To Relocate A Practice
Planning ahead can help reduce the inevitable
headaches and mishaps of moving your office.
been said that one of the most stressful events in a persons' life is moving. If
moving from one house to another is an unsettling event, than moving your business,
your financial lifeblood, has to be likened to an emotional earthquake. Moving a
practice takes the stresses of a residential move and multiplies them to the order
of mega-angst. What follows is a guide to help ease the pain and add an additional
level of profitability to your move.
Should you go or should you stay?
Many events can stimulate a move to another office. Your lease
may be coming up for renewal and the terms may not be favorable. You may have outgrown
your space. The neighborhood may need a facelift or the location just didn't prove
to support a vibrant and profitable practice.
Other less common reasons exist as well. We've
had client's patients complain that parking is a problem or that an unchangeable
traffic pattern makes the practice difficult to access. A change in the
competitive make-up of your market might be another reason to consider moving.
If you are the undisputed king of low vision in East Eyeville and a
fellowship-trained, low vision whiz-kid opens up an office across the street,
you may find your location roots aren't as deep as you thought.
There is a relationship between practice size and gross sales
potential. If you take the square footage of your practice and add three zeroes
to that number, you get the approximate amount of sales that is the limiting factor
as a function of size. For example, if you practice in a 1,200 square foot office,
the size of the office becomes a limiting factor for growth when sales reach $1,200,000.
Another general rule, larger facilities produce more revenue than smaller ones
both gross and net.
Regardless of the reason, the basic strategies for relocating
are interconnected. The secret to decreasing the potential profit loss and ensuing
sleepless nights is diligent planning.
Keeping current patients
Clients frequently ask us, "How far can I move and still have
patients follow me?" The answer is quite simple: "Don't ask us, let us ask your
patients." We've had great success surveying patients and asking a straightforward
question, "If our practice were to move from Main Street to Park Place, would you
continue to be a patient?" It's helpful to ask, "If not, why not?" Keep in mind
that you don't need every patient to follow you for the move to be successful since
(hopefully) one reason you're moving is to expand your business. As you drop your
business into a new geographic area, plan on growth from that new surrounding community
as well as a loss of current patients likely with a net gain in patients
Once you have made the decision to move, marketing that move to
current patients is important. It's best to let them know as soon as you know. E-mail
blasts, letters and in-office signs are a few methods you should use. However, be
sure to list the reasons the move is a benefit to patients. The ability to offer
new services that directly benefit them is something they'll appreciate and should
be at the core of any message you send.
Messages should not be phrased as follows, "We're moving, will
you be joining us?" Instead, come from the position of, "We're moving and we'll
see you in our new location." Tell don't ask. Assume patients will make the
move along with you and they probably will.
One often overlooked technique to announce the move is the telephone.
You can even record your message in your own voice (4patient-care.com). From there,
software can data-mine your patient list and call each patient. This is usually
less expensive and more effective than a bulk mailing. Personalized and friendly
U.S.-based call centers are another alternative. Our clients have had good success
Perhaps the best time to announce your move is during the patients'
regular, scheduled recall. The phone call should be along the lines of, "Mr. Johnson,
this is Mary from Dr. Bob's office. I'm calling to remind you about your appointment
next Thursday at 4:15p.m. I also wanted to let you know we've moved our office to
123 Park Place, around the corner from the library. If you're not sure where that
is, I can email you a map or you can visit our Web site at DrBob.com."
point here: Make it easy and non-optional for patients to follow you. In a related
marketing maneuver, make sure any referral sources, such as other doctors, are also
fully in the know regarding your upcoming move. They should hear it from you, not
your patients. Make sure these individuals are among the first to visit your new
We also recommend clients institute any pending fee increases
while still in their current location. When you move, you'll probably have a cosmetically
new and improved office, compared with your former location. Not having to raise
fees helps you avoid the inevitable patient comments of, "Doc, no wonder you raised
your fees. Look at this place!" In reality, most patients don't recall what your
professional fees were from one year to the next anyway, but if you're concerned
and plan a fee raise, do it sooner instead of later.
Take your time
If you're moving to an existing building that requires little
construction, give yourself about one year of planning. As with just about all construction,
plan to pay more and have it take longer than expected. Recommended lead times vary
if you plan to build from the ground up in the new facility, but at least two years
of planning time is a good idea. While it might not make them any less painful,
expect the unexpected delays. It's almost a guarantee that your calendar and your
contractor's won't be in sync. The parking lot won't be done when promised and the
sign won't be right the first time. Be prepared these things will happen.
As far as the logistics of your move, of course you should try
to minimize downtime, during which you can't see patients. However, don't paralyze
yourself in attempts to get this downtime to the absolute barebones. Given the many
factors that will be out of your hands, the odds of staying with too precise a plan
are small. Better to plan for a slightly longer move time and take a few days off
to recharge your batteries and sore back.
Work together with your staff to make careful checklists and timelines
of where items were before, where they are being moved to and what items need to
travel together. Empower each staff member to be responsible for the items on their
lists. For example, your receptionist should ensure that the phones show up and
the phone company is there to install them. Your job as CEO is to ensure that the
staff does their jobs not do the jobs for them. If your practice is small
enough to only have one or two staff members, call in outside help. Even a small
office can be a big moving headache, so enlist the help of business-moving professionals.
Beyond the physical things, make sure the important intangibles
are on your moving list too. Insurance carriers should be notified far in advance
(your business insurance companies such as those that handle professional liability,
business interruption, disability, etc., as well as those patient insurance plans
you participate in). Bank accounts, credit card merchant accounts, practice management
software vendors, alarm companies, Internet service provider, phone numbers, post
office forwarding orders, utility companies, stationary and Web site content are
among the other things you'll need to plan on changing.
When properly executed, an office move pays huge dividends It
is virtually unheard of for a well-planned move not to work out.
In next's month's issue, Dr. Richard Kattouf discusses the specific
tactical issues necessary for a successful relocation.
Gerber is president of The Power
Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable. Visit
or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 864-9303.
Optometric Management, Issue: June 2006