Joyce Marter, LCPC, is Founder & CEO of Urban Balance, an insurance-friendly counseling practice with more than 80 therapists working from seven locations in Chicagoland and one in St. Louis. She is a Past-President of the Illinois Mental Health Counseling Association and President of the Illinois Counseling Association. Joyce is a blogger for The Huffington Post and PsychCentral, and has been featured in such media outlets as The WallStreet Journal, U.S. News & World Report and MTV. Read our interview with the lovely Joyce below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Motherhood inspired me to start my own business. I wanted a career that would provide me with the income and flexibility I wanted to be the best mother I could be. Private practice seemed to be the best option, and if I provided office space, billing and referrals for other therapists, I could earn an income while I was at home with my kids.
Tell us about your business.
Urban Balance is an outpatient mental health company that provides counseling for individuals, children, adolescents, couples and families for issues such as stress, depression, anxiety, relationship challenges, etc. We make counseling accessible and affordable by being in-network with most insurance plans. Through blogging, speaking, advocacy and social media, we work to destigmatize counseling as a proactive and routine aspect of healthcare that treats issues we all deal with from time to time as part of the human condition. Urban Balance promotes work/life balance and wellness for our staff and clients.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Urban Balance offers a free 20-minute consultation with a therapist to make sure you are a good fit. We also offer counseling on a sliding fee scale with our clinical interns.
- Recipient of the Past-President’s Award by the Illinois Counseling Association in 2015
- Selected for the “40 Under 40” List of 2010 by Crain’s Chicago Business
- Recipient of the Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in 2008 from The Family Institute at Northwestern University
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Illinois since 1998
- Graduate of the Masters of Counseling Psychology Program at Northwestern University, 1996
- Bachelor of Arts recipient from The Ohio State University, graduated Cum Laude with Honors & Distinction in Psychology
Where is your business based?
Urban Balance has seven locations in the Greater Chicago Area (four in Chicago and three in the North Shore) and one in St. Louis. It is my dream for Urban Balance to be the first national outpatient mental health company.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
- Found a mentor. Mentoring is so important for support and guidance. Everybody needs a hero. Find yours and ask for help.
- Developed a business plan. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Write out your greatest vision, with specific goals, measurable and achievable objectives, and realistic timelines.
- Started networking. Business is about relationships. It is important to establish, nurture and grow your network. I approach networking by thinking about what I can offer somebody, rather than what I can get. I believe in karma when you give and share generously, you reap an even greater reward in return.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Developing a strong online presence through an effective website, unique blog content, and a strong social media campaign.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
In 2011, Urban Balance ran into a huge cash flow challenge. Because we take insurance, the bigger we got the more money was outstanding from insurance. We had trouble bridging the gap and paying our overhead. My former business partner and many therapists exited the practice – I thought it was the end of Urban Balance.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I reached out for help. Instead of telling everyone everything was okay, I practiced humility and vulnerability. I said things were not good and I needed help. Friends, family and staff members offered me tremendous support. A neighbor told me I needed a business valuation and referred me to a CPA. After looking over my financials, the CPA told me my business was profitable – I truly had just a cash flow problem. He helped me get the bank lending I needed and to fine tune my business to make it healthier and stronger. In hindsight, I should have sought financial consultation from the start.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
My yoga and meditation practices help reboot my mind, body and spirit when things get tough. I utilize my support network, including business and personal relationships (Including my own therapist! We all need one.) I also create a vision board every New Year’s and reflect on it when I need to get re-inspired and re-aligned with my greater mission and purpose.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Urban Balance accepts most insurance and provides excellent customer service with checking benefits and filing claims. Clients know exactly what their out-of-pocket responsibility will be, and by being in-network with most insurance, we make therapy accessible and affordable. Also, we hire therapists who are compassionate and kind, in addition to being well-trained, licensed and experienced. The research says people report the most progress in therapy when they like their therapist, and we have an amazing group of talented clinicians. They are the secret to my success.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Everything is negotiable. I attended a seminar for women in business at Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern. The research says women are far less likely to negotiate due to a variety of social factors. I find this as an employer as well, and this needs to change. We women need to ask for what we deserve. Since then, I’ve negotiated everything from vendor’s rates to lease terms to deals on office furniture. It has saved me a small fortune.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Develop the ability to detach from anxiety through mindfulness practices such as meditation. Fear is what keeps most people from living their dream. We set our own ceilings through self-limiting beliefs. I believe in the power of self-fulfilling prophecy, so aim high, create your highest vision, believe that reality, and live your greatest life.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Google. Everything from Google Ad Words to maximize Search Engine Optimization to using Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Conference Calls, Google Voice and Google Hangout for business operations and development.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram@Joyce.Marter and @urbanbalance
Twitter @Joyce_Marter and @Urban_Balance
Facebook fb.me/JoyceMarterLCPC and www.facebook.com/ubtherapy
Website www.joyce-marter.com and www.urbanbalance.com
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Many spend much time second guessing the past or worrying about the future. We make the best and most conscious decisions when we are firmly grounded in the present moment. Mindfulness practices help us achieve presence.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’m currently learning about opportunities to take Urban Balance national. We are forever learning about developments in technology and how it can improve our services, offer new resources, and grow our business.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We plan to open another location of the Western Suburbs of Chicago and improve our internal processes via technology. We plan to achieve these goals through collaboration of our awesome leadership team and wise advisors. It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to run a successful company. I’m forever grateful to my staff, leadership and advisors.