The holiday season is upon us again; I think it’s a wonderful time of year. I hope you can take some time off from work and reflect on your practice goals for the coming year. Pure introspection and some solitude can do wonders for your practice. Great things can spring from a simple idea that was not on your radar before, but now it is. To build a successful practice you can’t wait for good things to happen, you must make them happen. Make changes before they are needed. Act as you mean to go.
Here are some general categories to consider as you examine ways to grow your practice in 2012.
Start by looking at collected gross revenue for 2011 and set an ambitious but realistic goal for what you would like that to be at the end of 2012.
A fairly young practice can grow dramatically; possibly 30%. A well-established practice would do well to grow by 10% unless a major change is introduced such as opening a branch office or hiring an associate OD.
Write down some strategies (big picture) for how you will increase gross revenue and sales. Then move to a tactical approach (how to actually do it) for each strategy.
Some of the headings below may be part of your strategy.
Develop a budget for your practice. A budget is actually made up by your expense categories projected ahead, so start with your seven key expense groups from 2011: cost of goods sold, payroll cost (non-OD), occupancy cost, equipment, marketing, general office overhead and net income. Look at each of these expenses as a percentage of gross revenue and decide what percentage you would like for each in 2012. Using your new gross revenue goal for 2012, convert the percentage in each expense category into dollars and that becomes your budget.
Remember that any expense amount that remains constant will decrease as a percentage of gross figure, if the gross is higher. A payroll cost of $200,000 per year is 25% of an 800,000 gross, but that same payroll is only 22% of a 900,000 gross. Raising your fees could cause many expense categories to immediately fall into the proper range.
Try to invest in new instrumentation every year, even if you have to borrow or lease it.
New technology in your clinic usually creates a new income stream and it improves the perception of quality in your exam services.
What would help your practice the most? A diagnostic instrument that you would bill to medical insurance – like an OCT? A screening test that the patient would opt in and pay for – like a macular pigment optical density test? An advanced measuring device for your optical dispensary that would help to sell premium, free-form lenses? An in-office edger so you can do your own lens finishing work? You get to decide.
Project the monthly cost of the instrument and calculate if it will increase revenue more than that. If so, it is a no-brainer.
Make 2012 the year that you get serious about marketing your practice and increasing the number of patients you see per day.
Start with your website. If it’s not great, make an investment of at least $2,000 to make it something you’re proud of.
Get your practice Facebook page active and relevant.
Assign the side position of Director of Marketing to one of your staff members and give him/her time to work on projects.
Develop a marketing calendar for your practice and conduct a different project each month. Refer to past tips for ideas.
Many practices that I see are understaffed and they would grow if they hired an additional employee.
The additional employee does not cost anything. The increased production more than covers the cost.
Four good things happen when you add a staff member: 1) customer service improves, 2) you will delegate more, 3) production increases because you can see more patients per day and you and the staff have more time to communicate and sell, and 4) existing staff members often improve their performance because they want to protect their standing in the practice and they are less stressed.
Design a program for ongoing staff training. It starts with a staff meeting held every week for one hour. Block out the patient schedule for this and make yourself communicate with your staff.
Make 2012 the year that you become dedicated and passionate about customer service.
Review your office policies (written and unwritten) with your staff and ask if each one is designed for the patient’s wants and needs… or the doctor’s wants and needs… or the staff’s wants and needs. Guess which one matters most if you want to increase revenue?
Word-of-mouth referral is still the most powerful way to build a practice. How can you improve it?
Implement a program to survey patient satisfaction on a continuous basis. The best way is to use an online communication company and send it via email after each exam.
Customer service includes convenience. Do you have evening and Saturday hours? Do patients have to wait very long in your office?
Write your goals down, have deadlines and methods for measuring and check your progress at least monthly. If you see that you are not on pace to achieve your goals, make changes that will put you back on track.
Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year!
Best wishes for continued success,
Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week
Dr. Gailmard's new book, Practice Management in Optometry: A Blueprint for Success Based on the Optometric Management Tip of the Week, is now available on Amazon.