It’s near the beginning of the fourth quarter. Of course, by now, you’ve got a good understanding of how this year will conclude. You’ve compared your 2016 plan to your actual performance and have made the mid-course corrections necessary to meet your goals. You’re starting to get an understanding of your 2017 objectives and have begun to frame out your budget. You’ve solicited input in the process from your team and they are engaged. You now know your practice’s “critical number” and those for each of your individual revenue centers. You’re about to bring your department leads together and spend a day working on their specific goals. And you’re really thinking about what changes you want to make to your own role in the practice for 2017; what you want to stop doing and where you need to focus your attention. Right?
The reality is that most of you likely have done little thinking about next year. You’re caught up in the day-to-day; on the treadmill of life. Your focus is on the effort necessary to take care of today’s patients; today’s crisis; today’s opportunities. You’re putting out fires and, for some you’re in total denial about what’s really going on in your practice and, perhaps, your life.
Dwight Eisenhower is credited with saying that “planning is critical, plans are worthless.” The reality is that it’s not the planning outcome that’s essential…plans are always subject to modification. What is essential is that you engage your entire team in the process of planning. Plans that come from “on high” are rarely executed. That’s why, when you come back from some meeting with 50 ideas and share those ideas en masse with your team, generally nothing gets implemented. Implementing within an organization that operates flat out on a daily basis to take care of the business right in front of you requires thoughtful execution. And the reality is that you may not have the skills internal to your practice to accomplish effective planning.
In most professional practices, the owner must wear several hats. For the majority of your time, you’re doing the work of the practice. That’s the daily effort to take care of patients and all the routine stuff that goes along with the delivery of your services. What little time you allocate outside of patient care time is often devoted to managerial efforts. The manager’s role is to design, implement and maintain the systems necessary for the business to operate. Most of your staff meetings are likely devoted to today’s problems with little attention to the systems that really operate the practice. As the leader of your enterprise, however, you simply must devote time to establishing the vision for tomorrow and provide the necessary resources to your team so that they can execute on your vision. The manager’s job is to do things right. The leader’s role is to do the right things. My observations are that, the majority of the time, professionals are caught up in management and leave a leadership vacuum.
So, this month I ask you to work through an exercise in planning:
* First, really consider whether you have the skills and experience on your team to plan in the right way. Consider bringing in a planning expert to coach you and your team through the process (Cleinman Performance Partners can help). You likely only have to do this once; but the investment will pay dividends for many years.
* Avoid gross assumptions like “we’ll grow by 15%.” At best, such goals are pulled out of the air with little basis in reality. Further, such gross projections are not actionable.
* As you consider what you want to do in 2017, look to your critical numbers for the past year for direction. How many comprehensive exams did you do? How much revenue per exam? How many available appointment slots? What was your appointment “fill” percentage? What was your capture rate? What about revenue per eyewear unit? Focusing on the underlying benchmarks will help you determine your goals as well as provide “actionable” direction to the team.
Exams 2850 3000
$$/Exam $360 $375
Revenue $1,026.000 $1,125,000 +9.6%
With this model (focus on the underlying benchmarks) you’re developing specific modifications to benchmarks which will drive growth. For instance, you’re seeking 150 new patients and that’s 3 per week. Now, where will you go to get those patients? What’s the marketing plan? Get your team to pull these actions together.
* Now look at the systems that drive these actions. Perhaps it’s time to “blow a system up!” For instance, you might determine that your recall system hasn’t been really reviewed for a couple of years. Yes, you’ve tweaked it from time to time, but you haven’t really looked at it with a fresh set of eyes. And, certainly, recall drives patient volume and is critical to the goal established in the example above. Assign a small team to review this system and come back with a recommendation. Look at new technology. Find out what other professions are doing as well as what best practices are in yours (look to your member website for tons of ideas). Ask your project team to come back with a list of the elements of your existing process and the changes they’re recommending…then let them do it.
If you want your business to thrive in an ever more challenging environment, you have to be crystal clear as to your goals, turn big, lofty desires into daily actionable steps, and provide both direction and incentive to your team. Along the way, if you really want to operate at peak performance, “blow something up.”