Lessons from the Coal Face

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At the tender age of 19, I was looking for a ‘grown up job’. Having worked at the local Coles for a few years, I decided I was ready for my next challenge. If you can remember back to 2018/2019, the coal industry was in a tailspin. Mining projects were popping up everywhere and hideous amounts of money were being spent to keep up with domestic and international coal demand. As fate would have had it, a position with Rio Tinto came up as an Administrator on their newest $2.6 billion dollar mine construction project and I was their chosen candidate.

Being new to a ‘grown up job’ and being charged with setting up all the administrative systems, policies and processes on the site, I armed myself with common sense and a determined attitude (because that’s all I had!). Bunkered together in a Donga (something only Queenslanders might know), we were a lean project team. Although I was hired as an administrator, I was also the Travel Coordinator, HR Administrator, temporary training admin, stationery orderer, temporary document controller and Plant & Machinery administrator, but I wasn’t special in this area, everyone was taking on multiple full-time roles, and everyone was doing the same as me – ramping up quickly so we could get the job done. No one cared to give advice or guidance, we were all literally tasked to “just do it” (whatever the “it” was).

Now that I am a business owner, I can draw so many parallels between that time in my life and my business, as I am sure you can as well in your own private practice journey. You decide to ‘become a grown-up’ and start a business on your own, to live life on your own terms. But you shortly realise, there are no policies, procedures or systems in place to carry you along. There’s a limited support base around you that ‘gets’ what you are doing. You’ve got to “just do it” whatever “it” is!”. So today, I want to share with you some learnings that I picked up from working on a $2.6 billion dollar mine construction project.


Running a successful business is about being consistent. Having procedures in place is an integral part of that. Even if you work on your own, one day you will introduce someone into your inner circle. Maybe that person is another therapist, perhaps its an admin assistant. Writing out your procedures (even in the most basic form), gets the ideas and processes out of your head and onto paper. It makes them tangible and easier to follow. They can also keep you on track when you are feeling lost and even add value to your business in the future if you decide to sell.


Your business has an hourly running rate. If you sell an hour-long session for $150, you have a GSuite account, business utilities, car expenses and maybe even office space expenses, your hourly running rate is somewhere up around $200 per hour. Now, if you are spending $200 an hour to navigate through manual processes, tend to menial tasks or have ‘complimentary consultations over the phone’, then you are seriously limiting your earning potential.

Once you have documented your procedures, AUTOMATE THEM! Get a Practice Management System, schedule out your social media posts, hire a VA to answer your calls and book your appointments, use a proper bookkeeping system.


The reality is, you’ll never have a perfect set of procedures. You’ll never be totally organised. But the world doesn’t stop. Your clients need you, you need to find new clients to keep your books full. If you’re totally lost, use common sense, write up a Minimal Viable Procedure (the bare bones of a task, none of the fluffy stuff).



You’ll always have too many things on your plate. Tackle the ones that make you money first. Whether its client work, business marketing activities or even stepping out systems that will make you more efficient, put them first over all the menial or ‘unbillable tasks’ on your plate.