If you’ve been working as a podiatrist for a while and are ready to take the next step and open a podiatry practice, or if you’ve been managing your own practice, but know that there’s a better way to do it – then this article is for you!
The hard truth is that, unfortunately, no one teaches you how to run a business at podiatry school. So when you decide to start a practice, it can be a bit uncomfortable making the shift from a podiatrist to a podiatrist and business owner.
You might be a great podiatrist, but running your own practice is a whole different ball game, and you’ll probably need to add a few more tools to your skillset. The great news is that when it comes to podiatry management skills, you can learn them; they’re not something anyone is born with!
Before we get started – running a streamlined, profitable practice is going to take some time and investment, but if you’re prepared to put in the effort, you’re going to reap massive rewards. We’ve drawn up a list of ten things about podiatry management that you might not have known or thought about, but each of them has the power to transform your practice. They’re divided into three sections:
- Managing your team;
- Putting systems and procedures in place;
- Building a client base.
If you’re ready to level up your practice so that it runs more effectively and efficiently, get yourself a cup of coffee and keep reading…
Section A: Team Management
As a healthcare professional, you’re probably already a long way ahead of most business team leaders as you have the vital skill of empathy. In fact, it’s probably the reason you choose a career that prioritises helping people in the first place. This means you have everything you need to become a great manager and leader, but to make the most of this advantage, there are a few areas that you can focus on, such as:
1. Offering Ongoing Staff Training
If you want your staff to perform, they need to be equipped to do the job to the best of their abilities. Onboarding is important, but training doesn’t just apply to new hires. Training should continue throughout the time that your employee is with you. This has three important benefits; first, they’ll continue developing; second, they’ll stay on top of your protocols, and third, they’ll deliver better care to your clients.
2. Encourage Two-Way Communication
Clear communication can avert issues before they have a chance to fester and develop into something bigger. You can improve communication as part of your podiatry management strategy by openly communicating with your staff so they feel that they can come to you if they have any concerns (and then you can take action on their feedback). You should also focus on improving your level of communication so that each employee has a full understanding of what you expect from them. To do this, set regular team meetings and 1:1 discussions – you might think you have nothing to talk about but you’ll be amazed at what can come up if you create the right forum.
3. Manage Staff Workloads
Overwhelmed staff can’t perform at their best, so if you’re constantly overloading members of your staff, the productivity of your practice will be affected, and you may lose staff to burnout. Watch and monitor the workload of each employee, be willing to redistribute tasks if necessary, and if your practice is growing, you might need to start thinking about hiring a new staff member. (Always start recruiting before it is absolutely necessary!)
4. Inspiring Your Team
True leaders lead by example, so if you want buy-in from your team, you need to be walking the talk and motivating your staff. Encourage your staff to participate in setting goals for the practice, so they take ownership of making your practice a success. And make sure that everyone knows their value. Each role in your practice is vital, but it’s easy to overlook administrative positions or other less visible roles. The easiest way to start doing this in practice is to make it your job to praise someone every day – even if it’s for something small.
5. Lead by Example
Having engaged and motivated staff is key to a successful podiatry practice, and it starts at the top. If you have a giving attitude where you put the needs of clients and staff ahead of your own, you’ll encourage your staff to do the same. This means being available to answer staff questions, trying to accommodate the needs of clients where possible, and keeping a calm, respectful attitude towards everyone that you come into contact with.
Section B: Systems and Procedures for Podiatry Management
A podiatry practice thrives or fails on systems and protocols, so there are two things to keep in mind here:
6. Intuitive Systems
Think about the systems that you need to have in place for your practice to run smoothly. The most obvious is your billing software because if you’re not getting paid, you’re not going to be able to stay in business for very long. But there’s also calendar management, patient treatment notes, and much more. Podiatry management software can be a game-changer in this respect. Power Diary is a good example of this, used by thousands of podiatrists worldwide; it is a one-stop solution to help you stay on top of all your admin (see how David Walker, a Podiatrist utilises Power Diary to build his practice).
Regardless of which software solution you choose though, make sure that it offers all the features you need for your practice to run smoothly. A good option is to take a trial for a week or two to find out how the software works and if it is intuitive to use because the software you choose needs to work for both you and your staff (Start Power Diary Free Trial here).
7. Easy-to-Follow Procedures
This is an area that often gets overlooked. If you were to give each of your staff members a task, they would each go about it differently, which would mean the results would be different every time, plus there would probably be quite a discrepancy in the length of time that they took to complete the task. Conversely, if you develop step-by-step manuals for the regular routine tasks, you’ll save yourself (and your team) a lot of time and frustration because the task is being done exactly the same way each time. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that tasks are completed properly, and that isn’t anything being missed or overlooked. And, if there are differences in the amount of time that it takes for different staff members to complete the tasks, then you know where to focus training efforts, and which team members may need some extra help.
Having these manuals or protocols in place also makes it easier for new hires to learn the ropes quickly. While one-on-one training will still be necessary to help them feel more comfortable in their new role, a list of their tasks and how to do them will give the new employee confidence and autonomy much sooner than would otherwise be the case.
Although this task can seem daunting, don’t overthink it! Just create a document and make it your mission to add one new procedure per week. They don’t need to be too long and can just be simple checklists.
Section C: Client Management
Your clients are the lifeblood of your practice, so while leading your team and having good systems in place is important, your clients should always be your top priority. Before anything else, you need to provide exceptional care to satisfy the needs of your clients. If clients aren’t happy, they won’t come back, and they won’t recommend your services to their network of friends and family. So, even if you have the best treatments and effective systems and procedures, your practice can still fail.
You may have come across the concept of ‘customer lifetime value’, which is the amount of money that a customer will pay you over their lifetime. For podiatrists, this is important because, more than most industries or professions, the value of a podiatry customer over their lifetime adds up. Many people who visit podiatrists do so on a semi-regular basis, especially if they are managing chronic or recurring conditions such as complications related to diabetes, bunions and more. Furthermore, they are likely to be friends with other people who have similar conditions, and so that the lifetime value of that customer begins to stack up when you start factoring in referral business. To build your reputation and encourage repeat visits, it’s important to keep:
Everybody wants to feel heard, and your clients are no different. Resist the urge to interrupt or zone out (even when you think you know the diagnosis and treatment); rather, ask questions and pay attention to their body language. By challenging yourself to really listen to each patient, they will perceive your services to be more effective, and are therefore more likely to return and to refer others to your practice.
9. Building Relationships
One of the cornerstones for encouraging repeat visits is building a sense of loyalty with the client because there is a relationship in place. If you struggle to remember names and patient details, make notes on their records about things that they’ve mentioned so you can remember to ask them about it the next time they come in. Send regular emails to keep in touch with current and past clients. All your efforts to build a connection with your clients will make them feel valued, and they will feel that you offer an excellent, comprehensive standard of care that will keep them coming back, as well as encouraging referrals.
10. Networking and Advertising
This tip dovetails nicely with offering exceptional care to your clients by listening and actively building relationships. Why? Because if you’re building relationships and loyalty with every patient who comes through your practice, you’ll be able to get the most from your networking and advertising efforts. To get more clients through the door (so that you can build relationships and get referrals), it’s important to be getting the word out about the services you offer by:
- Networking – With primary care physicians and getting involved in your medical community and even the local community. This can set you up in the long-run to the point where you won’t need to invest as much into advertising, especially if you offer your existing clients an excellent service.
- Advertising – If your practice is new, advertising is going to be the best way to let prospective clients know that you’re open for business. With so many different advertising channels to choose from, this can be a bit daunting, especially as the costs can rack up quickly. This makes online advertising, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, the best place to start. They’re affordable, scalable, and completely measurable, so you’re always in control of your advertising spend. And, freely available online training makes it easy for you to set up quickly on your own.
- Branding – If you’re generating word-of-mouth inquiries and using advertising to let people know about your services, you need to back this up with a positive and professional image. An attractive brand might sound like a luxury, but it’s really essential in giving prospective clients confidence in your practice. In particular, creating a professional website for your practice is paramount.
There’s a lot more to podiatry management than these ten tips, but if you can focus on your team management skills, getting the right systems and procedures in place, and offering your clients a relational, caring experience, you’re already way ahead of the game. Then, once you have the basics in place, you can focus on other areas such as a multi-pronged marketing strategy.
If you know a podiatry practice manager who is struggling to make the switch from podiatrist to business owner, please share this article with them because these 10 tips have the potential to completely re-direct the focus of floundering podiatry practice. It can be overwhelming trying to run your own business, and it’s easy to get distracted by the day to day tasks of keeping the practice going. But the points we’ve covered here about podiatry management are things they might not know about and this article could be exactly what they need to turn their practice around.