Everything You Should Know as a Nutrition Business Owner Before Bringing on Your First Hire

If you love what you do and you are good at counseling, you will soon find out that you don’t have enough hours in the day to get everything done. When this happens, it’s time to take the next step into transforming your solo private practice to a group practice. But, how will you know if you are ready to bring on your first hire?

You may have had a variety of experience consulting with web designers, accountants, and other for-hire professionals, which is a good start, but hiring your first employee adds an entirely new layer of sophistication.  You may be surprised at how quickly you need to think about hiring when you are in private practice, especially if you have positioned yourself with a marketing plan that is sending you a steady stream of potential clients. 

As entrepreneurs, we tend to take on too much and try to do everything ourselves. Bringing someone into the private practice you have built is scary! But remember that you end up happier and more successful if you learn to delegate and hire early.

Why you should bring on your first hire

Your time as a registered dietitian is very valuable. As a nutrition entrepreneur, you need to be conscious of your income-earning time, because you can only see a limited number of clients each day, which is a natural shortcoming of being in private practice. You have an even smaller window of opportunity to see clients if you consider the amount of time you will need to spend on administrative tasks, such as bookkeeping, marketing, or even just cleaning the office. You could bring on more people to help you administratively, more people to help you counsel, or both to be most efficient.

This ultimately means more revenue coming in, because either you have more time to see clients because you aren’t doing as much administrative work OR you have another dietitian helping you see clients. 

Bringing on another team member can also allow you the business owner to have more flexibility, improve your work-life balance, and provide stability to your business. What do I mean by this? Having another revenue stream coming into the business that does not directly rely on you seeing clients means that:

  • Take a vacation, and the business will still generate revenue because other RDs are seeing clients
  • Go on maternity or other extended leave without temporarily closing your practice because you will have other team members to cover for you 
  • Puts you in a position to grow your business and eventually sell your practice
vacation first hire

Other things to consider before bringing on your first hire

You may still be conflicted about hiring, it is a big step and it is most often met with some bumps along the way.  Here are some more things to make sure that you have considered.

Meeting your first hire
  • Are you financially ready to grow? 
  • Have you thought through your business model?
  • Is your practice set up to carry the load of a new clinician?
  • Do you have all the necessary forms, paperwork for a new hire?
  • Have you protected your intellectual property?
  • Are you set up as a group practice as an insurance provider?
  • Have you thought through the legal aspects of a group practice?

Don’t stress! It might seem like a lot to consider, and it is! Working with a business coach may be helpful during this process, and our team has the experience in scaling your practice and helping you through the hiring process.

Needs Assessment:

Before you begin the hiring process, start by performing a needs assessment. Think about all of the tasks that you could delegate in your private practice, and consider if you need to get extra administrative help, clinical help, or both! Most people wait too long to hire and then end up having to rush the hiring process and hire under duress.  Nobody makes good decisions under those conditions, and that can lead you to hire someone that doesn’t fit your business values and culture. 

So, start thinking about hiring right away!

When is it time to hire your first administrative staff member or registered dietitian?

It is difficult to predict the exact right time to hire another team member because if you hire too early, then you will struggle with cash flow. 

Start by checking in with yourself, are you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the amount of work in your private practice? While we all have good days and bad days, if you are constantly feeling like you are burning the midnight oil trying to get everything done, these are good clues to help you recognize a need to hire.  You might also feel like you have just the right amount of clinical and administrative help but you may be feeling isolated.  Adding someone to your team can help you be more connected while you work in private practice. 

From there, let’s think about the logistics of your business operations:  

Signs you may be ready to hire a dietitian: 

  • You feel like you are repeatedly missing out on business opportunities due to lack of time because you are overextended
  • Your calendar is too full to schedule initial or follow up appointments in a timely fashion
  • You consistently have to refer new clients out because your schedule cannot accommodate them
  • You are keeping a waiting list of potential clients to be seen
  • Your phone keeps ringing and your email is overflowing with referrals outside of your niche
  • You don’t have time to work on your business because your client load is too high
  • You feel burnt out from seeing clients and being an entrepreneur
exhausted first hire

Hiring a dietitian is definitely a financial investment for your business. But if you consider the financial impact of repeatedly missing out on revenue opportunities like turning away potential clients or you can’t retrain your own clients because of scheduling issues, hiring a dietitian to join your private practice might be the right move.

administrative first hire

Signs you may be ready to hire an administrative staff member:

Some administrative work is inevitable in any business, but how much of your week do you spend doing the following tasks? (add any other activities specific to your practice as well that are outside of patient care) 

  • scheduling new patient appointments
  • returning phone calls to patients
  • rescheduling appointments
  • doing eligibility checks with insurances
  • submitting claims to insurance
  • following up on denied insurance claims
  • Calling other providers for patient records and lab work

Now, track your time this week. Are you spending over 10 hours a week on these tasks?  If this sounds like you, then it’s probably wise to consider hiring an administrative person for your team. 

Think of it like this: Does it make sense for you to routinely answer phones and drive to the post office, or is it better if you spend your time generating revenue while seeing clients? 

The good news about needing administrative help is that there are plenty of options for you nowadays. You can of course look to hire someone full-time to join your practice, or you may want to consider a virtual assistant to help out a few hours a week. 

A time study is a valuable tool

Still not sure what to do next? I suggest that you do time study.  Start tracking your time today and figure out what you are doing that can be delegated and think about whether you want to hire a nutrition student to help you out, a receptionist, an office manager, or a biller? Also, start tracking how much business you are turning away because you do not have the team and resources in place to handle a larger or more diverse client load. If this feels like a daunting task, working with a business coach can make the hiring process much easier.  

Remember, this is your practice! You can decide if you want to keep it a solo practice or if you want to transition to a group practice. There are pros and cons to each business model and it is important to think through exactly what your vision is for your practice so that you can create the nutrition counseling practice of YOUR dreams!

private practice dietitian workbook
Are you ready to realize your potential, excel in your niche, and build the private practice of your dreams? 

Welcome to the REBELution includes over 30 years of private practice experience, outlines in one easy to follow workbook

Available for purchase on Amazon or as an ebook

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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.