The 7 Myths of Chiropractic Business Success

Despite my love for the chiropractic profession, I will confess that much of what crosses my desk appears to be complete bunk with no greater grip on reality than wishing for your little green friend to bring you a pot of gold. Granted, I could be crankier or more cynical than most chiropractors. I fully admit that when I am called a “coach” or “practice management” guy that my gut instinct contorts my face into a post-I-just-ate-a-lemon configuration. This is not because I do not see value in consulting (after all it comprises a large portion of what I do); it’s because I see so little value in so much of the worn out, recycled garbage out there that gets passed along as wisdom from the gurus.

Perhaps, I can summarize my disposition and general strategic approach as “contrarian consulting.” And so, yes, some of what I am about to say may offend you and many others in our great profession. But I believe that many of the accepted “truths” regarding how to improve your chiropractic practice are just plain erroneous, or at the least, misleading. Unfortunately, most chiropractors seem believe these myths, however, because they sound so reasonable or because opinions can sometimes be bought with a constant onslaught of advertising. Besides, it’s the conventional wisdom – everyone says the same things. Unfortunately, these myths can get you easily disoriented, shifting your focus away from good practice management strategies. And that’s the problem – the more you focus on the myth, the less time you have to focus on the truth.

So, here they are . . . seven of the most pervasive myths in chiropractic practice success and the truth that will set you free.

Warning: Before you start, I want to urge you to keep an open mind. After all, many people once thought the world was flat. It sure sounded reasonable. It was the conventional wisdom. Those guys who thought the earth was a sphere sure seemed like they were nuts. But . . . hey, look who had the last laugh.  Hopefully, you will read, learn and laugh as well.

Myth #1 – The more information I have regarding practice management, the more successful I’ll be.

One of my favorite phrases is: “insight is not the same as action.”  You can attend all the seminars, read all the books and listen to all the management CD’s you want to, but in the end if you don’t get around to implementing the ideas, you are still stuck at ground zero.

Early in my chiropractic career, I was privy to a conversation during a lunch break between another doctor and a practice management consultant who was conducting a seminar that proves this point precisely.

The DC moaned: “Aren’t you going to cover anything new? I didn’t find any new ideas. I know this stuff like it’s the back of my hand. I was hoping for something new.”

“Well,” the practice management guy replied. “Are you doing any of the stuff you know so well?”

“No, we’re not actually doing any of it,” the DC answered. “But we’ve heard it all before.”

Of course, that’s the deal with Myth Number One. Knowledge is great, but without action, it’s worthless. Gathering information is safe. It’s hard to fail when you’re just gathering information. But taking action is hard. You risk failure. You put yourself on the line. You have to actually deal with other people.

It’s very likely that you already know enough about practice management to create a great practice. Some people gather until they suffer “analysis paralysis” and can’t even begin to know where to start.  Others have the key in the ignition, but fail to put their foot on the pedal and go.

Sure, it’s a great idea to attend seminars and read articles (especially this one.) But, rather than looking for something new, use those tools as a catalyst to take action.  Because the truth is that gathering more information will not make you successful. It’s what you do with the information that matters.

Myth #2 – Emulate the “gurus” and success will come.

The “copy the guru” myth assumes that your practice situation is similar enough to the guru’s practice to benefit from the implementation of the guru’s tactics. This, of course, is a pretty big assumption.

Although some of the gurus overstate their performance, many gurus and seminar speakers really have developed fantastic practices. It seems logical, then, that imitating these chiropractors could generate great results in your own practice. And to a certain extent this is true. However, some aspects of these ultra-highly profitable practices cannot be duplicated.

What’s more – do you even want to completely copy someone or are you capable?  Many DC’s find that they have a strange thing…it’s called a personality…and it gets in the way of completely mimicking someone else’s every move.  If the guru says you need to get out there and do spinal screenings and you think that a proctology exam sounds like more fun, you might be suffering from some excess personality (or a lack of affinity with the apes).  And even if you can photocopy their every move, you may suddenly find yourself a miserable success, laboring a way in a practice you don’t even like because you built it according to prescription, not passion.

Myth #3 – My (staff salaries, rent, overhead, etc.) are too high.

Occasionally, I do find a client with an overhead that will crush them in time.  Typically, it’s a new doc who built a Taj Mahal office when he could truly afford a single-wide trailer., Most of the time, however, overhead is not too high.  Your production is too low. In other words, if you were to increase production and keep all your overhead items close to their current levels, you could substantially “reduce” your overhead. And suddenly, you are profitable!

Myth #4 – Somewhere, there’s a new marketing campaign (or product or piece of equipment) that will change my practice.

Chiropractors who succumb to this myth are constantly on the prowl for something “out there” that will change their life. They believe that there is that one magic button waiting to be pushed and the millions come rolling in.

Recently I received a call from a chiropractor and his wife. They told me that they ONLY needed some extra new patients. Unfortunately, after 22 years in practice, their practice was mediocre at best. When I asked about “why” they were motivated now (in the middle of the Great Recession) they said they needed to make money. When I asked about the building blocks that had been missing for 22 years, they insisted that they ONLY needed some extra new patients.

Never mind that they had nearly $200K in Accounts Receivable that was as old as some of their children; that they were operating on a business model that required high volume to produce profits despite the fact that there visit numbers were in the low to medium volume range; that they had developed absolutely zero passive income streams so that every dollar was completely dependent on the aging doctor; or that they consistently performed services that they gave away for free because they did not know how to properly code, bill or document for these procedures (which they didn’t realize were reimburseable in the first place).  New patients – or so they thought – were the answer.

The truth is that all great practices have been built on a solid combination of systems working consistently together and few, if any, practices can ever contribute their success to one thing. So, stop looking for the “next big thing” that will launch your practice towards success. Instead, start doing small things consistently that you know will generate success.

Myth #5 – I can’t increase my production, because I can’t run any faster.

This is more of an internal lie than a myth. It causes you to focus on what you think you “can’t” do, rather than what you “can” do. It’s an excuse that keeps you from taking action to improve your practice.

It’s also a putdown many chiropractors launch at their high volume DC friends as if all high volume docs are unprincipled hacks and to truly help patients, one must see no more than two patients per hour to provide high quality care.

Any of you who have read my articles before will know that I am not one who promotes a high volume practice as the sole means to chiropractic success.  On the other hand, I don’t believe low volume “boutique” practices have cornered the market on quality or profitability either.

Of course, you don’t need to run any faster to produce more. Instead, you just need to work “smarter.” A chiropractor who earns $450,000 in profit each year obviously doesn’t work three times as many hours as a chiropractor who earns $150,000. So, one can assume that the high earner doesn’t work three times as hard either.

The truth is that you can increase your production. You don’t need to run any faster or rollerblade from room to room. You just need to be willing to make the improvements necessary to succeed, get paid for the work you do and quit letting money slip through your fingers due to your lack of systems.

Myth #6 – People in this area just don’t value good chiropractic care.

Let’s face it, few people value good chiropractic care. But few people value a good dentist, medical doctor or any other health professional for that matter.  You see, we seem to lose sight of the fact that people don’t want to live in our offices despite the interesting twist that our income depends on them crossing our doorways.

Chiropractors who fail to understand this find themselves whining about their town or, worse yet, constantly moving.  Trust me, the grass is no greener in my town than yours.  To verify my opinion, I have seen chiropractors practice in towns you couldn’t pay me to live in, housed in offices that were better suited for barnyard animals than people patients and in locations that make the most sophisticated GPS system have a meltdown — and they have succeeded!

On the other hand, I have witnessed chiropractors repeatedly relocate their office to another section of town (multiple times) only to find that the same bad patients either followed them or moved as well!

If we continue to focusing chiropractic as a commodity, then we are subject to price wars, turf wars and territorial challenges.  On the other hand, when the real value to the patient stems from their relationship with you and your office, it doesn’t matter where you practice. People may not value good chiropractic.  But just like your best friends, they value their relationship with you. And also like good friends, they will come to “visit” you wherever you are.

Myth #7 – Chiropractic is a highly profitable profession.

This one is more of a mindset, than a myth. The truth is that chiropractic is a mediocre business investment. You invest $100,000+ into a piece of paper that gives you a license to practice and the privilege to spend another $200K, $300K or more in developing or acquiring business.  And for that sum, the average chiropractor makes about $75,000.

And so if you look at chiropractic from purely a numbers perspective, it may take a long time (if ever) for you to recoup a decent return on that investment.

But it’s a great investment when you consider it in relation to the “lifestyle” it provides – stability, great relationships, lots of time off, ability to help people, etc. But you’ve got to make the most of it. You’ve got to work at developing a “low stress” practice. You’ve got to maximize your profits. You’ve got to enjoy every day. And that’s the great thing about chiropractic – you are in control of your destiny.

And so when I get emails that say “I am burned out and am considering getting into another profession” I do not necessarily try to argue these DC’s into staying in practice.  Truth be told, we all have to pay our dues.  And after all those years (and dollars) of education, personally, I would not want to start on the ground floor anywhere else.

But if you are in this situation, what you need to realize is that you cannot continue chiropractic in the same manner that you have been practicing.  You must be willing to change or perhaps you would be better off getting out.

It’s amazing that a DC who has a practice in the toilet, is admittedly burnt out and is on the brink of failure or bankruptcy would defend their business to their dying day.  Obviously, what you are doing is not working. So why not consider trying something else?  Burnt out? There must be a better way. After all, the entire profession is not frazzled!

I intentionally saved this myth for last because behind it is a mindset for success or failure that can be present in any or all of the previous myths as well. No matter what is happening to the profession at large, there is and will continue to be chiropractic success stories in every corner of every state.  And while there is no “cookie cutter” recipe that will guarantee you the ability to reproduce success, you can learn how to mix the right ingredients and build your own successful practice.

If this post struck a raw nerve, I am glad.  Not that I am trying to offend, but to encourage you to take the steps you need towards a successful practice, business and life.  If you weren’t at all offended, great!  That means you have likely accepted some of the insights that I wrote about already.  Now just remember, get to work – insight is not the same as action!

For those of you who realize that it is high time to take some concrete steps towards improving your practice, I suggest you complete my FREE Practice AnalysisThe analysis of your questionnaire is at no expense to you nor is there any obligation to utilize my consulting services. So you have no excuse, unless you are afraid to succeed!

 

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