Diversification of Revenue
Twelve years ago, my wife, Dr. Pina LoGiudice, and I started our naturopathic and acupuncture practice in New York. We called it Inner Source Health. Our mission was to teach each patient to use natural health to achieve the best health possible.
Since New York is not licensed for naturopathic medicine, our patients typically pay us out of pocket. With no training in business, my thought at that time was a simple business model: See a patient and get paid for my time; maybe sell them a supplement or two. Also, I thought we would bring in a few associates to help.
Sounds good, right?
Twelve years later, I realize this model is not a reasonable one nor even a safe model for a doctor like me. There are too many things that can happen and over 12 years, I have seen them all: a downturn in the economy that left patients too scared to spend disposable income on non-emergency care like mine; personal health and family challenges that did not allow us to practice for extended periods at a time; associates who necessitated expanded clinic space, only to find them leaving unexpectedly—while leaving extensive monthly overhead. And, like any business, we dealt with frivolous legal issues that ate away at profits while causing great stress. Even when things were going smoothly with a busy practice, we found that sometimes it was still hard to make ends meet.
Giving My 2004 Self Some Advice
If my current self could sit down with myself from 12 years ago, I would say: “Congratulations, you are a doctor and you will help many people—but, your business model will not help you, unless you diversify.” If I were to give my 2004 self some further advice, I would recommend designing some creative ways to diversify income and to not rely solely on my own or my associates’ patient face time. In the last five years, we have started to do just that.
So what are we up to now?
We have augmented our reputation by penning best-selling books in the field. Our last two are The Little Book of Health Beauty and Put Anxiety Behind You. We have started an online supplement website that simplifies for the public the ability to purchase highest quality supplements. I have used my clinical and research experience in mental health to formulate two novel supplements for a well-known nutraceutical company (Mood Systems Support and Neurotransmitter Balance), and I plan on working further to develop more unique mood support formulas. In the next year, I will also be offering webinar modules to professionals looking to learn more about implementing integrative mental health care. Plus, Pina and I have a few other irons in the fire—remember many projects sound good in the beginning, but few get off the ground. I read a business book a few years back that said we need to fail 99 times before we find the one endeavor that works. The take-home message is that it is important to try different ideas to see what works. And please note, we haven’t quit our “day job” of seeing patients—we are working on these projects while also seeing patients four to five days a week.
As an aside, the New York Times has learned about Inner Source Health and featured us in a video about small business, which you may want to see for more information about us:
Stick to Your Mission
While no one of the above projects is a million-dollar golden cash cow of its own (yet), when taken together, all of these revenue streams (seeing patients, the books, formulations, online store, lecturing, etc.) certainly diversify our income portfolio. This approach allows us the peace of mind of knowing that we are not dependent on any one of them. And, best of all, these all stick to our mission of teaching about natural health and bringing excellent health information to all our patients and customers. Pina and I decided we will only venture into business arrangements that stick to our mission. And we find by making that decision, one project typically supports another, so it all grows together.
My wife Pina and I feel blessed to be able to live our dream of being naturopathic doctors. But 12 years after starting our practice, we realize diversification is the key to the longevity for this dream.
Peter Bongiorno, ND, Lac
Dr. Peter Bongiorno is a naturopathic doctor
and acupuncturist in New York with an
expertise in integrative mental health. Dr.
Bongiorno has authored and contributed
to several natural medicine texts and is an
invited expert writer for the Dr. Oz website and
Psychology Today. We’re proud to have him on
Emerson’s Practitioner Advisory Council.