Are you the Clinician or a CEO?

You’re a newly minted healthcare practitioner and eager to share your skills with the world. Some time passes, your skills and patient list have grown, and now you’re running your own practice. One day you look at your calendar and notice the following; 9am, review financials with the accountant, 12pm, lunch with commercial banker to discuss renewing loans for the practice, 2pm, create content for new marketing campaign, 4pm, interview candidate for the new associate position. So now you ask yourself the same question many clinic owners before you have asked themselves, am I a clinician or a CEO? But you already know the answer by now, you’ve become both.

Being a CEO, or said differently, running a business is a whole other set of skills than being a clinician. Yet, most clinicians have never spent time learning the disciplines of business management.

Start With The Fundamentals Of Finance

As a career banker, I’ve always encouraged my clients to first build a strong understanding of their personal finances to create a good financial foundation. Specifically, understand the cash flow of your household. Do you know where your money is spent and how much you have left over every month? What is efficient uses of debt, and which kinds should you avoid, and why? How much money should you save, and where should you invest it? Establishing a simple and realistic financial plan will not only provide financial clarity, it will greatly increase your confidence in discussing financial matters.

Once you begin building your personal financial knowledge and discipline, you can build on these concepts and apply them to your business. Cash flow, debt, savings and investments are key metrics to growing a prosperous enterprise. In addition, learning to read basic financial statements such as an Income Statement and Balance Sheet can be very helpful. When you meet with your professional advisory team (lawyer, banker, accountant, etc) this skill will be used for all of these conversations. Understanding the language of financial statements will also help you gain confidence in the strategic decisions you make with your team.

Apply Personal Financial Concepts To Your Business

Most clinicians initially believe that the success of their practice is primarily reliant on their skills and quality of patient care. Without question, it is the foundation of strong practice, but in order to grow, you will also need to appreciate the value derived from the other disciplines at play in a business.

First, let’s talk about a term that has been blemished, misused and most often misunderstood, SALES. You’re a healthcare practitioner, what does sales have to do with patient care? Well, in short, everything. Selling is about effectively communicating your value to your audience. This can be iterated in your patient meetings when you are conveying a treatment modality and influencing your patient to adhere to the plan you’re recommending. Selling is also part of the branding your clinic exudes to the outside world. Again you may be wondering “why does my clinic need to worry about branding?” It’s simple really; your brand is the public’s perception of your clinic. Most would agree that they want their practice to have a positive perception in their community. A practice where the patient experience is superior, results are measurable and sustainable, and that the clinic is proud of the community it serves. This branding doesn’t happen by accident and requires a proactive strategy. Selling is also described as “marketing” which uses such vehicles like advertising, networking or promoting. 

Next, a growing practice will need a strong team internally and externally. Your internal team will be business partners, stakeholders, associates and administrative staff. Retaining top talent is critical to building your organization. But how do you create a great culture within your clinic? To start, you must acknowledge that the adage “you get what you pay for” very much applies here. The best employees want to be compensated fairly, want to be valued for their contributions and they want to know that there is a future for them, or said differently there are growth opportunities. Having certain systems in place, will ensure day to day operations run smoothly and don’t detract from patient care and experience. For example, using a payroll service keeps remunerations on time and accurate. Having an office manager who can oversee bookings and schedules but also ensure supplies are always well stocked. Additional perks such as an aesthetically pleasing and clean work space, break rooms with snacks and beverages, regularly scheduled meetings to keep the team informed of industry updates, clinic performance or community events. These all may seem like small details, but when they are not running optimally can be a significant distraction to your team and ultimately erode the culture you are trying to build.

Finally, your external teams will be professionals that you work and partner with in order to keep your business running smoothly. They play key roles and who you choose to be on your “team” can have material impacts to your success. For example, lawyers, accountants, bankers, insurance salesperson, to list a few who will likely be most critical to your business. But how do you choose which professional to work with? The most important factor to consider first is trust. The advice these professionals will provide can have material impacts on the direction of your practice, trusting your partner is imperative. Also consider how proactive they are with advice and spotting problems before they happen. Furthermore, be aware of your teams compensation structures, inexpensive does not equal value just as expensive does not equal competence. Shop around, ask questions about fees and what you’re paying for. You will quickly realize billing models vary significantly from one professional to the other. Talk to your professionals about their specializations, experience with similar businesses, or even referrals they can provide. 

Final Thoughts

Inevitably as a business grows, the founder(s) will take on more responsibilities and will have to make a decision on delegation of work. The most common mistake I have observed is not spending enough time thinking strategically about the “non-clinical” elements within a practice. Segregate clinical hours and management hours and give them equal reverence. Spend time defining your strategy; do you want to become a multidisciplinary practice, take on new partners, perhaps acquire an existing practice or simply grow your patient base? Determining first your goal then building a strong team around you to support your vision will set the stage for a thriving practice.

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