017: Four Ways to Prepare for Unexpected Business Downturn
How prepared is your business to handle uncertainty? 2020 has been a rocky year for many of us. We have patients to care for, but we also have businesses to run that need to generate revenue to care for our families, our staff, and their loved ones. There’s no way to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, so how can we best prepare for uncertainty?
No matter what the future holds, we can take proactive steps to set ourselves up for success.
Today, I want to talk about the four things you need to be doing right now to create a solid foundation for whatever might happen in the future. We will talk about the importance of having a peer group, the best ways to nurture patient relationships, and how to build a financial safety net that will carry you through hard times.
- Why it’s so important to build connections outside of your practice – and how to build a network without coming across as “sales-y” or desperate for referrals.
- How to nurture patient relationships when you’re not seeing them in-person on a regular basis – and what makes silence so deadly.
- How to prepare for worst-case scenarios and face tough challenges with optimism.
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Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to another episode of The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I am your host, Ronda Nelson, and I am so glad that you have joined me. Today our topic is based on the internal structure or system of your business. “How do you prepare for things that are unexpected and uncertain?” 2020 has certainly been a very rocky, uncertain year. None of us would have predicted that this year was going to look like this, but here we are. As we approach the end of this year, things are still very much uncertain, and as a business owner, that can be very unsettling. Not only do we have a business that we need to operate and patients we need to take care of, but we depend on that business for our livelihood, financial stability, and to take care of our family. If you have staff or a team around you, then you are also responsible for their families. What do you do to prepare for that, ahead of time? We don’t know what the future holds, and whatever happens today is what’s happening today, but we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So, how do we prepare now for what might happen?
Now, I’m not a doomsday kind of person, it’s just not my thing. I am absolutely a glass is half-full, at all times, kind of person. It’s always three-fourths full or seven-eighths full. I’d rather have that perspective on how I can prepare for the future. So, what are some things we can do right now to help us prepare for the uncertainty of the future?
Number one, build connections outside of your practice. I’ve talked about external relationships before, but it really is so important to have these connections and open communication pathways with members of your community. This could include other business owners, local nonprofits, and even your own colleagues. If you’re an acupuncturist, you need to be connecting with other acupuncturists. If you’re a chiropractor or DO, same thing. Having those relationships will allow you to have somewhere to go when things get tough and you are in need of emotional support. These can be lifesaving connections during a time of panic.
Think about these peer-to-peer connections, business-to-business (B2B.) What other businesses in your area do something similar to you that you might be able to partner with and befriend them? You’re not asking for anything. I’m not talking about networking as in, “Hey, I’m a chiropractor. I’d like to come in and offer a chiropractic service to your employees.” I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about creating relationship for the sake of relationship, creating connections within your external community, not because you have anything to sell, but just because you want to connect. If you approach them with, “I would like to serve you. How can I help you grow your business?,” that other person is going to be much more receptive to what you have to say.
I’m going to go on a little tangent here. Have you ever been on Instagram or Facebook and you receive a message that says, “Hey, I saw your post and I wanted to let you know that I’ve got this great widget and I’m also in your area and would like you to check out my thing.” Really? No. Why? Why would I ever click on or why would I ever go check you out? You didn’t come in offering to help. You basically said, “I want you to do something for me,” and that is the wrong way to go about it, my friend. The better way would be to go to that other B2B person, to the other chiropractor and start off by asking, “How can I serve you? We’re all in this together here in the community, and I am looking to build relationships. How can I help you?” That is how we build connections, by giving first and not asking. Those relationships will pay off down the road because what we want to do is play the long term game. How can we invest now, in order to be able to collectively benefit each other down the road? So that’s number one. Build connections and create that support network outside of your business.
Number two is more internal and has to do with your patients. You’ve heard me talk about this before because I’m so passionate about it. You have to stay in communication with your patients or clients. It’s essential. Nurturing and building a relationship means that we talk. You want to think about the relationship you have with your patients, almost like a marriage. How are you communicating with them, and in turn, how are you asking for them to communicate with you? Patient communication happens when they come in for an appointment or they call your office and ask a question about an herb, supplement or about their pain. Whatever it might be. You’re providing information to them just like they’re asking you for information. Staying in communication on a regular basis is vital. We want to make the communication that we create with them about them and their journey. It’s not about us. So, when you are emailing, calling, or nurturing, you’re building that community. Make it about them.
When you have a break in communication and there is silence, just like in a marriage, you think, “Hmm, what happened? We were talking, but what happened?” Silence creates a vacuum. And when silence creates a vacuum, especially in a doctor or practitioner-patient relationship, that vacuum needs to be filled in the patient’s mind. They’re thinking, “Hey, where did he or she go? What happened? I haven’t heard from them in a while.” And what they’ll do is they’ll go find another practitioner. They’ll just leave because you didn’t nurture and stay in communication. Vital, thriving, healthy relationships exist only in the presence of regular communication. Another key point is to provide, what I like to refer to as, psychological safety. I think this is even more important than communicating facts about their health and treatment options. Providing psychological safety is the way to communicate to your patients to show them that you get them. “I understand what chronic pain is like because I had that,” or, “I understand what it feels like to be so exhausted to the point of not wanting to get out of bed that morning. I get it.” When you communicate to them, let them know that we’re all in this together, that they’re safe with you. Make them feel it.
Number three is one I find that practitioners sometimes struggle with this last point and I hear it all the time. Financial safety. We have psychological safety with our patient, but for us, as practitioners, we need to make sure there is a financial safety net to get us through anything that comes up where we may have to close down for a few weeks or if business slows down. You want to be able to meet your payroll. I’ve been there, done that. I didn’t pay payroll taxes for an entire year when I was in the thick of a financial disaster because I had to have the cash in order to keep my business open. If you want more about that, you can refer to Episode #2 where I go into that, in detail. It’s also on my “About” page on my website, which I’ll link in the show notes. You want to have that financial safety net. I often hear, “How do I save money when I’m barely making it, as is?” That’s a great question. Can you spare $10 or $20?
You don’t have to set aside $500 or $1,000 a week or even $5,000 a month. If you can, great. Do it and put it in a savings account. The discipline of putting money aside starts with $5 or $10. All of us can do that. Make it an automatic transfer. Set it up with your bank so that every week, $20 goes from your checking account into a savings account. At the end of the first month, you’ve got $80 saved, then next month you’ve got $160, and so on and so forth. Pretty soon you’ll see it grow, and psychologically, we become so excited because now we’ve got this safety net helping us feel much more secure. If something uncertain were to happen, I know I have that to rely on. You’ll say, “This week, I’m going to put $50 in there.” We put $50 in and then the next week, it was a great week, and you think, “I’m going to put $100 in.” Before you know it, you’ve got $1,000 in your safety net account and then $2,000, $4,000, then you have $5,000, and you never missed a beat.
It’s the act of the discipline, setting that little bit aside to prepare for something that may happen unexpectedly. There’s no way we could have ever foreseen what has happened in 2020. Preparing is even more important now, because we don’t know what the future is going to look like. Preparation is sometimes the hardest to do because we don’t want to think about the scary things that could happen in our business or personal life. What if I lose my home? What if I can’t feed my family? What if vaccines become mandatory? What if? What if? What if? What if? That’s all glass half-empty talk. And it may be real. I’m not discounting the fact that those are all things we need to consider, but this is about keeping your business on track and keeping your head in the game. These things will benefit you both right now and in the long run, therefore creating confidence as you move forward. This will also prevent a situation in which you catch yourself thinking, “Oh, my gosh, what happened? My business, I had to close it. And I haven’t been collecting email addresses. How do I communicate with my people now?” Oops, should have done that a long time ago.
So, number one, go outside your business and start building connections within your community. That’s the most important thing to start with, build connections within your community, peer-to-peer, B2B, with nonprofit organizations, community events, whatever it is. When you build those connections, make sure it’s coming from a place of serving and giving, not asking. Second, create that safety net within your practice and start communicating regularly with your patients. You’ve heard me say this time and time again because it’s so vital true. Stay in communication. Don’t create that silence vacuum where your patients think, “Oh, I was getting emails and now all of a sudden, there’s nothing.” Be committed and stay in regular communication. Then, make sure that you’re acknowledging and thinking about the psychological safety net that they need from you. You’ve got their back. You get it. You’re thinking about them. You want to make sure they’re okay. You’re not asking them to come in. You’re not asking them to buy something.
Send a quick email and say, “Hey, I was thinking about you,” or, “Is your mom okay? I know she fell and broke her hip and I just wanted to reach out and check on you and make sure you guys are doing okay.” That’s it. That creates safety.
Lastly, create a financial safety net. Start by putting a little bit away every week, and make it non-negotiable. Whatever your financial capacity is, every week, without fail, money gets put aside. Before you know it, that little nest egg, starts to grow and you’re not scrambling later on if something unexpected happens. Now you have an external safety net, an internal safety net with your patients, and then you have your own financial personal safety net. We couldn’t have predicted this year and we’re probably not going to be able to predict the future, either. Prepare now and keep your focus on the glass being half-full, my friend. It’s a way better place to live.
That’s it for today. Thanks again for reading along to The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I love having you part of my community and would love to hear from you. Please hit your favorite place where you subscribe and listen to these podcasts and leave us a review. I would love to hear your feedback on what you loved about The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast as well as anything else you’d like to hear about. You can always reach me on Instagram or Facebook through direct message, Dr. Ronda Nelson in both places. If you’d like more resources or more information about what I do to help practitioners grow thriving, sustainable practices, be sure to visit my website, RondaNelson.com. Thank you again. Have a great week. I’ll talk to you next week. Bye.
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