It’s been said that running a small business is one of the toughest endeavors you will likely do in your life. For some the task is even greater than you may think. Through years of dealing with business owners all over the country I have noticed that some are much more “savvy” than others.
By savvy I mean they are more street smart and react quicker to situations and environment. They have a feel for business and importantly understand the basics of what it takes to run a successful business.
Business is a combination of moving parts that need to gel together (with the accuracy of a fine watch) to create a successful outcome.
Below are 10 questions I’ve heard over and over again by business owners in the service industry.
The following are based on questions from specific business owners in the alternate health sector such as Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Naturopaths, Massage Therapists and the like.
However you can assimilate the questions into your business.
At some point you would have heard or possibly asked the questions yourself.
One of the major challenges in business failure 18 Reasons Why Businesses fail is a great majority of business owners only have their “practitioner hat” on, according to New York Times best selling author Michael Gerber in his business bible “The E Myth”
The key that any successful Entrepreneur in business will tell you is that you need the versatility of switching hats when called for. Gerber calls the 3 hats “The Practitioner, the Manager and the Director”.
The following questions and answers are designed as a guide to show you what you may need to understand, experience and learn in order for you to create a successful business.
Remember have an open mind to change and the small changes can make all the difference in your business.
1) How can I increase my cash-flow?
This is always a tricky one as there are many circumstances that govern this, but one of the solutions that I see in the industry is to ensure that you are
- Looking after your current clients well. Poor service is one of the major causes for a lack of clients re booking with you.
- Upsell if you can, example – how about a 90 min massage rather than a 60 min?
- Know your numbers. Frequency is very important – if you can bring the time between sessions down it helps increase cash-flow (only if the patient needs this)
- Look at your fee structure often a small increase adds a massive difference to your bottom end (most practitioners seriously undercharge)
2) How can I get more clients?
There are many different ways to increase this. However most smaller practices are limited in funding and resources. If you’re a start up here are some cost effective tips.
- Put a “referral strategy” in place – most practitioners never ask their patients if they know other people that would benefit from their services
- Use simple marketing strategies – connect with your local Chamber of Commerce or BnI group or similar organizations it’s called “Networking” to some it’s like a 4 letter word.
- Use FREE Social Media platforms such as Facebook , Linked in , Twitter
3) What marketing do I need to do?
There are varied degrees of marketing but one of the ways I believe marketing produces the greatest result is by being clear in the first place of who your target audience really is
So what I like to do is begin with what I call the 3m’s
- What’s your Message?
So many business owners aren’t clear. I mean you may say I’m a Naturopath or a Dietician but to the everyday public that has such a broad representation that it is hard to distinguish between who does what and how. After spending 10 years in the wellness industry I can tell you first hand that many patients that I referred to a Naturopath at first questions the validity between them and a “Doctor”.
Their first impression was that of hesitancy. Clearly stating your message is critical.
- What’s your Market?
Get clear about your audience. Who is your ideal client? A great way to accurately identify is by using Empathy Mapping. This exercise really helps with creating a map of the market.
- What’s your Method?
This is ultra important as not all marketing methods are born equal. In the most case today Social Media is an integral component however print media such as magazines, local editorials, handouts etc cannot be underestimated.
4) I find Business hard I’m a practitioner not a businessperson. What can I do?
Many health practitioners struggle needlessly as they find it very challenging to balance business and practice
It’s important that you set goals that are achievable and also connect with your purpose. Most practice owners look at their skill set as separate to running a business. In actual fact the two are in synergy. No business no practicing healing or helping others.
Loving your work should also incorporate an understanding of business. Motivation is achieved internally by setting goals with your love of practicing in mind. This keeps you focused on your goal and helps with the business of it.
Anxiety often arises when you separate the both business and treatment. Resistance is futile and leads to ongoing mental and emotional struggle. The key is focus on delivery an over exaggerated amount of value for your client. A friend of mine and marketing coach Shaun Clarke says, “ over deliver to the over exaggerated expectation of your client”
Connect your business with helping as many as you can and you’ve created a win/win scenario win in business (lots of clients) win as a practitioner (get to do your magic)
5) How Important Is Social Media For My Practice?
Marketing done correctly can make all the difference in the world. It literally changes everything. Today S/M is one of the dominant players. The best part is it can be very cost effective and reach a highly targeted audience.
The trends today are “engagement”. Your clients are very inquisitive in nature and already know who you are before they have met you. The web guarantee’s that.
If you don’t have a presence it increases the resistance barrier quite drastically. It’s like buying from a stranger you don’t know and never heard of. Image that now times it by 100. Your clients are coming to trust you with their bodies and commonly with their every secret.
The more you connect and engage using S/M the higher the chances your clients will engage you!
6) How Do I Properly Charge? It Seems Like I’m Always Working And Making No Money?
This is one of the most common challenges with Practitioners. You love what you do and undercharge drastically for your services or get into a price war between each other. The end result simply cheapens his or her service and puts everyone onto the same boat.
Here are some tips
- Never sell your business in a “time based manner”.i.e it's not $60 for an hour massage, it’s a treatment that runs for around an hour or so depending on the desired outcome.
- Rather than reduce price add more value. As an example, after you finish a consult, speak to the patient about the desired pathway, give them a plan, help them with other minor changes which compliment the service, extend the session for an extra 5 min, give them a complimentary hot towel, cup of tee and the like.
In my days as a Holistic Practitioner owning one of Sydney’s premier facilities, my staff and I were always looking at ways to create “the experience” Our rebook and return rate was around 93% +. Often resulting in tips after the treatments and raving survey forms.
- Educate your client that the consult is not time based and if they need more so be it as long as they achieve the outcome. A correct diagnosis to a skilled practitioner can take minutes or depending on the situation may take hours. This helps the client not associate the length with the value of the service. Look at chiropractors. You’re never lying on the table for more than 20 min. They get the job done!
7) How Do I Manage My Time Better?
Regardless of the type of business you own, time management is always a challenge. We could devote the next 300 pages to time management. The following strategy has proven to work over and over for me and my clients (every practice is different so adjust to your needs)
- Ensure you have a diarized booking system
- Block out hours / days of when you are working “in” and working “on” the business
- Delegate minor tasks possibly using a VA for economy or a part time assistant dependent on the practice size and needs
- Create systemized processes, for booking, operations, ordering education and so on
- Don’t always say “yes” to everything. Screen your priorities that way you have more time to dedicate to the patients that need that extra help.
8) I Don’t Like Selling? I Find It Hard To Do.
The battle rages on between the practitioner (care for patient, concentrating on treatments and the business person ( sales, figures, rent, emails )The sticking point for many and I believe lye’s in the shift of mindset not in the skill set.
Think about it most practitioners spend years and years studying , researching testing. Hard stuff right? I know I have spent thousands of hours studying the anatomy, books on every disease known to man, the symptoms , natural causes, days and days in courses. So how can the art of so called “selling” even come close?
Though ask the question and most will feel the fear of death in them. (similar to public speaking)
For many selling is a word that’s associated with certain “negative” connotations. So I challenge you to shift your mindset to “offering” rather than selling. The service that you offer helps people (as all practitioners do)You do is because love serving and helping others…right?
The subtle difference in positioning changes the internal language which evokes a different sense. One of which compliments what you do as a practitioner. I see it as communicating, rather than selling. Communicating my offering to the needs of the patient. All practitioners know that 99% of treatments require follow up or a program of sorts rather than a “quick fix” western medicinal approach. So as a practitioners it’s imperative you learn to communicate your offering well so that patients understand the value and importance of your service.
9) I Have An Excellent Product But I Don’t Know How To Get It Into The Market. How Do I Do That?
I can’t tell you the amount of practitioners that have an excellent product sit in their garage or even worse in their mind without getting it to the market place.
One of the typical reasons for this is the lack of industry “marketing” knowledge along with a poor understanding of what it takes to “launch rich”. Having the joint ventures in place, product style, branding and so on.
Studying with Christopher Howard and Laurel Langemeir both taught me the importance of launching rich. By this they mean you need to ensure you have the funding to do it, and the people to make it happen.
Marketing your product online today needs to seriously cut through the “noise”. The amount of product offerings is staggering.
Here are some tips:
- Research , Research, Research. The more you know what it takes before you go into a product launch the better
- Be really clear about what your product solves
- Whatever you think your budget is, double it. Everything always costs more than you predicted.
- Create and test a mini model firstly designed in a business plan blueprint
- Ask yourself “what’s the worse case scenario” often
- Test small and listen to the end user. They are your gauge not your girlfriend or boyfriend.
- Set a time line for the launch
- Look for a J/V Partner
10) As A Service Provider How Do I Produce A Scalable Business? I.E Grow More Than One Practice?
Here are 5 “must do” components in order to produce a scalable practice.
- Grow your mind – whatever you are doing has given you the results thus far. In order to expand you must grow.
- Remove yourself from constantly being “the practitioner” gives you a broader sense of how to scale your practice model. (If you’re the only practitioner it’s impossible to be in more than one place at a time)
- Produce systems that are designed with growth in mind
- Replicate whatever you learn from in one practice. Ensure you iron out all the bugs before you applying them(new location doesn’t mean you don’t face the same hurdles)
- Research before you engage both
- Internally – financial contribution, time management, resources, time and energy consumption
- Externally – location, leasing, demographics, target audience and so on
This guest post is courtesy of Nick Psaila Holistic Business Coach/ Author/ Speaker http://www.nickpsaila.com