It always surprises me the number of consultants who struggle with the concept of their private practice as a business. Sure they realise that accounts need to be filed, tax returns made, and depending upon how the business is structured (limited company etc) there are certain legal requirements.
No. Its more than that.
A business needs to generate profits. And to do that it needs to have customers (patients in this case) who come through the door and buy a product or service. Depending upon the price of the product or service, if enough people buy then income willl exceed expenses, the business is viable and makes a profit.
Note the key phrase above is ‘enough people buy’. You MUST get customers into your practice, and the ONLY way of doing that is by MARKETING.
Now I can guess what you’re thinking. The ‘M’ word. Probably something along the lines of “What a load of bollocks”.
An American once said “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” – Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882
The thing is, old Ralph was wrong. You see, if they don’t know about you, your products and services, and how you can help treat their medical problems, not only won’t they come…They CAN’Tcome.
And how they find out about your skills and the service you provide is through Marketing. You have to TELL THEM.
Now I know I’ve picked a bit of a fight here. Many of you reading this will be thinking that I’m talking nonsense and you want no truck with anything as wishy-washy and non-scientific as ‘marketing’. But hear me out.
I used to feel exactly the same way, and to be blunt was pretty contemptuous of marketing, advertising, copywriting and all that sort of stuff until… I started a business. I mean a ‘proper’ business, designing and building road-legal racing racing cars. It was then that I realised, with that horrible sinking feeling you get when you know that missed call on your mobile was from the bank, that marketing was actually pretty important to a business, and if this was going to work I had better start learning all about it, and fast.
So that’s what I did. Whilst training in General Surgery I ran my business and spent years learning all I could about marketing, both traditional and internet based, and our company grew. Our cars were exported all over Europe, we were on the cover of several international car magazines and even won ‘best car in show’ on one occasion.
Interestingly, it was during this time that colleagues quietly began to approach me, asking if I knew anything that could help them with their private practices, and almost by accident I began helping consultants to get more patients and increase their private income. Using techniques I learned from the world of mainstream business I helped my clients achieve some stunning results. My record was to quadruple the number of patients a psychiatrist saw in less than six months.
So now I find I have come full circle. I no longer manufacture racing cars, but have decided to make use of my background as a surgeon and expertise in marketing to help consultants, consultants like you, grow their practices bigger and faster than they ever thought possible.
If I hadn’t done any marketing, I wouldn’t have sold any cars and my company would have gone bankrupt.
Interestingly, most consultants do very little marketing. They hold the odd meeting with GP’s and GP practices telling them about what they do and advances in the management of particular clinical problems. They let it be known amongst their hospital colleagues that they see patients privately, and liaise with private hospitals where they can see their patients. And that’s IT.
Most practices take TEN YEARS to grow to a level which most doctors would call a ‘reasonable’ sized private practice.
These two observations are not unrelated.
By Dev Lall FRCS