Alex Tan L.AC. is a licensed Acupuncturist. After completing his degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Alex lived and practiced Chinese Medicine for 10-years in Beijing, China.
MINDFUL COFFEE Q&A
I like my coffee...
With chocolate in it.
What do you have for breakfast on the good days?
I'm very naughty, I don't eat breakfast. The only time I eat breakfast is when I'm on business trips as the hotel has breakfast. I like sausages, hash browns, soy milk, and sometimes plain Chinese porridge. Sometimes, I do have breakfast at home and I like multigrain cereal with yoghurt.
You worked 7 years for HSBC in management roles. When did you make the decision to become Play Consultant and pursue this direction full time?
I took some time off work as I got ill. The company was very supportive and helped me a lot. However, in the end I decided I needed some more time for myself and also I went through clinical depression at about the same time.
So I decided to do some "soul searching", learn to take care of myself, and also to get to know myself, especially the bits of me I did not like. After I got better, I did an Executive Masters in Organizational Psychology, and through the research in my thesis, I started to understand more about the psychology of play and objects, and made sense of my experience of being playful again to get out of depression. So I decided to use this experience to help others and to pursue this direction full time - though I guess "full time" was for a while, very slow, as I had 2 kids during the time of my Exec Masters and starting my business.
What was the best piece of advise you were given when you started your consultancy?
I was reminded of this quote by George Bernard Shaw:
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
I suppose we need to add "woman" too to the quote haha. But this was one that I go back to when the going gets hard, then harder, and then staying persistent (and stubborn) to stay my course and my belief that what I am doing will help the world, or at least a few people
What inspired you to name your consultancy "Bearapy" and how do you market it to your clients?
Actually my husband helped me coin the term "Bearapy", it's like "bear therapy", and came about because I collected stuffed toy bears and played with them during my depression -- I attributed and projected different aspects of my personalities onto the bears, gave them names, and was able to distance myself from myself, so that I could confront all my inner selves, including the fears, the dark side, the shadows, the bits that I do not like. It was playful and non-threatening, a safe space I created for myself. It also goes into the psychology of objects and our emotional attachment to them, helping us think, create, relax, de-stress.
Most clients are interested in the name itself, because most have not heard of it. So in some ways, I do not need to market it too much, because people are curious. However, I do need to be able to explain it in 30 seconds! "A fun way to prevent burnout and destress is usually the answer."
You have been seen in Forbes, Asia Spa, CCTV, Vogue to name a few. What tips can you give to someone who is starting out and wish to be featured in well established media platforms?
Start doing what you are doing with modesty and hard work. I wrote my blog for a year or so before I got a successful submission to some of the larger publications. They want to see a good track record, that you are not just someone who is impulsive and want to be "famous" through their platform, but someone who continues to do what one does.
As I gained more traction with my work, I started to get some invitations for interviews or quotes - and I think it is important to know what the journalist or interviewer needs and wants from you.
Don't go into a long speech about oneself, but think about what is helpful for them in their article or interviews, and give them the direct, short answer, so they do not have to do much editing.
Who is your target audience? How do you find your clients?
Targeting adults who have forgotten to play, particularly executives in the workplace. At the moment I find my clients by word of mouth, and already I cannot handle all the projects, so I am looking to build a team and also expand into online offerings. Also, I was surprised, a large corporate client found me on LinkedIn by searching for mental health!
What is your secret to keeping peace of mind and clarity when running your consultancy and coaching clients?
Believing in my purpose and mission: To make the world mentally health.
Making life bearable and playful is what I have lived and breathed through, my own life depended on it when I was suicidal and depressed. So I believe in the good of it and that there is value in it. When I start to doubt myself, I go back to my mission, i.e. the "why" am I doing what I'm doing, and I find peace of mind again.
But don't get me wrong, there are times of really bad self-doubt and I sink into the low cycles, which I allow myself to fully experience because I think those are also messages to me
If you had 2 extra hours every week, what would you do with it to grow/optimize your business?
Sleep! And sleep more! I tend to push myself too much and that's counter productive to growing the business, because a lot of my work involves thinking and creating.
If you were to go back in the past, what advice would you give to Enoch who is studying law?
I would tell that Enoch to chill out, go have a drink, and dance with friends, instead of being too worried about the future. I enjoyed my law studies and still think one day I may go back to international criminal law, but for now, I have had no use for my law degrees haha!
I’m thankful for...
My husband's belief in me, and staying with me whenever I go through struggles and down moments.
Hi, my name is Enoch and I help people who suffer from burnout and depression with finding their inner playfulness, so they can feel liberated from themselves and expectations of the society.
Enoch's e-book on Depression – Pull Yourself Together.
Hi, my name is Michelle and I help people who suffer from fear of marketing their clinics with easy, step-by-step videos and worksheets, so they can feel confident and relaxed while generating piles of new patients.
I’m based in Western(ish) New York.
You are most likely going to find me on Instagram at @michellegrasek.
MINDFUL COFFEE Q&A
I like my coffee...
Very strong with cream, no sugar.
What do you have for breakfast on the good days?
I usually have a green smoothie with coconut oil, almond butter, protein powder, almond milk, spinach and raspberries.
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist from the first place?
I was a pre-medical student in undergraduate but I was worried about whether I would actually enjoy the day-to-day life of being an MD. I finally decided that a lifetime of prescribing medication was not for me. In high school I'd been exposed to acupuncture through the acupuncture school about 15 minutes from my parents' home, so it was always on my radar.
About halfway through my undergrad education, my grandmother had a mild stroke and was having a hard time using her left hand afterwards. One of my family members brought her for acupuncture regularly and she regained the use of her hand again. That was pretty much the decision-maker for me; here was a hands-on form of medicine that really worked and wouldn't require me to write prescriptions all day long. I changed my undergraduate major to focus more on classes that made sense before acupuncture school and never looked back.
How did you “fall in love” with marketing?
I had the most amazing marketing mentor, Deb, that I met almost immediately after starting my acupuncture practice. Our meeting was serendipitous: She purchased a set of acupuncture treatments through a Groupon discount that I offered (which I don't recommend, by the way) and she got hooked on acupuncture. After her discounted treatment series ended, she told me she wanted to do a trade: Her marketing expertise for cosmetic acupuncture. I was totally clueless about marketing at the time and needed help, so I tossed caution to the wind and said, "Sure!"
That started a 3-year trade agreement and one of the best friendships of my life. Deb has an effervescent personality and she taught me everything I know about marketing. She made it so fun to learn and taught me to follow my creative instincts. She also showed me how to teach marketing to others in a way that's fresh and fun instead of dry and boring.
What was the biggest trigger that made you transition from full time acupuncturist to full time marketing educator?
It was such a hard decision. It ultimately came down to the fact that I was wearing so many hats. I was working full time in administration at an acupuncture/chiropractic school, teaching marketing online, treating patients as an associate acupuncturist, and teaching the marketing class on-ground at the school as well. And I was just tired. I'd really run myself ragged trying to manage all of it and I felt like none of my jobs were really getting the effort, passion and excellence that I had to offer. Something had to give.
I realized that I could impact so many more lives if I focused on the acupuncturists that I taught marketing to online. I could help them understand how powerful marketing is and how to use it properly to reach more patients, and that way I would be reaching so many more people in my career.
So after seven years in practice, I decided to retire from treating patients to focus my energy into my online courses.
What is the most common struggle for acupuncture practitioners and what advice would you give?
I think the biggest struggle for acupuncturists are the limiting beliefs that many of us hold about marketing. The big ones are:
1) Marketing is sleazy and both the potential patient and I will feel yucky if I make an effort with marketing.
2) Marketing is an expensive waste of time/doesn't really work.
3) Marketing is only for people who are greedy and want money more than they care about their patients.
And of course, none of these ideas are true. The first thing I cover in my online marketing class are new ways to look at marketing to help people realize that marketing is simply a tool and that it can be used in a way that helps people connect with and educate more potential patients about our amazing medicine. That's all.
Basically, every acupuncturist has an amazing healing gift to share with their community, and marketing simply helps them make people aware of how much they can help. That's all. It's so simple. But many acupuncturists get so tangled up in these negative ideas surrounding marketing that they give up before they even get started, and that's a terrible shame.
If I am already very busy with patients most of the time, do I still need to do any marketing?
Yes, absolutely. Consistency in marketing over time is essential. As a practitioner's clinic grows and they have more and more patients talking about them and referring to them, they shouldn't have to do as much marketing as they did before. But they shouldn't ever give up marketing entirely. Even the established acupuncturists that I work with tell me that when they market inconsistently (for example, they make an effort for a month, then do nothing the next month, over and over), their patient numbers fluctuate up and down. This is so frustrating for them and it's totally preventable by simply sticking to consistent marketing over time.
Ok, then where should I start if I only have 30 minutes per day?
If a practitioner only has 30 minutes each day to engage in marketing, I think they'll get the greatest ROI for their time if they go out into their community and introduce themselves at a new business every day.
They can just pop into the neighboring businesses near their office and say hello, explain what they do, and swap business cards. It's a win-win, and creating those relationships face-to-face is so powerful. In my experience that face-to-face interaction and community involvement kick-starts a practitioner's success faster than almost any other method. And it's free!
Any tool you would recommend to a practitioner who wish to grow their business but has very little budget?
And of course I recommend my online marketing course to anyone who has viewed marketing with distaste in the past. The purpose of the course is two-fold: one, to help people see that marketing is a tool and should never feel "yucky" and two, to break marketing down into manageable, easy steps. Making marketing practical and easy is important so practitioners can be consistent in their marketing efforts instead of getting overwhelmed or burnt out. I also try to have as much fun in the course as possible - marketing doesn't have to be dry and boring to learn about!
Why did you changed your business name from Modern Acupuncture to your own name Michelle Grasek?
When I named my website I never thought I’d generate income through it. It was a hobby. I called it Modern Acupuncture Marketing, but eventually when I went to change it from a hobby to a business, I learned that I couldn’t use the word acupuncture in my business name for legal reasons based on the regulations where I live, in NY State. But I simply couldn’t come up with a name that felt as catchy as Modern Acupuncture Marketing! So I decided to follow the footsteps of many other online business owners and name the website and business after myself.
How do you feel about this change now that you can look back? What did it change for you and your business?
It was a scary leap to put myself front and center of my branding but at the same time it made a lot of sense. I do all the writing and interviewing for the website and online courses, after all. And in the end I’m glad I made the choice. Many acupuncturists also use themselves as their brand - i.e., they are their own personal brand. So I appreciate being able to relate to the struggle that many people have about being “visible” and “the face” of their business. I’ve learned a ton about that as an introvert and I love sharing my experience to make it easier for others.
Let's visit the past…what advice would you give to Michelle who is an acupuncture student?
I would encourage myself to start learning as much as possible about marketing and running a business as student. I distinctly remember feeling like I had more important things to do than read marketing books. I was trying to become the best possible acupuncturist I could be, and I felt that my duty at that time was to focus on needling skills and diagnosis. And that's true - it was. But I also could certainly have made time to study and read about marketing, and I brushed it off. So to my younger self, and all the current acupuncture students out there, I'd say, it's more than worth your time to start thinking like a business owner RIGHT NOW. You'll be glad you did later on!
How do you imagine the future of Chinese medicine and acupuncture? What role would you like to play in this?
This is a great question! Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are continually gaining acceptance in the US and it's incredibly exciting to see. I hope to continue being a part of this amazing community of practitioners, supporting them in building their businesses. Helping them get more patients and increase their revenue will contribute to our being taken more and more seriously as healthcare providers. This in turn will help us reach more patients and change their lives for the better. I'm so happy to be a part of that!
What is your secret to peace of mind and clarity when it comes to work?
Exercise is my silver bullet for peace of mind and stress reduction. I love jogging, yoga, pilates, hiking, and weight lifting. I try to exercise every day - even if it's just a walk - to keep my emotions balanced and even. I also like journaling to help me sort out my thoughts. As for clarity in my work specifically, I make lists. Loads and loads of lists, and I like to break them down into specific tasks that need to be completed, chronologically, to finish a job.
For every person, that everything we're striving and struggling towards, we already have. (Goodness, worthiness, acceptance, etc.) In other words, we are all enough, right now. We just need to start believing in our ourselves.
What's your favorite quote right now?
Right now I have two:
"Never let your fear decide your fate."
"In a world where you can be anything, be kind."
If our readers wanted to get more patients on their schedule this week, what would you recommend that they do right now to make that happen?
My favorite suggestion is one that most practitioners know about but brush off - they just don't take the time to do it even though it's enormously effective.
And that is - reactivate old patients!
Call 5-10 patients that you haven't seen in awhile and just check in on them. Ask them how they're doing and touch base. You don't even have to call necessarily - since I know so many people dislike phone calls. If the patients used to reach out to you via text or email, then connect with them through whatever method they're most likely to answer.
Each month, Mindful Coffee features an inspiring wellnesspreneur from somewhere around the globe, a brief Q&A on how they run and grow their business, while keeping their peace of mind and motivation.
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