As kids, we dreamt about being bigger. We wanted to be taller or stronger. Maybe we wanted to be older because we associated age with the idea that we could then do more cool things. Either way, we instinctively had drive and a goal that we strived for.
The same mindset can be applied to running and expanding a health care practice. However, one thing to keep in mind with getting bigger now is that there are variables - and other people involved - this time.
Therefore, you must be organized, coordinated and knowledgeable in the area of expansion to successfully meet the goals and purpose of expanding. Here are some key points to help you grow your practice.
Make sure your practice is established and organized. Before expanding, you need to first prepare a written blueprint of what you have in order to reproduce it. So if you want another nice, organized office where your staff can carry out work similar to your main office and if you want to understand everyone's duties and responsibilities, then you must have a general policy manual and a job description for each job.
This is your opportunity to capture precisely what makes your practice what it is and why and how you do what you do. Keep this process simple and specific. Avoid generalities and make every effort to document things in a manner that doesn't require frequent editing. (Don't include people's names, for example.)
Stay true to the purpose and goals of your practice. Be sure to remain true to your original reason for opening your practice. Don't compromise your integrity or lessen your goals. Most of all, don't expand just to expand. Expand with a game plan.
Some people may tell you that "bigger isn't always better." But if the mission and priorities of your practice are solid, then bigger can mean stronger and can provide more of the great things that you have created for your patients, staff and community.
Plan your team, and have a leader in place. Several months before opening your new location, recruit and interview staff so by the time you get close to opening, you know who will be at the front desk and who will be treating patients. You may decide to put new hires into your existing location and transfer some current, experienced staff into the new location. This also presents a great opportunity to promote someone within your staff who has been loyal, demonstrates good leadership qualities, and ultimately has a history of getting the job done at a high-quality level. Upward mobility is a major motivator for strong staff who desire personal growth and increased responsibility. Reward staff members who share in your goals.
Research the area and establish that there is a need for your services. Expanding your practice and opening another location should follow the same "recipe" that you carried out with your current office. Be careful not to deviate from what is working well right now.
Try duplicating as many of the variables that are successful right now, like being located on a busy road, having good signage, having easy access with plenty of parking, offering top-of-the line equipment and technology, and providing great resources for patients and staff alike. Take some time to survey nearby businesses and other professionals at networking events. Get involved in the chamber of commerce, and meet people in the community and other health care providers. See what they think about the idea of you opening a location in their community.
Don't go into financial debt in order to expand. This is one of the biggest mistakes that a practice owner can make. In fact, going into further debt to expand your practice raises your risk and liability. It can increase the stress, pressure and burden on you, your staff and the business.
Just as you should do in your home, always live within your means in your business so you are prepared for any circumstances that may occur. Prepare for the worst but expect the best from yourself and your practice.
It's important to have a financial plan and schedule that consists of putting money into a reserve account dedicated to expanding and growing your practice. This money doesn't even have to be limited to opening another location. It can be used for growing your existing office with new computers, equipment or furniture so your staff always has what they need to perform at a high level.
Finally, turn your attention to the people collaborating with you on this journey. A trained staff is a productive, happy and high-quality team. Trained employees are coordinated, organized, confident and prepared. They know their role and responsibilities within the practice. All of this contributes to a practice that's ready for successful expansion.
Valuable ways to train your staff include regular inservice workshops and seminars, webinars, continuing education courses, scheduled guest speakers, networking events, and outside seminars and workshops.
It is said that in business you are either expanding or contracting. A business can never remain on a plateau or stay the same for too long. It can remain status quo, but that is seldom fun for you, your staff or your patients. Expanding your business is a great opportunity to keep your group challenged and excited in the continued development of your practice.
So collect your ideas, make a plan, and prepare like crazy. Surround yourself with great people, have fun with your group, and make it happen!
Michael Nula is owner and founder of a five-location health care practice in Rhode Island.