Creating a Successful Practice

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Freedom. Financial. Philanthropy. Ask any chiropractor about their individual reason for beginning a practice, and they will eventually emphasize the preceding words. There are many chiropractors that do very well and others that continually struggle.

Many struggle for a myriad of reasons (capital, location, passion, etc.) but one of the main reasons is that business development and marketing are not a major focus. In fact, many colleges fail to instruct in this important area. Colleges immerse students (rightfully so) in the sciences so that diagnosis and care are paramount. Yet business development is needed, because without it practices flounder.

The reason for focusing on business development is:

  • Business development provides structure – The set of processes and procedures required to develop patients helps provide an operating framework for the practice.
  • Patients – There is only one reason to be in practice: the acquisition and retention of customers.
  • Financial Future – The ability to consistently, relentlessly, and aggressively develop business increases the future financial strength of the practice.

Just to be clear, there are numerous reasons to be in practice. However, without a solid framework for business, the practice fails. As many know, the average chiropractor subsists in a small office with a light patient load of one hundred visits per month. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2009), median annual wages of salaried chiropractors were $66,490 in May 2008. The middle 50% earned between $45,540 and $96,700 a year.

What then helps define the successful practice? Practices cannot be defined in terms of profit; they must be defined by acquired and retained patients. Actions create patients. Ultimately, the patient determines the practice, what it produces, and whether it will prosper.

What is required is an organizational framework. MASS© is a strategic framework meant to keep chiropractors focused, motivated, and accountable to be successful. MASS© integrates four vital areas of practice operations (Marketing, Accounting, Sales, and [Patient] Service to create communication channels and messages that deliver clear, consistent, and compelling messages that influence and create more patients.

Sales and Marketing areas must create messages that evoke patient output and deliverables. Patient Service must create the organizational culture to influence patient-to-patient communication. Finally, practices must continually reinvest and reallocate organizational funds to find and keep patients. Here is a brief description of how to create a successful practice with these attributes.

Marketing is defined as an exchange of information for the benefit of providing value to the practices stakeholders. Simply put, patients do not buy services; rather, they invest in relationships. When marketing is apparent, relationships strong, and trust built, revenue is easier to obtain.

Every practice is a relationship business. Therefore it is incumbent upon chiropractors to create community. The larger the community, the easier it is to build patient volume. Exemplars include large marketing companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.. Each of these organizations built a huge client base without advertising—the communities of each promoted the organizations’ brand.

Ask any chiropractor today, and they are averse to telling you they are doctors. Yet when you look at their offices and patient load, you wonder how well. Today, to earn a decent living, chiropractors had better be able to attract patients to themselves and their talents and in sizable numbers. More importantly, to attract these numbers, doctors need to acknowledge that they are a brand and, more importantly, in the marketing business.

Effective marketing builds brands, which then provides patients. Brands offer instant recognition and identification. They also promise consistent, reliable standards of quality, size, or even psychological attraction. Several national and regional surveys typically illustrate that patients choose brand by name alone!

Certainly we all enjoy the fortunes of making money; however, it is not necessarily true that what we make it is what we keep. The issues with many chiropractors are twofold: 1) the concept of saving revenues for the purposes of volatile economic times and 2) investing revenues back into the business.

Business investment is vital in two functional areas: sales and marketing. While fundamental, almost 91% of business owners surveyed indicated a trivial reinvestment into these endeavors. It is very easy to purchase ornate material items and another to save for a rainy day. Monetary investments help hire additional staff, invest in helpful marketing campaigns, and even save for a future family issue. It is one thing to become marred in frugality and another to become marred in foolishness.

The ultimate goal for any practice is exchanging value for services. Selling, therefore, is an exchange. Whereas marketing provides the template for the communication of value, selling is the end process. However, it is very difficult for many chiropractors to ask a very simple question: “Do you want to make an appointment”? In order to “book” business, chiropractors must not only engage in healthy discussions, but they must also ask questions that probe for interest. The only way to get business is to tirelessly ask for it.

Over 50% of every patient communication results in patient service. The key differentiator for every practice is treating your patients as the practice’s vital asset. This requires engaging patients from first impressions to departure. In fact, the practices culture must hinge on the concept that the patient is 1) the most imperative aspect of the practice, 2) not an interruption but its purpose and 3) the practice exists because of it. Treat your patients well continually and they become your greatest marketing and sales force. As service levels increase, so do the levels of patient-to-patient influences.

At first glance these might appear as timely burdens. Not true. None of these takes more than just a few moments each day. More importantly, spending on average 25% of each day on any one of them can reap huge business results. The real test stems from developing activities that chiropractors conduct daily to remain on top of their game so that they can create a successful practice.

That said, I challenge each of you reading this. Develop a list of no more than six to eight activities that you can conduct daily for the next 21 days. Focus each day on completing each of them. Set goals while also establishing an accountability partner to ensure your success. Monitor your results during this time and look at the new results. You will be amazed at your success. Then continue, since what gets remembered gets repeated. Your practice will grow more successful each month.

Stay tuned for my next article installment where I discuss these activities to help you get started immediately.

©2011. Drew Stevens PhD. All rights reserved.

Drew Stevens Ph.D. works with chiropractors that continually struggle with patient volume and want to gain dramatic results. To help accelerate your practice, call Dr. Drew at 877-391-6821 or visit his website at