You’ve graduated as a Doctor of Chiropractic, YAY[insert streamers, champagne, and an all you can eat rib dinner]! Now what? Over the course of the next few months, you will make several very important decisions that will affect the trajectory of your life and career as new Chiropractors. Rich and I want to help you as much as we can to make the “right” decisions. The decisions that will keep you rockin' and rollin' into having a fulfilling Lifestyle Practice with an abundance of patients that gives you the time and financial freedom you want. So, without further adieu, here are the 10 most common mistakes we see new Chiropractors make.
Starting a practice is all about survival the first 6-12 months in business as new Chiropractors. So, as you begin the process of launching your practice, ask yourself some questions: How much space do I really NEED to start out? Is that pricey table with all the bells and whistles really necessary? How much do I want to spend on EHR, x-ray, etc? Version 1.0 of your practice should run “lean and mean,” and your primary goal should be to keep your overhead as low as possible so that the business can become profitable as quickly as possible. New docs sometimes graduate with the mentality that because they are a doctor, they deserve the best adjusting table, the nicest office furniture, the latest chiropractic laser/adjusting tool/gizmo, etc. Some spend thousands of dollars on new equipment and their office build out, only to find out later that these things have very little to do with creating a successful practice.
When you're planning your office, make a list of the bare essentials you will need to open, buy those items used whenever possible, and only acquire additional equipment as the need arises. If possible, lease an office space that has already been built out and adapt it to fit your needs. This can save you $40,000-$60,000+. That’s a big chunk of change that can be better utilized as first-year operating capital. Remember, you haven't earned a dollar until you’ve paid back your start up expenses and you are meeting your monthly expenses. Tip: Build a patient base with low and no cost marketing techniques. Once established, it will be time for you to apply your experience and increased revenue to transform your practice into “Version 2.0”. Dream big, but start small.
The most common reason why new practices close their doors is because they are underfunded. Starting a practice costs anywhere from $40k to $80k and beyond. Cash flow is critical to any startup business, so watch every penny by only purchasing what you need. Avoid sinking large amounts of cash into big purchases. Instead, lease those big ticket items to leave as much liquid cash as possible in your bank account. You must be able to afford to keep your doors open long enough to create a steady flow of paying patients and that day will never come if you run out of money too soon.
A.k.a. paralysis by analysis. You can’t possibly plan for everything when opening a practice and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. Don’t worry! Take a deep breath and do the following: Make sure you have at least the minimum of what you need to get open (table, computer, phone, paperwork, etc). Make sure you are compliant with all regulations and requirements. Identify any “red flags” or “contraindications” to opening and fix them. Set a date and open, then reassess and fix things as you go. This is known as the “ready, fire, aim” principle in the business world. Done is better than perfect!
On the other end of the spectrum is not planning enough. You will struggle in business if you don’t have a basic plan for how you are going to acquire patients once your doors are open. You’ll also need a fee structure that makes sense and a basic idea of the condition-based treatment protocols you will use. Remember, the “if you build it, they will come” plan only works in the movies!
You’ve done the hard work to open your office and now you’ve got a patient on your table. So exciting! You’ve also got a head full of knowledge and you’re eager to share it with your patients. A 2015 study by Microsoft showed that people generally lose concentration after eight seconds. The take home message is that you need to make your point relevant and brief. You’ll lose your audience if you talk too long.
Why do people seek chiropractic care? The vast majority of people who are interested in chiropractic services have a problem that needs to be solved. Often, it’s because they’re in pain which is interfering with their life. To be the best chiropractor in town, put yourself in the shoes of the person who is seeking your services. Don’t go overboard “selling” them on the wonders of chiropractic care. Simply solve their problems. Over the course of care, not only will you solve their problems, but you will gain their trust. They will eventually become part of your “street crew” and actively refer their friends, neighbors, and loved ones into your office.
When a patient arrives in your office they are the star attraction. Making them feel important is key. Do it by giving them your undivided attention and listening intently to what they are telling you. Be genuine and provide them with a superior patient experience that makes them feel valued. Show them gratitude for trusting you with their care.
It is essential to build value into your services. Chiropractic care is so much more than a quick back pop. Patients should understand what services you provide, the benefits of your care, the tools (modalities) you’ll be using to aid in their recovery, the importance of each adjustment building on the one before, and more. If patients don’t see the value in the service you provide, they are unlikely to continue their care or to refer others.
Chiropractors who lack confidence and certainty, are long winded, or inarticulate will struggle. Patients will drop out of care prior to completing their treatment plans because the doctor failed to effectively make the case for their treatment plan. Worse yet, they may never book an appointment if the doctor is unable to convey the benefits of care clearly and succinctly over the phone, at a networking event, or community talk.
Chiropractors who don't network in their communities are missing out on making vital connections. A website and social media presence simply aren’t enough. Generate countless opportunities by connecting face to face with those in your community. Anyone you meet is a possible referral source, from business owners to volunteer organizations. Offer to meet others for coffee, so that you can find out more about them and how you can promote their business. Your efforts will be much appreciated and you will be laying the groundwork for creating a solid referral network.
Reading through this list may have caused you to self reflect on some of your own weak areas. Write each of those weaknesses down, and make a plan to counteract them. If you haven’t sought out your town’s chamber, make a plan to call them. If you are going overboard on your report of findings, then make bullet points of what you want to cover in your next one and stick to them. This list should empower you to continue creating the practice you want!
The success of individual chiropractors and the chiropractic profession are very important to us. That's why we’ve committed ourselves to creating resources that help Chiropractic Students and new Chiropractors to make the right choices, to give good, quality care, and use a referral based approach to practice building, based on how we built our practices. Need help launching into practice, then listen to the Lifestyle Practice Builders PODCAST & learn more about our RESOURCES!