What qualities separate a mediocre practice from a successful one? This was the question that I—along with other consultants on the team—recently contemplated. Drawing on our combined consulting experience, we came up with five common characteristics shared among effective practices: leadership, financial discipline, business planning, customer-centric, and employee-focused. Below I take a closer look at each trait and provide tips to help incorporate each into your practice’s “secret sauce.”
We often equate “manager” and “director” to leadership; however, a job title does not always mean the person holding that position provides good guidance. Leaders are able to motivate groups of people toward a common goal, which is critical to the success of a practice (or any business for that matter). Those in leadership positions should behave in a way that motivates the rest of the team and exemplifies how they expect others to behave. Our best practices have owners who are involved in every aspect of their business and surround themselves with team members who help them realize their vision.
Our team finds that good leaders …
- Ensure that a mission statement and a clear vision are in place. All team members should be aware of both and only make decisions that align with these guiding principles.
- Communicate goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
- Influence and impact without overtly flexing their power to make decisions.
- Delegate rather than micromanage, using an adaptable leadership style that offers varying degrees of support and direction.
- Empower their employees.
- Focus on employee development and offer frequent trainings.
- Adjust their coaching style in order to match the needs of each employee.
- Exhibit vulnerability to foster trust and loyalty amongst their subordinates.
- Communicate regularly, holding consistent staff meetings.
- Identify and focus on what’s going right more than what’s going wrong.
2 Financial Discipline
Top practices take the time to regularly review their finances and effectively manage their cash flow, forming a thorough understanding of the funds entering and leaving the practice. Financial tracking must be done consistently and can be measured using tools such as simple spreadsheets, software programs, or cloud-based products. Another option is to seek business accounting assistance from an outside vendor such as a certified public accountant (CPA), who can provide sound advice on managing your finances.
Our team finds that financially savvy practices …
- Set realistic financial goals.
- Budget and forecast based on numerous factors, such as company goals and past performance.
- Identify the right people to monitor finances, including (but not limited to) doctors, administrators, bookkeepers, and CPAs.
- Measure the financial health of their practice using tools such as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, accounting reports, and financial benchmarking.
- Communicate with transparency regarding profit and loss statements, balance sheets, compensation structure, and goals.
- Exert financial control by saving money, monitoring expenses, using credit wisely, and following a budget.
3 Business Planning
Practices that implement a well-thought-out business plan provide themselves with a map for success by outlining future scenarios, setting specific objectives and goals, and detailing the resources required to achieve these goals. Meanwhile, practices without a business plan are forced to navigate their days haphazardly and reactively. To ensure your practice can be proactive instead of reactive when opportunities arise, it’s in your best interest to better understand your business and market, planning how to best operate within that environment. By planning ahead you set your practice on the right path for long-term success.
Our team finds that effective planning involves …
- Hosting annual retreats to communicate the state of the union and direction of the practice.
- Fostering transparency and openness between supervisors and employees regarding the state of the practice and expectations.
- Arranging regular/quarterly team collaboration and/or practice leadership meetings to review practice values, SMART goals, and vision.
- Setting budgets and tracking returns on investments.
- Scheduling monthly staff meetings to revisit budget goals vs. actual numbers, adjusting as necessary.
- Using financial benchmarking reports to identify growth opportunities.
- Holding “morning huddles” (quick daily meetings) to check-in with the team and map out the day.
A successful business is dependent on its customers and their overall experience, and a practice is no different. In fact, research has found that a majority of patients will leave a practice not because of dissatisfaction with outcomes, but rather due to staff discourtesy. It is imperative that every staff member provides excellent service, treating each patient as a VIP. To provide this type of customer-centric service, staff should always maintain a positive mindset and demeanor. Even when customers are complaining, having empathy and trying to understand their point of view can turn their experience into a positive one. Each customer touch point should be evaluated to determine what can be done to delight patients and exceed their expectations.
Our team finds that customer-centric tactics include …
- Reflecting the image you want your practice to portray.
- Standing up, shaking hands, and welcoming every patient.
- Acknowledging patients with a smile and complimenting them when appropriate.
- Practicing kindness and empathy toward customers.
- Recognizing patient milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries.
- Keeping updated chart notes to have fluid conversations about the patient’s personal history and treatment.
- Educating patients and setting proper expectations.
- Implementing a patient satisfaction survey or making follow-up calls to identify what’s working well and where there’s room for improvement.
- Issuing personalized thank-you notes.
People leave managers, not companies.” This well-known statement brings us back to our No. 1 secret sauce ingredient—leadership—and how it directly affects employee relations. To retain employees, practice leaders need to value their staff and keep them satisfied. Enacting this type of employee-focused philosophy begins as early as the hiring process. In order to successfully hire the right people, management needs a well-thought-out recruitment plan. After onboarding, practice leaders should focus on retention tactics to engage and motivate employees and maintain a low turnover rate. Leadership that values its employees has the power to create a stable, engaged team that will take care of patients and in turn, allow the practice to take care of itself.
Our team finds that employee-focused principles include …
- Executing a carefully thought-out recruitment plan.
- Providing clear job descriptions.
- Implementing a performance plan, conducting regular reviews, and setting specific employee goals.
- Acknowledging accomplishments rather than focusing on pitfalls.
- Surveying employees to identify opportunities for improvement.
- Offering incentives based on job responsibilities.
- Compensating employees fairly.
- Creating a work-related book or journal club to facilitate discussion around best practices.
- Holding monthly staff meetings and communicating to staff frequently.
- Taking a team approach to business by including personnel in practice decision-making.
- Having fun! Get to know one another outside of work through retreats, dinners, and team-building activities.
Just like the recipe for an amazing sauce, practices need to combine certain key ingredients to remain successful. Thanks to our group of consultants, who drew upon their years of experience working with highly effective practices, this article identifies the five main ingredients successful practices put into their own secret sauce—leadership, financial discipline, business planning, customer-centric, and employee-focused. Use this information to identify whether your sauce needs any “finishing touches” to ensure success is on the practice menu.