Erwin Wils: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice
Don’t call yourself a starter or a new coach. — On day one, you’re a starter, on day two, you’re in business. You might be new on the market, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have experience. All of your life experiences, skills, trainings, learnings, insights, etcetera have brought you to this point, so even though you’re new to this particular market, you’re still bringing everything with you.
As a part of our interview series with prominent medical professionals called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Erwin Wils.
While still employed fulltime, Wils became a hypnotherapist in 2015 to help clients overcome mental stuckness. Two years later he was fully self-employed as a mindset coach, helping clients transform their lives to reach their full potential. Today, Wils empowers tech experts to boost their businesses and themselves, transforming them into the person that achieves their ambitions, goals, and beyond. As a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering by education and certified professional hypnotherapist, master Soulkey therapist, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and IEMT (Integral Eye Movement Therapy) practitioner by training, Wils brings 25+ years of experience to show the tech-geeks, nerds, and other left-brained technical experts how they can use their expertise to make a positive impact in the world and make a good living doing it.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
After graduating from university in 1996, I got a job in the corporate world. My view has always been looking for new ways to add value. The common thread throughout my career was optimizing processes. That is what I love to do and every step I took in my career was more toward doing that fulltime.
In 2014, I thought to myself “You can optimize a process and have all the proof to validate that improvement, but when the people that are using the process don’t change, the process itself won’t change. So how do I get those people to change as well?” I discovered neurolinguistic programming (NLP), but I didn’t know what to expect from the training. I did some research on the Internet, came across hypnotherapy, and decided this was the training for me. After the first training weekend in March 2015, I was sold. I felt I had found my purpose; my way of making a positive impact. Everything I liked came together and I knew that I wanted to do this for a living someday. Back then, my view of “someday” was 5 to 10 years away. Long story short, that same year I started charging for my sessions. By January 2016, I started working parttime to have more time to build my new hypnotherapy practice. By February 2017, I was fully self-employed. As a hypnotherapist, I helped my clients overcome all kinds of mindset challenges. I noticed they all had much more potential than they were using. So, after 2 years, I changed my focus towards coaching and started to find my niche.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
I would like to make a distinction between coaching, mentoring, and training. A trainer teaches a skill to his students; a mentor is experienced in the same field of the student, somebody that I call “been there, done it, got the t shirt;” and a coach is somebody that can make his students excel in their field of expertise and uses the skills of the student to make it happen. It sometimes is a fine line between the three, but the main difference I see between a mentor and a coach is that a mentor is focused on their experience and wants to share that with the student, while coaches use their experience and skills to have the student excel, whether that is in the field of expertise of the coach, or the student. For instance, when you look at sports, Usain Bolt could be a great mentor for future sprinters, while his coach Glenn Mills never won a major prize. Yet he had Usain excel in sprinting.
When considering mentors, I have to mention Igor Ledochowski. He is a very skilled hypnotherapist and trainer and I admire his expertise in this field. I have been trained and mentored by him. He made me the skilled hypnotherapist I am today. The most valuable lesson I learned from him is trusting my subconscious and skills. When I started out as a hypnotherapist, I used a lot of scripts. And those do magic. However, Igor taught me the principles behind the scripts, so that we never would have to use them again. Once you get to that level, you don’t have to prepare for a session, because you know you can trust your skills to be there when you need them. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that a session will never go as planned, because you cannot predict the behavior of your client. Just be in the moment and adapt to the situation, so that you are able to help the client to the best of your capabilities.
What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?
For me it was finding my true purpose. I wasn’t meant to become an entrepreneur. I was raised with the intention to “Do your best at school, get a diploma, and get a job.” And I did. I finished university, became a Master of Science in electrical engineering and got a job. But I have always been looking at which way I could add more value. I wasn’t the kind of person that would promote myself; I wanted my work to speak for itself. I thought optimizing processes was my added value; until I had my first hypnotherapy training weekend, and I had to do my first official session on my trainer. That wasn’t exactly what I had in mind — to do my very first official session on my trainer — but I knew the script and the session went perfectly. The other students were impressed and the trainer gave me positive feedback. During that time, I got cold shivers all over my body, and I just knew that this was the way I could make the positive impact I had been looking for. For me, the only way to deliver that added value, was to start my own practice. And that’s how it started. In fact, when you look closely at it, I’m still optimizing processes, but very complex ones: those of the internal human being.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Every transformation I accomplished with a client is interesting, in my opinion; but I would like to share this personal story: In October 2017, I met a business coach, and that day he taught me to think big. Not in person, but I got inspired by his presentation, and I decided to jump into his coaching program. It was the most expensive free event I ever went to because I went all in. I decided to take my business international. One month later I was in Anaheim, Calif., USA — all the way from the Netherlands. There, I got to share the stage with John Travolta, Steve Wozniak, Mel Gibson, Christie Brinkley, Mark Wahlberg, and many other A-List American celebrities. We spoke in front of 2,500 entrepreneurs from 71 different countries. I met these celebrities backstage and realized that they are as much as human as I am. It’s the media that creates this image of them; but when you meet them, you recognize they are just hard working, committed persons focused on making something out of their lives and leaving a legacy. That’s when I realized: “When they can do it, why couldn’t I do it?” From that moment on, I started thinking in terms of “opportunities,” not limitations. And whenever a limitation came up, I just added “yet” to it. For instance, “I can’t do that” became “I can’t do that YET”. It is almost too simple to believe it, but trust me, it makes a huge difference with regards to your mindset.
Because it is a “helping profession”, some healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization.” How do you address the business aspect of running a medical practice? Can you share a story or example?
One of my trainers gave the perfect explanation for that. He asked if we would charge friends or family for a hypnotherapy session. One person answered: “Of course not!” Then the trainer asked: “Do you know this great feeling when you have helped someone transform, when they leave your practice feeling great? Remember that feeling?” and my fellow student confirmed. And then came the bomb: “Why are you denying them the same feeling?” It left us speechless. When they are given the possibility to pay you, you give them the possibility to give something back and that will result in a similar feeling of helping you in return. When you deny their payment, you leave them with an “I owe you,” like there is unfinished business. Money is nothing else than a medium of exchange. You could say we are in the “exchange” business. We help the client by overcoming their issue and the client helps us by giving us money. In some cases, you can even make a business case and explain it. What will be the impact when they keep the issue and how will they benefit when it’s gone?
An easy example is quitting smoking. An average smoker smoked one package a day, which currently translates into 2.500+ dollar a year. So, helping somebody become a non-smoker can be charged for $1,000 easily. Besides all the health benefits, they start saving money within 6 months! And moreover, they are even more committed to stay a non-smoker, because of their investment. With hypnotherapy, it can be done in one session.
Managing being a provider and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?
One of my skills is to become aware of the role I am fulfilling at any moment. Each person has his or her unique identity, and as such, also fulfills several roles. For example, I am a son, partner, father, friend, coach, trainer, therapist, entrepreneur, and the list goes on. For each role, I use different skills, beliefs, and values to execute that role. As a son, I behave totally different than I do as a partner, or therapist. Also, each role has different expectations from the other party. When you are clear on the role you are fulfilling at any moment, it will help you to leave all issues related with that role behind you the moment you step into another role. I remember one time when I was a manager, I also participated in an indoor soccer team. I was the goalkeeper and one of my project managers was on the team as well. When the opponent scored, and I was to blame, he would curse and sometimes call me names, and I was fine with that, because it was in the heat of the game, I was their goalie, and yes, I made a stupid mistake! The next day at work, when I was his manager again, everything was fine. This mindset helps me to leave all the clients’ issues “at work” the moment I step into my private life. What also helps, is making clear which hat I am wearing towards my spouse and children. For instance, since I work globally, I have to take into account different time zones. So, I dedicate some evening slots for intake calls or coaching sessions. When that happens, I make clear to them that I will be wearing my coaching hat and cannot be disturbed, and they respect that.
From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
Well, to be honest, that was quite easy. I started my first hypnotherapy training in March 2015. After the first weekend, our trainer advised us to start working with volunteers, because you will only learn the practice once you start using it. It’s like learning how to drive a car; you only truly learn how to drive after you got your license. So, I started working with volunteers asap to get the hours. I would do the certification in august that year, so I decided that all my sessions until August were free of charge. I considered this part of my education. But once I got certified, I started charging for my sessions. And so it happened. I registered my company with the Chamber of Commerce, and starting September 1, I was a business owner, charging fees for my services. That was all to it.
But becoming successful, and truly having that entrepreneurial mindset, now that was the struggle. One of my greatest struggles was choosing my niche. The issue when you finish a coaching program, therapy program, NLP program, etcetera is, you have been given and trained skills and tools to help everybody. And 98 to 99% of those programs don’t teach you how to run a business. It is like “here you have the tools, now go out and be a force for good.” But when you want to help everybody, you’re actually helping nobody. Because, why should they come to you? It felt counterintuitive to choose a niche, because when you’re starting out, you need clients, and you don’t want to exclude anybody. And I was no different. Luckily, since I already worked with a lot of volunteers, I got a pretty good idea what kind of people I liked working with, who energized me, and which types of people drained energy from me. That was the start of finding my niche. Then it was a lot of trial and error. It wasn’t until I got my first coach that I started to understand the importance of having a niche. And still it took me 5 years to uncover my current niche, empowering tech experts to boost their business and themselves, transforming them into the person that achieves their ambitions, goals, and beyond. And of course, nowadays I help my clients do the same, to save 5 years of their frustration and time.
Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the 5 things you need to know to create a thriving practice, and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
Okay, here they come:
1. Not surprisingly, is shrink your niche!
Choose a niche that focuses on the people you truly want to help and you can become an expert in. This helps you refine your marketing messaging and helps them understand that you’re speaking directly to them, and not just anybody.
Let’s take 3 physiotherapists that are specialized in lower back problems:
Physiotherapist A — “When you suffer from lower back pain, come see me. I’m the expert.”
Physiotherapist B — “When you are a bricklayer and suffer from lower back pain, come to me. This is my specialty.”
Physiotherapist C — “When you are a bricklayer, over 55 years old, and suffer from lower back pain, come to me. I help you live pain-free again.”
Now who in your opinion is the real expert? Being a bricklayer is a tough job. You work a lot on your knees, bending over forward, so getting lower back issues seems almost part of the job. When you’re over 55 years old, you probably have been a bricklayer all of your career, so implicitly, chances are, your back is worn out. When you can help those people live pain free, you must be the true expert! Suppose I’m 30 years old, bricklayer, and I start to feel my lower back. I would call number C to see if he (or she) would help me, because I don’t want to wait another 25 years before I fall into that group. My back might be worn out by that time! And of course, therapist C will help me. Or, if I’m an office worker bothered by my lower back and I am looking for a therapist, I would also approach therapist C. Because when he can help bricklayers, mine should be a piece of cake. And of course, I will be helped. You see, there is a difference between your marketing message and the people you help. For me, I still get clients for hypnotherapy sessions and of course I help them, but I don’t mention it anywhere.
Let’s use a metaphor to emphasize the point of “shrinking your niche:” When you go out to fish, do you want to fish in a small pond and catch every fish in it, or do you want to fish in the ocean, hoping one fish will bite? If you’re just hoping any fish will bite, how do you know which kind of bait to use?
2. Sell the end result, not the process!
This one was also a game changer for me. One of my coaches told me “Sell what they want, give what they need.” It made me realize I was selling what people needed, not what they wanted. I wanted to transform people, to make them the best versions of themselves. So, I sold a coaching program in which I would change their limiting beliefs into supporting beliefs, uncover their hidden talents, boost their self-confidence, and in short, make them the version 2.0 of themselves. However, the prospect can’t imagine how version 2.0 would be, and what it’s worth to them. If I would ask $10,000 for a program of 6 months, they couldn’t decide whether it was worth the investment. But let’s say they were making $50k a year, and if I would coach them for 6 months, and after that period, they would be able to generate an income of $75k a year. Then a $10k investment makes perfect sense! In fact, that would be a great deal. What I would have to do to make that happen, is that I still might need to change their limiting beliefs into supporting beliefs, uncover their hidden talents, boost their self-confidence; in short, make them the version 2.0 of themselves. So, the coaching could still be exactly the same, but now it is in service of the results they desire. Another interesting twist is that the amount of time to achieve the end result, has become irrelevant, in fact, the less time needed, the better. Let’s say I would coach you for 2-hours and you would be able to generate an additional $25k because of it. Then a $10k investment still makes perfect sense!
Still, I see lots of coaches and therapists out there selling the tools and processes instead of the end results. Let’s take massage therapists as an example. They are selling lomi lomi massages, hot stone massages, ayurvedic massages, sport massages, deep tissue massages, etcetera. I wouldn’t know why I would need a certain massage. But if I would know what the benefit would be, or the end result, or what issue I should have in order to benefit the most from a certain type of massage, I wouldn’t have any issue to choose whatsoever. For me, hypnotherapy is an expert skill I use to help my clients. But I don’t advertise it proactively. I might say something like this: “It takes anywhere between 30–90 days to create a new habit. Or, I can do it for you in a one hour session. Which do you prefer?”
Let’s use another metaphor to explain my point: let’s imagine two advertisements for the same Apple iPod. The first ad states “4 GB of internal memory,” the second one states “200 hours of music in your back pocket.” What do you think the customers are looking for?
3. It’s not about you!
This one goes a bit deeper to pricing your services and is closely related to number 2. A lot of starting therapists are afraid to charge a lot of money for their services, because they wonder “Who is going to pay me $150 for an hour work? That feels outrageous!” But the client is not paying for your time, they are paying for the end result you deliver. Businesses exist to solve problems. The client has a problem and we, as coaches, have the tools and skills to solve that problem. The bigger the problem we solve, the more they are willing to pay for it. I used to explain it to my clients as follows:
“When you’re going to have a haircut, you’re paying anywhere between $20-$80, and it grows back within 6 weeks. When you go out for dinner, you easily pay $50-$100 for the two of you. When you buy jeans from a famous brand, pricing starts at $100 dollars and could be as high as $1,000. And here you are, you have the skills and tools to help somebody get rid of an issue he or she has had for the last 5, 10, 15, or more years, and your solutions get rid of that problem forever. What is that worth to them?”.
4. Give temporary discounts!
I know this one is up for a lot of discussions and all other experts have different opinions about it, so please let me explain what I mean.
When you are introducing a new service or product, have two prices in mind: the price you desire to ask for your service or product, and the price you feel comfortable with asking. The difference is the discount you give. This has four benefits:
- It will be easier to raise your prices, because you start giving less discount the more comfortable you are selling your program.
- When you keep saying that the normal price is $XX, you get used to it, you grow into it. And the moment you forget to give a discount and charge the desired price, you’re totally comfortable with it!
- The perceived value of your service is higher, so you will be valued higher as well.
- You can ask something in return when you give a discount, like a video testimonial when they’re satisfied, or an introduction to three connections your client believes would benefit from your services as well.
Just make sure you frame it well. In case you’re already in the market for some time, remember this as well: you can raise your price 25% and lose 20% of your current clients to keep the same income……
Sidenote: isn’t it funny that a lot of experts that tell you not to give discounts, sell their programs for a “one time only offer you won’t get anywhere else?”
5. Don’t call yourself a starter or a new coach.
On day one, you’re a starter, on day two, you’re in business. You might be new on the market, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have experience. All of your life experiences, skills, trainings, learnings, insights, etcetera have brought you to this point, so even though you’re new to this particular market, you’re still bringing everything with you.
I remember a client that “started” his current business in 2015, specialized in burnouts. It also stated that on his LinkedIn profile. But he started out as a physiotherapist back in 1983! When I heard his story, I summarized it as follows:
- When he started out as a physiotherapist in 1983, he had a lot of clients that suffered from fatigue, loss of energy, and other issues. Nowadays we would call it burnout, but back then “they were just tired.”
- To help his clients regain their energy, he trained himself in acupuncture and added that to his portfolio in 1995, changing the name of his practice as well.
- In the next years, he followed several coaching programs, adding coaching to his portfolio so that he could coach his clients to prevent falling back into old behavior, potentially resulting in another burnout, adding again a new company name in 2008.
- And to make it even more clear to his potential clients, he created his current company name in 2015, reflecting his expertise in treating burnouts.
So, he didn’t just start his company in 2015, the new company name in 2015 was the logical result of 32 years of experience treating people who are burned out. Don’t you think that has been a game changer in his mindset as well?
And now that we’re on it, I would like to add a little bonus tip: when people decide to do business with you, you call it an investment (“your investment will be”). When they decide not to do business with you, you start talking about costs (“what will it cost you when you do it on your own? How much time will it cost you to achieve the same results?”) It’s a mindset thing 😉.
As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing patients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?
It depends per person. When you’re not that ambitious, and are fine with the income you’re generating for yourself, you can keep working in your business and reserve a few hours a week or month to work on your business. But there is a ceiling to the number of hours you can work in your business, helping clients, because there is a limited amount of hours in the week. The moment you’ve hit the maximum hours you can work and stay healthy, you’ve reached your ceiling. The only way to make more money, is to increase your prices.
But when you’re ambitious like I am, and want to grow your business, you should dedicate time to work on your business. One of my coaches said “when you start your business, you should have an exit strategy.” In other words, how can the company keep running without your day-to-day involvement? Not that you want to start a company to sell it after a while, but when you have reached the point you made yourself redundant, you can focus on growing the company, take a break when you want to without worrying, choose which clients you want to work with, build relationships with key clients, etcetera. A great tool to help you with that is the WAP, the Weekly Action Planner. It is a template in which you divide the hours of the day and dedicate them to types of activities. For instance, you block out 8 am to 10 am to work on your business, 10 am to Noon to work in your business, Noon to 1pm for lunch, 1 pm to 4 pm work in your business, and 4 pm to 5 pm you reserve for voicemail/email/social media, etcetera. This will help you focus and achieve results faster. I currently spend at least 2 hours a day working on my business.
I understand that the healthcare industry has unique stresses and hazards that other industries don’t have. What specific practices would you recommend to other healthcare leaders to improve their physical or mental wellness? Can you share a story or example?
There are so many things you can do to protect yourself from stresses and hazards in this industry. Here are two that I believe are essential for this industry:
The first one, I shared already when you asked me about how to balance my private and business life. Be aware of the role you fulfill at any time. Make sure you can separate business and private time. When you are with your loved ones, you are not the therapist, coach or entrepreneur. When you go to bed, you are not the therapist, coach or entrepreneur, so don’t think of the therapist / coach / entrepreneur issues at those times.
The second one is to look for the positive in your clients and yourself. What I mean is, don’t go along with their problem and don’t take on their pain, but look for the positive. See them as the transformed person they can become. Feel grateful that you have the skills to help them overcome those issues. Some people have experienced things you wouldn’t even wish upon your worst enemy, but realize that it happened, it is in the past, they survived, and now you have the opportunity to change all that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
When I was in Anaheim, Calif. at that huge celebrity networking event where I got to speak in front of 2500 people from 71 countries, a business coach shared the following quote with me from Napoleon Hill: “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” That has stuck with me ever since. I truly believe in this quote. It keeps me motivated in everything I do, because I know what my mind has conceived for me.
It also made me find evidence of it in the past. I still remember one of my first volunteers that came to me. His challenge was that when he was challenged verbally, he would become aggressive, or would shut down. He worked with the military police, so that wasn’t a great situation. He wanted to be in control of his emotions, when challenged, so that he could fulfill his role perfectly. We had a great pretalk and all the signs were good in my opinion. Just before I wanted to start the hypnotherapy session, he said to me: “Frankly, I don’t know if I’m easy to be hypnotized, because I have been on stage with a great Dutch hypnotist to stop smoking, and it didn’t work.” I answered: “Okay, but we just talked about it and you truly want this change, so it is going to happen.” There wasn’t any doubt in my mind, even though I just had one weekend of training behind me! We did the session, it went great, and a week later I contacted him to check how everything was going and to see if he needed or wanted a second session. His reply was amazing: “Thanks for everything, my life has changed enormously in a positive way thanks to you, and I am eternally grateful to you for this! Thanks again for everything, 2nd session is not necessary, thanks! Thanks man! You have changed my life, if I can ever do something for you please let me know!”
So, the quote doesn’t only apply to the great things in life, you can also apply it to smaller things. I know I apply it with every new client I decide to work with. When I can see their greatness, I’ll take the steps necessary so that they can achieve it.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Of course they can connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/erwin-wils/) where I do my best to inspire my network, or go to my website https://millionairelifestrategy.com to find out what I can do for them and find other online appearances where I share my knowledge. And when they want to take some action, they can purchase my “LinkedIn as a sales page” training with a great discount, just to thank them for the time they took to read this interview. Use the coupon code “thriveglobal” to get the discount!
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success and good health!