Interview with Caroline Burdulis
I love speaking with Caroline. Her passion and the teacher inside her is always on auto-overdrive! She is so so giving and truly from the bottom of her heart just wants to help acupuncturists succeed and help more and more people. She has tried and true methods to help you build your practice, and makes an offer during this podcast that you don’t want to miss out on! It will be well worth your time to tune in. ~ Spence
Doctoral Candidate, Five Branches University, San Jose, CA
Licensed Acupuncturist, The Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners, #AC01568, 2015 to present
Licensed Acupuncturist, State of Montana, Board of Medical Examiners, #199, 2005 to present
Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, (DiplOM), National Commission for the Certification of
Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), 2005
Master of Traditional Chinese Medicine, (MTCM), 2005, Five Branches University, Santa Cruz, CA
Bachelor of Arts, Religious Studies; 1999, Western Medical pre-med curriculum (5 yrs of sciences), Honors Program, University of CA, Santa Barbara
During Caroline’s 18 years of clinical experience, she founded 2 successful practices by developing a patient attraction system and a clinical model of excellence that grew her practice to 9 rooms with 3 full-time staff by the 4th year in a small, conservative city. This system was further refined, so that the second location was filled by the 5th month in a saturated market, for both she and her husband, Bryan Watrous, LAc, DiplOM working full-time.
After numerous requests to mentor new Acupuncturists, Bryan and Caroline founded their online mentoring and coaching business, Acupuncture Business Success System. Over the last 6 years, they’ve helped over 1000 acupuncturists in 42 countries grow their practice, many of whom have doubled and tripled their practice using this Success System.
Acupuncture Business Growth and Clinical Excellence Mentor and Coach, 2012 to present
– doubling and tripling acupuncture businesses internationally using education-based marketing and the clinical model of excellence created to radically improve treatment outcomes to provide a steady stream of patients and patient referrals
Author – 2 free e-books:
“3 Critical Strategies You Must Know to Save Your Acupuncture Business From Financial Failure”
written as a direct response to their TCM 10 year reunion after discovering 70% of their classmates’ had gone out-of-business.
Downloaded by over 1000 Acupuncturists in 42 countries in 6 weeks, Feb. 2015
“30 Seconds to 30 Patients”
Create your 30 second patient attraction offer to quickly grow your acupuncture practice … without being “salesy”
Written as the companion e-book to their highly-requested webinar during the week-long 2016 AOM Online Summit
Montana Woman, publication, October 2006 issue: “Acupuncture – Does It Hurt And Does It Help”
2017, June 17, “Magnetically Attract More Patients,” The 3 Simple Steps to Rapidly Fill Your Acupuncture Practice with Ease” All-day Workshop, AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Austin, Texas; Presentation for CEUS
2008, Missoula County Public Schools Adult Education – Instructor, 6 Classes on variety of Health Topics, Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center, Missoula, MT:
2017, April 19, AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Austin, Texas
90 Minute Presentation for CEUS: “5 Secret Steps Successful Acupuncturists Take To Avoid the Worry and Frustration of NOT Having Enough Patients and How to FILL YOUR PRACTICE once and For ALL!!”
2014, February 18, Five Branches University, Santa Cruz Campus, Brown Bag Presentation:
“Without These 5 Critical Strategies in Your Acupuncture Practice, You Are Virtually Guaranteed Financial Failure.” 45 attendees
University of Montana guest speaker: Nursing School; Physical Therapy School
Public Speaker – all Missoula, MT
Acupuncture Business Success System – online Mentoring and Coaching Business for Acupuncturists
– January 2015 – present
“Patient Attraction System” – 90 Day Online Home Learning Course
“Acupuncture Practice Acceleration Mastermind
Private Mentoring and Coaching
Big Sky Acupuncture & Integrative Medicine, Austin, TX
– July 2015 – present
Bitter Root Acupuncture :& Wellness Center, Missoula, MT
– August 2005 – June 2015
Caroline: It’s a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, which means, I never realized most people think of diplomat, but a diplomate is someone who’s been tested in a medical specialty.
Spence: I’m so sorry, it’s just a term I’m not familiar with it as being ignorant Canadian, but for the NCCAOM that was 2005. And then got licensed as an acupuncturist in Montana in 2005 as well, and then in 2015 jetted over to Texas and challenged that exam and was successful. Now, more recently, you’re a doctoral candidate at the Five Branches University San Jose California.
Spence: Caroline’s been in practice for 18 years, or plus, I guess, in Chinese medicine. And within that time, she has created two successful practices, and she says the second one was filled to capacity in five months from opening, with her husband Bryan. And a big shout out to Brian as well. The first one was in Missoula Montana, acupuncture and wellness center. Then more recently was in Austin, Texas, you have been setting up shop, and even more recently in California. We’ll get to that, I’m so excited. I think that’ll be the main part of our talk today. You have created Acupuncture Business Success System that over the last six years has helped thousands of people you say in over 42 countries – that’s amazing. You do mentorship and coaching, you’ve got a very bustling practice with that, you’ve developed an online home learning course called the Patient Attraction System, you’ve got a practice acceleration mastermind, you lecture across the U.S., and as I said, those two free ebooks. One’s called the ‘3 Critical Strategies You Must Know To Save Your Acupuncture Business From Financial Failure’. That’s a pretty straightforward title. ‘30 Seconds To 30 Patients’. These resources too are in the show notes, and at acupuncturebusinesssuccess.com, which is your website. Because there’s so many blanks, and as I said when we were chatting just before, I myself maybe I’m being selfish but I love to hear a bit of a back story. Because everyone in our field comes from all walks of life and backgrounds, and it’s interesting to see where people come from, and you must have had some business. Then we’ll move into what you’re passionate about right now doing in California. Caroline’s been gracious enough, she wants to put on her teaching hat, which I don’t think you probably ever take off, and share some pearls of wisdom so you can take them into your practice today and really start trekking more patients are living the life and practice that you want. Without further ado, welcome!
Caroline: Thank you, thank you so much. I really appreciate the invitation. I love what you’re offering to our colleagues and community around the world having these podcasts. I mean, this is what we need so desperately in our community, and you’re providing a wonderful service and obviously an amazing gentleman to bring your heart to all of us, and offer your special genius, so thank you so much for the invitation.
Spence: Oh, thank you, that’s so nice. I’m blushing, I think. I would love to hear a little bit about your back story, and I expect that it includes Bryan, which I don’t know actually. I’ll let you have the stage there a little bit, tell everybody a bit about how you got to where you are today.
Caroline: Well, long story short, I’m one of those people that’s had a very bizarre life. I started off almost dying. When I was two years old, I had kidney infections that they weren’t able to stop. They put me on six months of antibiotics, and it finally stopped the kidney infections, but left me with all sorts of other problems. And as time moved forward into my teens and twenties, I had more and more health problems, so I became very interested in health and medicine. I saw a lot of doctors none of whom could seem to even diagnose me. I felt like I was treated by a number of people who, it felt to me, were treating me as if I was a hypochondriac female, and I just needed to take some sleep medication and anti-anxiety medications. I really didn’t feel that that was accurate and I didn’t accept that. And just being the type of maybe, some people have called me type triple A person that I am. I was not going to accept that. Anyway, I ended up looking into medicine, although I had been actually in the high-tech industry, working for Dell computer for five years. I was a forecast analyst. Then I was responsible for making sure that all of the circuit boards for the space shuttles’ toilet actually were produced on time. I was really good at analyzing and forecasting and looking into the future and doing some of the math and things around, deciding what we needed, which, fortunately, helped me in my practice. So, I’ll tie that together in a moment. But anyway, I got more and more interested in health. At one point, I decided in my thirties, I didn’t really like the way I was living. I actually had a really serious crisis of faith maybe, some people might resonate with that, where I was living kind of a yuppie lifestyle, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my friends, I didn’t like my life, I didn’t like anything. So I thought, you know, this is ridiculous, I want to live a life that that has more depth, that has meaning, that every day I feel like I’m not just – I’m getting a little emotional, sorry – just like skimming the surface of life. I didn’t like that. So, I went back to school full-time, I’d had no idea what I wanted to do, and I took over 200 units in my undergraduate because I just wanted to figure out myself, I wanted to figure out life, like you can figure that out. But, I’m type Triple A so I thought, well, maybe I can. I finished all the pre-medical requisites intending to be a western MD. I wanted to add an alternative, but as I learned more about alternative medicine, of course, I discovered, oh, that’s another four or five, ten years, because I also wanted to learn homeopathy. So, I ended up distilling all that down, and just before attending western medical school, taking the MCAT, I’d already paid to do that. I decided, you know, I don’t like anything that they use. Obviously, there are needs for pharmaceutical drugs and surgery, but I started feeling more and more like 80% of what needed to be done were all the things that happened before you use those, and that really should be kind of a last-ditch effort when everything else has failed. So I kind of turned around 180 degrees and said, well, if I learn western medicine and I don’t want to do surgery and I don’t want to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, there are other things to do. So why am I going to learn that? I decided on Chinese medicine, fortunately I went to Five Branches. I’d always been really interested in the botanical medicine, and I will do a tiny bit of teaching here. I do not like the word ‘herbs’ because when people think ‘herbs’, they think, oh, I just put herbs in my breakfast omelet and that took no training whatsoever. I feel that, unfortunately, we’ve done ourselves a disservice by taking all of the years of medical training we’ve had, on not only herbs but all sorts of other substances that are natural, and we call it herbs. And when people hear that, because it’s only based on their own perception, they see almost no value. I just made chamomile tea, I can do that myself at home, I don’t need to spend any time or money with you to tell me to drink mint tea or something. So, botanical medicine is a preference. Geoffrey Pong, I wanted like to give a shout out to him. As far as I know, he’s still at Five Branches teaching there for decades now, an unbelievable professor. You would walk into one of his classes, and he’d say, great, it’s the end of your fourth quarter, I know you’ve all been studying hard. I’m not going to test you on anything from this quarter.
Spence: Oh, that’s nice.
Carolina: You get tested on the last three quarters, so I hope you remember it. He always kept us on our toes. Every quarter, you needed to make sure you knew everything. I actually specialized in botanical medicine. That was a pearl that I got from one of my professors that you need to specialize. And then I realized by looking online and doing some research, people who specialize are viewed as having 40% more value than those who don’t. So, that’s kind of a first recommendation and why I decided to specialize, which made all the difference.
Spence: Wow! So, that brings you into your practice. Can you tell people a little bit about your 18 years, you’ve been practicing, your specialty, and kind of how those practices grew and evolved?
Caroline: Maybe I made a typo on there, it’s been 13 years. I don’t want somebody to think there’s more but it has been 13.
Spence: I usually wear glasses, so it could have been me.
Caroline: That’s okay. I just wanted that to be clear. Bryan and I met in Chinese medical school in our second year, and it was one of those relationships where you’re going out to study with a bunch of people, and then there’s a few fewer people and then a few fewer, and then just the two of us. And he had such a wonderful sense of humor, and we were both absolutely passionate about this medical system. I literally feel like it saved my life, because just prior to going to school I was told by a Stanford specialist that I had chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome, and that I would likely be housebound in five to ten years. I wasn’t happy about that, so I saw all of my professors, and even as fabulous as they all were and are, they were not able to help me very much. So, I started doing postgraduate study along with Bryan in our third year so that we could get to higher and higher levels of knowledge with the Eastern medical system, especially the botanical medicine, and prevent not only from being housebound five to ten years, but where now I can, yes, fly around the country and do all sorts of things I want to do to help my colleagues, help more people like me. That’s my passion, that’s what drives me. Western medicine could not help me, and even told me I would be housebound, and yet Eastern medicine was not only able to keep me going but able to dramatically turn the whole situation around. And with that knowledge, I’ve been able to help people do, and this is another huge passion of mine, what our medical system at least what I was taught in school did not teach us we could do. It did not teach us we could completely alter someone’s, not only their health, but even their genetics and even their lab panels. I was curious about this in my fourth year of practice, I wondered if I could do that. Could I solve hypothyroid, could I solve cholesterol problems, could I solve the things that caused autoimmune disease like c-reactive protein and homocysteine, and I found I could. I started checking everyone’s labs about every three or four months. And with Eastern medical protocols we learned in school and things I learned postgraduately, I could confidently say that, yes, in most cases, I can do this for you, which built my practice to over half a million dollars by the fourth year. And a tiny city Missoula is very conservative, only has 65,000 people and 20,000$ a year under the national family median income. But because we were able to get results that people couldn’t get even after flying to the Mayo Clinic, Virginia Mason, going to see specialists in Washington, and shockingly enough people telling me they’ve spent 60,000$ for a solution, still hadn’t gotten it in Western medically. I was able to provide that because our medical system is so incredible. I’m just so passionate to lift all of our colleagues up to that level of realization that they actually have this knowledge. I’ve been told by so many, like, I didn’t know that I could do this, I didn’t know I could raise someone’s core temperature and actually get these kinds of big solutions, I never even thought to try that. That’s where my passion is now, because our medical system should be the first choice, and then if someone needs surgery or pharmaceutical drugs, there are instances where that’s the best choice, then that’s available to them.
Spence: Amazing. Through your experience, to summarize, one point that I got from what you just highlighted was that you kind of became an expert in translation. Yes, we all can say intellectually that, of course, Chinese medicine will help thyroid or X, Y or Z, but to actually be at a point where you’re translating those Western terms into palpable or tangible results is a built huge confidence. I see that in you, and clearly, that’s where your passion has been born from because it just works. That is something that for new practitioners that a patient’s picked up on so quickly, your confidence, and no wonder you built such thriving practices, because you’re like, well, this just works. If you say that with conviction, people feel it, they build trust in you, especially when you have a story that you’ve been through, and the rest is telltale in your successful history. Kudos to really getting on top of and just like dedicating your life to making yourself feel well, and then being able to now translate that to our community.
Caroline: Thank you so much.
Spence: There’s a million ways besides just that confidence that you’ve helped with people, and I’m so excited to get to that, but I am so curious to learn more. Carolyn, Bryan and I had a quick conversation, was it a couple weeks back, I forget, and they just started diving into what they’ve been up to when I was like, I don’t want to be rude, but you need to stop because I want to hear this when we’re recording. The excitement there, I wanted it to be a part of the actual, what we’re capturing today. So, you’ve been in California the last seven months, what have you been doing there?
Caroline: Yeah. Just to back up a little bit to kind of help that make more sense, about six years ago in our practice, we were approached by various acupuncturists around the United States saying, hey, I’ve seen your practice online, I’ve wondered if I could come and mentor with you. So, we’d never thought of that, and so we started doing that. We had people come to our practice and we thought, wow, this is super cool, we love this, like, share this knowledge, get more people out there realizing what can be done. And so, over the years, it’s grown and grown and grown. And then I think it was last year, almost a year and a half ago, Marilyn Allen, the editor of Acupuncture Today, most acupuncturists are familiar with her, she is a fabulous, incredible woman, force in our industry, trying to really move Eastern medicine to the forefront liaison to the World Health Organization, I mean, on and on. And we had touched base again, she’d been one of my professors at Five Branches. Like most of us, she teaches everywhere, she’s just a force of nature, and we had met up with her again here in Austin at the AOMA school here, the Eastern medical school. And when we touched base again, she had asked us, so what have you been up to, and so we were talking, and she said, oh my gosh, you’ve got two ebooks now, you reached over a thousand acupuncturists around the globe. And she said, I want to know like how you’ve been able to do this, and so we started telling her, we developed what we call a patient attraction system. But a lot of people hadn’t realized that one of the major reasons why we’ve been really successful is not just about marketing and business because I actually don’t care for marketing, I’m not a big person to like, oh, you know, like market and get the word out there. It’s just that’s not my thing. I like helping people. What the difference was is that we actually developed a whole clinical model. And the clinical model we developed was about you have to attract a certain number of people. But we developed a model whereby we worked with people in such a deep profound way. Like, I do a case review with people that’s about an hour and a half or two hours, literally starting from birth going forward, understanding, and I actually created and designed a flowchart to help people understand, and myself as a practitioner, what happened originally, why it happened, where it’s gone over time. And then based on where they are currently, where it’s likely to go in the future. So, I bring that form out that flowchart every time, customize it for every patient, it blows people away, they don’t understand Eastern medicine. And the biggest problem we face is Eastern medical providers is, our system is intangible, there’s nothing for somebody to understand. They can’t see it, they can’t touch it, they don’t know what we’re looking at and what it means when we look at their tongue, they have no idea what we’re feeling with their pulses, there’s no bells or whistles or labs or anything like Western medicine, so literally, people just are going on faith or trust. So, I realized early on, I have to develop something that people can see and touch so they can wrap their minds around it. And so that flowchart’s been instrumental. You are, like, that resonates with you.
Spence: Totally. At our clinic, the first thing we try to do by the end of that initial appointment is set out tangible health-related goals so that they understand if you don’t have a target, you can’t hit it, that’s the bottom line.
Caroline: Yes, love that. Absolutely. We gave them a really clear concept of where they had been, what it meant eastern medically, and so we also allowed for a translation. That’s also a big problem, how do you talk about chi blood yin, yang. I mean, it’s literally Chinese. People have no connection point, so I found a way to really make that translation palpable to people, where they would say, oh, my gosh, why hasn’t anyone ever explained it this way before or described it so I could understand, now I get it, now it makes sense, and what’s my next step. We developed a whole clinical model around that, around a series of initial sequenced appointments. When we told Marilyn Allen all of this, she’s like, oh my gosh, you’ve got to come and teach all of my practice management classes in California. So, she was teaching it, I mean, at the time at least six or maybe seven schools this last summer. And when she invited us to LA, we taught it four of them. We just didn’t even get a chance to get down to San Diego or up to San Francisco because the four we taught out were in the LA area. And then based on that, we had more people decide to work with us, join some of our programs and also ask if we could give more of our classes there instead of just an hour or an hour and a half, like Lunch and Learn. Because we did that on top of teaching her practice management and ethics classes to actually do like a full day deep dive, like give me more goodies. Anyway, all of that developed, we had planned on being there three weeks and it turned into almost seven months. We just got back. It was so exciting, so amazing, we just felt really honored that she invited us to teach.
Spence: What was her main motivation? Because you told me some pretty scary stuff that might be on a government policy level that might be a main motivator for getting people like you to help your industry understand that they need to step into the economy in a way that’s sustainable.
Caroline: So the term is gainful employment. We’ve been talking about #gainfulemployment. It’s the new big buzz word or buzz phrase. Well, I didn’t know anything about this, and it’s a delicate topic to even bring up, I’m glad that you have. I have gotten a lot of feedback from a lot of acupuncturists that we’re just trying to scare people, that we’re just trying to get people’s money, all of these types of things. Because as acupuncturists, we have big hearts, we would do this all day long every day until we just fell over for free. The problem is this, and although that’s absolutely great, however, I would say, if you’re on a plane, they’ll tell you to put your mask on first. You can’t help anybody else unless you help yourself, and that doesn’t mean helping yourself to millions of dollars, but it does mean ‘gainful employment’. That’s the term. And the reason why is that the government has actually stepped in because the situation’s gotten so serious. They are seeing that our schools are providing us with student loans, which is wonderful, to get this medical knowledge so we can focus on what we need to and get the training and experience and knowledge, etc, to do this and to help people. However, once we get out into the world and either get employment, you know, the term is gainful, some leading into that, it’s not enough to be employed. There has to be gainful employment. So you have to gain enough that you can pay back the student debt it took to get the knowledge. The problem is whether or not someone is getting employed in a practice or a hospital, etc, which there are not that many of those jobs, so most of us go into private practice, and most of us are failing. There’s a huge percentage of people failing, depending on the time and the group of people you look at. It’s anywhere from 50 to as much as 90%. And of those who are not failing, we are not achieving gainful employment, we are not making enough money to be able to ever pay back the student debt. So, we only have two years left, they gave the schools three years. We only have two years left now so that the schools can show proof that their graduates have received gainful employment with whatever route they’ve taken after they’ve left school, enough financial income so that they can pay back the student debt. Right now, it’s not happening. I’ve talked with a lot of the staff and management of a lot of the different schools, Peckham in San Diego, we were at Yo San and a lot of the other schools out the LA area. And this is what they’re all talking about, all of the administration is trying to figure out how do we do this, what do we teach, what needs to be taught, how do we do it. They actually don’t know because there are not many clinical models on how to start and how to grow and how to maintain a clinical practice that is successful enough to achieve those goals. Then the problem is if we don’t do this within the next two years, the schools can’t show gainful employment from their alumni. The government is no longer going to offer student loans to the schools.
Spence: Schools shut down.
Caroline: Schools shut down. And just at the very point that we need, thousands more acupuncturists, a lot of people will also argue this, but I would tell you, if you’re in a saturated market, you think it’s saturated, and it’s absolutely not. It’s that we don’t know how to reach literally 94% of the population. So, everybody keeps marketing to the same tiny 3-6%.
Spence: Yes. So, that’s highly motivational for schools and why you’ve been in California for seven months versus three weeks.
Spence: Being in Canada, I’ve just seen this happen, and having spoken with you about this, our government probably wouldn’t be far behind in examining the same crisis or however you want to put it, the same bottom line, they don’t want to spend money they don’t get back. I get that, and you’re right, acupuncturists have such a big heart. That is the plus and the negative. But if it gets to a point of hurting our industry, it’s a problem that I’m certainly glad that people like you are putting together programs and really trying to help solve, and that’s where my motivation came from. I didn’t know it was as dire as it is, and yeah, that brings me more passion and you as well, I assume.
Carolina: Yeah, it absolutely does. This is what gets me up in the morning.
Spence: You’ve got the acupuncture business success system, that is your program on your website, right?
Carolina: It’s a whole success system, and there’s a number of programs within that.
Spence: Is that kind of what you’ve been there too, because it’s a tested system, is that kind of what you’ve been teaching, and can you kind of give people like a simple rundown of what that is or looks like?
Carolina: Sure. We didn’t realize when we were approached by different acupuncturists to come mentor with us that we were really doing anything different than anybody else. We were just rocking a roll and doing our thing and we thought, oh, everybody else is doing the same thing. It was kind of a shock to find out that nobody was. In fact, one of the first people that worked with us when we launched what we call a ‘patient attraction system’. We launched that particular 90-day online home learning course three years ago, almost four years now. And we heard back from one of the acupuncturists, her name’s Kristin Planinz. She said, you guys are teaching something that is revolutionary, nobody else is doing this. She had been in practice at that point 11 years, she had worked with a lot of coaches, she had done a lot of business coaching, mindset issues, money management, website, all of this. And she said, this is something totally different, and we were really excited. The big difference was that as acupuncturists we are not first business people, we are first patient-oriented. So, we wanted everything to be not about like how do we make money and balance the budget and blah, blah, it was like how do we offer a level of service with authenticity and integrity to such a profound level, because I am kind of a triple A, to such a profound level that people were so wowed. They were given so much value that they drove the process. I didn’t want to be like selling. They actually pursued us, so it was a matter of, okay, what things that are strategic do you say, and in ways that you work with people so that they do feel that way. One of the first things was that we realized a little bit of teaching here is something we learned along the way called ‘a top of mind problem’. You can talk all day about acupuncture and the eastern medical system and how awesome it is, and someone can hear that, but what they hear is, blah, blah, what about me. So, classic phrases, like, what’s in it for me, how will it benefit me. We said, okay, we need to constantly focus on what that person wants, not what we want to give, and that’s a very fundamental mind shift. We feel it’s so important to put yourself in that person’s shoes, in their mind saying, what do they want. They’re only going to work with you to the degree that you are giving them what they want. Or, I would say go the extra mile and give them what they didn’t even think to want because they didn’t think it was possible. So, what’s in the very deep recesses of their mind, like, wow, could I have a level 10 out of 10 energy, and not just get better. Or, can I have like a perfect menstrual cycle and perfect sleep at night and actually feel energized every day when I wake up, like, I’m not going to ask for that because my doctors told me that 20 symptoms that I mentioned and asked about were normal. So, we got rid of normal, that’s one of our tenants, it’s that we feel Eastern medically with our 5,000 years of experience that we need to hold the line at what’s optimal. When patients first came to me and said, well, my doctor says that having a bowel movement once every four days is okay, it’s normal. I was shocked. I was like, wait a minute. I mean, this is the big problem with the Western medical system. They tell us all the time what normal is, but normal simply means common, and nobody stopped to look at that. I’m all about being precise with language because it really will convey something that you do or don’t want unless you’re very careful. So, normal actually means common. Now in our Western culture, I’m not sure about Canada, but from my clients there, they tell me that this is true for them, that it’s very normal, therefore common is what that means, to have diabetes, obesity, heart disease, but that’s not optimal. I felt as an Eastern medical provider, my job was to hold the line at optimal, what was an A in life. I don’t want to live as a B or C or a D, and you know, there can be judgments around that. I just wanted to have the optimal life that I as a human being could have. And so I let my patients know, my job is to offer you whatever you want. However, it’s also my job to let you know what’s possible, so that if that’s something else you do want, that we can provide, and see if we can provide that for you. So, most people have never been given the option, and so they didn’t even think to ask. I like to provide extra.
Spence: Having owned and operated a few practices or clinics, the patient experience is as important often as the results you get. Because that helps people return for more of your treatment. Just partly feeling better is half the battle. That experience starts when they look at your website or walk in your front door or wherever it is, the first impression. I did the same thing, and maybe it stems from most of our teachers having come from mainland China, and you don’t have to go out and create gainful employment. So, the academic passion and philosophical passion that you come out with of Chinese medicine school with is so profound that, at least for me, I was, like, this is just so damn cool, that people are coming to me, because it’s so awesome. That’s a quick realization. That’s not the case. Most people don’t even care about yin and yang, they want to see benefit, or it’s like, I am suffering, can you fix X, Y & Z, or find solutions for me. So, that is a huge fundamental shift in belief systems, or just how you have to operate when you get into a clinical setting. That’s I think why, and you said it, why acupuncturists get so lambasted when they move from academia to practice. There’s no prep time.
Carolina: Yeah, that’s one of the fundamental principles we spend a lot of time teaching about, and then of course how to do it. It’s one thing that you can understand a principle, but it’s another thing when it comes into real life what are the strategic steps you take so that that happens. We talk about building a patient partnership bridge that they’re not going to be interested in what we do even if we are super passionate because we did not have people just coming into our practice. I mean, it was a hot mess. The first two years, nobody was calling or coming in. There were some, certainly, but there were very few and we were really worried. It’s like, oh my gosh, we have crazy student debt loans, we spend all this time and energy, we’re so excited to provide this to people, but how are we paying rent, how are we buying food? So, we realized pretty early on that you had to build a bridge of understanding. But the key difference is you can’t build it from our side, from the eastern medical side. That’s on the other side of a chasm, a river or some kind of giant opening that people can’t bridge because they don’t understand it. So, you have to build the bridge from where the patient is, their understanding what they’re comfortable, with what they know, and then as you address where they are and what they’re thinking, that top-of-mind problem, you know, where somebody is almost asleep at night, and at the very top of their mind they’re thinking, oh, if I could just like solve this terrible pain, or my digestion is driving me crazy, or these migraines, and actually, collecting that information. So a little bit of teaching when you first start your practice, or at any point, you want to grow your practice, it’s a matter of listening. The best way to grow your practice is to listen and write down literally what your patients are telling you they want. Literally, what they’re experiencing, you don’t want us do any kind of marketing, and say, oh, I’m an acupuncturist, this is a great medical system, and I can do a list of these hundred things. That’s not going to reach them. Instead saying, okay, I had somebody this last week, and they said, my back is killing me. So, then you want to say their exact words, is your back killing you. That would then go in your marketing on your website so they have something very specific, very direct, and they hear that message. They’re like, oh my gosh, that person’s speaking to me, and I know five other people whose back is killing them. And we’re all going to make a beeline to you because that’s something I can hear, I can understand, and I don’t even care what your solution is. People don’t care if it’s acupuncture, they don’t really care if the needles are painful, all of that is secondary to ‘Can you help my specific issue?’, and then the rest just fades away.
Spence: They’d actually rather it not be acupuncture probably.
Caroline: They’d rather it not. I joke about this on a lot of webinars that I do. If you’re looking for a dentist, they don’t say, wow, I just got the best new drill, I’ve got all kinds of new drill bits, like, they don’t have pictures of people with a big drill in their mouth. They learned a long time ago that this is practice death. And yet, that’s exactly what we do, virtually every single acupuncturist. I made the same mistake. We love what we do, and we’re so passionate, we have pictures of needles – that’s terrifying for people. We have pictures of people with needles in them, that’s even worse. And then we show pictures of beautiful nature, rocks and stones and trees, like we’re a nursery. I mean, for most people that’s what they see. Oh, are you selling trees, are you selling like landscaping design? We are trying to offer an experience, but that still is all secondary to ‘hey, my back is killing me’. So, you want to have pictures of, hey, is your back killing you, and someone leaning over like, oh, my gosh, my back is killing me. They’re going to be, oh, that’s what I need.
Spence: And then a picture of someone playing soccer or something, so their back’s clearly better. I would reframe that in my language as who Jeff Walker is, that avatar getting to know your client, an ideal client to start with. But, what is keeping them up at night, you said the exact same thing. And what truly are they coming to you, for what benefits and solutions, and what you do to transform their life. It’s almost what you need to focus on even beyond benefit, function should be last. And the tools you’re using, maybe not even at all. How it will transform their life, do you want to run and play sports with your children, whatever it is, if it’s back pain or however, how will it translate into their life being more what they desire. I couldn’t agree more. That’s not marketing, that’s not selling, that is just reframing. That’s a big part of the home learning course.
Carolina: Yes, because we actually teach a five-step system so that each practitioner can customize what we’ve done, how we filled our practice in just five months in Austin, for both Bryan and I, into these steps. How do you customize it for yourself, how do you pick a specific topic, how do you use different marketing meridians, are you going to use Facebook, your website, are you going to go to business networking groups. There’s a lot of different marketing meridians where you can make an offer that should just take 30 seconds, maybe a minute at most, but how to construct it. Again, language is so important because it has to be not from what we want to give but what from people want to receive. It’s just like a Christmas. We’re just past Christmas. The best gift giver doesn’t give what they want to give, they really listen to their best friend, their partner, and hear what that person wants, and then you give them what they want. I feel as a practitioner, that’s not only the most heartfelt way to help somebody, but also the most authentic way that we can be in the world. And then I recommend offering even more, and that gets into more of our next program, where it’s a full mastermind on how to have this entire model. Because since we don’t like to market, we actually created our clinical model. For example, where we started here in Austin, we built our practice and filled it by the fifth month. We didn’t do any more marketing for nine months. Like, no websites, no business networking, nothing, because when you offer such profound level of service and help people get levels of health they didn’t know was possible, then you can actually have people decide to work with you more intensely for a longer period of time, because it’s so good they want more. They’re driving the process, and when that happens, you’ll find that people don’t just come in. Believe it or not, the international average I found is only six acupuncture treatments. All of us have people that work with us longer and get more treatments, or maybe some people one and done. But believe it or not, internationally, the average is only six. We call it a PVA, the Patient Visit Average. Ours is 36, so literally, six times what the international average is. Because as we through this clinical model help people get to higher and higher levels and showed them how that was, why it was, measuring changes with their core temperature, their labs, their heart rate, their symptoms, we keep a really detailed list of everything. I don’t know what you found in Canada, but here in the U.S., believe it or not, 70% of people have 50-65 signs and symptoms. I mean, people are really sick, and they have no idea because three-quarters of those symptoms they’ve talked to their doctor about it, the doctor keeps saying everything’s normal. You’re normal until you get a heart disease. Suddenly, everything changes. Well, they’re not recognizing that 10 and 20 years of buildup that’s actually occurred, they’re only saying, oh, now, you’re diabetic. Well, this didn’t happen overnight, this happened over twenty years. But we have that visibility and knowledge with our Eastern medical system, and when you’re helping people to understand that and know how to do that, they end up working with you far longer, and they get such incredible results. They not only make referrals, they bring someone arm in arm and said, I make this appointment and I’m bringing this person physically with me to make sure they do it, because this is the best thing they’ve ever done. I didn’t even think there was anything like this possible. You build in referrals, and not just like, oh, go and see Caroline and Bryan, but you have to do this, and I’m taking you there. And I want to sit there with you and cheer you on because I know this is going to be life-changing. So, that kind of referral.
Spence: I’d love to add that the disservice not pushing toward – pushing is maybe the wrong word, but moving toward the model that you’re speaking of, is we run the risk which happened so often. People going for those two to three to four maybe six treatments, going home, never going back, saying, I tried acupuncture. Such a disservice versus saying, you know, this might take, at the start, being courageous and honest in saying, this might take some time but this is our plan. And being solid maybe on the side of caution for effectiveness versus being concerned about the amount of money they’re going to have to be spending on getting in. A second point, they’ll be far more willing to continue to come back to you if you’re offering that amazing patient experience that you’re talking about. Of course, they want their desired result and that is always the goal, but within the time between when they start and when you hopefully achieve that, that experience they have in there is going to decide or help determine whether they keep coming back for more. If I dissect my patient testimonials or my teams, which we are fairly religious about, trying to obtain so we can at least see what people’s perception is. It’s so much about the support they received. I’ve never seen the word needle I don’t think in one, but just about the support and the kindness, and of course the result is in their soul. That experience is just so important to get people to come back in order to get results. Again, if you can reframe things, you know, it’s not about marketing like you’re saying, it’s more about, here’s how you get clinical results, which is speaking the acupuncturists’ language as well. I love how you’re framing things. I want to check out your course. I’ll have to work something out here, but I would just love to see what you guys are doing at an even deeper level, but so kind of you to share. I know you’ve got patients coming in, you are on a bit of a schedule, but is there anything else? I know that teaching hat that we talked about at the start that clearly never comes off. You just got back from California, and you are like, well, I could just talk forever about how to help people, but is there anything else that you want to share?
Carolina: One of the easiest ways to get some of this information, Bryan and I wanted to provide a number of ways to help acupuncturists. We wrote our first ebook after we went to our 10-year medical school reunion, Chinese medical school, and found that 70% of our classmates had gone out of business. And they were in progressive California, there’s no shortage of people there. It wasn’t like, I was in a conservative city in Missoula, they had insurance coverage, they were in my same class, they were amazing people, we had a super great class, and even two of my best friends that year, their tenth year, we’re calling it ‘quits after ten years’, and it just broke my heart. They still weren’t able to make their practice work, and they said, you know, I’m going to have to get a regular job. I’m going to have to figure out how to pay my student debt some other way. It’s just not working. They had just been hanging on for years. I’ve talked to a lot of other acupuncturists, I’ve talked to literally hundreds over the last couple of years. I’ve offered these free, and I’d like to offer that today for those listening. I do have limited availability for these, so I can’t promise a call to everyone, but I offer free acupuncture business breakthrough calls. They’re 90-minute breakthroughs, just for you to really discover like what’s your perfect practice vision, how do you want to live, what do you want your practice to be like, how many days a week do you want to work, like really pull together that whole vision and make it palpable and real.
Spence: And you give this away?
Carolina: It’s totally free, yeah.
Spence: You are a saint.
Carolina: Again, I’m going to try not to cry, it’s been so, so rewarding to talk with acupuncturists literally around the globe, throughout Canada, the U.S., Australia, Europe, and hear what people are facing, hear their hopes, their dreams, their challenges. It’s really helped me make my program stronger. Again, this is about just like with patients, what do acupuncturists want, what do they need, how can I best be of service to create what they want. It’s not what I want, it’s not what I want for them, it’s not having a practice like mine, but what do you want for you and your family. So, it’s really helped feed me with the best ability to structure my programs around what’s going to be most beneficial, but yeah, I love it. It’s so awesome to connect with people in Spain and Portugal. Anyway, so a 90-minute free business breakthrough session. Like I said, I can’t promise one to everyone. You can go to www.acupuncturebusinesssuccess.com/breakthrough. There’s a short questionnaire to fill out, and that will help me best help you knowing a little bit about your practice. It’s some specifics. Through doing all of that, it’s really helped me know not only what people want, but what are the challenges overall in our community and in our space, helping people get to the next level. One of the biggest challenges is and why we created a patient attraction system, people just have a hard time attracting patients, so I actually wrote a whole ebook after I saw that 70% of our class have gone out of business. My two best friends from school were closing that year after 10 years, so you can also get that free ebook. It’s totally free. Yes, you’ll be on our list, and we might actually send you more great value or let you know when a program opens. Certainly, there’s that, but it’s also at www.acupuncturebusinesssuccess.com/threecriticalstrategies. Literally goes into three of the critical strategies that we use to grow our practice that acupuncturists right now can do. In fact, in the spring is the best time. I really encourage everyone to take action. I’ve had people that never worked with us, just got the information from the free ebook and got back to me and said, oh my gosh, I’ve had 15 new patients come in. Thank you so much. I did what you told me to do. Yes, I’ve heard back from people, this is working for them too in California, in Europe. These are strategies that I’ve gotten good feedback from, and so there’s also another, and this I’ll teach a little bit here about but they can also get the ebook because we have limited time. But it’s at the same website www.acupuncturebusinesssuccess.com/30secondsto30patients. This isn’t about doing some cheesy salesy thing like we’ve been talking about today. We’re not about that but the way you can get 30 patients over the next month or two is by creating an offer. The number one thing is to, like, we’ve talked about, really listen to people and pick a niche. And I know for a number of acupuncturists, they’re like, but wait a minute, I’ve learned a whole medical system, I want to help everybody. The problem is you want to help everybody, but each individual only wants you to help them. It’s again, like you were saying, it’s reframing to realize that when you have – the phrase we use is ‘the message for everyone is heard by no one’. Unfortunately, no one. Bryan and I made the same mistakes when we started. We were like, we can do this and that, and it’s the whole Eastern medical system, and we super struggle for people. It’s counterintuitive to say, wait a minute, if I narrow my niche – so this is another phrase we use – narrow your niche and broaden your reach, you’ll actually reach way more people. If you specialize in infertility, amazing specialty, if you specialize in headaches and migraines, in low back pain, and actually pain’s not quite specific enough because we tried that. We were like, pain specialists, then everybody says, oh, but do you do foot pain, knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain, emotional pain. Pain is still too broad. It feels really weird and uncomfortable, and your chest might get tight thinking, uh, I don’t want to pick a niche, I want to be nailed to something. But, of course, people come to you with their pain, and then there are other 50 to 60, 75 symptoms. You get to treat everything. You are not limiting yourself.
Spence: You still get to flex your TCM muscle.
Carolina: Yes. In fact, the best way to grow your practice is to fully flex your whole TCM muscle, but that only happens once they come in.
Spence: I will also put, in case people kind of missed, because I know there’s some numbers and letters depending on the links in there, and we’ll get those links in the show notes as well, as we can share those for the ebooks. Is there any way just to – unless you have anything else, I mean, go for it – when you’re ready, if there’s any way that people can help you, if they can contact you directly? Is there ways people can get more information?
Carolina: Absolutely. People can just send us an email to email@example.com. We’ll respond back, usually within 24 hours, sometimes it’s a little bit longer because we’re crazy multitaskers. And probably one of the biggest things I would like to address in terms of teaching is that I have found that as acupuncturist, unfortunately, we’re at times our own worst enemy because we have such issues around money. And, certainly it’s not about the money, but there is a level at which we require, everybody as a human being to eat good quality food. I don’t know about there in Canada, but here in the States, it’s expensive to eat good quality food. If you’re going to buy organic, and you’re going to buy local, and you’re going to get you know free-range. We definitely spend 1200$ a month on good quality food for two people. It’s not an inexpensive thing. If you want that for yourself, there’s that kind of expense. I find one of the biggest barriers actually is a lack of knowledge about one particular thing. Very frequently, you hear people talk about having a six-figure practice. What they don’t realize is you actually need a multiple six-figure practice. In fact, what I’ve calculated, based on standard student debt, that people in the U.S. have, they actually need a practice, and this will be shocking, people will freak out, of a quarter of a million dollars. Now, acupuncturists here, they are making a quarter of a million dollars, so there’s a big disconnect. And you’ve had your practice that’s been successful for a lot of years, and so they think, hey, I’m just going to charge people a lot of money, they can afford it, etc. However, what people don’t realize, I could mention earlier in the program, I’ve had many people come to me desperately looking for help at any cost and have spent 60,000$. I don’t know why that particular number, but many people, and that’s why I started noting what they were telling me, I have spent this amount of money, and I’ve not gotten a solution for this amount. We can offer an incredible solution for a fraction of that, and yet, acupuncturists will feel that that fraction is too much. But people absolutely want help. And if you aren’t clear on what your value is, and what value you were offering that people do value, then there’s a disconnect. Because if you gave someone a Mercedes for 150$, the first question is, what’s wrong with it. There’s no way you are getting a quality item for that cost. So, believe it or not, there are so many people, because in our culture, our Western culture at least, we do realize that if I’m getting something of value, there is a certain value associated with it. It should match. If we are charging, because I found acupuncturists around, again here in the States, the average price 20 years ago. Are you aware of this, of what was being charged for acupuncture?
Carolina: It was 50-65$ for a treatment twenty years ago. Do you know what it is today?
Spence: It’s probably the same.
Carolina: It’s the same. That means we are charging less because of the rate of inflation than what our professors charged 20 years ago. And yet we have issues with that. The other critical factor to realize, and this just blew my mind when I found out about it is, on average, because of the rate of inflation, we can’t help that, it just happens, every 20 years, the rate of inflation causes all prices to double. So, because acupuncturists were charging 50-65$ 20 years ago, everything doubles. We should now just charge the same average as 20 years ago, charge 100-130.
Spence: I know from interacting to with so many other healthcare professions that might be labeled complementary or alternative is that acupuncturists are just known as well for being who we are largely. I don’t see chiropractors or naturopathic doctors or so many others having the same kinds of issues with charging for their wonderful, wonderful services that they provide as well. I’m not sure why we do, but we do. You are so much about reframing, and I love that. It doesn’t have to be whatever, salesy, it’s about a need for gainful employment. The situation has become a little bit dire. On top of that, for an individual’s success, it’s really about getting your gift up to the world. So, just like you learn Chinese medicine and how to give that gift to the world, learn how to give you to the world in a way that you feel comfortable with, because there’s plenty of ways to do it without feeling bad or losing sleep over, how you’re pulling wool over someone’s eyes. That’s ridiculous, it’s not necessary. People need you and want what you have, and you’ll find your tribe if you’re authentic. You’re not going to pull people in that you shouldn’t be. You’ll find the people that you can help if you are you, and you honor the fact that you’ve put a lot of time and love into learning a skill that could help.
Carolina: Yeah, give before you get. You’ll always win if you’re giving first.
Spence: There you go, awesome. This has been so fantastic. I actually can hear my family coming in the house. It might get a little loud. It’s Friday, they don’t have volume controls. I’m so happy, I hope you settle back into Austin. I would like to continue this chat with you anyway about what you’ve been doing and what’s going on in the States so I can maybe start helping prep my country. Anyway, thank you so much! Everybody, go check acupuncturebusinesssuccess.com. Be sure to check out those free ebooks and get some new patients into your clinic this week.
Carolina: Thank you so much. I’m really honored with your time and everything that you are doing.
Spence: Let’s get that #gainful out there and make this all happen.
Carolina: Yeah, gainful employment.
Spence: Say hi to Bryan as well, and I’ll talk to you again soon.
Carolina: Thank you so much.