Every chiropractor wants to grow their practice.  If we took a survey right now of chiropractors and asked them what their primary desire was for their practice, they would most assuredly state something about growth.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, however, the concept of growth deserves a closer examination.

When I hear a chiropractor list “growth” as one of their primary desires, I begin to ask questions.  Questions like: What does that mean?  What areas do they want to grow?   Why grow at all?  Is there something inherently good about growth?  And, does that make non-growth bad?

As I see it, there are three problems with a focus on growth: (Ben end newsletter copy and link to landing page here) a lack of a defined growth measure, a desire for growth without understanding its foundation, and not planning adequately to stimulate growth.  All three problems are fixated on growth without understanding growth.  As a good friend has always told me, “Growth is not a strategy, it’s an outcome.”

Let that little phrase sink in.  Growth is an outcome of a practice that is aligned with the market and has effective strategies that can generate the defined growth you are seeking.  In other words, it is an outcome of resolving the three problems listed above.

Lack of a Defined Growth Measure

It is important to define the type of growth that is desired – and why.  Several of the potential areas for growth include total number of patients, number of visits per patient, total revenue, net income, impact on patients, or maybe influence in the community. Defining type of growth desired, and why that growth would be good for the practice, is critical to fully understanding why the growth objective is worth a more focused effort.   Avoiding this first problem of growth will keep things defined and avoid the trap of vagueness.

Lack of a Foundation for Growth

When you become fixated on growth without understanding its foundation, you begin to “sell.”  You move away from designing a practice that is aligned with the needs of patients and you begin to fall into the trap that you need to “convince” your patients that they need your services.  You might even begin to use fear as a tool to get your patients to commit to your practice.  Sadly, this approach may work in the short-term, but it is not an effective way to build a “growing“ and sustainable practice.  A better approach is to design your practice in a way that connects with the needs and desires of a targeted group of potential patients.  Growth in your practice will come from patients that believe in your definition of healthcare and your abilities to provide that defined healthcare.  This becomes your foundation.

If you don’t have a definition of healthcare, I would encourage you to consider developing one.  But don’t just define what you want – it’s important that you define your approach to healthcare in a way that clearly meets the needs and desires of your patients.  Begin by defining what you are passionate about.  One way to get at this is to reflect on why you became a chiropractor in the first place.  Next, cast a vision of how you want your healthcare practice to look in the future.  What impact does it have on your patients and community?  Move on to define a purpose for your practice that gives direction and motivation.  To define your purpose, you must define your approach to healthcare and why your practice exists.  The purpose for your practice leads to a description of how your practice is different – its character and personality that make it a place that prospective patients want to visit.   By working through this exercise, you will create your definition of healthcare, and reconnect you to the true essence of your practice – which is patient care.

Lack of Adequate Strategic Planning

Now that you have a type of targeted growth and a definition of healthcare that comes from your passion AND meets the needs and desires of your patients, it’s important to understand the strategies you can use to grow your practice.  There are five basic areas you can focus on:

  1. Acquire more patients – this is where everyone thinks they need to concentrate.  We agree this is important, but if done wrong, focusing here leads to poor quality patients that don’t convert into long-term patients.
  2. More revenue per patient visit – this is where ACOM is great at helping chiropractors improve their billings and collections.
  3. More visits per patient – this is an excellent place to concentrate efforts.  Loyal patients are less expensive to maintain, and they are more profitable.
  4. More locations – this might be an option to consider after a sustainable system is in place at your current location.
  5. More services – this is an area to consider; however, don’t try to be everything to everybody.  This can confuse your brand promise and image.

You could focus on all five areas or just a few.  I recommend that you concentrate on one or two areas that are important to your practice in a given year.  The areas you choose can change as your practice changes.  Use these five potential growth areas to guide you in developing a comprehensive strategy for growth that states your objectives and describes a plan of action you will use in your practice to reach your targeted objectives.  If done well, you will have a plan to follow that guides your actions and behaviors.

Growth is not a strategy – it’s an outcome.  Therefore, you need to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for growth.  Be very clear about what type of growth you are wanting.  Make sure your definition of healthcare not only comes from your passion, but meets the needs and desires of your patients.  And, develop a plan of action that focuses on one or more of the five basic areas that can grow your practice.