Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Debi Gilmore, Co-Founder of Building A Lasting Connection, located in St. George, UT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, public speaker, professional educator, and co-owner of a large mental health clinic with 4 locations. We have 26 therapists with advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), trauma clearing, utilizing my Building A Lasting Connection™ system mats, and other empirically supported modalities in the field of mental health. Our clinic serves couples, families, and individuals. I also specialize in training student and associate therapists in their quest for full licensure.
Tell us about yourself
My journey to becoming a therapist and supervisor began years ago when I served on a board of directors for a youth residential treatment facility. I was fascinated with the process of therapy and change, not only in the troubled youth but in their families as they worked together to find healing and new stability. I noticed that so many of the parents were struggling in their marriages and developed a desire to work with couples as a therapist. I entered a graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy. I then went on immediately to achieve a doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy with a special focus on clinical skills, clinical supervision, business leadership, and business development.
My doctoral degree program required a 9-month internship, so a fellow doctorate student and I decided to establish "The EFT Clinic," a mental health clinic specializing in couples therapy. Within one year, the clinic was bulging at its seams, and only 4 years later, we now employ 26 therapists and have established a structured executive committee, 4 clinical directors and oversee a rigorous credentialed therapist training program.
I love watching young and budding student interns evolve and grow during the natural developmental stages of becoming a therapist. I particularly love to witness "aha" moments when they realize they really can "walk with" someone's pain, can convey compassion, and can influence clients to reach their treatment goals. My greatest joy comes when I know they have identified and conquered a weakness in their clinical skills and turned them into strengths through practice and determination.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our clinic has been awarded the Best of Salt Lake City Business Hall of Fame for the past five years in recognition of our work with marriages, families, and individuals. We serve over 700 clients, with an average of 1,200 therapy sessions per month. However, my greatest accomplishment as a business owner has been the creation and development of my relationship program, Building A Lasting Connection™ (BLC). My doctoral dissertation involved the development of a premarital and relationship education program based on the principles of attachment theory titled, A premarital education program: Creating and preserving a secure foundation of attachment in newly developing relationships. One of the most unique elements of the relationship program is the Lasting Connection™ System mats that structure and guide couple communication and solidify the learning process through the foundational principles of attachment and experiential learning theory. The program is being used by therapists across the world and has been translated into multiple languages.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
As a business owner, I am responsible for creating and sustaining a culture of well-being and a positive atmosphere for my therapist employees and the clients we serve. Keeping in mind my intense desire to help my employees thrive, one of the most difficult tasks for me is when I must offer corrective feedback to an employee who neglects to honor or respect their commitments or policies and procedures of the clinic. As a leader, it is my responsibility to swiftly and clearly address issues that arise, and assist the employee in stretching, growing, and improving their professional skills. The hierarchy, structure, and policies of a business are in place to ensure the success of the organization and to protect clients and employees. When those elements are ignored or neglected, a business falters, morale is in danger, and if unaddressed, the business can even implode.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Create and clearly establish a structure for your business. This includes hierarchy, structure, boundaries, and expectations, which is also how we help families heal in therapy. A healthy family and business are built on a healthy system, and the system must be structured with intention. When a family has clear leadership, structure, healthy boundaries, and clear expectations, everyone feels more secure and confident in what is expected and can more easily execute their roles. Like a family system, when a business suffers from confusion in any of these areas, the system falters and can even fail.
- Lead By Example—Remain Approachable. Business owners must lead by example and be willing to step into the trenches with their employees. This nurtures and cultivates an environment of respect, camaraderie, and emotional safety for employees, so they feel valued, connected, and motivated.
- Spend Resources Wisely. Spending resources wisely, intentionally, conservatively, and with a plan ensures stability and a steady S-Curve. At times we may be tempted to risk and grow too fast, or we might remain blind to the actual numbers. I have watched businesses launch without establishing reports and tracking numbers. Maybe they launch prematurely without enough foundational financial resources. Maybe they lack a clear growth plan, and this is like building a business on sand rather than rock. A business built on a rock remains informed and focused on the fluctuating numbers and adjusts as needed to ensure health all along the way. Don't assume you can temporarily rob Peter to pay Paul because that habit is like a foundation built on sand.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I have noticed an alarming rise in people struggling with self-worth and inner confidence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it is almost an epidemic. I am very excited to share that I have an upcoming book titled "Conquering Your Inner Critic," which focuses on self-doubt and how that blocks our ability to thrive and rise to our full potential. The book includes a powerful method of rejecting the negative voice inside our heads that robs us of motivation, causes us to disconnect from others, and keeps us from finding contentment and joy in our daily lives.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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