Yes, you want a practice, but you’re going to end up running a small business.
Calling it a practice rather than a business, and calling those you help patients rather than customers can obscure the fact that it’s a business first and a practice second.
Far too many chiropractors are of the mind that the business of chiropractic is somehow distasteful or uninteresting. That’s too bad, because these chiropractors could be helping more people if they were willing to embrace the business aspects of professional practice. Instead, chiropractors with amazing adjusting skills can find themselves in an under- performing practice.
Newly minted chiropractors rarely fail because of their clinical skills. Rather, if their practices go bust it’s almost always due to some oversight or shortcoming in running their small businesses.
A practice encompasses all the clinical elements of caring for a patient: The consultation, the examination, the adjusting””the things you love doing. The business part is doing all of the above at a profit while also taking care of the marketing, banking, taxes, hiring, and staff training.
Falling in love
Become a student again and learn the fundamentals. Pick up a copy of Fast Company magazine. Pick up just about any book written by marketing savant Seth Godin.
When you fall in love with the business of chiropractic you’ll be able to help more people. Don’t forget that the chiropractic legends who became millionaires did so at a time when adjustments cost less than 5 dollars.
Back in the day, I consulted with a chiropractor who owned and operated seven associate-run clinics. Initially, we focused on improving his daily live call-in TV talk show about chiropractic. Many of the chiropractic purists in town were jealous of his domination of the airwaves and his particular style of chiropractic.
By mastering the business aspect of chiropractic and actively marketing his services, however, he not only filled his seven clinics but also created a livelihood for his practitioners and support team of almost 50 people.
When chiropractors struggle
When I consult with chiropractors who are feeling stuck, the problem rarely involves their clinical skills. Often, in fact, they report delighted patients, steady referrals, and even a good number of customers who stay beyond symptomatic relief and pay cash for wellness visits.
Rather, the problem is almost always some aspect of the business of chiropractic that’s standing in the way of real success.
And this is a shame because the marketing advice, human resources advice, cash flow planning, mental outlook, and all the rest are readily available and largely for free. All you need is a willingness to learn.
Few struggling chiropractors wake up one morning with an excited, “Eureka””I need to work on my business!” epiphany. More often, they imagine that some new service, technique, or gadget holds the key to the professional income they seek.
Build it and they will come
If you’re still clinging to the belief that delivering great clinical results is all that’s needed to have a profitable enterprise, snap out of it.
The key is to tell as many strangers as possible about how the body works, how it heals, and why lifetime chiropractic care makes sense. There are many ways to do that. Some involve spending money (a highly ranked website) or emotional effort (public speaking). But you must get out of your office and into action. Market your business, because if it fails, so will your practice.
William Esteb is the creative director of Patient Media, a patient communication resource for chiropractors. He is the author of 11 books that explore the doctor/patient relationship from a patient’s point of view. His most recent, Recalculating!, provides hope and direction for chiropractors attempting to navigate today’s changing practice environment. He can be reached through patientmedia.com.