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Expand your client base by offering ‘business counseling’

One way to increase your practice is to offer a new service. Another is to take the services you already provide and offer them to a new category of client. Many clinicians shy away from "business consulting," believing themselves unqualified. But most are quite capable of helping business people improve their professional and personal lives.

In this report, we look at two clinicians pursuing business coaching and/or business counseling. The first, immediately below, is working with high income business professionals. The second,  has clients of more moderate means.

 Barry Selman, based in Chapel Hill, NC, works with business people up and down the East Coast and as far away as California. Up to 30% of his practice is business coaching. On top of that, word-of-mouth in the business community helps bring in new therapy clients.

"I like to deal with fairly high level entrepreneurs," he tells us. "They have to have at least a moderate six-figure income--$250,000 and up. They want to increase their income, and to have balance in their lives."

When he started business coaching a dozen years ago, boosting his clients’ income was the primary goal. "But I got tired of just helping people make more money. They weren’t really working on their emotional and spiritual issues. Now, I’m interested in helping people come to a center in their life experience. If that means making a lot of money, too, that’s great."

Selman had 10 years experience in sales and marketing before getting his psychotherapy credentials. So moving into business coaching "was just common sense. I had a lot of good sales training; I’ve done sales training seminars; and I’ve had a lot of training in leadership development. So it was just a natural outcome of the work I was doing."

Clients come to him with specific business problems. But what it usually comes down to, Selman says, is a lack of focus. How many phone calls are they making that don’t lead to appointments? How many appointments do they go out on that don’t lead to a closed deal?

"A lot of these people tend toward ADD. They’re unfocused and they need someone to hold them accountable." One of Selman’s counseling specialties is addictions--which he says are pervasive in the business community, particularly among the highly successful.

And most have more than one addiction. "Obviously, if there’s any kind of addictive behavior taking place, it’s taking you away from your game plan in terms of your business. And if they’re unfocused, there’s a lot of wasting time calling on potential customers who aren’t ever going to buy. It’s about time management."

Sometimes, he adds, the addiction is work itself. In any case, they need to achieve a balance in their personal and work lives.

"One of the things I do is create a game plan with goals way beyond what they’ve imagined before...I’d like to have someone who says, ‘I’m making $200,000, and I want to make $350,000.’ And I say, ‘What would it take to make $750,000?’ Suddenly they have to start thinking very differently. They’re not going to come anywhere near numbers like that if they keep doing what they’re doing.

"If we’re looking at $750,000, I’d rather they fail and make $450,000, or $500,000 than succeed at the $350,000 and only accomplish that."

His coaching contracts run three months. Services include a weekly one-hour phone conversation, plus emails, for $250 an hour. That’s the minimum. "If someone’s making $5 million a year, I’m not going to work with them for $250 an hour."

Naturally, Selman’s first business clients came to him as the result of contacts he had from his days in sales. Now he tells us that his Web site,, is his top marketing tool. He’s given it an extra push by hiring a consultant to optimize his standing in search engines. Plus, he spends $200 a month on Google AdWords.

He had been paying for a listing on, but dropped it--finding it unhelpful in promoting this niche.

In his therapy practice, Selman has at least one group going all the time, sometimes on addiction, sometimes on relationship issues. The groups meet once a week for 90 minutes and members pay $250 per month to participate. There are 7-10 members per group.

When it comes to individual therapy, he charges $125 for a 50-minute hour.

Occasionally, he’ll do a combination with clients--therapy and coaching. "But usually when it’s a combination like that, the therapy that’s taking place is more supportive counseling, rather than deep emotional work.

"I might have a client who is a big earner, and we might focus a little bit on his business. But in that case I’d rather focus on the emotional part. I don’t want to mix the two if it’s deep emotional work."

You can contact Barry Selman at 1709 Legion Rd., Ste. 112, Chapel Hill, NC 27517, (919)824-8880,

Therapist aims to counsel, not just coach, business community

Anne Marlantes is pursuing a business counseling practice in the Seattle area, following a similar path to the one taken by Barry Selman. Until 2001, Marlantes worked in corporate marketing at a software company, and she’s using those contacts to develop her practice.
“Business is an area that not a lot of counselors—at least in this area—have been addressing,” she says. “It seems to resonate with people. I’m running a group for women’s self-esteem, which doesn’t sound like it addresses business professionals. But all the women in my group are business professionals.”
Marlantes, who is still under supervision and can’t take insurance clients, is covering her marketing bases with an AdWords campaign and through “basic guerilla marketing tactics.” She’s developed a flier she posts at coffee shops with tear-offs at the bottom.
“I get out to meetings in the community and I do as much networking as I can. A lot of it is what I did when I worked in marketing. But it’s a little different because marketing a professional service is very different from computer software.”
Outside the group, most of her work is general therapy. But even here, “issues are heavily impacted by a person’s professional situation. It’s not, ‘I can’t deal with my boss.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m depressed and feel terrible about myself.’ But work is a big part of what’s going on with them.”
Marlantes charges $100 an hour for individual therapy. The group runs 12 weeks and members pay $40 per 90-minute session.
She considers all of this counseling, by the way, and not coaching. “We get into a lot of personal issues that coaches wouldn’t get into. But there’s definitely an educational component and a goal component to it as well.
“There’s a lot of reflection about how the person got this way, and how they can change. So it’s really a blend.”
You can contact Anne Marlantes at Redmond Business Park, 16771 NE 80th St., Ste. 212, (425)233-2439,





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