It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year. It’s time to pause, take a step back, and review your progress. Ask yourself, “Has the first half of 2014 gone the way I expected? Is my practice keeping pace with the goals I set for the year?” If you’re ahead of the curve, congrats! Perhaps it’s time to revise your expectations. If you’ve had a slow start, however, it’s not too late to make 2014 a success. Below are a few ideas for getting back on track:
1) Get Back in Touch with Your Client Base
Restaurant giant McDonalds has just posted its fourth straight month of declining in-store sales. Why? McDonalds CEO Don Thompson acknowledges, “We’ve lost some of our customer relevance.” McDonald’s hasn’t changed. Their consumers, however, have changed: some are demanding healthier options (e.g., Chipotle), others higher food quality (e.g., Five Guys Burger and Fries), and others a more customized experience (e.g., Subway). McDonald’s traditional strength—consistency—isn’t enough anymore. Says one analyst, “Its competitors have gotten better, but McDonald’s has stayed the same.”
But don’t count the Golden Arches out yet. They’re making the difficult pivot: releasing new premium items (e.g., Bacon Clubhouse Burger), improving breakfast offerings with “more of a coffee culture,” and McDonalds is beta-testing a “build your own burger” touchscreen on which customers can customize their orders with a new selection of breads, toppings, and sauces. Regarding the later, while rolling out the concept across its 14,000-plus U.S. locations will require considerable kitchen upgrades, McDonalds executives say they’re up for the challenge.
If McDonalds, the quintessential monolith, can change with the times, so can your practice. Don’t be afraid to evolve along with your client base.
Clients today aren’t the same as they were 20, 15, or even 5 years ago. For example, more persons are opting for extended or lifelong singlehood. Internet addiction is a growing problem issue. Self-mutilation/cutting has increased among adolescents, along with ADHD (and how people want to treat ADHD), bullying is exposed and better understood, there is a growing demand for medication management, and the list goes on and on.
To help get back on track, you may need to start by asking yourself, “how is my practice staying relevant—even cutting edge—to the needs of today’s clients?”
2) Quit what’s Not Working
It’s time to cut the parts of your practice that aren’t working, even if you’re emotionally attached to them. Here are a few statements I’ve recently heard from practice owners clutching to an inutile aspect of their businesses:
- My vision was to differentiate our practice by running groups and workshops.
- My vision was to be cash only.
- My vision was to also sell books, DVDs, and supplements.
You’ll notice that each statement begins with “My vision was to…” However, almost always, the actual vision (or mission) statement of the practice won’t mention the concept at hand. Be careful not to confuse your practice’s “vision” with a “preferred approach” to executing the vision.
I know first hand how difficult it can be to cancel something that’s not working, especially if you really believed in it, and really wanted it to catch on. Sometimes offerings we think are going to succeed simply fail to thrive. When this happens, we can sit down and eat a “wish sandwich,” hoping for a miracle, or we can get up and try something else. The old adage that successful people never quit is false.
Successful people quit things all the time. They just quit the right things at the right time, and refocus their attention on what has the best chance of success.
3) Prepare for the Summer Slump
A third way to get back on track and finish 2014 strong is to be prepared for shifts in business. Summers can be slow: kids are out of school, 20-somethings are out of college, individuals are feeling happier, and families are on vacation. Review the number of new client leads your practice received in Q1 (January-March), and then cut those numbers by about 15-20 percent. For many practices (mine included), without preparation this is what you can expect June through August.
However, with preparation, your practice can still grow during the summer months. Increase marketing and community outreach early, and consider a focus on services that are likely to maintain a strong (or increased) demand during the middle of Q2-Q3.
4) Prepare for the Fall Frenzy
In the same way that summer months can be slow, the fall can bring with it a strong flow of new clients. Make sure you’re prepared for the rush. For example, thinking about hiring a new counselor? Give yourself enough time. It can take months to locate, interview, contract, train, and get a new provider on insurance panels. Similarly, are you starting to maximize your current office space? Anticipate the growing needs of your practice early. Recently, some of my practices have been caught without enough therapy rooms, and it hurts morale! In many cities across the U.S., 2014 has brought with it a hot commercial market, and it can take a longer than usual time to find, lease, and build out additional space for your practice.
5) Take a Flyer, but Don’t Bet the Farm
I’ve written on this topic before, but it bears repeating. If you’re not keeping pace with your 2014 goals, it might be time to take a flyer. To ‘take a flyer’ is to take a chance on something new for your practice, such as an advertising spend or a new service offering. A flyer is a measured risk: If it fails, you can handle the cost. A word of caution though—don’t bet the farm. If you don’t take any flyers your practice is likely to become stagnate. But if you keep betting the farm, you’ll eventually lose the farm.