Business coach Alan S Adams shares his top five strategies for building and maintaining resilience in your clinic
Growth is the treasure every clinic owner rushes towards, and many focus on turnover as a metric of success. But – as we’ve seen over the past two years – unless you have resilience built into your business model, surviving (let alone thriving) will be incredibly tough. In 2020, Hamilton Fraser Cosmetic Insurance conducted a review to assess the impact of the pandemic on businesses – with 80.51% of practitioners reporting the closure of clinics, a reduction in revenue (67.28%), and a reduction in enquiries (63.31%).1 In this article, I will share my five strategies for how practitioners can build, and maintain, a resilient business that is able to flex and adapt to whatever challenges are thrown its way.
When creating a business plan, it is vital that you consider how to manage and treat your business’s growth, but it is even more important that your plan can guide you on what to do if a challenge presents. For example, even if you have a rough idea of where you’re going with your business, you still need to define what your dream destination is and outline the steps along the way. Otherwise, you are essentially getting in your car and heading off on a road trip without checking a map, working out how long the journey will take, or ensuring there are plenty of places to stop for petrol en route.
Within any business plan, practitioners need to cover all areas from a 360-degree viewpoint. Questions that should be covered in a business plan include:
The overall strategy should be created at owner/management level but should include input from the team around their processes and long-term vision of the clinic. When you’re ready to create your plan, it should be simple and stored easily online for accessibility and referral at any time. Any strategy needs to consider your growth and how you can support yourself when events don’t go to plan. It could be that you must deal with staffing issues and need to recruit quicker than expected, that you need a robust HR framework in place, or it could be management issues around services or procedures – such as identifying a need to widen the scope of services on offer or perhaps diversifying into other areas.
An aspect of having a resilient business is ensuring that each member of the team is in the correct role and that, as a business owner, you have the time and freedom to focus on the critical areas so that you can reap the rewards of having a business that works for you. It should be able to function without the owner being actively involved — particularly in the day-to-day operations.
For a clinic owner, the idea that their business can run without them can be overwhelming, but it’s important to the success of their clinic. For it to work smoothly without you, it’s vital that you write down everything (even the smallest of tasks) and create a process for each one. It’s great practice for your team to do the same – therefore, in the event of staff absences, several members of the team are trained and able to step in, ensuring business continuity. This can be done through training across the clinic where everyone learns about each other’s roles and responsibilities, presented in various ways such as video demonstrations, recordings, or ‘how-to’ guides. It’s a common problem for a business owner to be embroiled in the day-to-day operations and working in their business, that they don’t have time to work on their business. This leads to them becoming frustrated that they aren’t achieving the rate of growth they desire.
Creating a business which works for you, and provides you with the lifestyle you want, is achievable by having the right systems in place. Knowing your worth is vital, so consider how you’re spending your time. For example, you can implement automation systems like website bots to answer common patient questions and get patients booked into your clinic or you can use scheduling software for social media posts, email marketing and newsletters. You can also integrate a sophisticated customer relationship management (CRM) system to keep patient contact details up-to-date, track patient interaction and manage accounts easily. If you are unsure on CRM systems, then consider talking to someone in the field who can advise on the best tools based on your requirements and needs.
You’ll never know it all, and there’s no use in pretending that you do. It’s important to know what you don’t know, which is where external business support and outsourcing comes in. It’s a good idea to build a team of trusted advisors around you to support you when you need it. Outsourcing and calling on expertise is a fantastic way to streamline costs and free up time to focus on what you love and what makes you profitable and should be considered in terms of return on investment. Firstly, you need to recognise where you feel you need some additional support in your clinic, and this can help you determine the right person/company for the job. For example, reception, marketing and PR, call answering services and accountancy are all areas which can be easily outsourced. Or if you need assistance on revenue growth planning, then perhaps a business coach can guide you on the small changes that will make a difference to the growth of your business whilst supporting you in creating a resilient business plan.
Before you engage with any professional or company, do your research and ask questions that will give insight into their suitability for your needs, as not everyone will be ideal for your business. Perhaps ask your colleagues who they use and can recommend, attend events to meet more relevant people in the industry or watch business talks at conferences and take away contacts from those.
After conducting your research, it’s your job as a business owner to spot the good from the bad. There are plenty of people who claim to be great at what they do, but they need to be able to meet your clinic’s needs and prove to you that they are enhancing your business and making it more resilient. Ask appropriate questions such as: tell me about some of your successful clients and how you helped them, what guarantees can you give me that your services will improve my business, or what if you don’t deliver on your promises to improve my business, which should help you on your way to choosing the relevant professional or company for the job.
Have systems in place (such as CRM noted above) that allows you to easily access details of all existing and prospective patients so you can regularly engage and communicate with them effectively. I suggest you create a strong email marketing campaign, which ensures your clinic remains on your patients’ mind and helps improve patient loyalty which ultimately leads to a more resilient business.
Be wary of being too sales focused in your email marketing, providing educational advice and support messages, rather than ‘selling’. You can provide advice and guidance around everything
aesthetics-related, share skincare tips and tricks, and update on what’s going on in your clinic, future plans, and exciting developments such as new treatments and offers.
Keeping in touch via email through your clinic’s CRM system once a week is acceptable. You don’t want to just email people the same thing for the sake of it as they will likely unsubscribe to your updates. It’s a good idea to work out the right level of email frequency through testing and measuring. If you’re getting a lot of unsubscribes, try tweaking the number of times per month you send emails, the time you send them or even the day of the week. Other factors like the subject line and content can also have a huge impact in your open rate and subscriber count. Another way to increase subscribers is A/B testing email campaigns, in which you send one variation of your email to a subset of subscribers and a different variation to another subset of subscribers.2 This allows you to see clearly what gets more engagement from your patients and which ultimately works. However, bear in mind that if you’re providing advice and guidance along with updates about your clinic, and still getting a lot of unsubscribes, chances are they are not your ideal patient anyway.
It’s important to measure all aspects of your business’s growth so that you can check that you’re heading in the right direction or whether you need to tweak what you’re doing in a particular area, which contributes to a resilient business. I work with businesses to help them make a 10% improvement in each area – from returning customers and average spend per visit, to lead generation and lead conversion. It’s an achievable percentage that doesn’t feel too overwhelming or stressful, and over time, it can skyrocket turnover (in many cases I’ve seen, more than double it). Some of the key factors you should be monitoring, and measuring are:
The above can be measured if you put time in and have an effective CRM system, which can track how many website click-throughs an email received and how many got in touch because of seeing the campaign. Asking new leads how they found you, or why they’re getting in touch, can provide you with valuable insight. A bi-annual patient survey is also a good idea to keep track of your progress and make any relevant changes necessary. I use a traffic light system to give practitioners an indication of where improvements can be made, what they are great at, and where there are weaknesses. Green – you’re doing great, keep it up. Amber – needs some work.
Red – this is a challenge to your growth. Clinic owners can create their own individual systems to give a good idea of how they’re performing. For example, a scoring system which is linked to the traffic lights will give you an indication of where you are.
Overcome the hurdles There are many aspects in life – and business – that we can’t predict. Having a solid business plan in place isn’t a guarantee that your clinic will sail through, but it does put you in a stronger position to deal with the ups and downs. Returning to the road-trip analogy, you will hit traffic and roadworks on the journey but having an effective business plan means you’ve factored it into your day and will still arrive on time. You already know of alternative routes you can take if option A is blocked.
Alan Adams will be speaking at ACE. Register for free on here.
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