Practical Suggestions To Make The Business Side Of Your Practice Work Better

Reading Time: 9 minutes

For over 30 years I have run companies and clinics involved in the day to day transfer of skills and services to patients and clients who are paying out of their own pocket for this. Insurance covers a very small part of clinical life and therefore apart from the expertise we need to gain to provide value for money outcomes, we also need to understand the basics of making a business work, so that our skills are not lost in an unitended financial catastrophe.

I have penned 10 simple tips that may guide you to review your clinical/business life and assist towards financialas well as clinical success.

  • Manage your money

More than ever, your finances need to be managed in a productive way. Take the time to consider what return on investment you are likely to see. Does the new and very exciting testing machine you are looking at really add value to your clinical life and business, or would you be better spending the money on a scientific journal subscription or more CME/CPD attendances. Maybe a practice management seminar!

People respond to people and what defines nutritional therapy (NT) is the consensus of care that emerges from a consultation in which both parties are willing to support each other’s objectives. Data collection and delivery is a very important part of this, but is really valued when contextually used, as opposed to being squeezed into the consultation driven by the need to pay for the purchase of the machine.

Advertising is normally difficult to justify for a small practice, but a good web site is a must. These can be set up for just a few pounds these days – content should be accurate, readable, and understandable as well as fairly reflect your skill sets. Claims as per the ASA situation need to carefully reviewed.

  • Learn to sell

Our clinical skills, when well-honed, are a perfect example of mutual selling, the patient reveals or sells us their problems and we sell these back to them as a review of their story with associated proposals/treatments that can often be very challenging to implement. Lifestyle changes as we know, are complex and fraught with difficulties, so having a clear understanding of what the patient can and cannot achieve, moulding those changes  to remain effective and achievable is all part of the ‘selling’  of lifestyle medicine.

Remember that how you are, how you act ,function, appear and address their concerns give off powerful messages. If you are timid, or overwhelmed by the situation or try and bluff your way through a complicated conversation it will be seen as a reason not to apply your recommendations.

  • Cut out wasteful time

Once you start to see more patients, the first thing is to learn how to avoid over supply of information. Create standard letter templates and e mail templates, ensure that your terms of engagement are clear and then stick to them. This is cheaper than hiring a member of staff or colleague. Only when these areas have been fully utilised is it a good idea to think about expanding the number of practitioners in your consulting domain.

  • You are not part of the NHS

Remember that despite the fact we have been brought up on the notion that in the UK healthcare is free at the point of entry – it is not – and you are not in private practice to compete with the ‘free’ NHS. You need to earn money to survive in practice and meet your financial obligations. Get over the fear of money and of charging suitably fast, otherwise you will become part of our society that needs to rely on the very social support structure you are trying to contribute to, by paying tax on profit, rather than claiming benefits because you are unable to make your practice survive financially. Realise that the only purpose your business has is to make money. Save the world once you’ve made some. In the meantime, leave ‘social enterprises’ to charities and governments.

  • Think about your finances

Clinical life is also business life – there is no conflict in this relationship, unless the recommendations you make for tests and products are driven by profit motive rather than clinical need. Stick to the ethical application of expert knowledge and professional supplements – see results and make a living – everyone remains happy then.

Find an accountant, join the Federation for Small Business, attend workshops of self-promotion, borrow as little as you need and be sure you have a sensible repayment plan. Put as much effort into the management of the financials as you do into your on-going education for just 1 day per month and you will really make an economic difference to your clinical success.

  • Exploit niches

Avoid the big wide gate and overly saturated markets and concentrate on the niche, then look at your competitors in your niche market to get an idea of where you’re going to find customers. A successful practice is the one that does things better than its competitors. So analyse the marketplace and improve on it. Become expert in one or two dominant areas and then use this skill to migrate into other sectors. Link up with colleagues who have expertise in allied but different fields and create referral systems.

  • Really care for your clients/patients

Your business plan should be five words long: “Get and keep more customers!” Without customers you haven’t got a business, and by customers, I mean people who spend money. Look after your client/patient list. Create a good database of clients/patients and prospects. Your database is a precious resource, so ensure you look after it through regular email and telephone contact with clients, former clients and prospective clients. Let them know you’re thinking of them.

Remember that when you are seeing someone your focus should be entirely on them, they do not normally want to hear a 2 hour lecture on how they got to where they are – they want a professional guide and shared support to get out of the situation they are in – focus and deliver.

  • Be realistic

Give yourself time to build up your business and don’t expect to become profitable overnight. Knowing it’s likely to take a long time keeps you at a realistic level. The vast majority of people overestimate what they can achieve in a year, and massively underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Just make sure you celebrate the small victories along the way to keep yourself motivated.

  • Education

Subscribe to journals (not just soft articles in consumer magazines) or visit web sites such as every week, review the articles and make notes, you have a responsibility to keep up with changing data and opinion, do not simply stop when you qualify and then rely on information that is more than 1-2 years old.

For your business skills everything you ever wanted to know is contained in a book somewhere, so read everything you can about people who have started businesses from nothing — preferably biographies and autobiographies. You’ll find everything you need to know is within those pages. Use what you learn to improve your business acumen daily. Find and read short tips and strategies, you are not simply a nutritional therapist you are also a self employed business person – get used to it.

  • Believe in yourself

Self-belief is a practitioner’s most precious commodity. If you don’t believe in yourself, then you can’t expect customers to. Procrastination is the enemy of all self-employed people.

In a nutshell, you procrastinate when you put off things that you should be focusing on right now, usually in favour of doing something that is more enjoyable or that you’re more comfortable doing.

Procrastination  is independent of need for achievement, energy, or self-esteem. In other words, you may be a procrastinator even if you’re confident in your own abilities, energetic, and enjoy achieving things. But failing to make a decision is frequently worse than making no decision at all.

Organised people manage to fend of the temptation to procrastinate, because they will have things like prioritised to-do lists and schedules which emphasise how important the piece work is, and identify precisely when it’s due. They’ll also have planned how long a task will take to do, and will have worked back from that point to identify when they need to get started in order to avoid it being late. Organised people are also better placed to avoid procrastination, because they know how to break the work down into manageable “next steps”.

  • Keep a To-Do list so that you can’t “conveniently” forget about unpleasant or overwhelming tasks.
  • Use an Urgent/Important Matrix to help prioritise your to-do list so that you can’t try to kid yourself that it would be acceptable to put off doing something on the grounds that it’s unimportant, or that you have many urgent things which ought to be done first when, in reality, you’re procrastinating.
  • Become a master of scheduling and project planning, so that you know when to start those all-important projects.
  • Set yourself time-bound goals: that way, you’ll have no time for procrastination!
  • Focus on one task at a time.

If you’re putting off starting a project because you find it overwhelming, you need to take a different approach. Here are some tips:

  • Break the project into a set of smaller, more manageable tasks. You may find it helpful to create an action plan.
  • Start with some quick, small tasks if you can, even if these aren’t the logical first actions. You’ll feel that you’re achieving things, and so perhaps the whole project won’t be so overwhelming after all.

If you’re procrastinating because you find the task unpleasant:

  • Many procrastinators overestimate the unpleasantness of a task. So give it a try! You may find that it’s not as bad as you thought!
  • Hold the unpleasant consequences of not doing the work at the front of your mind.
  • Reward yourself for doing the task.
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