I am talking to you in this blog if you have owned your clinic more than 5 years. Less than 5 years ownership? Still relevant, but definitely not as relevant as to the experienced clinic owner.
Let’s start with a situation that we as physios who own clinic are all too familiar with.
So let’s talk about a patient with back pain.
90% of the time they come to you wanting relief from their back pain. They think it came on because they slept funny, or bent the wrong way. We know it came on because they sustain prolonged postures, don’t do enough exercise, aren’t sleeping well, have weak muscles in certain areas of their body, and have significant fears and negative beliefs (most of them given to the by the medical profession) about what is wrong with their back.
Our first job is to understand what they think and believe, and help them correct some of these negative beliefs about what is actually contributing to why they are suffering back pain.
Most of us physios and clinic owners think we are pretty good at enlightening and educating our patients. The pain is there due to a number of factors, not because they slept funny or bent the wrong way.
Now let’s talk about physio clinic owners.
You are too busy, doing all the work, and with a business that is not as profitable as you want it to be, so you have a hard time dropping back any hours for fear of even lesser profits.
You believe your problems are due to the fact that your clinic is suffering from a lack of new patient numbers, so most of your business efforts revolve around efforts to get more new patients for your other physios (most of whom want to see you anyway, but this is for another blog).
The patient who thinks their back pain came on from bending the wrong way is similar to the physio clinic owner who believes their clinic challenges can be solved by mountains of new patients
If you believe your problems in business can be solved by more new patients, you need to realise that this is not possible.
Let’s talk about the analogy of a bucket. In business we are trying to fill our bucket with money (profit). Some money comes into the bucket (consultations) and some money goes out (expenses, wages, etc).
So take a business (yours, and even mine) that is finished. By finished I mean EVERY hole is plugged. I have never seen a Physio business like this. This type of business does not rely on the owner in any way – they have hired a General Manager who reports to the owner, while the owners sits on that desert island, like all of the ads proclaiming to fill your clinic with truck loads of new patients seems to purport. A finished business with no holes has a high performing and highly profitable team, which does not need 1 second of your time. Your GM sends you weekly numbers reports, really just for interest. This type of business possibly has a board of directors, and maybe even a company secretary. There could be someone whose job is marketing, sales, customer service, PR, HR, and some of these disciplines normally found in the corporate world. I believe this type of business structure will come in the physio world in years to come, but we are definitely not there yet.
Back to the bucket. Our clinics are buckets, and they have holes in them.
Let’s talk about some of the common holes in the bucket.
Common bucket hole 1 – the mindset of the clinic owner. This affects everything else in your clinic. Most common issue here is clinic owners who can’t let go, meddle in every small detail of their clinics, and don’t let their team do their jobs. BECAUSE OF
Common bucket hole 2 – underperforming team. How can you as the owner trust your team members if they discharge difficult clients after only a couple of visits, saying stuff like “just come and see me again if you need to, maybe…”. Now this is your failing for not training them, or maybe choosing the wrong person in the first place, but this hole in the bucket can be quite large, and will leak most of the water you tip into it.
Common bucket hole 3 – poor clinic environment. If people are used to not finishing stuff, not doing what they say they will do, making excuses and not taking full ownership when stuff goes wrong, and generally getting away with mediocre behaviour, then they have likely learned this modus operandi somewhere – either from you, or from a previous workplace. A poor environment can turn a high performing team member into a frustrated and potentially depressed team member in a matter of months. If your culture sucks, you are the one who needs to fix it, and fast.
Common bucket hole 4 – lack of focus from the owner. You know how they used to say multitasking was the key to success and to be a great clinic owner you need to be multitasking all of the time? It has since been proven that the distractions caused by flicking from task to tasks wastes more time than the time you are actually spending on the tasks. What is the saying? Try and catch 2 rabbits, end up with none. Pick the most important (not necessarily urgent) tasks that you need to do, tell people you are going to do them, then do them.
Common bucket hole 5 – not testing and measuring your marketing spend. You know when you get a call to go into a school calendar, or even worse those dreaded people who sell advertising space on big TVs in GP surgeries or on the back of business cards in GP surgeries, how do you determine whether this is venture that will give you a positive return on investment? My business coach taught me that I don’t need to be marketing guru, I need to be a test and measure guru. How many marketing dollars per year are you throwing up against a wall?
Common bucket hole 6 – not having a mentor. Business is a hard gig, and learning from people who have been there and done that can help you to lighten the load on you, and I predominantly mean mentally. Currently I have a business coach, a PT, a psychologist, and even a hypnotherapist on my team. My mind is my most important asset, and I invest in it. I look after it. You see, if it is functioning well, I can achieve anything. I need to treat my body and mind as my 2 greatest assets – not my bank account. If you are burning the candle and pushing for more, if you are finding yourself getting snappy, tired, emotional, or just plain fatigued, this could be a sign that burnout is coming. Step back, and speak to someone you trust, who knows you well. Ask them how they think you are going. And act before it is too late.
So let’s summarise. After speaking to more than 100 physio clinic owners I have identified the above 6 holes as being big barriers that you need to plug before you tip water into your bucket.
New patients is the copout. It is the easy way out. It prevents you from fixing your business, or more importantly, working on yourself.
It is the bright, shiny object that we are sold every day. In my first year of the Ultimate Physio business my highest performing content has been geared around finding new patients. I can see that as a clinic owner you can very logically float along in your journey of ownership believing that more new patients is the magic bullet to success.
More new patients is the water, your clinic is the bucket, and the 6 problems above are the holes.
New patients are important, but they need to come AFTER you have fixed your clinic and plugged the holes, not before.
In an ideal world we clinic owners should learn about business before we learn about how to acquire streams of new patients. But this is not practical – we need new patients to keep the doors open. This is important at the start of your journey, but remember I am speaking to clinic owners predominantly with 5+ years’ experience in this blog. I can assure you the main issues you are having in your clinic right now do not revolve around shortages of new patients.
Don’t take the easy way out. Fill the holes, then tip water into your bucket.
Learn more from me at my first live event http://ultimatephysio.com.au/vip-conference/ , You may just find that mentor you need