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How to give your practice more valuable development time ... no matter how busy you are

by
01 December 2014, at 12:00am

Paul Green explains why practice owners should spend more time working on their businesses rather than in them, and how it is not difficult to find an extra five hours a week to do that.

I REGULARLY tell the practice owners I work with that they need to spend less time working in their business, and get a better work-life balance.

Business owners who take regular breaks and trust their staff make better decisions and typically have bigger, more pro table businesses. There is no correlation between trying to do everything yourself (especially as much clinical work as you can squeeze in) and having a successful business.

But having said that, the last month or so I’ve been persuading my clients to get up a little earlier in the morning, and spend an hour every weekday working on their business.

Some of them think I’m insane. I wish you could have seen their faces when I suggested they get up an hour earlier every day. Priceless!

To me, there’s a dramatic difference between finding a quality hour a day to work on growing the business, and squeezing in another hour of rushed clinical time. The difference is in working ON the business, rather than working IN the business.

Most practice owners spend too little time working ON the business. Yet this is the toughest time ever to grow an independent practice. The march of the corporates is unstoppable, and all independents need to up their game to survive and thrive in the decade to come.

To do that, you need resource. That means either lots of cash to buy in resource (few people have that) or lots of time. And here’s where my thinking lies. You see, finding just an hour a day is all it takes. So long as it is a quality hour, spent on the right activities. I’ll come to that shortly.

An hour every weekday turns into five hours a week. Which is 20 hours a month. And 240 hours a year.

Good grief. That’s like spending 10 whole days – non-stop – working on growing your practice. Very, very few people spend that kind of time growing their business.

To me, this should be a habit. In fact, do it every day for a month and it will be become a new positive habit. I did with my business. I went to bed an hour earlier every night (painful, but I don’t miss the rubbish TV that I no longer watch) and got up an hour earlier.

Now, you couldn’t take that time away from me. It’s invaluable. There are so many development projects that are now viable, because that time is open and available to me.

Albert Einstein is often misquoted, and one of his most popular alleged quotes is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, but expecting different results.

That’s a mindset problem. It’s a mindset of fear and reluctance to change. Sorry, the cosy old days have gone. The change is happening – and it’s time for you to adapt.

The way you think directly affects the way you behave, which directly affects the results you get. 

I meet so many practice owners who are passionate about their business and serving their local community. Yet they are struggling against the immense change facing veterinary practice today.

Finding 60 quality minutes a day is one answer to that challenge.

Sure, there are lots of problems that can get in the way. Your job is to bat them away. 

  • But I’m the senior clinician in the practice and do most of the vetting work. Then get up earlier and create time first thing in the morning.
  • But I need to deal with any animal emergencies that come in. So get your development work done before the day starts.
  • But I take our kids to school. Get up at 5am. You’ll be done before they wake. 
  • But I do our out-of-hours six days a week. Are you insane? Do you want to die before retirement? That’s not a sustainable situation and needs to be addressed. Or you and your business will not make it. There are always other options when you look, even if they’re not your ideal choice.
  • But I can’t be bothered... The way you think directly affects the way you behave, which directly affects the results you get. You can either have results or excuses. Not both. 

So having created this pot of time, what should you be doing with it? I recommend you have very clear laser focus on the kind of tasks that grow your business. 

Admin doesn't grow your business. It just keeps it running. Processing payroll or a VAT return certainly doesn't (please outsource these... let a bookkeeper spend his or her precious life on this tedious form-filling nonsense).

So what does grow your practice? Any activity that gets you new clients. Or helps you to retain clients. Or ethically persuade them to buy from you more often. Or spend more every time they buy from you. That’s different in every practice.

My recommendation is to write down a goal every week (writing down a goal can set up a psychological need to achieve it). Track your progress closely, and reward yourself when you achieve that goal early. Go on, take Friday afternoon off. Invest it in a walk with your other half. Or take the kids to Alton Towers.

One of the common feelings practice owners experience is guilt.

That they should be with their family when they’re working – and vice versa. If you can reach the end of each week knowing that you have already invested five hours to grow your business – on top of all the other things you’ve done – you will feel less guilty about giving yourself some personal time back.