Restoring Your Business Processes
Overhauling your dental or healthcare practice’s business processes is a bit like restoring a car that’s been in a garage or barn somewhere for the last few years.
At first, your business processes are likely a bit messy, as any barn find would be, and it’s hard to see the gem in the lemon sitting in front of you. But with time and incremental changes, you can.
Checking the Frame for Rust
It’s common to find rust on the bodywork of old cars that have been sitting idle. But while you need to address rust on the bodywork and that can be expensive, in the end it’s fixable. Rust on the frame, however, is catastrophic.
If you were buying a barn find, you’d absolutely want to check the frame for rust. If you didn’t and brought it home only to find out that it’s a rusted wreck, you would have thrown away the money you spent.
Your books are the frame of your practice’s business processes. (Yes, clinical dentistry is the frame of your practice, but we’re talking about business processes here.) Get your accounting and taxes wrong, and you could sink your entire practice.
It’s very common at small businesses for someone within the business to perform the function of a professional accountant, usually someone who’s reasonably good with numbers and has the time.
The problem with this approach is that accounting and taxes are complex. To do the books correctly requires knowledge of myriad tax laws as well as fundamental accounting principles.
Getting the Mechanicals Running Smoothly
If the car doesn’t run and stop well, it’s not much use as a car. And chances are a car that’s been sitting in a garage or barn for more than a year will need some maintenance.
The first thing you’ll want to look at is the brakes, because the brakes are vital to the safety of whoever will be driving the car, whether it’s you or someone you sell it to.
Worn brake pads and discs are a likely needed fix, but hopefully the brake calipers are still functioning and you don’t have to replace those too.
While you’re looking at the brakes, it’s also a good idea to look at the suspension—in particular the bushings, which tend to wear and give the car’s handling a vague, wayward feel.
Of course you’ll want to look at the engine and perform a general service, including changing the oil and worn belts and bushing or whatever else needs it. With luck, there aren’t any major engine repairs.
The electronics are another concern. It’s pretty common for the electronics to start to go in an older car. This can include a dead air conditioner, faulty dials like a speedometer that doesn’t go above 10 miles per hour or electric windows that don’t move up and down anymore.
The mechanicals are the internal workings and are akin to processes in your practice like management, human resources, information technology and payroll.
Just like a car that’s been sitting in a garage, business processes can lose some of their effectiveness or even stagnate over time. Businesses change, and if your processes aren’t changing along with your practice, it’s time to give them an update.
Bodywork and Interior
Once you’ve reassured yourself that the frame is good (your accounting processes) and the mechanicals are working properly (your internal workings), then it’s time to smarten up the bodywork and interior.
Rust is an obvious concern. With any older car, rust can start to work its way into the paint on various panels and in less visible spots like behind the wheel arches and on the rocker panels (along the door bottoms).
A lot of times the wheels will start to look shoddy, along with any chrome work on the car (more common in older cars) and the paintwork itself, which may have fading, small chips (especially if you live in a rural area with gravel and stones on the roads), bubbles or even bare spots.
Inside the car, there are the seats (cloth seats tend to give up the ghost after time), the dashboard (in sunny states, they tend to fade), all the knobs and dials (they break over time) and the headliner (think old taxi, with the glue holding the cloth to the roof gone and the material sagging just over your head).
The bodywork and interior are the customer-facing elements of your practice: branding, marketing and recruiting. They’re similar to the bodywork and interior of your car, but they’re actually more important.
If you’ve got a solid, rust-free frame and good mechanicals in a car, the interior and exterior won’t affect how the car performs.
However, if your branding, marketing and recruiting processes look as if they’ve been sitting in a barn for a few years, they will diminish how well your practice performs.
Polishing Your Gem
As with any restoration project, updating your business processes is all confusion and uncertainty at first because you don’t know what exactly you’re getting yourself into.
But with time and incremental changes, you’ll begin to see improvement. By restoring your business processes—accounting and taxes, practice management, human resources, information technology, payroll, branding, marketing and recruiting—you’ll polish your practice into a shining gem.