We’re excited to partner with and learn from Lesli Bitel Koskela, MBA, RDN, LDN, CLT, a master business coach and mentor helping other dietitians build successful private practices.
Healthie: Tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming a dietitian.
Lesli: When I first went to school, I obtained dual degrees in both dietetics and “health and fitness promotion in hospital and corporate settings,” which was when the area of corporate wellness was just beginning to grow. After my dietetic internship, I worked at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago doing both clinical and corporate wellness work.
I really loved the business aspect of the work I was doing and had a knack for marketing. After a few years working clinically, I moved into a sales and marketing role working for various medical, pharmaceutical, and startup companies. I loved the entrepreneurial nature of business!
Most of my career was spent on the business side, working at a range of companies and corporations from smaller start ups to large enterprises. Eventually, I climbed my way up to regional business director and had 150 people reporting to me, including sales reps, district managers, and support staff. It was a really big job with a ton of responsibility, and I loved it.
Shortly after I had my second child, I decided to take some time off to be with my kids and to explore opportunities that would enable me to be more available for them. I wanted to have more flexibility and control over my schedule so I decided to go back to my roots and true love (nutrition), and started my private practice in 2008. I grew a multifaceted private practice, including medical nutrition therapy, corporate wellness, and health coaching – focusing on mindful and intuitive eating and later specialized in helping people with neurological disorders through integrative and functional nutrition.
Knowing that I was going to move into a business coaching role, it was important to me to gain experience in a variety of different areas. As a result I have a clear understanding of how to best help my clients, regardless of their chosen area of specialization.
Healthie: What influenced your decision to start your coaching business?
Lesli: When I decided to start my private practice, I also decided to get my MBA, which was something I had always wanted to do. It took me four years part-time, but I finally received my MBA in 2013, specializing in global business and leadership development. I knew I was doing it so that I could readily move into a business coaching role.
In 2010, before I finished my MBA, I launched a 3-part series that focused on teaching dietitians how to integrate nutritional genomics into their practices, as a way to add value to their services and as a way to differentiate themselves.
This experience solidified my love of working with dietitians, and I decided that doing so was truly my calling. Dietitians have so many gifts to offer to the world in terms of helping others to regain their health through natural means, and they are so good at what they do!
Where they often struggle is in overcoming the overwhelm and confusion with the business side of building their practices. This is completely understandable given the fact that we receive very little, if any, training on how to market and attract clients into our practices! So my job is to make this process seamless and even FUN!
To me, there is nothing more gratifying that to witness my clients go from struggling to making ends meet to becoming confident business owners who have more than enough ideal clients and run a profitable, joyful and fulfilling practice – doing what they love. That’s my passion and makes my career incredibly gratifying.
So this was the right place for me to be. In 2011, I slowly began to transition my practice to business coaching, and I’ve had a full time thriving practice in business coaching and mentoring since the latter part of 2013. I can‘t imagine doing anything else!
Healthie: In your experience, what is the biggest obstacle nutrition entrepreneurs face?
Lesli: The number one obstacle, hands down, is that we have amazing clinical training, but as I mentioned before, we get little to no business training.
Dietitians can help their clients in incredible ways, but to do so we must have the necessary business skills to grow a private practice and attract the clients that need our help.
Most RDs I know invest in ramping up clinical skills because that’s what is interesting to us — and we always need to be learning current research and growing our clinical skills.
But at the same time, at least 50% of success in private practice is going to be on the business side. And that’s where I can help dietitians. I help fill this gap so RDNs can make a nice living doing what they love, fully utilizing their clinical skill sets and being their own boss.
Healthie: Are there any other common obstacles you see in your coaching business?
Lesli: The other big challenge for dietitians in private practice is getting clients to come back over and over.
A lot of times clients will come once or twice and then fall off. Or, if it’s an insurance-based business, they will return because services are covered, but a lot of times these clients are not as committed. Getting lots of high quality, committed clients that are really committed to achieving goals over period of time (i.e. months) is definitely a challenge that can be overcome with proper training and mentoring
So, a strategy needs to be in place to get repeat business.
It is so much more expensive (in time, money and effort) to constantly be trying to fill your schedule with new business. It’s not a sustainable model. I help my clients in this area so they can work with their clients over an elongated period of time and it‘s a win-win for both parties…the dietitian gets the pleasure of seeing her client achieve his/her goals and the client is able to successfully regain his or her health because they’ve committed to the process.
Also, many nutrition entrepreneurs I see feel uncomfortable selling.
They hate talking about money, so I see them under-pricing and not earning what they know they’re worth. This is a huge part of my practice; I teach clients how to enroll clients in a really genuine, heartfelt way, because the only kind of marketing and sales I ever advocate is transparent and authentic.
Healthie: What’s one piece of advice you wish someone told you before you started your business? One piece of advice for nutrition students or dietetic interns?
Lesli: In this day and age of technology, I see many nutrition entrepreneurs spending a lot of money and time on elaborate websites, and we think we’ll have a booming practice once this is complete.
But it’s not necessary. This is not what moves the needle in creating demand for your services.
Someone probably told me this, but I didn’t listen at the time so I hope others can learn from my mistakes. You just have to get out there.
The best way to make things happen is by creating relationships. You can’t hide behind a computer. Get out there and start talking to people. Let potential clients know you can help and invite them to step in to work with you so that they can get the help they need to resolve their health issues.
Healthie: How do you think technology is changing the field of nutrition?
I remember being at FNCE years ago and hearing about the high level of efficacy for telephonic nutrition counseling sessions as compared to in person services. The telephonic sessions were found to be very close in efficacy because it was much more convenient for clients so they actually made their sessions.
This was a decade ago, even before video conferencing. With more technological advancements, I believe this is definitely where things are headed.
There are some amazing new platforms out there… Healthie being at the very top of my list! It’s an amazing product. I wasted so much time and money trying to find a platform like Healthie. I only wish it had been around when I started my nutrition practice!
If you’d like to learn more about Lesli and her business coaching services, please visit her website. Healthie is excited to partner with such great mentors!