot to me about the practitioner and their practice. I group the answers into four major topics: Energy, motivation, direction and action. To see the patterns within your answers, use this guide:

  • Energy level (questions 1, 2, 6)
  • Motivation (questions 3, 4)
  • Direction (questions 5, 7, 8)
  • Action (questions 9, 10)

Now sit back and analyze your own survey: What do you see about your situation right now? Are there opportunities to explore? Next steps to consider? Where are you blocked and where are you full of capacity? I hope it gives you a better sense of what is possible, even now.

In my earlier book written for the economic recession, Crisis-Proof Your Practice (W.W. Norton, 2009), I go into more detail with additional tools to help you take a complete inventory. This book is still in print and can be a resource for you now.

OK, readers and colleagues, this is it for today. In next week’s newsletter issue, we get serious about crisis management. Part 3: Triage– How to prioritize urgent issues that may be keeping you up at night.