The heart of the ‘business of chiropractic’ cannot do without soft skills (people skills) combined with systemic planning
For all doctors who have been in practice for a while (it’s your choice what “a while” means to you), let’s help new and newer practitioners launch their future right. Please, let’s guide our next generation of chiropractors to excellence, moral service, servant leadership and many forms of thriving success, including both soft skills and establishing the right business systems.
Established doctors need to ask themselves: “What have I learned that younger doctors need to know? What would I do differently if I could go back in time?
The No. 1 piece of advice? Learn how to run the business of chiropractic.
This means finding a qualified mentor (a process which took me two decades) and learning what business “is.” The chiropractic business is in part — but only in part — your clinical skills (key deliverable). If your “ice cream” is mediocre, that won’t help you build your ice cream empire.
Sure, great marketing can help sell a mediocre product, but a superior product (in chiropractic’s case, the service) has a competitive advantage. The advice for new DCs is to develop your clinical skills throughout your career. Oh, and learn to protect yourself from bad habits or heroic adjusting moves. If you’re injured, you can’t serve others and earn a living.
Soft skills (aka people skills)
There are also soft skills, aka “people skills.” Without people — both patients and staff — you won’t have much of a practice.
Interpersonal skills matter. Blair Singer, author of “The ABCS of Building a Business Team that Wins,” writes, “True communication is the response you get.” Become a master listener, a student of people. Communication is a two-way process. Learn to actively listen and develop soft skills that improve communications.
Build your systems, but never become a robot. An exquisite “robot” chiropractor (or team member) is not as good as a top-notch communicator who is unconsciously competent at recognizing others and adapting to their learning and emotional styles via their soft skills.
Don’t be a spineless chiropractor (gross!) who lacks boundaries and standards, a chameleon who modifies treatment recommendations to make patients “happy” (and forever failing). But do use your ears and your heart, in addition to your mind and vocal cords. You might be surprised at what you see and hear, and the results to your bottom line (if that matters to you) will astound you.
Don’t neglect your business systems. Define those systems in writing, and be sure everyone on your team understands them.
What’s your hiring system? Your onboarding and training system? Your new-patient attraction system? Your billing and collection system? How are phone calls handled? What’s your patient retention system? How do you explain and handle finances with patients? What’s your business model (cash-only, PI, insurance, a mix)? How do you develop treatment plans? How do you learn and grow from mistakes (they happen)? What are your documentation standards? What systems help you minimize audit risks? And many more.
Can you imagine a pilot who wasn’t trained to handle adverse weather? Prepare for all weather — especially weather you know is part of the chiropractic flight path.
Lastly (or maybe it should be firstly), there’s company culture. Who are you? What’s your vision, your mission, your values, your code of honor? Are they meaningful? Impactful? Part of who you are as an organization?
Be sure who you are and what you believe is clear and present throughout your corporate DNA. A snail egg produces a snail, never an oak tree. Build the machinery that produces what it’s designed to.
From whence come my insights? I credit everything I know to my coaching and business development team, as well as to many mentors I’ve had along the way. I’m grateful to generous and wise authors whose works I’ve devoured like water in a desert, and perhaps most importantly the “School of Hard Knocks.”
Developing soft skills and business systems are not intuitive for everyone. Sometimes we need to burn our own hand in a flame (or injure our own wrist or shoulder) to truly understand. It’s my hope you will make fewer mistakes than I have, and when you do make mistakes, celebrate them as learning opportunities.
DANIEL A. SHAYE, DC, CCSP, FIAMA, is the clinical director of Performance Chiropractic LLC in Williamsburg, Va. A 1996 salutatorian magna cum laude graduate of Logan College of Chiropractic (now Logan University), he is the third chiropractor in his family.