Medical professionals — physicians, dentists, surgeons — go through many years of school before finally settling into their chosen field. Many will move on to work in hospitals or other established practices. There are others, however, who choose to open their own medical practice and embark on the entrepreneurial journey.
The one consistent challenge medical professionals face in opening their own practice is that they haven’t been taught how to run a business. A business venture requires a completely different set of skills than the medicine they have learned to practice.
There are many to be learned from doctors who successfully figured out how to grow their medical practices. The tips below are based on a compilation of interviews and personal experience in consulting for medical practices.
Don’t Do It Alone
“Hiring the right people was key to our growth.”
The staff at a medical practice is its greatest asset — and its biggest cost. It is impossible to be the main service provider and manage all the moving parts of a business, especially without the background knowledge of how to run a business. It is important to hire the right manager and team to support you. Plan out your organization chart rather than being reactionary to growth. Almost every specialty has benchmarks for how much support staff each physician needs. Waiting until you are overflowing with patients will lead to a bad customer experience and leave your staff scrambling and overwhelmed.
When hiring, take your time to thoroughly interview candidates. You want to make sure they can not only do the job functions well but also have great people skills. Your patient relationships will make or break your business, and those relationships extend to each person your patients interact with during their visit.
Support Your Team
“Investing in our team was the best decision we made. It made everyone in the office happier and more productive.”
Often times, when hiring key employees and/or physicians, you will need to provide them with additional coaching and/or training. It is important to offer the extra support employees may need to feel confident and happy in their role. Happiness at work is directly connected with a 12% higher performance rate than that of unhappy employees. A 2009 study by the International Coaching Federation found more than 80% of businesses that offered coaching to employees reported a significant return on their investment.
That being said, you should also be quick to fire an employee who, despite best efforts, continues to underperform. I am always surprised how long medical practices will retain bad employees.
Build A Unique Brand
“Once we invested in our brand as a company based on great customer service and humor, the patients did all our marketing for us.”
Part of owning your own business is finding your advantage over your competition and marketing that to your patients. Once you know what your brand message will be focused on, you need to ensure you are consistent with it. People seek companies and brands that are consistent in their messaging and reliability. Getting buy-in from your staff is key to making patients’ experience with your brand consistent.
There are plenty of practices out there that forget that their business is in customer service. Your practice is about your patients and the satisfaction they get from having visited your offices. Online reviews have made this point increasingly important: A 2014 survey found that 88% of consumers put equal trust in web reviews as recommendations from friends and family.
Create A Winning Culture
Creating a winning culture is how you tie everything together. People want to have a sense of belonging, so create ways to include and engage your staff. Implement quarterly competitions like funny hat day or pumpkin carving and make a big deal out of everyone’s birthday — not just the doctor’s. Be transparent and communicate often so employees feel that no matter how small their role, they are part of a greater mission. Share patient testimonials with the whole firm and give them credit for making that successful interaction possible.
Building a practice around your patients makes it second nature to think about how you create value for them. Hiring and training become easier when you have a definable culture to explain to your employees. Your dedication to your culture will reflect in your brand reliability, too.
Surveying your patients is the best way to ensure you’re on the right path to growing your practice. In fact, 80% of medical practices designated as “better performers” by the MGMA conducted regular patient feedback surveys. They earned that designation because they placed such a high value on how they could improve their patients’ experiences.
Growing a medical practice in a time of decreasing reimbursements and increasing regulations can be challenging; however, if you hire the right people and create a great environment for your patients and staff, your business will grow.
Published on Forbes.