When Nathalie Garcia opened her holistic nutrition practice, she was unprepared for what was going to become her biggest challenge – not helping clients live healthier lives but maintaining the practice itself.
“I was really overwhelmed. I was naïve and didn’t realize that on top of being a nutritionist I was also going to have to run a business,” she says. “I had to be the accountant, I had to be the administrative support, I had to be the marketer, I had to do the PR. I had to do all of those things on top of being a nutritionist, and I wasn’t ready for that. It was so time consuming.”
It quickly became apparent to Garcia that “there was no way to make this a sustainable career. Once I factored in the (non-billable) time, I was basically working for nothing.”
Tapping into her network of Toronto-based nutrition colleagues – and then expanding her queries to other health and wellness professionals such as naturopaths and dietitians – Garcia said it became clear the problem wasn’t her own business management skills, it was simply the reality of being a healthcare practitioner. “People didn’t have the tools they needed and were spending way too much time on paperwork,” she says, adding that errors and paper record-keeping challenges pose the double issue of potentially eroding the quality of care a client receives.
She and her life partner, Graeme Downes, a software developer, began brainstorming features for an app he could build for her own use, and Practice Better was born. “I never thought it would be bigger than that,” she says. But when her friends started using it too, word began to spread – eventually as far as to practitioners in the U.K. and Europe, and even as far as Australia and South Africa.
“Two years in, we have almost 5,000 health and wellness professionals on the platform and it’s all been word of mouth and a couple key partnerships,” Garcia says.
While Garcia says other platforms enable the necessary functions of running a practice such as appointment booking and invoicing, none did a good job of integrated all the key tools. “People were waiting for a solution that was comprehensive and intuitive and affordable. It’s not enough to just put all the features in one place, they all have to talk to each other.” Since launching in 2017, she and Downes have continued to roll out new features, including support for practices that operate out of multiple locations and a mobile app for iOS and Android, that among other features, enables on-the-go video client sessions. For Garcia, Practice Better’s success means she’s able to help people – just not in the way she originally set out to do when she entered the field of nutrition.
“I’m not practicing anymore,” she says. “There are no extra hours in the day. It’s funny because I didn’t know how much I would love this side of the business. I thought I’d miss nutrition and I do but I still get to scratch that teaching itch (that made me go into nutrition). Now I get to work with practitioners. I get to help support them and coach them to overcome their biggest hurdle.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real