You have reached that stage in your professional career where it is time to run your own hospital. You sat in on those seminars, read every article about practice ownership and listened to advice from colleagues. But do you remember all those tips you learned?
So often, we forget, ignore or are just plain confused about the secrets of running a successful business. Some of us think practice success is only for those who hire advisors and consultants, and others believe it is due to the correct alignment of the stars and planets (aka luck).
For a new practice owner, having a successful practice hinges on not only being smart, but being a SMARTE (No, not a smarty-pants or a smart aleck…), which can be achieved by following these six tips:
Share the vision
You cannot expect to have a successful practice if no one has any idea what the mission or vision really is. Your employees need to work as a cohesive unit; a collective intelligence, if you will, on everything from talking to clients on the phone to exam room consultations to discharge instructions. They cannot function as a high-performance team if they do not know the practice’s strategic tenets. In addition, they can’t help build the practice’s success if they have no clue what differentiates the practice from the competition.
When connected to a shared core principle, team behavior and performance enhance business performance. This link between behavior and core principles ranks higher than any other factor for business success.1
So, how does one get to this high level of shared principles?
With leadership; your leadership as the practice owner, as well as the leadership of your management team. And leadership must focus on a few critical areas to spur business success:
- Help team members understand the business strategy, mission and vision.
- Help team members understand how they contribute to achieving goals.
- Share information relative to goals and strategy. 2
Share the vision, share information and lead the way—after all, your employees cannot help drive business success if they don’t know your goals or the practice strategy.
Manage your systems
Running a business entails managing your business systems (e.g., financials, operations, human resources, etc.). And business success hinges on being profitable, which is enhanced when you watch the numbers. What numbers you watch and who watches them depend somewhat on your unique practice, but there are some standard industry benchmarks to monitor regularly.
Develop scorecards and track Key Performance Indicators (KPI) such as the number of transactions, net income, cost of goods sold, payroll as a percentage of income, income-to-expense ratios, new client numbers, client retention, client satisfaction and net promoter scores. Keeping information like this at your fingertips lets you see how your practice measures up to published benchmarks of well-managed practices and how your practice is performing compared to previous quarters or years. Then, kick it up a notch and present information to your team using Open Book Management (OBM) techniques.
Harvard Business School leaders have said OBM has been the most significant business management idea in the last 75 years. OBM gives practice leaders a step-by-step way to measure performance. Team members better understand financial strategies and goals and how they play a role in achieving those goals.
In addition to KPI Scorecards, having some form of documented processes will benefit the management of your operations and human resource management. For example, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can be as detailed as having scripted phrases for communicating to clients or generalized listings of points to cover regarding a topic or procedures. In addition, employee handbooks, training manuals, and medical protocols are necessary for job performance clarity and even mitigating legal risks.
Adapt and learn
Differentiation from competitors will give you a competitive advantage; however, rapid learning and adaptation will be necessary for continued success.1 Change is inevitable.
Do you learn and adapt when circumstances present themselves? Do you view obstacles as opportunities? How do you monitor obstacles and opportunities? Do you look beyond your immediate four walls for opportunities and threats?
An easy way to keep your fingers on the pulse of change is to request feedback from your clients. Surveys such as the Net Promoter Score are a great way to determine what your clients think, say and value. Remember to also survey your team, as they often hear praises and complaints from your clients that you may not.
Once you learn of changes, determine if your services meet your client, patient, team and business needs. Differentiate yourself from your competitors (both local and on the internet). Manage change initiatives with careful, organized planning. Do not ignore the power of your culture and recognize when you need to have a cultural change before implementing strategic changes. Culture trumps strategy every time.
Relationships need built
Client service means building relationships and trust. Building relationships requires a strategic plan which includes listening to what your clients are saying. Then, use what your clients love about your practice to develop a plan to convert “shoppers” into “regulars” and, ultimately, “advocates” for your practice.
Positive relationships in your community are also essential for business success. They affect your brand recognition as a good community citizen and your employees’ loyalty and pride in being associated with such a great practice. If you think about it, certain aspects of veterinary medicine are the same at any practice; easily duplicated, but (as stated by Jerry Fritz, Director of Management Institute) a strong customer service culture can’t be copied and is uniquely yours. So, start paying attention to relationships and build a culture in your practice that focuses on the client experience.
Teams for greatness
Hire right, train right and get the right people in the right seats on your practice “bus,” thereby building a great team.
Still not convinced about the power of building a great team? Consider that Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” Your championship goal is having a successful practice. But, you cannot get there alone; you need a winning team with talent and intelligence working together.
Creating your winning team starts before you even hire someone. It starts with job descriptions, talent needs of the practice and the culture you want to have. Once hired, training is paramount not only to the individual’s success, but also to the business’s success.
Finally, there is no end to learning and development within your team. Instead of viewing learning and growth as once and done, look to career development as ongoing, even making it a part of the annual business SWOT analysis of talent and what the practice plans to offer in patient care and client services.
So much is written about bonding with clients and building client relationships. Do not ignore the workplace team and the bonds that enable the team to deliver exceptional medical care and outstanding client service seamlessly.
Every Client, Every Patient, Every Record, Every Time
Lack of consistency kills client service and patient care. Worse yet, it may result in the death of a pet. Do you see “every” when you perform a chart audit? What prevents the team from achieving “every”? When you achieve “every,” you will demonstrate to clients that you are trustworthy, thus building trust and client loyalty.
Some practices say they achieve “every” until they get busy or someone calls off. Some team members ignore “every” just because of their position in the practice (e.g., the owner, the longest employed person, the newest person). Should they be permitted to ignore “every”?
Consider a few helpful tips for achieving “every” in your practice:
- Identify your culture and if a change is needed to accept “every” as a goal.
- Choose specific targets where you need to achieve “every” and create SOPs.
- Designate a team member/s to monitor the specific targets and report to the team.
- Develop a scorecard to monitor the targets and if the team is achieving “every.”
Successfully changing the culture and behaviors to achieve “every” means working with your team to identify values, beliefs and actions. It is not an easy change, but the rewards are enormous for your successful practice. Perhaps it is time to adopt the mantra of “Every patient, Every Client, Every record, Every time by Every team member.”
It can be difficult to change old habits. Perhaps you never discussed your vision or mission with the team. Or maybe you are paralyzed by all the data you feel you need to monitor, so you fail to monitor any KPIs. Whatever the old habit, you can easily choose one of the tips and tackle it. Instilling new habits can dramatically affect practice success. After all, success begins with being a SMARTE. +
- Zook, C. and Allen, J. November (2011). The Great Repeatable Business Model. Harvard Business Review, 107-114.
- Sugars, B. May (2008). 10 Principles of Leadership. Action Coach – Business Coaching. Retrieved from http://www.actioncoach.com/Ten-Principles-of-Leadership?pressid=665