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June, 2012

How to Develop a Successful Business Plan for Your Practice

By Drew Stevens, PhD

I'll bet that when you began your chiropractic career, you never imagined that you would rationalize owning a business. It is true, chiropractic is not only the science of healing, but it is also business ownership. And chances are, even if you have been in the business for just a few short years, you have seen the good, the bad and the indifferent.

In 2009,there were 27.5 million businesses in the United States according to Office of Advocacy. The latest available census data shows there were 6 million firms with employees in 2007, and 21.4 million without employees in 2008. Of these numbers, there are approximately 60,000 practicing chiropractors in the United States and using the same census data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 44% operate their own business.

Unfortunately, some of these businesses will do well, while others will struggle daily. Some will struggle with finances, others with patient volume and others with direction.

There is a reason why some businesses do well and others are mediocre. These include:

  • Passion – Some individuals get into business for the wrong reason and their vocation becomes their occupation.
  • People – Business is about working in concert with the right people and having a good base of patients. When the culture is poor and when customer service lacks internally and externally, business falters.
  • Planning – The key to good business is planning. The facts speak for themselves.

Many will agree that passion, pride and intellect are essential for operating a chiropractic practice, but when profits erode, then practicing becomes more painful than just dealing with difficult patients. When you are serious about your practice, creating a business plan is a critical activity that must be undertaken. Business planning will aid you with planning the pathways to success, the elimination of hurdles and most importantly, lessening of labor. Now, some people are confused about business planning, so this information is meant to demystify the process and provide the elements for success.

What Exactly is a Plan? Why Do I Need It?

A business plan is a document designed to detail some of the major characteristics of your practice, including but not limited to: its personnel, patients, managers, products, etc., so the practice can focus on its present and its future. The reason for sitting down to plan, write and implement a business plan is to create legitimacy. This means that you illustrate professionalism for your alliances, possible investors, leasing companies, mortgage companies, suppliers and vendors.

Additionally, when you design a business plan, you are aiding not only the mission and vision of your practice, but your driving force, architecture and future plans. Realistically, the plan helps you take all of the thoughts in your head and place them on paper. Business planning helps clarify your thoughts in your mind and in the minds of others.

Where Do You Begin?

Now that you have an idea for the reason of the plan, it is time to begin to develop one. Ever have a dream and you begin to tell the story to relatives or a significant other? A business plan is nothing more than an interpretation of that dream. You help understand the numerous pieces so that you articulate its meaning for the listener. An important aspect to understand is that plans do not have to be long, drawn out processes like you listen to some stories. Plans can be short or long, as long as you communicate the setup, the goals and ultimate conclusion. Longer plans are only necessary when there is a need for extreme financing/capital or there is a need for partnerships; the more content the better the understanding–financially and organizationally.

Ready to Write

If you are like most chiropractors beginning this process, you are stumped at where to begin. Like most writers, every good author always gets stumped at the beginning of an assignment–including yours truly! Perhaps the best method of developing a simple plan is to follow this methodology. However, after this section, I want to also illustrate the expanded plan should you ever need it.

In my 30 years of practice, I have found the best way to organize your thoughts is with a one to three page planning accelerator. This is a great way to help organize your thoughts, articulate your message and translate your goals into real strategies.

The following eight modules provide for you a road map for your financial success. With proper planning and procedures, you will be more inclined to meet your goals, lessen your work and create the practice of your dreams. This simple process should be written in one session and takes approximately 90 minutes to two hours.

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