The new year is an ideal time to reflect and plan. Taking time to assess where you are at, what got you there, and where you are heading, can help you make informed decisions to achieve your goals.
You can’t change what you don’t understand – Orson Scott Card
A Way to Analyze
If you want to refine your practice’s operations and prime it for growth, start with a tool like S.W.O.T. to see a bigger picture and determine significant factors, both internal and external, that affect you achieving your objectives.
The acronym stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. With this method of identifying relevant data, you can refine your strategy, leverage opportunities, and address challenging factors.
S.W.O.T was created by Albert Humphrey of the Stanford Research Institute during a study in the 1960s, conducted to identify why corporate planning typically fails. It has since become a popular and widely used tool for a balanced, informed look at a company.
What are your practice’s strengths? What can you do to leverage them?
Strengths are fun to start with because we tend to overlook them day-to-day. Being problem-solvers we generally notice and focus more on problems. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, but your strong silent wheels deserve oil too!
This isn’t just a shout-out though, create an actual list of what your practice needs to continue doing right. You will want to keep an eye on your list of what to maintain and how those are affected by changes being implemented to address weaknesses and harness opportunities.
Strengths come in many forms. They can be qualities that make you stand out, exceptional staff, established clientele loyalty, or something as simple as a convenient location or ample parking.
Valuable team members and beneficial partnerships are particularly strong strengths. Nurture those relationships with employee appreciation, recognition efforts, and workplace culture development.
If you are rockstars when it comes to getting testimonials, leverage those on social media and post replies to them as a way to engage with your patients, build brand loyalty, and foster patient referrals.
Never take for granted what is working; make actionable efforts to boost your existing assets.
What are your practice’s weaknesses? What can you do to address them?
A complete list of weaknesses is a tall order. Limitations and faults will often show up as operational “symptoms” such as routinely being behind schedule. Look for and follow these breadcrumb clues to find out why it is happening.
The best way to learn what isn’t working is to ask your staff. Not just passively letting them know that you are open to their feedback, but rather actively be curious and ask for their personal experiences and observations. Without asking leading questions, the more specific you are in phrasing your question, the more their answers might reveal. “What takes you the most time?” and “What drives you crazy about that you wish were different?”
Aim to get input from every person on your team, because everyone has different roles and responsibilities, each with their own unique window into the operations of the practice. No one knows better than the person doing a task what hangs them up from doing it better, be that faster, more accurately, or in some cases at all.
Understaffed is a commonly reported weakness (which in the current economic climate, is commonly a universal threat as well,) as well as outdated technology. But sometimes it is a smaller piece, like a step in a process that is easy to improve.
If you know paperwork seems to be submitted slower than ideal, S.W.O.T. can shine a light on the source(s) of delay. Like this scenario:
Everything is scanned as JPGs because of a default setting and new hire last year. Later in the process, documents had to be converted to PDFs by someone else in the office, for example before sending them to a vendor or agency. Chances are only the person converting the files to PDFs knows about this seemingly small step that adds unnecessary bloat to their workload.
Many well-meaning employees won’t mention something innocuous like this, not wanting to appear resistant to work or create more work for another person (in this example the person saving scans as JPGs.) When in fact, the person scanning may find it no different in time or effort to save the file in the format needed for someone else’s use down the line.
Think of looking for weaknesses as finding snags or rapids in the stream of workflow. Once identified, weaknesses can be addressed and operations improved.
What are opportunities for your practice? What can you do to take advantage of them?
S.W.O.T. can reveal opportunities in situations, external resources, and circumstances that offer a natural advantage. Using these to shape your strategy can be highly effective because of the favorable conditions. Is there a current trend you can ride on the winds of? A new space in a better location? New technology?
Can you identify market gaps in your services offered? Most practices have overlooked ways to increase their revenue streams.
You can also take strengths and turn them into opportunities. For example, if you already have a well-established rapport with patients, it will be easier to develop a successful patient referral program.
If you are part of a great network, make a point to engage with it. Take time to talk with other professionals in the industry. Ask them about trends they have noticed, who they work with, and why. Many opportunities come from networking.
What threatens your practice’s success? What can you do to mitigate these threats?
These aren’t as threatening as they sound, but they are worth being aware of as you go forward with your business strategy. An example of a threat to all dentistry practices is the general public’s resistance to (and in some cases phobias of) dental work. The service itself is widely disliked.
Some threats will be less universal. For example, a nail salon might have the threat of another salon in the mall a mile away. Or very limited parking. Knowing what you are up against can help you devise solutions to address it.
How to Make a Real Change
Once you have reviewed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, plan actionable steps to address each. For many, what is wrong can be clear and what to do to fix it can be obvious. The burden becomes implementation.
A common workplace complaint across all industries is the sensation of things being “stuck,” that we are doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. If you find yourself or your staff saying “oh, this problem again” or “because we have always done it that way,” your business is likely stuck in a loop that doesn’t deliver desired results.
A similar “stuck” vibe can permeate when ideas of improvements end up being all talk and little or poor execution. Once you use S.W.O.T. to assess, any strategies for change need to be planned out in detail, breaking down into steps to implement, taking time to train, and sticking behind your choices to see fruits of labor before reassessing. There is an artful balance to strike between change and persistence.
What can you do to effectively implement changes?
Why Partner with a Managed Services Group
If the catchy phrase “data-driven” strategy sounds nebulous, you aren’t alone. After all, data can be anything and not all information is equal. Sullivan Management and Consulting Group knows where to find the right data for your goals. Certain benchmarks reveal a lot, and the insights can lead to changes that will impact your ROI and other practice objectives.
Whether you are looking to improve your operations, push for growth, or position for a merger, we can develop and implement customized solutions. We work with you as a partner, to refine your operations and strategize for success. Leverage our decades of experience designing and executing plans to improve billing, RCM, credentialing, operations, and patient interfacing. Contact us for a private practice comprehensive evaluation: ?832-323-3691.