It’s another beautiful day for listening to the Healthpreneur Podcast! Welcome back to the show. Today we have Dr. Akil Palanisamy giving us the lowdown on how he’s balanced his online and offline business.
Dr. Akil is a Harvard-trained physician who practices integrative medicine and helps his clients heal from serious health conditions with compassion, insight, and in-depth knowledge. His book, “The Paleovedic Diet,” combines his expertise in Ayurveda with the Paleo diet, and he even had a beverage company that offered unique Ayurvedic blends.
Now, Dr. Akil has moved into a business model that he loves which combines in-person connection and interaction with the freedom that comes with being online.
Tune in to hear his eye-opening thoughts on social media, rapid growth, and expanding your knowledge when having a private mentor isn’t in the cards (or the budget) yet.
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In This Episode Akil and I discuss:
- His in-person and online practices.
- How his mindset changed his business.
- The right and wrong way to use social media.
- Why growth isn’t always a good thing, especially when it isn’t sustainable.
- Rock-solid business plans, partnerships, and why daily consumer interaction is key.
- His experience working with a mentor and how you can still learn on a budget.
3:00 – 7:00 – Akil’s business model and how he balances his on and offline work
7:00 – 11:30 – The challenges when moving online; Akil’s organic process and philosophical shift
11:30 – 17:00 – Distraction and comparison; the double-edged sword of social media
17:00 – 24:00 – Akil’s beverage company and what he learned about growth and connection
24:00 – 30:00 – Mentorship as the best investment he’s ever made and how to stay focused
30:00 – 34:00 – The Rapid Five
What You Missed:
In the previous episode, we had a solo round where I talked about the ONE common trait of million dollar coaches.
If you’ve ever found yourself looking at their success and wondering, “What do they have that I don’t?”
Hey guys, welcome to the show. Today we’re speaking to Dr. Akil Palanisamy about how to build a thriving offline practice and online platform, and how both have fed each other in his world.
I’m fascinated by how practitioners use the internet to build a practice and then leverage it to build an online platform. That’s what Dr. Akil has done.
Let me give a little bit of a background as to who he is, in case you’re unfamiliar with him. He’s a medical doctor that is trained as an integrated medicine physician, and the author of “The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease”. He blends his Western medical training with functional medicine and Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.
He also studied biochemistry at Harvard University, received his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, and completed his residency at Stanford University. He completed a fellowship in integrated medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil at the University of Arizona and is certified by The Center of Mind, Body, Medicine at Georgetown University. He sees patients at the Sutter Health Center for Healing in San Francisco, where he also serves as a physician-director for community education. And Dr. Akil has been a consultant with the Medical Board of California for many years.
He is a dynamic and highly sought after speaker who has spoken on numerous stages at numerous conferences around the world and he has a popular blog featuring numerous online classes over at doctorakil.com.
As you can tell, he’s a very well-accomplished individual. Very well-researched and experienced, but he’s not just a doctor. He’s a smart business builder as well, and a smart entrepreneur. He’s going to share some cool stories in this interview.
Without any further ado, let’s bring Dr. Akil on to the show. Akil, welcome to the Healthpreneur Podcast. How are you?
Akil: Doing great, how are you, Yuri?
Yuri: I’m doing very well, thank you very much. It’s great to have you on the show. I’ve heard lots of great things about you. Unfortunately, we’ve never met in person. Hopefully we can change that soon, but for our listeners, can you give everyone a rundown of what your business model currently looks like?
Akil’s business model and how he balances his on and offline work
Akil: Sure. I’m a physician and I do integrated medicine in my practice here in San Francisco. My clinic is called Institute for Health and Healing. My main business, outside of the clinical side in terms of seeing patients, is in education. That was started a couple of years ago with my book called “The Paleovedic Diet,” where I talked about combining Paleo and Ayurveda which had never been done before.
I got a lot of flack from both the Paleo and Ayurvedic communities for trying to put those together.
Yuri: How dare you.
Akil: Exactly, right? Basically, from there I’ve taken that nutritional approach to start classes and online webinars with the book and educational events, just helping to get the word out about health and wellness. It’s very similar to what you’re doing but with a focus more on integrated and holistic medicine.
Yuri: That’s awesome, good for you. So, you’ve been in this space for a while. What have you seen as some of the trends or transitions from where things used to be in the integrated and functional space?
Akil: Within healthcare, changes happen very slowly, so that’s something very different from what you see in eCommerce in the online world.
It’s been very slow to be accepted in terms of a holistic and more integrated approach. One thing I have seen grow a lot in the last few years is a type of medicine called functional medicine. This looks at the function of different organ systems through specialized lab testing. The unique thing about this is that it involves a lot of regular blood work, urine tests, saliva tests, and stool tests, but it just goes above and beyond what a regular conventional physician would do. There’s a lot of data involved.
That appeals to a lot of people. It’s not just talking about energy or feelings, it’s measuring your gut bacteria, measuring your hormones, and looking at optimizing your vitamin and mineral status. That aspect of integrated medicine has exploded.
I practice functional medicine and helping educate and spreading awareness about that has been exciting.
Yuri: Yeah, I bet. That’s awesome. With all the stuff that you do now, do you still see patients in person while building up the online platform? What does a typical week look like for you in terms of where your time is split and what you’re focused on?
Akil: It’s straightforward. I’m in the clinic three days a week, so about 60% of the time, seeing patients directly. Then the other 40% of the time I’m focused on writing, doing research, doing webinars, recording videos and building up the online platform.
Yuri: Nice. We’ve got a lot of listeners who are either doctors or functional medical practitioners, so it’s always interesting to see what people’s different set-ups are like. Since you’ve come online, what are the initial challenges that you faced as you went from a conventional practice offline to now starting to build your presence online?
The challenges when moving online; Akil’s organic process and philosophical shift
Akil: Well one big thing was just a lack of training or guides about how to do this. That’s why I think it’s great that you’ve put together this podcast and all the resources that you have. There was no real guidebook or step-by-step direction. I was just making it up as I went along and learning about SEO, how to build up on social media, and slowly creating content of value to put out there.
One challenge was just not knowing the best way to do things and learning by trial and error. That was quite slow in terms of building up gradually. Now people have so many more resources, sources of knowledge, and education where they can gain those insights and use those to grow their business faster.
In my case, it was a very slow process initially. That was frustrating because I wanted to expand and scale right away, but it takes time when you’re doing it very organically and slowly.
Yuri: I’m right there with you. It took forever to crack the code, if you will.
Unfortunately, in health coaching schools, medical, or integrated education, no one’s teaching the business marketing things that are important. If you can’t get people to know about you and work with you, you can’t serve them.
It continues to be a big gap in the marketplace. But with that said, you’ve obviously had some great strides online. What have you found to be the most pivotal or impactful endeavor? What’s the one big thing that stands out for you when it comes to the online side of your business?
Akil: The pivotal moment was not a specific technique but more of a philosophical change.
It was when I started to focus less on the numbers in terms of how many visitors we were getting, how many followers, et cetera, and those kinds of metrics. I started focusing within, thinking, “Am I putting forth my authentic self every day?” And I think that changed how I viewed the business and it also transformed the content that I put forth. I was more willing to share more of myself and reveal more of my personal story through the different media.
Just asking that question made a difference in terms of my approach to the whole business. That came from a place of being with my authentic self and wanting to put forth something of value every day. I focused on useful information that I thought would be helpful to the maximum number of people. That focus was the key because then, later, the success came in terms of followers and revenue and website growth.
I think focusing on the value and authenticity of the content was the turning point for me.
Distraction and comparison; the double-edged sword of social media
Yuri: And it’s so valuable, too, because it’s very easy.
How do you stay free from of distraction and comparison in a day and age where everyone’s on social and comparing themselves to other people in their space?
When you do that, I find that you lose who you truly are. You end up trying to be a combination of different people and you’re not showing up as your true self, which hurts your position in the marketplace because you’re not you.
What advice do you give people who are going through that right now and are comparing and trying to be someone they aren’t?
Akil: I think there will always be people who are more successful than you, have more followers, have a bigger website, or are making more money online. One realization is that that’s always going to be the case and that’s okay.
You don’t have to compare yourself and be the number one in every category and feel bad if you’re not doing as well as somebody else. At the end of the day, you just want to be doing your best and taking the initiative to create something that is unique for you. Each of us has that capacity to do something that no one else has done, do something in a new way, or be creative and express that part from within.
What helped me was being less active on social media, in terms of following other sites and reading what other people are doing and staying up to date. I limit my time on social media a little bit in terms of what I read. It’s helpful because I didn’t realize how much time was getting taken up by that. Cutting back a little bit helped me focus on myself and realize that it’s okay, because there’s always going to be somebody doing more and doing better. If I’m doing my best, happy, and being true to myself in terms of what I put forth of value, then that’s the most important thing.
Yuri: Yeah, that’s a great perspective. It’s so true because it becomes very overwhelming. I don’t have Facebook or Instagram on my phone anymore and it’s so freeing. It’s the best. If you’re listening, I highly recommend it.
Akil: What about Twitter? Do you still have Twitter?
Yuri: I don’t think I’ve used Twitter in seven years. I have an account but I haven’t done anything on it. Do you use it at all?
Akil: I do. I’ve heard that it helps to delete the social media apps from your phone. I haven’t done that yet, but I’m toying with the possibility.
Yuri: One of the things I recognize is, “Am I going on social to create or consume?” And I’m not going on Instagram several times a day to post. I’m just, by habit, scrolling through the feed and it’s not a very productive use of my time or best input for my brain.
It wasn’t serving me and my business and the people I want to serve, so I stopped bothering. We have ways that we publish content on Instagram, but I don’t need to have constant inundation of selfies and whatever else that’s not uplifting my day on my phone.
Akil: There was an interesting study where they asked people in their 20s, “How many times a day do you check your phone?” They estimated 20 or 30 times, but when they measured it, it was closer to 65. They underestimated by half what they were doing because it’s so unconscious and automatic.
Like you said, most of the time it’s not a productive use of time. In teenagers, too much social media use has been linked with anxiety, depression, and other issues. It’s a double-edged sword; we must realize that there’s a right way and a wrong way to use this technology. To use it smartly is important.
Yuri: A follow-up on what you said about teens, apparently, the highest suicide rate in the US is girls around 14 years old, which is very sad and unfortunate. I think when people are so disconnected, they’re hurting at a deep level.
Before we started recording this, you mentioned that you had a beverage company. I certainly didn’t know that and I’m sure a lot of other people don’t know as well.
Do you have a favorite failure that has later set you up for success? Was part of that failure part of this beverage company, or is there something else?
Akil’s beverage company and what he learned about growth and connection
Akil: I think that was one of the biggest failures I’ve learned from.
It was an Ayurvedic beverage company. In my practice, I use herbs from Ayurveda, which is the traditional medicine from India. I often see people get dramatically better even without medications or drugs.
I had the desire to bring that to more people and started making this beverage with herbs, spices, and fruits at home and started giving it to patients and a few people. It was getting good feedback and people were encouraging me to bottle and sell it.
So about ten years ago, I launched an Ayurvedic beverage company. It was called Ayu Drinks and I had no experience whatsoever in the beverage space. I had no MBA, no degree in business, nothing but a real desire to share this product with people. Step by step we started producing it and moving it out of my kitchen to a bottling facility. We got it organically certified and started getting it into stores and farmer’s markets.
The great thing about farmer’s markets is that we would do demos and talk to people directly, give samples, and get feedback. It was a big lesson to just talk directly to the consumer every day and figure out what their opinions and needs are. That was something I took away from that.
Eventually we expanded to about 300 stores in California, New York, and the East Coast. We started growing too quickly. At the time, I thought growing for the sake of growth was great, but now I realize that it was one of the reasons why that failed. We just spread ourselves too thin.
We were in all these stores where we didn’t have the support in terms of demos or publicity to educate people about the product and have them try samples, which is a big part of beverage sales. It’s just getting people to drink the product.
Eventually, it became harder to sustain all the different stores we were in. I realized that we had come too far, but you can’t scale back once you’re in that mode. We decided to shut things down.
I learned that daily interaction with the people consuming your product is so valuable. Take that to heart. It’s something I’ve applied in future businesses. Also, growing for the sake of growth is not necessarily a good thing. Think about the pace of your predictions and definitely have goals and metrics that you want to hit at 6 months, a year, or 5 years.
It’s important to realize that growth isn’t always a good thing, and you want to be thoughtful about whether you’re growing at a sustainable pace. It may make sense to grow now or maybe not; maybe you want to focus on consolidating, building up your content, or certain other things.
Don’t necessarily just strive for growth. Even though that failed, I did have a sense of satisfaction from having pursued it and tried it. And there’s still people today who ask me, “When are you bringing back Ayu Drinks?” We have no plans, but just taking a chance, producing it, and getting it out there was very fulfilling.
Yuri: That’s awesome. I want to touch on what you mentioned about growing for the sake of growing, which I think is a natural tendency for most entrepreneurs. If a million dollars is great, then 10 million must be better and then 100 million must be better than that. And this is one of the biggest epiphanies a lot of entrepreneurs have when they’ve had some degree of success. They ask: “I’m okay at 2 million, why do I have to go to 20?”
What was your realization about that process? Was there a moment where you thought, “Why am I even doing this? What’s the point of all this?” What did that process look like for you and what was the big take away from all that? How have you applied that to what you’re doing now?
Akil: Within the beverage space, it’s mostly driven by distributors who pick up your product and distribute it to different stores. We were excited about signing up as many distributors as possible but later we realized that we hadn’t thought out a strategy in doing so.
Several these distributors ended up having overlapping territories and started selling the products in the same store and having a competition. They got upset with us for having put too many people in the same territory. The lesson was to have a thought-out plan; in terms of the markets you’re going to go after and how to not have overlap. Carefully chose who you’re partnering with for each area.
That doesn’t translate directly into online sales but I think what I’ve taken from that is to be very careful about who I’m partnering with. If I’m partnering with somebody to publicize an online course or something like that, each partner must bring value and spread the word to a different set of people.
There’s a wide range of different populations and segments that you can target. I learned to be thoughtful about partnerships and to create a plan for hitting as many different groups of people as possible. That has been the takeaway.
Yuri: That’s great.
On the flip side of that, what’s one of the best investments you’ve ever made in terms of monetary expense, time, or education?
Mentorship as the best investment he’s ever made and how to stay focused
Akil: That’s a good question. In integrated medicine, mentors are valuable and the most important thing. There aren’t that many of them because the number of MDs that incorporate a holistic approach is still small overall.
About ten years ago, I invested in this fellowship in integrated medicine with Andrew Weil, who’s at the University of Arizona. He was one of my idols growing up and when I was a student in medical school. The opportunity came to study with him directly and spend a couple of years with him learning in Tucson.
Even though it was certainly very expensive and time-consuming, looking back, that was one of the best investments I’ve made. It was a great experience to get insights from him directly. He’s such a great teacher and shares himself with his students in that program. It also gave me a good foundation in holistic integrated medicine.
We never got that training in medical school so I had to go out of my way, on my own, to seek that out. I think that has been one of the most valuable investments that I’ve made.
Yuri: That’s wicked. Almost everyone that we’ve had on the show shares the importance of investing in a mentor. And there’s a big difference between investing and getting free help. I think you must pay-to-play because there’s a level of commitment there that’s unparalleled.
If you were to speak with someone – like a new health coach or practitioner – who doesn’t have the resources to invest in a coach or mentor (even though it’s one of the most important things they could do to accelerate their progress), what would you say to them?
Akil: Right now there are so many mentors who have shared their stories, both in books and online. Seek out those people and communities. I’m a big believer in networking and attending events and conferences where you don’t have to invest a lot of money but you meet a lot of like-minded people.
You might get inspired by people who are further along in the field and more experienced, like some of the speakers. I don’t think it must take a lot of resources. In the beginning, start out by networking and reading some inspirational stories about people who have succeeded in the field. That’s a good place to start.
Yuri: Awesome advice. I forgot to mention to you that I have this ritual called The Rapid Five, which are five rapid-fire questions I ask everyone at the end of the show. I’m going to get to those in a second.
But before I do, when you feel overwhelmed, unfocused, scattered or off-track, what questions do you ask yourself to get back on track and focused?
Akil: For me that can happen frequently because I have a lot going on right now. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and scattered. Sitting down for five minutes to do some yoga is something that I find settles my mind. I remind myself why am I doing everything that I’m doing.
Thinking about my family, my wife, and my daughter motivates me to do the things I’m doing, and remembering that always helps with focusing the mind. Simple, deep breaths, a few stretches, gets you into the body and out of that tailspin in the mind.
That’s a good way to get grounded and refocused again.
Yuri: I find myself doing that as well. When I find that I’m racing through the day I put on the brakes, have a seat, and do some deep breathing. Man, it makes a huge difference. That’s awesome advice.
The Rapid Five
Akil, are you ready for The Rapid Five, now that I have forewarned you about them?
Akil: Yes, sounds good.
Yuri: . Okay, so it’s five rapid-fire questions, and whatever comes to mind is probably the right answer. With that said, number one: What is your biggest weakness?
Akil: My biggest weakness is that I’m a peace-loving person by nature. Sometimes that translates into avoiding conflict. I always work on communicating and not being afraid to disagree or have conflict, and I make sure I’m not going with that tendency I have too much.
Yuri: Sure. Number two, what is your biggest strength?
Akil: My biggest strength is having a vision for the long term and translating that into the day-to-day practical steps that are required. Since I’ve been working on projects for almost 30 years now, I feel like I’ve gotten more skilled at that.
Yuri: Awesome. That’s a good skill to have. And speaking of skills, that leads us to our next question which is, what’s one skill you become dangerously good at to grow your business online or in-person?
Akil: One, connecting with people is still what I do every day, whether it’s connecting with people I’m sitting across from in clinic every week or people I’m talking to on videos. I think that just being able to make a meaningful human-to-human connection is important.
Number two, understanding what is of value to that person, and giving them some of that in as concise a way as possible.
Yuri: Awesome, number four: What do you do first thing in the morning?
Akil: I have a big glass of warm water with some lemon juice. On good days, I follow that up with about ten minutes or so of sitting meditation before I begin the rest of the day.
Yuri: Excellent. I like how you said “on good days.”
Akil: Exactly. That’s the ideal.
Yuri: I can relate to that one. Finally, complete this sentence: I know I’m being successful when…
Akil: When every morning I’m thrilled to be getting out of bed and excited about what the day will bring me.
Yuri: Great answer. There we go guys, Dr. Akil Palanisamy. Thank you so much. What is the best place for our listeners to follow your work online and stay in touch with you?
Akil: The best place would be my website doctorakil.com. That has the links to all my social media and the website is where my online course is. Everything starts there.
Yuri: Awesome. Great stuff. Dr. Akil, thank you so much for joining us today, this has been a lot of fun. It’s always a pleasure to connect with great minds and people who are doing great stuff in this space.
Thank you so much for being with us and doing the work that you do because it makes a difference in a lot of people’s lives.
Akil: My pleasure Yuri, thanks so much for having me on and same to you as well. I’ve heard all the amazing work that you’re doing, so thanks for being such an inspiration to so many people.
Yuri: Thank you.
I loved a couple things about our conversation.
Here’s this medical doctor who’s got a deep-seeded entrepreneurial spirit, trying one company, doing that, then venturing off to other things. That’s cool and exciting because I believe that if you’re a medical doctor or someone who’s in a clinic, you still must take it upon yourself to make things happen.
I believe entrepreneurs are like the tectonic plates under the Earth’s crust. We make the world go around and make everything happen. We shift the continents and we make the economy what it is, starting at the grassroots level all the way up to bigger organizations. If you think about it, every huge Fortune 500 company you can think of was once a one or two person show.
One, two, or a few people slowly but surely built up their vision over time, and maybe they lost their way along the way. I’m not too sure. But that’s why I love entrepreneurship, because you can take an idea that in your head, something that is intangible, and turn it into the visible to make people’s lives better.
Whether you’re a doctor, health coach, or someone who has expertise in health who has a great idea to serve people, get it out there. Bring it to market. Make sure it’s something that’s highly desirable and helpful, and follow that path. There’s nothing better than having your own business, there’s nothing better than being able to live life on your terms.
But be very realistic about the fact that having your own business comes with a lot of ups and downs.
You’re taking on more risk than the people who work for you. That’s why they work for you. If you don’t enjoy that, if you’re not realistic about the fact that you’ll have to go through a lot of personal growth and a lot of ups and downs, then maybe you’re better off working for someone else.
But if you still have that entrepreneurial desire, that spirit inside of you that says, “You know what? I can’t listen to a boss and I can’t take directions. I need to do my own thing.” You know what? You’re in the right place.
I want to thank you very much for joining me today.
First and foremost, if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast, you can do so today on iTunes. Just subscribe to the Healthpreneur Podcast. There are lots of great episodes coming your way.
Secondly, if you want the smarter, newer, quicker way to build a high 6 or 7 figure online health coaching business, then I invite you to join one of my online free trainings called The 7 Figure Health Business Blueprint.
In it, I’ll show you exactly how to do that. One of the biggest problems people come to us is, “I don’t know how to attract my ideal clients predictably. I’m relying on word-of-mouth referrals, manual prospecting, and I’ve put flyers in different clinics.” That’s not a way to build a business.
In this training, you’ll discover our perfect client pipeline, how we operate it, and how you can too in your business. You’ll start to predictably attract the best clients into your business so that even when you’re out walking your dog, traveling, or sleeping, your marketing is automated so people are benefiting from your knowledge, wisdom, and processes. They’ll go through this pipeline without your involvement.
If that’s something of interest to you, I would strongly recommend you jump in to that free online training today. Why wait? It’s top of mind right now. If you’re driving, pull over, whip out your laptop, and have a look.
But honestly, if you’re thinking that things right now aren’t as great as you want them to be, whether you’re just starting off, you’re scaling your business, or you want that little extra tweak to get to the next level, I promise you it will be the best 75 minutes you’ve spent on your business.
So, check it out today! Thank you again for joining me on this podcast. It’s been a lot of fun bringing this to you. Have an amazing day. Continue to get out there, be great, and do great. I’ll see you in our next episode.
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