Now that the new year has arrived, it’s time to start planning for the year ahead. Did you know that most people spend more time planning their vacations than they spend planning the future success of their business? I would ask you to give this some serious thought and either sit down with your partners or plan a retreat where you can decide on your goals. What would you like to achieve during the next one, three and five years? Once you have determined those goals, it is much easier to take the incremental steps necessary to attain them.

I personally like practice retreats. It is a great opportunity to get everyone away from the practice for a day or two in order to work on the practice, instead of in the practice. Depending on how big your practice is, you might take your management team to a resort or conference facility for a weekend. Create an agenda for the retreat and discuss what the perceived problems are and what goals you would like to achieve during the upcoming year. I am always amazed at the power of the team. Getting everyone together focused on that one question–what goals would we like to achieve during the next year? – is very powerful. People will come up with some great ideas and it really helps to create a vision and direction that can make a huge difference over the year to come. I think you will find it is time very well spent. My team and I got together this year in Tennessee. We rented a house for the weekend and had a great time, but we also walked away with an effective plan for the year ahead and we have accomplished much of what we set out to do. It was a great experience.

So, start 2019 off on the right foot by planning a practice retreat. Or at least, do some active goal planning to determine what you wish to accomplish in your practice during the next 12 months and what things do you need to do to achieve those goals. Here’s one idea to get you started:

Is it time to re-think your credit policy?

For years, it has been a no-no to allow clients to use a credit account for services, but I have a question for you. Who owns the biggest buildings in your city? The most common answer to this question is the banks! But what is it that banks do? They lend money. Hmm… then might it be that loaning money is a successful business strategy? Of course, it is. If you know how to do it successfully and intelligently, it can be a great practice builder.

Have you noticed that department stores have brought back layaway services? This is the same idea. These stores want to help people to buy their products – so they allow them to pay over time. Of course, they are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, they want to increase sales of their merchandise.

How much do your dentals go out the door for? Naturally, it depends on the state of the teeth and what (if any) extractions need to be done, but in many practices, this is becoming a fairly expensive procedure. What if your team was to actively offer a payment plan when they present the medical care plan for a dental? Don’t wait for clients to ask if there is any way they can make payments – instead, offer them a payment plan! You might offer CareCredit® and let your clients know about their “six months same as cash” deal, which is awesome. Or, you might tell the client they can pay one-third of their total bill at discharge, one-third a month later, and the balance would be due the following month. I would not offer this to a new client or someone who does not have an established credit history with you, but if your client has been coming to you for two or more years, has always paid and had a good history with you, I would offer this payment plan. And again, you can always offer CareCredit® and hopefully they will be approved. The same holds with expensive surgeries or medical treatments. Why not proactively offer clients payment options?

It is not a bad thing to lend money, however, it is bad to lend money and not get paid back. I believe it is important to be retrained in the decision process of whether to allow credit arrangements or not. Your biggest risk will be first-time clients and emergencies. Indeed, in these cases we must be careful, but as I wrote earlier, if a client has been coming to your practice for years, has always paid their bill, and now has a serious surgical or medical situation with their pet, I would try to work out special financial arrangements with them. Will you get burned once in awhile? Yes, but there will be many more successes than failures and this new policy may allow you to offer more services and grow your practice, while caring for more patients. Remember those large buildings in your city–they were not built by risk avoidant companies! Maybe it’s time to rethink your practice’s credit policy and take on some more risk with the potential of a greater reward.

So, what are your goals for 2019? Take the time to plan ahead, and success will follow!

Mark Opperman, CVPM
Connect on LinkedIn