“Wait a minute! Are you telling me to do more paperwork? I love taking care of patients. I don’t love writing plans!” Doctors, we’re a physical group. We tend to avoid activities that require us to sit at our desks and write. However, remember that you are the most qualified person to lead your practice. In order to lead it to whatever your version of success is, you must first map out the route.
Therefore, you have to write a plan on how you’ll accomplish your goals. Taking the time to formalize your planning is the only way to enhance your practice.
Some practices never grow. It’s the rare chiropractor who decides not to increase his or her practice. Many doctors just don’t know what it takes to get the practice to grow.
On the other hand, you can grow too fast. Unplanned expansion can overextend your resources. Both conditions, undergrowth or overgrowth, can blow the doors shut on your practice faster than the wind from a dishonest politician.
In other words, if you start from the time you even think about opening your own practice, a solid plan will provide the strong foundation you need to build a successful practice.
The U.S. Small Business Admin- istration (SBA) conducted a study that determined 63% of small businesses failed within their first six years.
The SBA found these failures were the result of an inability of business managers to control four critical areas:
Let’s talk about one of those areas: planning. Planning can very well be described by its synonyms: designing, masterminding, preparing, plotting, shaping and an all-time favorite… scheming.
Comedian Dave Barry had a great illustration regarding the the perils of poor planning. He said, “Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night.”
You’d be amazed at how many chiropractors figuratively take both of the above pills every night. They technically know about those pills and are aware of the results from their consumption. However, they “mess up” by not planning their sequential intake management.
Most chiropractors are excellent technicians; that is, they have learned about and know how to apply the technical aspects of their profession. What is needed, however, are more chiropractors who are proficient in the planning and management of their practices.
When your duties move you from the realm of technician into the position of practice management, you have to change the way you evaluate situations.
As a manager, you need to broaden your viewpoint and look at the overall or big picture. For example, take your car. As a carburetor technician, all you have to know is how to apply the technical aspects of adjusting your car’s carburetor. As the owner/manager of your car, you must not only have a general knowledge of how your entire car operates, but you need to know how and where to drive it. That takes planning.
In order to properly apply your management skills, you must know the difference between being a technician and being a business manager.
Although this logic may same obvious to some, there are others who have trouble differentiating even simple things in life. For example, I was taking the written portion of a driving test when a fellow next to me seemed to be having trouble answering one of the questions.
He turned to me and asked: “What’s the difference between a flashing red and flashing yellow traffic light?” Not wanting to be involved in any cheating, I answered his question with a question, “Well, what do you think is the difference?” He replied, “The color!”
That person would have trouble knowing the difference between a technician and a manager. (I also wouldn’t want to be driving alongside him.)
Evaluating a situation is basically asking yourself a series of questions, then determining what type of actions to take based upon your answers.
Examples of what you should ask when evaluating your practice include:
- What areas of my business do I have to strengthen to make my practice stronger overall?
- What strategic planning will I have to formulate to compete in the changing marketplace?
- What further education, business as well as chiropractic, will I need to enhance my practice growth?
The answers you get from your analysis will also help to “drive” your practice over and around obstacles occasionally presented by outside influences.
Changes in the economy or seasonal distractions are examples of outside events that affect your practice. External events are pretty much beyond your control, so you must plan for their likelihood. For a practice to be capable of rising above external influences, it must have strong management.
The way to determine if a chiropractor is a strong manager is to view that doctor like a tea bag. The chiropractor has to be placed in hot water before you know his or her strength. However, like that tea bag, if the chiropractor is constantly in hot water, the management strength will become diluted. The solution is to engage in consistent, worthy planning, which will keep the doctor out of many hot water situations.
A 1995 survey by “Entrepreneur Magazine” found that four out of five businesses fail within their first five years. More importantly, the magazine developed a list of the reasons why those business ventures failed. Near the top of that list was, “The inability of management to properly plan, reach decisions and act upon them.”
To put it another way, you have to determine where you want to go, figure out the route to that goal, make the decision to go, then get off your duff and start driving!
The first and most basic plan you need to create is your business plan. Now, don’t be intimidated. Answer five basic questions and you’ll end up with an excellent business plan.
Those five questions are:
- How can I best describe my business? One way to answer this question would be to ask, “What exactly is chiropractic service and what can it accomplish?”
- How will I provide my services and make them stand out from similar services in my community? This would describe special hours of operation, special techniques, and/or
reasonable fee schedules.
- Who else provides similar services in my community? No matter how friendly other providers might be, all of us are vying for the same piece of cherry pie. By knowing the strengths and weaknesses of those providers, it will guide the formulation of your practice goals and objectives.
- What is my management structure? It’s more than just taking on the title of “President of All That Moves or Crawls.” A management structure outlines the responsibilities assigned to those working in your practice, including your own.
- What is my marketing plan? Simply stating you intend to advertise is insufficient. For example, your marketing plan will detail how much you plan to budget for marketing, which happens to include advertising.
An excellent budget device is to link advertising to gross income, and set it at about 6%-10%. That’s all part of a marketing plan.
Planning is a natural event. You do it every day, all day. For example, You plan how, when and where you will shop for groceries, partake of your amusements or whether and how to spend or invest your money. If you apply the same energy toward planning the present and future directions of your practice, your returns will be the stuff dreams are made of.
Start your planning now and begin to enjoy the rewards as your dreams turn into realities.