How are you working ON your business during the potential slowdown?
I would expect patient flow is likely going to slow down significantly across the globe for at least a couple months as we work through quarantine, social-isolation, and hospitalizations. The economic effects of this disease alone will change consumer spending on both essential and non-essential healthcare items. However, just because your clinic is not busy with patients, doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done. What are you going to do to bounce back from this economic hardship. I hear ENTs, practice administrators, and private practice owners all the time say:
“If I only had a little more time to work ON my business, things could run so much better!”
Well, 1) it’s your lucky day, and 2) be careful for what you wish. The opportunity of a lifetime is here and now. Take advantage of it. Here are some activities that I’d recommend ENTs, practice administrators, and hearing healthcare providers review if the flow of patients slows a bit in your office.
1) Review your plan. “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. What do you want to get out of this downtime? Where do you expect and visualize yourself to come out of this? It is okay for this plan to be a moving target. While things change rapidly, you may want to review your plan daily. But, if you don’t have a plan with some contingencies built in, you will be flying completely blind and so will your team.
There’s two quotes from the late, great, Yogi Berra, a great American baseball player, that I think are perfectly applicable to today:
“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”
Yogi was known for his Yogi’isms, but these quotes, while humorous, tell a great story. First, we don’t know the outcomes of where we are today in the uncertainty. But we know that we have to take a path and no one is going to take it for us. Be decisive. It’s your choice, make the best educated decision you can with the information you have available. Second, set a course for where you want to be. If you fall short, that’s okay, course correct.
2) Review the financial health of your office. Reach out to your CPA and get a most recent version of your P&L. If you don’t have them readily accessible, ask for the last 3 years’ worth. Compare and contrast the line items. For the most part P&Ls are similar and typically follow the IRS guidelines, at least in the US. Look for major differences year over year to both profitability and expenses. Where are they coming from? Why are they different, for better or for worse?
3) If the thought of #2 scares you, polish up your business math chops. At RiseENT and AuDConnex, we offer a business math course through AuDConnex 3X that digs in deep specifically into the hearing healthcare industry. However, if you want to get a more broad foundation for business math and finance, check out sites like Udemy and Khan Academy for some free and reasonably priced primers. I’ve linked a couple here.
4) Look around your office. Pretend you are a patient. After hours, or if you are voluntarily or mandated to be closed, follow the path that a patient would take in your office.
Park in the furthest spot from the door. Walk to the front door. Sit in the waiting room. Speak to your front office person. Walk back to an intake/counseling/treatment room. Look at the walls. Look at the floors. Look at the furniture.
Now, if you were the patient walking into a premier hearing healthcare delivery facility, would you be impressed? Would you tell others about the facility? Are you proud of what you saw? As our friend and innovator @Mike Maddock often says, “it’s difficult to read the label when you are inside the jar…” (I hope I didn’t butcher that Mike!) Challenge yourself to take an outside-in approach!
(Check out Mike’s new book, Plan D: How to Dream, Drive, and Deliver. It’s great!)
Part 2: Do that all again, digitally. Review your website. Put on a dirty pair of safety goggles and try to view and navigate it (simulate cataracts/farsightedness). Does it have the information that the patient needs to know who you are and why they should see you rather than your competition. Does it leave a great first impression? In the old days, we used to say that your waiting room was the patient’s first impression of you. Not anymore! Your website is now your waiting room. Make sure it’s the view that you want your patients to see!
Review all of your digital assets. What does your Facebook page look like? Yelp? LinkedIN? Google and Facebook reviews? Think of how your patient demographic will find you. Do all of your listings match so that there’s no question where you are and the best number to call you is clear?
5) Now is the time to work with your team! First, this is a time that they need you to be a leader. Your team is no doubt worried about the uncertainties that are coming in their lives and in our economic future. Many of your staff members may have already been stretched thin, are worried about child care now that that schools and child care facilities are closed indefinitely, and are worried about the health of themselves, their family, and friends.
Confidence and transparency are key! While they don’t need to be burdened with the weight of the details or the finances, they need to hear your plan, what the contingencies are, and how they can help! They’ll want to help. If they don’t want to help, well, now is your chance to help them find a better opportunity for the betterment of your business and their career. Consider this your chance to invest in your staff and their future with the business. Allow them to help you deliver their plan. Let them come up with great ideas to make the office bounce back strong. Ask them to help reach out to your patient base and check in on your most vulnerable patients. There’s always something to be doing, and, at least in the short-term, there’s plenty of business development that can be done to make sure that you’re successful when things return to “normal”.
This time will define who we are as leaders, managers, and hearing healthcare providers. Those of you that I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking with this week have been so positive, focused, and innovative. The best will come out of those who choose to grow surrounded by these challenges. I am excited for the future of our industry and I am thankful for the caring hands of our hearing healthcare colleagues. I wish you and your patients good health!