Developing an Action Plan for Your Business, Part II

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In the first article of this series, published in the April 2017 issue of The O&P EDGE,  I presented a persuasive case for conducting a business review and developing an action plan to help guide your efforts and focus your energies in light of the ever-changing healthcare environment. As a refresher, developing the action plan has four steps:

  1. Defining your purpose
  2. Deconstructing your business
  3. Developing the picture
  4. Distributing the work

Having previously defined the purpose of the business-in this example, to restore lives-and deconstructed the business to establish its fundamental building blocks, we can advance to Step 3: Developing the picture, which entails adding depth to the building blocks. This article develops the first four building blocks.

To prepare, gather your team for a brainstorming session and get a whiteboard or tablet to write down the questions and ideas as they arise. One way to organize your notes for efficient review and implementation later is to write the name of each building block on a separate page, and then list the questions you and your team propose. This article cannot address every aspect of each category due to the unique structure of each business, but by examining the building blocks, you will see how you can apply the principles to your business.

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Building Block 1: Product

O&P covers a broad spectrum of products and services. Which ones will you offer? Prosthetics only? Orthotics only? Or, most likely, what combination of the two? What range will you provide within those categories? Upper limb, lower limb, or both? Advanced or traditional? What about pedorthics and a post-mastectomy product line?

A vital consideration when answering these questions is to know what drives your decisions. Do you want to be a one-stop practice or specialize in a specific area? Does the market or a referral source dictate the product offerings? Do you base product offering decisions on profit margins? Takeaway question: Why are you offering what you do, and have you considered dropping some products or adding others?

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Building Block 2: People

It is often said that employees are the number one asset of any company. Is that true for your business? Employees can make or break a company, so how can you be sure that you have the right people for the right positions? How do you determine staffing needs? What is your concept for meeting the needs of your practice, i.e., what credentials are you seeking? Do you let the candidate dictate the product offerings? For example, if you replace a prosthetist-orthotist with a prosthetist, do you change the scope of the practice for the new hire, thus resulting in lost revenue?


How do you find new employees? How do you train, evaluate, reward, and communicate with your staff? Do you utilize industry benchmarks related to salaries and benefits? Do your employees know they are appreciated? Are they appreciated? While paying employees and providing benefits are non-negotiatable, it is common in smaller companies to neglect the intangibles, those important extras that are not required but still add value for your employees. Offering team-building exercises and nonclinical-based continuing education- for example, effective marketing techniques 101-can transform your staff from paycheck collectors to dynamic, positive contributors.

Purposefully using a review model such as the action plan to evaluate your employees' engagement in their work and in your company will help reduce employee turnover and ideally yield a positive return on your investment. Takeaway question: Why would someone want to work for your company?

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Building Block 3: Place

This is the physical location of your practice or anywhere you see patients. You know how to get there, but do new patients? Not everyone has GPS. What does your facility look like from the outside? Take a walk around and see if it is aesthetically appealing. What impression do patients get from the moment they pull into your parking lot until the moment they pull out? Have you ever entered through the front door and walked through your building as a patient would? Sit in your waiting room. Is it cold or hot? Is there anything to occupy children? Are your exam rooms not just clean, but really clean and orderly? Is your facility safe? Do you have policies and procedures in place to cover any kind of emergency? Do you have panic alarms, cameras, and clearly marked evacuation routes? Is your facility conducive for your business or is it too big, too small, or not easily accessible? If you see patients in a facility other than yours, it is important to remember that you are still responsible for providing the proper environment. If the facility is not up to the standards you have set for your own location, you should discuss it with the facility's management; if that doesn't work, you should look for alternatives. Takeaway question: If you were to bring a loved one to this practice/facility, would you be pleased?

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Building Block 4: Promotion

Promotion is the means you use to get the word out about your business and all it has to offer. How do you promote your business? If a patient or referral source has ever told you that he or she didn't know about a service you provide, that could be a sign your business needs a new marketing campaign.

Ask someone to search for your business on social media. Your website and social media channels are valuable. Are these sites current, is it easy to find important information, and do you provide fresh content? Have you verified that your information is correct on participating insurance websites and social media? Do you know how your business is reviewed on sites such as Yelp and Google?

Don't assume that because most of your patients come from referrals then you don't need to advertise. Promotion is a common area for busy owners and managers to neglect. Neglect it long enough and you won't be as busy in the future. Do you have vibrant marketing materials and brochures? How do you measure the result of your promotional efforts? What is your return on investment? If you don't have a method in place to track where new patients come from, you need one.

Takeaway question: Do you know how the last 100 patients learned about your business? Do you have a plan in place to reach your next 100 patients?

The next article will address the remaining building blocks, before the series concludes with the most important concept-implementation.

Chris Field, MBA, has worked for Boas Surgical, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for over 15 years. He serves as the treasurer of the Pennsylvania Orthotic and Prosthetic Society and was named the CFO of the Year by the Lehigh Valley Business Journal in 2014.

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