When asked whether they'd choose to own a practice again, 98 percent of participants in the 2005 Well-Managed Practice Study say they would. The more intriguing question posed to these 100 successful practice owners, many of whom have owned for 20 or more years: What would you do differently? Almost universally, they say they'd do things sooner. They'd focus on developing management skills earlier, hire management consultants sooner, not procrastinate when making changes, and plan for growth more proactively by expanding and enhancing their facilities earlier.
Why didn't these practice owners take these steps sooner? As you know, dealing with the daily issues of practice and the emergencies that arise can and will exhaust all of your available time—unless you make planning for the future a priority. And that's why you want to keep your eye on the horizon.
Ask yourself: What's your practice's purpose for the long run? Your purpose helps define the work you do to build your practice's financial strength. How do you determine your purpose and build team members' awareness of the goals you set? Strategic planning.
While many practice owners are just warming up to the idea of strategic planning, 71 percent of the 2005 study participants have made the commitment. And when we asked what their biggest positive result from strategic planning was, their answers were overwhelmingly consistent:
Figure 1: How will your practice grow?
- A clear plan of action helps owners more effectively respond to changes
- Better team focus on practice goals
- Better follow-through on implementation of new strategies
- Improved teamwork and communication throughout the whole clinic team
- More clarity about what they want to accomplish, how they'll get there, and how they'll know they're off track.
As a result, Well-Managed Practices (WellMPs) enjoy an outstanding success rate in accomplishing what they set out to do. As Dr. Leo Bishop of Animal Hospital of Nashua in Nashua, N.H., says, "Strategic planning was the foundation of our success in expanding our facility by 12,000 square feet. We wanted to accommodate our growing general and emergency practice and to start a referral practice." Regardless of your vision, mission, or goals, it's likely that financial management and decisions related to fees, revenue, expenses, facilities, equipment, and technology will be part of your plan for getting there.
Navigating strategic planning
Setting appropriate fees
Owners of WellMPs build their financial strength with a sense of purpose and within the framework of their overall strategic planning for the practice. For example, when making decisions about fees, they consider their clients' perspectives.