Alex Tan


I like my coffee…

Black - I like milk but it does not like me. Coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. 

What do you have for breakfast on the good days? 

Oatmeal or rice or millet porridge with an egg on toast. I feel regular breakfast each day is a key to preventative health! Breakfast is one of the easiest preventative health activities we can do. After studying traditional world breakfasts, my tips are hot-soupy grains with some protein!

You managed a successful practice in China for 6 years and then started your own clinic when you and your family moved to Arizona in 2015. How did you build your clientele and promote Straight Bamboo?

Well, first I needed to get my national license which required a year of supplementary education and board exams. Once licensed, I spent the first year sharing a clinic building clientele. I did invest prior to arriving in the US in a good website and that helped me, but other than that when I first started, I relied on word-of-mouth and I would go out and give free talks and presentations to build presence in the community.

After a year, the business was growing and I ventured out on my own as I needed two rooms full time to make the clinic business work. I reinvested a substantial percentage of the profit from the first year in the fit out of new clinic. Finishing year two in business, I have a substantial marketing budget that includes a weekly wellness tip on a local radio station, social media agent, google Adwords and exploring YELP.

What was your biggest business frustration? How did you overcome this? 

Biggest frustration was that, after 10-years of practice I needed to get my US Licensed Acupuncturist L.AC. Qualification and start all over. It was long and costly and I was supporting an international move with a wife and three kids (back then). We did the downstairs basement up to be an AirBnB to supplement income and that was a savior. I was frustrated at times in the quality of the board exam process but kept my head down and eventually prevailed. 

There were some advantages with hindsight. Restarting of the business provided me an opportunity to do everything better the second time round so I should be thankful. I could also use what I had and recycle much of it in a more effective way.

What would be the advise you would give to someone who wish to start his own clinic? 

Running your own clinic, I would say, is the ultimate goal for most Acupuncturists. There is the practice and then the business. I know many Acupuncturists tell me they don’t like the business of healing. Unfortunately, there are not so many jobs for Acupuncturists. 

For me It’s like been a presenter and only focusing on the information, not the presentation, it needs to be balanced! 

I actually enjoy the business aspect and I’ve found it guides the way the clinic works best. Business is the lens you learn how to best serve the client. They go hand in hand. The service and the business. Too much focus on either will be problematic, you need to find the balance. 
You need to be realistic about your goals and I suggest start within your means and small is ok. Don’t get into debt, rather grow and learn. 

My big tip is whenever you start something, do it full-time. I mean 40-hours a week. Even if you don’t have clients there is plenty for you to work on in terms of branding and education and investing in your business to make every aspect of it better. In fact that is a great time to take on larger projects like in depth articles etc. I still use this information I spent a lot of time creating early on in my career. 

I call this ‘blue-collar attitude’ - you are there to work and serve your clients as best you can. Regardless of how many clients you have - work the 40-hours on the business and that will give you the best chance to grow.

Being a husband and also father of 4 young children, how do you balance family life and running your clinic? 

Good question and it’s not always easy. These are my tips:

A. Set clear times of work. For example, I’m in the clinic 7:30am-5pm, Monday to Friday. With family I need to be home at a reasonable hour and on weekends, so I make that commitment to my wife and family. 

B. I commit to school holiday long-weekends off work. I take minimum 2-weeks off (usually 4-weeks) in the summer. 

C. I take a long lunch every Thursday to meet with my wife. We call it ‘marriage time’ and discuss work and family obligations as well as plan out the weekends. 

D. I don’t travel or work nights unless absolutely beneficial - and I always run it by my wife. 

I believe that…

I believe that ‘unlike the wayward man… the bamboo grows straight’.

We all have potential for success and failure. We want to succeed and, rather than will our success, our best chance is to look at the environment we create for ourselves. Invest in the environment we provide ourselves and watch success naturally arise from that.


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. A native-born Australian, the son of his Australian mother and Chinese father, Alex's bi-cultural heritage helps him skillfully bridge Eastern and Western health perspectives. He believes the true power of Chinese medicine lies in a balanced approach towards prevention and treatment. Rooted in Chinese Medicine observation based theory & methodology over millenniums, Alex’s talent lies in delivering these Eastern healing modalities to his modern Western clients.

Alex runs a busy clinic in Flagstaff Arizona. 

The true power of Chinese Medicine is in prevention. Prevention is first about education. You can find his website at where you can find loads of articles and videos and sign up for the new moon newsletter to receive a monthly health tip and seasonal advice.