My RD Journey

From Undergrad -> Internship -> RD -> Private Practice!


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Why You Should “Specialize” in a Niche

Welcome back to MyRDJourney! In last month’s blog, I talked about finding your ideal client and I had a lot of questions come up about whether you should identify a “niche.” I wanted to address that today since there seems to be a big debate on whether or not identifying a niche causes you to attract more clients or stifle creativity.

What is a Niche Really?
A niche is basically your business focus; something specific you specialize in. It could still be broad in the sense that you are focusing on one disease (Diabetes) but seeing all age groups (teens to adults) and types (type 1 and type 2). Another example could be focusing on plant-based diets (broad, but still a niche). You could be even more specific saying plant-based athletes, plant-based families, plant-based kids, etc. You can decide on how specific you want your niche to be.

Is it Bad to Have a Niche?
In short, I don’t think it is a bad idea to have a niche. Some websites I researched for this blog said that a niche stifles your business and limits creativity. I found just the opposite. It was easier to create content once I had a specific focus. It also opened my doors to more clientele that I wanted to work with and that needed my specific service.

Think about the comparison between a primary doctor, who has a broad knowledge base for diseases and illnesses and a gastroenterologist, who specializes in the gastrointestinal tract. If you go to your PCP with GI issues, they might run some labs and basic tests. If you continue to have issues, they would send you (hopefully) to the gastroenterologist; someone who has more knowledge and experience in this area to treat you more effectively.

If you are having GI pain and want to see a Dietitian, would you choose the one who specializes in GI and has content online specific to that (i.e. recipes, tips) or would you go to a Dietitian promoting general healthy eating (not a bad thing)? Chances are, you would resonate with the Dietitian who has the specialty because their content would speak to you and your pain points.

What About Multiple Specialties?
It does make me skeptical when I see a Dietitian claim on their website that they specialize in 8 different things. Without identifying the company, here is what Dietitian X says they specialize in on their website: weight loss management, sports nutrition and performance, nutrition during pregnancy, grocery store tours, eating disorder counseling, GI disorders and food allergies, and disease prevention and management. Here’s another list from Dietitian Y: weight management and behavior modification, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer/prevention, kidney disease, food allergies and intolerances, stomach issues, chronic fatigue. That’s a lot of “specialties” for one practitioner to maintain. Some Dietitians might work in a team where each Dietitian provides a certain specialty; however, this was not the case with Dietitians X and Y.

I find it completely acceptable for a Dietitian to assert that their company provides services in each of these practice areas; however, I don’t think it is fair or accurate to proclaim that the company ‘specializes’ in each of these areas. One thing to ask yourself is, “Can I keep up-to-date in all of these specialties and provide my client the best service possible?”

Let me clarify my assertion with an example. Say you specialize in diabetes. Chances are, you are still going to see clients with more than one chronic disease (like diabetes and cardiovascular disease). I am not saying you can’t see these clients because one is not your defined specialty. Also, both diseases can impact one another (and your client) so it would be important for you as a health professional to be competent in both. What I am questioning is if you see a client come in with diabetes and cardiovascular disease who now needs dialysis for renal failure, would you be doing a disservice to them by continuing to meet with them versus sending them to a renal dietitian who does this all day every day , i.e. specializes?

If you want to learn more about the stages of competence, check out this great article. 

I for one fell into this trap with a client who had IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I had worked with clients with mild IBS before; however, I never worked with a client who was following a low FODMAP diet. Honestly, I didn’t even know all that this diet entailed. I thought at first I could just get resources for the client and wing-it, but after conducting a reasonable amount of research, I knew I wouldn’t be able to answer questions and truly help this client (even though I had provided IBS counseling before, and I really wanted to assist). Not going to lie, I did meet with the client for an appointment before I said to them that I needed to refer out. Clearly, I was not the best person to help since they needed an expert, an actual specialist, to work through all of their questions surrounding the low FODMAP diet and the only information I could provide was very basic (something they could have Googled on their own). I just hope that any health professional would understand the limits of their current knowledge and make the decision to refer clients with specialized needs to a specialist when appropriate.

Moving on…

Finding Your Niche
If you are a new Dietitian or just starting in private practice, you might not know the area you want to specialize in just yet, and that is okay! In the beginning years, I found it helpful to see a variety of clients in different settings and then assess whether I enjoyed working with these clients/situations. It took me four years into my practice to discover that my niche, and now my specialty, is in plant-based diets and strength training.

I am still working on transitioning content on my social media and website to align my messaging and marketing to consumers who need or want that specialized consulting. My Facebook is still general content for nutrition, my YouTube is general tips plus new recipe videos (vegan/gluten-free) and my Instagram has been focused on plant-based for a while. Over the next few months, I will be transitioning my Facebook content to more plant-based tips. YouTube will stay the same, just with more recipe content and better video and sound quality (thanks to my BF). Instagram posts on plant-based food will be more consistent and workout videos will be added to my stories and highlights.

Don’t be afraid to create a niche that isn’t quite there yet. I was having a hard time finding information on plant-based (vegan) diets and strength training for myself. A lot of information I found online was specific to endurance athletes. Since I wanted this information for myself, I pursued a Certified Personal Training credential (yes, I passed my exam) and I am learning all I can about combining the two for use in my business.

Remember, you don’t have to be a specialist in everything as this is the fastest way to burn-out! Be really good/unconsciously competent at a few (or just 1) things! Focus your energy on specific skills and building your knowledge base around the niche you want to pursue. Only then, will you really have the competence to provide specialist services to your clients as a Dietitian. 

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Tips for Handling Client Cancellations

Welcome to MyRDJourney! I want to talk about handling those dreaded client cancellations. As much as we hate for a client to reschedule or cancel, things happen. There can be many reasons a client cancels on us: weather is bad, kids are sick, or they simply lost their motivation for eating healthy. How you handle your client cancellations can really set the tone for your practice and ultimately the relationship you have with your client. 

1st things 1st, make sure you have a cancellation policy in place that includes details on rescheduling appointments. Do clients need to call/email within 24 or 48 hours of the appointment? Do they need to go on your website to cancel?  Have your policy in writing and make sure the client is aware. You want to be transparent. Usually, I discuss my policy with my clients on their first call with me and include it in their appointment reminder email. I also have it posted to my website for ease of reference for the client. 

Since a lot of my clients use their insurance for the appointments, many do not realize the insurance plan will not cover cancellation fees. I make sure all of my clients are aware of this and ultimately what the charge would be if they reschedule, cancel or no-show last minute. 

Prior to the first appointment with a new client, they are required to review, complete, and sign all of my paperwork. This includes my practice policies (including late and cancellation fees), HIPAA information, privacy notices, client releases and a new client form. The hope is that the client will review everything in detail and sign that they acknowledge all of the information. Despite what you do to make the client aware of your policies prior to the appointment, you may still have clients who do not read the paperwork before signing or forget about it by the time of the session. Again, this is why I like to include the policy (in short) within my appointment reminder email (sent a week prior to the session).

One thing to think about with your policy is consistency. I am all about being flexible; however, you don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites with your clients if you waive the fee for one and not the other. So, create the policy, make the client fully aware, and be consistent in how you handle it. If you are flexible when a client cancels late for the first time, then do that for all of your clients.

You will get thicker skin with this, so don’t be afraid to put your foot down. Every client cancellation, late reschedule, or no show is money that you are not making and time that could have been spent helping others. Also, think about when you schedule a doctor’s appointment, they have similar policies in place too! 

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If you have any questions about cancellations and reschedules, feel free to leave me a comment below!


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Pros and Cons of In-Home Counseling Services

When I first started my practice, I thought I NEEDED to get office space. After a few months of searching, I realized I was either going to be paying the same amount I do for renting a duplex or have to travel a distance for something more feasible. Instead, I decided to try my hand at in-home counseling sessions. It would cut down on costs (as in overhead) and allow me to build a client basis without the added stress of paying monthly rent.

I found a lot of my clients were more comfortable being in their own home versus a formal office. It also allowed them to show me products in their cabinets and give me a visual for their environment. I could also set up sessions for cooking and meal prep, since so many tell me that making healthy food is difficult for them. I find my home-session clients are less likely to reschedule and rarely cancel since weather, running behind, etc is less of an issue.

Most of the insurance plans I take in my practice cover in-home counseling, which was make or break for me when my only option was in-home counseling. Some insurance companies in your area may have different regulations for nutritional counseling, as in only an office setting. I would suggest checking the provider resource center for each individual insurance company or calling your network coordinator to find out what applies to your service.

While home-counseling sessions are definitely a great option, there are also some heavy downsides. One of the biggest downsides to home counseling is the travel. Home-visits really cut down the amount of clients I can see in one day. I really try to chunk my client areas so I am not going all over the place; however, some days this works better than others. Ultimately, you are still paying for gas and wear-and-tear on your car, but, you won’t have the looming monthly rent payment due. This could be great for someone just starting out. I make sure to track all of my mileage and tolls to use for tax purposes.  

To be honest, you never REALLY know what you might walk into with a client appointment, let alone one in the home. I always do a phone consult first to get an idea of the client. A lot of my clients are from referrals from companies or business relations, so I feel comfortable entering the home. I also make it a point to recommend a quiet space in the home (usually the kitchen or living room). Some things you might want to ask before entering a client’s home is if they have a private space available in the home to speak and whether or not they have pets (especially if you are allergic or fear them).

While most of my clients are in-home and on-site (as in worksite wellness), I do have a few clients who would prefer an office-based setting. In that case, I utilize office space at my local Chamber of Commerce since I am a member there. I have met clients at coffee shops; however, this is not a very private setting and is not covered by insurance.

One last thing to keep in mind with home-visits or traveling appointments overall is what you will take with you. I always have with me a notepad, handouts, new client folder, business cards, paper portion models, and a plate picture or model for reference. I almost never bring a scale with me (unless specifically requested) since most clients have one at home. I also don’t like to focus on weight and instead healthy habits.

All-in-all, I wouldn’t change how I started my business; however, for the future, I am starting to move away from a lot of the face-to-face and building more of the virtual end. A lot of my clients want online support, books, programs, etc. The face-to-face component will always be apart of my business, but the amount of time will definitely be changing. I hope my pros and cons will help you in deciding where to take your business!

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Business Planning for 2018

The holidays are fast approaching and that means 2017 is coming to a close! I feel like this year flew by for me. This was my first year as a full-time business owner and I have loved every minute of it (even the stressful ones). Over the past few months, I found myself working IN my business versus ON it. I realized with overbooking myself, I was stunting my business growth. While the income was great, I was just going through the motions daily without creating anything new or challenging myself.

With that, I decided to start working on my business goals and strategy for 2018. I wanted to have a plan in place so I can start taking action steps for the many ideas that I have. Below are some of the questions I asked myself when thinking about my 2018 plan.

Questions to Ask Yourself
1. What is your ultimate vision for the end of 2018?
-Think of what you want your business to look like by Dec 2018. What does your day-to-day include? What is your schedule like? What types of clients are you seeing? This can help you to identify goals and action steps to take monthly and daily.

2. What are your large goals for the year?
-This could be launching a practice or starting a new program. Think about larger goals being more long-term (i.e. to accomplish in 6-8 months).

3. What are your smaller goals for this year?
-This could include working on marketing to local businesses or incorporating more social media posts. Think about smaller goals as being more short-term (i.e. weekly or monthly).

4. Why is all of this important?
-Think about the importance of each of your goals. This will help with driving your motivation and also developing a targeted strategy for building and marketing.

5. What pitfalls do you want to avoid?
-Think about the hangups you had this year in business. Did you tend to overbook yourself? Are you doing too much on your own? Are you lacking personal time? Are you saying yes too much? Be aware of the things you want to work on and build them into your goals and ultimately your schedule. Write out monthly reminders to yourself to help avoid these pitfalls throughout the year.

After I asked myself the questions above (doesn’t have to be in this order), I brainstormed all of the steps I needed to take for each of my ideas and goals. I actually did this over a few days while on the train and waiting for appointments. After I had a comprehensive list, I organized the steps into a logical order and began to map them out on my calendar as due dates.

I also planned out the dates I wanted to schedule clients and when I would be working ON my business. One of my main goals for this year is to not overbook myself and instead stick to the boundaries I set. Although this will include my having to say “no” sometimes, I know this will be really important for my business and my sanity!

I hope this post helps you to plan out a successful 2018! Happy holidays!

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Top 10 Skills for Dietitian Entrepreneurs

Have you debated going the entrepreneurial route? Thinking about starting a private practice as a Dietitian? You may be wondering if you have what it takes to succeed. After being in business for 3 years now, I have learned a lot about my skills and what I need to hone in on to have my practice thrive.

Below, I outline 10 different skills/traits that are crucial to your success, whether it be in private practice or in another business venture. While you may not feel that you are strong in all of these areas, the more you push yourself and your comfort level, the more enhanced these skills will become.

#1 – Passion 
Whether you will enter the realm of entrepreneur as a Dietitian or any other professional, you need to be passionate about what you do. This passion will drive your business and fuel your motivation through tough times.  Your passion will resonate with clients and show them that you truly care about what you do.

#2 – Perseverance
Throughout business, you will have many ups and downs with both income and overall success. Contracts may fall through, clients may drop out, your business may change, etc. Perseverance is key to keeping yourself from throwing your hands in the air and walking away. All of your hard work will pay off!

#3 – Self-Confidence 
While you may not feel confident in every aspect of running a business, be confident in your niche, your talent, what you bring to the table. As an entrepreneur, you are constantly selling yourself and your products/services. If you don’t believe in yourself and have confidence in your abilities, why should prospective clients or companies?

#4 – Self-Motivation
As an entrepreneur, you are the boss. You don’t have a manager telling you what to do at all hours of the day. You are not walking into an office where there is a list of duties or set of expectations for your role. YOU create that role. YOU create those expectations. Can you motivate yourself when no one is standing over your shoulder? If you are struggling with how to motivate yourself, take some time to figure out what drives you to succeed. Is it making more money? Having more freedom? As an entrepreneur, I can say from experience that you won’t necessarily feel motivated, or confident for that matter, every single day. You should be able to motivate yourself and be a self-starter at least 90-95% of the time.

#5 – Strong Work Ethic 
Having a strong work ethic can be described in a number of different ways. I like to think of quality, integrity, and responsibility as attributes that someone can exhibit within their “strong work ethic.” Your quality of work and service will speak for itself and drive clients to your door (I have seen this first hand without the use of paid marketing).

#6 – Ability to Multitask 
Being the boss means that you may wear many hats (especially if you work alone), but, it can also mean you oversee many departments and thus need to be aware of the inner-workings of each. I feel that there is a fine line between what is effective and what is overwhelming and hinders production. When I think of multitasking, I think of the various things I need to accomplish on a daily basis: posting to social media, seeing clients, fielding calls, answering emails, writing content or lessons, etc. Some of these things may happen simultaneously. The key is not stretching yourself too thin, but managing these tasks efficiently.

#7 – Effective Time Management
Number 6-8 all go hand-in-hand. With having multiple items on your plate each day, you need to learn how to effectively manage the time you have. Know when your best hours are to work on administrative tasks. Know when you tend to see and schedule clients. Remember to leave some time for yourself daily (if not weekly) to recharge your batteries. Running on empty will hinder your productivity and ultimately ruin plans for time management. Before you know it, you are sucked into 3-hours of Netflix and haven’t accomplished a thing for your business.

#8 – Organization
I would say the number one skill to have as an entrepreneur is a high level of organization. This is especially important in the beginning stages of your business planning. If you are a Dietitian and plan to become an insurance provider, you will need to keep track of applications, billing codes, claims, etc. Being organized means that you manage your time well, finish tasks by their deadline, and are on top of scheduling. One of the key things I have learned with keeping myself organized is to prioritize my day-to-day tasks and anticipate when I will accomplish the non-priorities. I also found having systems in place for my administrative tasks is helpful. I have a system for how I schedule clients, how I store files, how I chart, etc.

#9 – Flexibility 
You may have your day or even week planned to a perfect T and then, disaster hits. Two clients need to reschedule, you get 2 new calls of potential clients, your seminar outline is taking longer to write than you thought, etc. Within any role, as an entrepreneur or an employee, you need to be flexible. Things will happen that will throw your day off. Take a minute to regroup and then prioritize what is ahead of you. Being flexible means using many of the other skills mentioned before: time management, organization, strong work ethic, etc. Every day will not go as planned and that is okay!

#10 – Continuous Learner
One final skill I want to touch on is being the continuous learner, which can be related to the field of nutrition or business. Never stop challenging yourself or pushing your boundaries. Continue to learn, enhance your skills, and become a polished professional.

After reading through this post, what can you identify as your strengths and weaknesses? As I mentioned earlier, you may not feel strong in all of these areas of your business. If you do feel one or two areas need improvement, can you take an online course to enhance those skills? Or, could you take on a partner or an employee that would fulfill these tasks? As an entrepreneur, you may not be able to handle everything in your business, especially as it begins to grow. Identify what your are priorities and where you can delegate or outsource other tasks.

Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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For more information on preparing yourself for private practice, click the LINK.

For tips on starting a private practice, click the LINK.


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Tips for Writing Your First Book

Welcome back to My RD Journey! For the past few months, I have been working on my first book! I had been thinking about writing a book for the past year now, but it wasn’t until the beginning of this year that I actually thought I COULD do it. I was so full of self-doubt about my skills as a writer and my ideas as a Dietitian, that I was terrified to start compiling ideas for my book. I mean who am I to write a book?!

I purchased a few books (see below for my recommendations) and before I knew it, I was more than excited to write. I started testing my book ideas out with my clients and fellow Dietitians and I became more confident in my book ideas. After a while, I started to have this “itch” to write something tangible that people could use long-term. Is weird as this may sound, it was like I NEEDED to write and it truly became a passion of mine.

At this point, I finished a first full draft of my book and have it out to my beta readers for commenting. I must had re-read and edited 100 times before sending it to my first reader! Once I get the edited versions back, I will do another couple of revisions before the final editing process. I have decided to self-publish, so I have a bit more back-end work to do.

Anyways, for today’s post, I wanted to share with you some of the resources and tips that helped me in the beginning stages of writing my first book!

Create a Timeline 
One thing I did not do for this book, but plan to do for my future ones is to create a timeline for writing and editing. I started toying around with my book idea in May, but it wasn’t until almost July that I had content written down. In August, I started planning out when I would edit, send copies to my beta readers, re-edit, etc. Having a timeline pushed me to work harder and gave me a clear vision of my book’s path. I highly suggest getting together a timeline for your book now.

Practice Writing
If you don’t currently have a blog or social media page, get one! Start practicing your writing skills. The more you write, the more you learn about yourself, your style of writing, your method of writing, etc. Are you someone who likes the pen and paper? Would you rather type it out? Does writing at home distract you? Learning about yourself now, will help when you start writing a longer-form book.

Pull From Previous Content
If you have been blogging or writing articles for a while, pull from that content when creating a book. Think back to previous lessons and presentations. All of that material can become apart of your book. Use the great things you have already created as an outline for this book or future ones!

ID How to Capture Ideas 
I often get random ideas about books or content for the book I am writing while driving, showering, or sitting on the train. One of the biggest tips I have is to find a way to capture these ideas. I now carry around a small notebook to jot down thoughts. I have a notepad app on my phone that also voice records, and I keep a brainstorming document on my laptop. I never remember all of the fleeting ideas I have, so being prepared with ways to capture them has been super helpful.

Join Mastermind Groups

I am apart of a few different writing groups, one of which is within the AND. I love these groups for not only the tips, but also, motivation! Join online groups, email newsletters, or in-person meet-ups!

Get Over Your Fears
Your first book may not be your greatest book, and that is totally okay! Put your heart and soul into what you are doing and just know that the second time around, you will be even better. You will always have people who dislike your content, whether it be a book or blog. You will also always have your die-hard readers and followers. Focus on that positive energy! One thing I kept reminding myself in this process is that I know what I write will at least help one person (even if that one person is a family member).

Just Write 
For about 2 months, I was so concerned with learning the best way to write, the best way to market my book, and the best way to format my book, that I didn’t actually even write anything! I was psyching myself out of writing thinking about all the things I needed to do. I pushed that all aside and basically said to myself that I was worrying over a product that I didn’t even have yet! My final piece advice to aspiring writers out there is to just write. Get it all out on paper first and then worry about the rest.

Are you thinking about or currently writing a book? What have been your most helpful tips in the writing process? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Great Books That Relate to Writing/Creativity/Niche:
Make Your Idea Matter
Start Writing Your Book Today
Writing the Damn Book
The War of Art

Look out for my first book coming SEPTEMBER 2017! 


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Top 5 Tips for Building Partnerships

Over the past few weeks, I have been writing about my tips for gaining clients. One aspect that I did not mention was on building partnerships with other health/medical professionals (or any professional for that matter). I had touched on this in week 2 of my full-time practice; however, today, I wanted to go a bit more in-depth.

Tip #1 – Do Your Research
It is a good idea to do a little recon before you reach out to any medical office, gym, health center, etc. Spend 3-5 minutes browsing their website or Facebook page. Get to know their mission, clientele, offerings, etc. This initial research not only prepares you for the connection; however, it can weed out companies that do not align with what you are doing. Say you find a health center that pushes a lot of supplements and has a nutritionist that gives out meal plans. If you do partner with them, would you be fighting an uphill battle? Do you agree with the types of meal plans they are promoting? How about the supplements? There is no harm in checking out the company and making the first connection; however, just be mindful of whom you are aligning yourself and your business with.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when an individual (or company) reaches out to me to partner (or utilize my expertise) without doing any research on myself or my business. I have had companies misspell my name or think I work in a different field (i.e. clinical or food-service). With a quick Google search, you can find out a lot about my business. It is off-putting to me when someone says incorrect information about my practice that is clearly stated on my website. It makes me think they didn’t do their research and that this relationship is not truly a priority for them.

Tip #2 – Make a Meaningful Connection
Make your first impression with any potential partner a meaningful one. Now, this doesn’t mean swinging by the place of business with your business cards and just dropping them off. Send an initial email or call-in. Schedule a good time to come in to speak with the owner, office manager, or doctor. During this time, discuss what you offer and how that could benefit the facility. Be clear about your expectations and how referrals or services will be rendered. Bring your business cards, but also bring samples of your work (i.e. newsletters, handouts, flyers about services, etc). These could all be things that you leave at the facility, which could bring clients to you.

Tip #3 – Offer a Freebie
As I just mentioned, newsletters or flyers about your services could be great items to bring by an office or health center. Often, companies will want something else for free in turn for sending clients your way. Offer to do employee lunch-n-learns for nutrition or offer free seminars on Diabetes for the patients (in-office). With both of these situations you could be handing out business cards and touting your services. A sample conversation could be, “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me today to brainstorm how we could work together to help patients lead healthier lives. I appreciate your willingness to leave my cards at your main office desk. Another service that I could offer to you and your facility would be my lunch-n-learns (or seminars). This would increase not only patient knowledge of _____, but also, help to get the word out about nutrition counseling. This, in turn, could improve patient outcomes and save some time for you and your staff (as in less education in the room).”

Tip #4 – Follow-up 
After your first connection, schedule a date to follow-up. You could discuss a date/time to follow-up at the end of your initial meeting. An example could be, “Thanks for taking the time to meet (or talk) with me. I can plan to follow-up in a week if that works well for you.” If a potential partner says they will follow-up with you after the meeting, I usually wait 1 to 2 weeks (max) before sending an email or making a call. Sometimes, people just get busy and forget. Other times, I had individuals who were not interested in my services and simply neglected to call and let me know. So, you take the responsibility to check-in and move forward with building a connection.

Tip #5 – Communicate Frequently 
One of the ultimate keys to building a lasting partnership is effective and frequent communication. This could be done in-person or via email or phone. Discuss how things are going. Are the referrals working? Has there been any feedback (positive or negative) about the services? Is the partnerships still worthwhile? What things need to change? When you have that open dialogue from both ends of the partnership, it sets a higher standard for both parties and shows the level of importance. I always think about how communication is essentially nurturing the relationship, whether it be personal or business-related. If you don’t communicate, you can’t address issues or celebrate successes that will ultimately improve the partnership.

What tips do you have for building lasting partnerships? Leave a comment and let me know!