May 2010 Archives

How does a business owner have any hope of achieving financial stability and independence in today’s economic climate?  So many things are uncertain about what may happen next year—let alone two decades from now.  How can anyone feel secure or plan for the future when they don’t know what will happen in the world around them?

This is a problem that many of our clients—and business owners across America—are facing.  With today’s economic situation, there are so many things that a business owner can’t be sure of, it can make it impossible to plan for the future.  Besides an unstable economic situation, it seems that every day there are new taxes, new regulations and new penalties for violating any of these things—even if they weren’t known about by the business owner.  It can make for a dangerous operating climate.  In times like these many small business owners wonder why they’re even in business for themselves.  It seems like it might be easier just to go work for someone else or retire early—if they are even able to do such a thing financially.

One never knows what will be introduced next that they’ll have to keep track of.  And even if they successfully navigate through the maze of potential pitfalls, this doesn’t make for a happy, stress-free life.  In these times, one can be completely successful at solving the myriad problems that present themselves on a daily basis…but that doesn’t necessarily mean a happy quality of life or an untroubled mindset.  In fact, it often means the opposite.  The stress and constant attention can start affecting other areas of life more than the business owner even realizes.

But in the midst of this seeming confusion, it is yet possible to increase one’s security and control over the future.  There is a process by which any business owner can increase control over their life and future, and greatly increase their chances of success in the end.

Let’s look at it this way.  Any business owner is facing two sets of circumstances: those they can’t control and those they can.  The economy, new taxes, increased regulation, potential lawsuits—these all fall under the category of those circumstances they really can’t control.  Sure, they can write their Congressman or take up some political cause but this doesn’t create any avenue to solve their business problems on an immediate basis.  From the viewpoint of a business owner in his personal day-to-day functioning, we have to treat these as factors that are beyond his direct control.

Now on the other side, we have factors we CAN theoretically control.  These are things such as the quality of one’s patient care, the amount of promotion sent out and how effective it is at producing new business, the skill and efficiency of the office staff handling the flow of people in and out of the office, the tightness of the billing, etc.  While it seems that sometimes even these are beyond our control, if the business owner inspects their business carefully, they’ll see there are certain things that—though they may not be under their control currently—COULD be controlled by the business owner.  In other words, these are areas theoretically able to be controlled by the business owner or the office staff.

And thus we come to the first major tool in increasing the financial stability of any business: the business owner should sit down and determine which factors he can control and which factors he can’t control.

By ignoring all the factors that are beyond his immediate control, he is given only what he is able to do something about.  NOW we can get somewhere.  We can do something about it now.  By focusing only the factors he can control, the business owner can increase his profitability and business stability to the point where he has a much-increased likelihood of weathering any storm the rest of the world might throw at him.  In other words, in a rough-and-tumble world of uncertainties and potential disaster, he is able to absorb the shocks and problems thrown at him much more easily—simply by having a strong and healthy business, with an abundance of production, staff, finance and clients.

Now…that sounds great, but how to do this in the real world?

For the solution to this, let’s go back to our earlier exercise.  After the business owner sits down and figures out the factors that are under his direct control (or could be), he should have a list that would include things like: how well staff handle patients, internal and external marketing, financial planning and correct handling of money, the quality of patient care, etc.  Any business owner will come up with things that are directly under his control—or should be under his control.

Using only this list, one then goes out into the practice and inspects what’s actually going on in each area.  Literally, one sets aside 30 minutes to just walk around and check out the practice in each one of the areas he can control.  Just walk around and look at them.  Don’t correct anyone or interfere in anyway.  You can ask questions and talk to the staff, but remember that we’re just checking it out.  From doing this, a business owner will get a pretty good idea of what the good points and bad points of each area are.  The problems that need to be corrected will start to jump out at the owner.  Don’t start correcting them.  Just note them down.

After the inspection, sit down and make a list of what the most major problem is that is holding back each of the areas you looked at.  As a result of all this, you should have a list of each area of the business that can be directly controlled by the owner and what the most major problem is in each area.  Now that you have this, you can start to address these head-on.

Take a look at each area and simply write down a solution—any solution—that could improve each problem.  We’re not looking for a total fix here.  We’re just looking for a gradual betterment of the situation.  In other words, look at each problem that you now have listed out and ask yourself, “What could I do to make this a bit better, in the real world with the time and resources that I have?”  This is important because someone may have a great solution, but because of the lack of resources or time to handle it, really it’s impractical.  So we’re looking for the most practical, simple and direct way to move each one of these problems to a better situation.

Let’s look at an example in the real world.  Let’s say that the doctor goes out and finds that the staff at the front desk aren’t even really trying to collect for the services just rendered.  Maybe they indirectly mention it, but most of the time they just tell the person they’ll send him a bill.  Well, as you can imagine—this would have an adverse affect on that practice’s accounts receivable!  And while some may think this is an extreme example, it’s all too common in the world of small business.

In this example above, the business owner looks at this front desk problem again—let’s say he’s seen it before and it’s been eating at him.  So he sees this again and simply notes it down.  Now, this is a problem.  A definite problem for him, as it hasn’t been solved so far.  However, it technically fits under the category of “factors that are able to be controlled”, so we have to find some way to improve it.  We now have an area of the office that can be controlled: the front desk.  We have the problem: they’re not really trying to collect any money.  Now we need some solution that will make it better to some degree.

Let’s say that he has tried to handle this particular staff member before and she just keeps messing it up.  Well, what COULD be done to improve it a bit?  Maybe she could be trained on it.  Maybe some role-playing of different scenarios until she got her courage up.  Maybe implementing a bonus on all collections that she gets before the person walks out.  Maybe a sign on her computer reminding her to at least ask the person for payment.  Or maybe it would have to be as extreme as switching her out to a different job entirely.  Maybe everything possible has been tried before and the only option is to simply replace her.  The exact solution will, of course, vary on a case-by-case basis, tailor-made to address that exact situation.  The point here is just to get some solution that is practical and that works within the existing time and resources—something that would actually get some sort of improvement in the real world.  We don’t want The Ultimate Solution That Solves Things for the End of Time.  If you happen to come across that, great!  So much the better.  However, this is not what we’re looking for.

What we want to do is simply go through each of the areas and come up with a workable solution to improve the situation for each problem that was found.  Just cycle through each one of these problems and until you have some sort of improvement for each.

Then implement the solutions.  Take a small amount of time each day and gradually implement each solution.  This may take days, it may take weeks.  However, at the end of this time you’ll have greatly increased the health of your practice and improved your chances of success and prosperity.  And most importantly you’ll have improved you personal security for the future and peace of mind, allowing more time and energy for the parts of life that are important, not just “urgent.”

Try it.  See how it works for you.  And send us feedback on it.  We’re always interested in hearing from you.  If you run into any snags, shoot us a quick e-mail.  We’ll see what we can do to help point you in the right direction, just for free.  We always have time to answer questions like these.  We’re interested in your success, security and prosperity.

Best to you and your loved ones,

Mark Hanses

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