If changes aren’t addressed, you could end up so far behind that you may never catch up.
One of the things that has changed significantly is the rise of the power of the consumer. If they don't get what they want, people will start to vote with their feet and owners need to start recognising that their practice is a business. I am not saying whether this is good or bad – but it is a fact that.
Over the last few years, thousands of law firms have gone out of business. The primary reason for this was that they did not appreciate that they had a business and continued to run as a professional service practice. And I see a lot of practice owners possibly falling into the same trap.
To avoid this, there are six elements , which are required to run a successful business . The skills needed to be deal with each of these areas are not required by the owner if they recognise that they do not have them then they should be provided by a member of their team or from a specialist consultant:
Strategic planning is vital; practitioners need to consider where they want their practice be in the in 12, 24 and 36 months (in todays ever changing world, to plan beyond that is something of a waste). The basis of all business planning ,which will inform how you run all areas of the practice is:
- Where are we today?
- Where do we want to be tomorrow?
- How are we going to get there?
It is essential to regularly review and understand management accounts including a cash flow forecast. There are now some forward thinking practices that are able to use ‘real time’ management information, which enable them to see exactly how the finances are at any given time. For many, their eyes will glaze over when faced with a page full of figures – if this is you then it is imperative that you engage someone who does understand or approach your accountants as many will offer financial consultancy services who will interpret this data and advise you of any steps you need to take in order to take another step on the road to financial heaven – or what to do to avoid financial ruin!.
IT is such a big part of everything these days and again, if the dentist is not an IT expert, someone working at the practice needs these skills. Most practices with bespoke software only use a fraction of its capabilities and are therefore missing out on all manner of information. By recognising and investing not only money but time in IT they can ensure that they remain progressive in this competitive market.
Research reveals that between 70 and 80% of new patients come from recommendations from existing patients. Any practice relies on its existing patients coming back, so practices should primarily focus their efforts on “ the patient experience” .Making sure your receptionist greets patients by name as they enter the surgery will pay far more dividends than spending fortunes on an expensive web site !
Marketing is about finding out what people want and delivering it to them in a positive and memorable fashion.
Regulations cannot be ignored even if we don’t like them and all businesses are subject to a plethora of regulation – not only from our regulatory bodies , but also issues such as Health and Safety, Data Protection and the multitude of employment regulations.
Practitioners can choose whether to view them as a necessary evil to be tolerated or whether to embrace them and see them as an opportunity to provide a framework to better run their practices – if at all possible he latter is far more preferable to the former.
Simply put, happy staff mean happy clients. It would be fair to say that there are a number of practice owners whose HR skills are perhaps somewhat lacking. The importance of treating staff fairly and consistently cannot be underestimated. Knowing how to get the best out of them can make a huge difference to how a practice performs – and the experience that clients will have when contacting or attending the practice.
Practice owners need to recognise change and make the necessary adjustments. Those that are business minded and innovative will flourish but many will suffer and fall behind.
John Grant of Goodman Grant Lawyers for Vets