Cold Start: 3 Tips to Make Your Practice Grow - E9
In this week's post I want to explore ways for a cold start to grow. Think about it, you are creating something out of nothing and well you have a whole lot of NOTHING at the beginning. There will be days when you wonder if the phone will ring, if anyone will stop into the office, and if you are ever going to get the chance to perform an eye exam again. This is not for the uncommitted, timid or weak minded souls who want a 9-5 and nothing more. To make your office into something you can be proud of, it is going to take work. Here are 3 things you can do from day 1 to make your practice grow.
When I was an intern, I was lucky enough to work under the tutelage of Marty Carroll at the Cheyenne Vision Clinic in Cheyenne, WY. As you know the “benchmark” for any solo doctor is a million dollar office. Well, Marty and the 2 other docs were doing over 3 million gross annually. He told me 90% of what you learn here will be outside the exam room. He was not lying. For example, when we would go out for dinner, I swear he was at the table maybe 25% of the time. The other 75% he would be walking around, shaking peoples hands, “chewing the fat” with anyone and everyone. His wife would tell me this is how it was everywhere they went. The point? You need to take advantage of your limited patients and use that time to be out in the community. Eat locally, volunteer, speak at schools, etc. People want to work with people they know and who are like them. Be a doctor of the people!
As I referenced above, being out and involved in the town is absolutely necessary, however; you can not be doing it merely to sell your office or with hopes of attracting patients. Yes, this may be a goal, but 1) people can see through you if you are trying to “con” them or your heart is not in something (i.e. volunteering with an ulterior motive) 2) life is too short to do things you do not enjoy, you do not have a passion for. I work in the same town I went to high school. Giving back is a no brainer. I still know the coaches, teachers and principals. If I was in a different community, I would start with schools and sports teams. I love sports and feel they helped prepare me for the business world, it is in my blood to be involved at that level. What do you enjoy? Make it part of what you do and happiness/success will follow.
On that same note, from a practice management standpoint, do the same thing. Invest in technology and aspects of the practice you enjoy. I tried vision therapy and sports vision, but I hate binocular vision testing! I also do not like actually doing the therapy. I would rather be in the weight room or on the track with the kids. The point being, if I would have invested time, effort and energy into those aspects and hated it 5 years later, I am either starting over, miserable when I go into the office, or failing because I have zero passion for it. Do what you enjoy and enjoy what you do.
The easiest way to do this is to simply be yourself, be authentic. You can try your best to be the office down the street, Neil Gailmard, or Gary Gerber, but guess what they are better at being themselves than you would be! On the other hand, nobody can do you like YOU, so if you are true to yourself, there will not be a comparison.
In regards to the office, have a WOW factor, but make sure it serves a purpose and builds your office. For example, I started off with an Optomap. I see this as a horrible investment and mistake. Yes, it was amazing technology and people were impressed, but it was horrible for business. Let me explain, I leased it the first 3 years. After the lease was over, I would have paid for 3 retinal cameras and had nothing to show for it. Therefore I added 2 more years to purchase the equipment. Well after the 2 years I found out I had 2 more years until the model I had would be discontinued. They wanted me to buy a new one. Great tech, but a money pit and honestly not worth it when considering most patients would have come in regardless if I had it or not. Something like a digital phoropter or an ICare tonometer would be more valuable and appreciated by the patient.
SO there you have it: Be Visible, Be Sincere, Be DIfferent and BE SUCCESSFUL!
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