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Donna Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group.
Time is everything. How are you spending yours?
Editor’s Note: Welcome to “Eye Catching: Let's Chat,” a blog series featuring contributions from members of the ophthalmic community. These blogs are an opportunity for ophthalmic bloggers to engage with readers with about a topic that is top of mind, whether it is practice management, experiences with patients, the industry, medicine in general, or healthcare reform. The series continues with this blog by Donna Suter, president of Suter Consulting Group. The views expressed in these blogs are those of their respective contributors and do not represent the views of Ophthalmology Times or UBM Medica.
Confession number one: I am the queen of making promises.
“I’ll never do that again!”
“I’ll never say that again…”
“I am going to change beginning right now.”
Many such promises are forgotten within hours. At the heart of most of us is the desire of change.
Confession number two: Sometimes, I feel like a loser.
However, once I mentally review the facts and hang out with people who value my worth, I’m able to snap back. I need to remind myself that there is a bigger picture, and discouragement is only a temporary setback.
Often, false promises and self-doubt can rear their ugly heads when it comes to practice management.
Being successful as a small business owner in today’s healthcare climate takes hard work. The small things that hinder our progress add up, yet we tend to ignore these things: personal use of time, personnel, and money management. These three things will make or break most practices.
Personal time management
Let’s begin with personal time management. When I was working toward my master’s degree, one of my professors began the course by making us track, then graph, the use of our hours for five days.
Can you imagine what a PITA it was to set a stop watch and record what I’d done for the last hour, for every waking hour, from Monday through Friday? The professor ensured compliance by tying a full 1/3 of our grade to this assignment.
Taking the raw data and charting it revealed that, while I couldn’t fabricate more hours in a day, I could eliminate or reduce certain activities and make time to study and make an A in my classes. (Why I needed to end up with a 3.96 GPA in my master’s studies, I still don’t know.)
You invested much more time and money into opening up your practice than I did getting a master’s degree. Doesn’t the dream of being self-employed deserve your best? Given your intellect and history of determination, you can be successful. Your best ideas can move from soon-forgotten to agents of change with enough time.
So, what’s holding you back? Do you have a list of things you want to change? Do you think about the concrete steps needed to achieve the desired change?
Don’t blame practice management frustrations on the work ethic of differing generations. Just like rock and roll didn’t destroy my moral fiber, hiring millennials to work in your office won’t cause your practice to go bankrupt.
In an ideal world we would all understand each other and accept everyone’s unique approach to life-recognizing the positive intent behind behaviors. But let’s face it, when it comes to communication we all get triggered by something.
Books are written on how communication blunders cost businesses. By failing to recognize and adjust communication habits that are not serving you well, you may be jeopardizing the tenure of your peak performers and enabling your less-than-loved employees to continue down a path of disrespect. Unfortunately, this path often leads to embezzlement of practice time, resources and eventually money.
Communication habits causing you the most problems now are the very ones that led to your greatest successes in the past. The trouble comes when these are the only communication habits that you use. Pay attention to how your communication patterns impact your employees.
If you are wondering why your coaching sessions aren’t motivating employees to change, it may be how you are packaging the message-meaning, word patterns, and body language.
What might motive you to change how you speak to others? Carefully consider the consequences of not changing-refusing to evolve and grow, staying stuck in the loop created by today’s healthcare delivery system and your own sense of a “right” and “wrong” way of doing things.
Take time to weigh the benefits of choosing to access a greater range of more resourceful, productive behaviors that affords you a higher quality communication and generate a positive response from others. Read books about communication styles; practice your emerging skills on family members and strangers; hire a communication coach.
Be patient. You started talking around the age of two and communicating before that. It takes time to develop new habits. (This is where that group of people I mentioned in paragraph two-those who value your worth-come into play. Share a change goal and give them permission to hold you accountable.)
Have you ever realized you’ve been completely unaware of something you should be thinking about? Money management and budgets based on projections are two of those fundamental assumptions of successful practice management that a successful small business owner has to get her or his arms around. When you do, you begin to realize that it affects your practice in so many ways.
Hacking your financial management system and re-working it allows you to function at a higher profit level. Basic accounting has a tendency to focus on the what: what areas of the practice are spending the most money, what are fixed versus variable expenses, etc.
Until recently, healthcare has completely ignored consumer preference and a marketing budget was just as optional as money set aside to build teamwork among employees.
Become a student of business management. A little light reading will help you to identify your practice’s most important problems, add them to your change list, apply durable fixes, and enjoy the professional life you deserve. (I just quoted a tagline from the front of a book written by John B. Pinto.)
I have no financial interest in his books and only a professional, colleague relationship with Pinto. However, the reason I have never written a book about practice turnaround is because every tactic I have used for 25 years is described in detail in this little gem of a book.
Are you thinking about the changing seasons and changing? Perhaps picking back up that dearly held dream of running a successful practice while maintaining life balance? Your feelings motivate you more than facts. Just like you don’t tell someone with a bad health habit their lifestyle is going to kill them, challenge yourself to use truisms from practicing medicine to achieve professional success.
Review the facts and discover your truth
Acknowledge that if you loved and admired yourself as much as your core group of family and friends do, you’d never keep those habits that are not working to build the practice of your dreams. The truth is that your perception of yourself and your ability to change may be limited by your fear of failure.
Truthfully, my mental promises are not my goals and I don’t run my business nor professional career without thoughtful planning and attention to goals.
It’s amazing how gifted professionals underestimate what can be accomplished in a year. Figure out what you love that happens to be working, focus on doing that regularly; and, with the help of your support group, prioritize and devote an hour a day to one thing on your change list.