If you’ve been working as a healthcare professional for a few years, you might have thought about starting your own private practice. But the leap from practitioner to practitioner and business owner is a big one for most people. There is a lot of learning that needs to happen in order to make the transition a successful one. Most, but not all, private practice owners will say that the benefits of owning your own practice outweigh the cons, but all of them will agree that they have made many, many mistakes along the way.
These are the most common errors that almost every private practice makes, especially at the start, as well as a few tried and tested ways to prevent your practice from falling into the same trap:
Error #1 – Not Niching Down
With a new practice and a small client base it’s very tempting to take on any client who comes to you. But if they’re not your ideal client and not a great match for your services, it can be a bad experience for both parties and can do more harm than good in the long-run. If you don’t know what your ideal client looks like, then this is going to keep happening, and you are going to become increasingly dissatisfied with your work.
What to do instead?
Get strategic about the type of client that you want to attract
- Define your target market and value proposition
- Market yourself and build referral sources that will bring in your ideal client
- Refer potential clients who are not a good fit to other practitioners
Error #2 – Not Investing in Systems
This one comes up time and time again. Health practitioners are notoriously tech-adverse, and if you’re just starting out, you’ve probably got one eye on the bottom line as well. While practice management software is going to cost some money, and you will need to do some learning, the fees are low and the time saving they offer (as well as the peace of mind), will ensure that the software more than pays for itself.
It’s 2020, so if your practice is still paper-based, you need to think seriously about switching. An electronic system is safer, more secure, and miles more efficient. You run your private life electronically – whether it’s reminders on your phone, online banking or an instant messaging app to stay in touch with friends, and your practice shouldn’t be any different.
What to do instead? Sign up for a month-to-month practice management software subscription
The features are designed to reduce admin time, freeing you up to focus on seeing clients. From managing your calendar and sending automated appointment reminders, to tracking your outstandings and storing your client notes securely – it’s a one-stop solution for efficient practice management. And, best of all, it’s all online, so you can access it from your home, your office, or anywhere in the world.
Error #3 – Not Building New Client Sources
If you are still establishing your practice, the first thing you need is clients. This is often the most intimidating part of setting up on your own and it’s also the area that has the potential to sink your business before you can even get going. Often health practitioners have a negative attitude towards what they perceive to be self-promotion, but if you can think about it as communicating who you are, what you offer, and how it benefits the client, it’s a bit easier to get your head around.
What to do instead? Start building up different sources for clients
Ditch the attitude and start growing, even if you’re not comfortable with the idea of selling, you can put effort into communicating and sharing about your practice and what you offer.
- Your online presence, make sure your website is up-to-date and has your contact details clearly visible, set up a Facebook page with your contact details and a link to your practice’s website, claim your Google my Business listing, and publish relevant, high-quality blog posts on your website.
- Your existing clients, word of mouth, is a powerful way to attract new clients so focus on delivering exceptional service to your existing client base.
- A Facebook or Google Ad campaign, online advertising scales with you, so the costs for starting out aren’t high, and the intuitive platforms make it easy for anyone to get started.
- Your referrers, along with word-of-mouth, patient referrals are the leading source of new clients for many practices, so reach out to GPs, local businesses and influencers in your area.
- Or get this free Marketing for Health Practices ebook with 21 proven marketing hacks for health businesses.
Error #4 – Trying to Go it Alone
As a health professional, you’re good at your job, and there are very few people who will dispute that. But you’re probably not as well known for your managerial, accounting, or strategic business skills. That’s why it pays to have a team around you who will take off some of the load, and give you space to see more clients. If you are trying to do it all and be everything to everyone, you will be working crazy hours, feeling stressed and anxious, and may even struggle with burnout.
What to do instead? Build a support team around you
If you’re serious about building a practice that’s viable for the long-haul, you need to make fundamental changes to the way you run your practice. Your support team may not be comprised of full-time employees but they should be experts in their fields and be available for you to call on their expertise from time to time.
Supporting roles that you should consider:
- Accountant and bookkeeper, unless you want to spend your nights trying to balance your books, outsourcing your finances is a strategic (and stress-relieving) investment. An accountant might not be cheap, but they can easily save you a significant amount of time and money down the line.
- Legal expert, running a healthcare practice today requires an ability to deliver an exemplary service while fulfilling a series of exacting, technical legal requirements. It’s nearly impossible to stay up-to-date with all the legislative changes and red tape, so having a legal expert on-hand can go a long way to ensuring that you remain compliant
- Mentor, while it can be helpful to have business mentors who operate in different industries, having a mentor in the private practice healthcare space can help immensely. In addition to providing a listening ear (and a shoulder to cry on), their years of experience in the industry may mean that they can pass on hard-earned experience that will save you from making the same mistakes.
- Practice manager, this is often a bit further down the line, but keep this role in mind as you grow because a strong manager will allow you to scale quickly and successfully.
Error #5 – Making Decisions Without Data
If you’re using a paper system it’s very difficult to track your monthly expenses, revenue, growth, referrals, cancellations and more. And if you don’t have the data you need at your fingertips, you’re going to make less than optimal decisions about the future of your practice.
What to do instead? Get serious about your reporting
You probably have most of the information already; it’s just not in a format you can use. Practice management software, like Power Diary, can make the process a lot simpler. At the click of a button, you can get a snapshot of your current outstandings, client cancellations, referrals, revenue, productivity and more.
For example, if you don’t know that you have a high no-show rate, then you can’t take proactive steps towards resolving the issue. Or if you don’t know which of your referrers are sending the most clients your way, you won’t be able to prioritise your relationship-building efforts strategically in order to have the biggest impact.
By working through these five errors and establishing a game plan for how to handle each when they come up, you can set yourself up to become a private practice success story. The key is to take on board the learnings and advice from people further along the journey and to take practical steps to ensure that, where possible, these errors don’t happen to you.