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Acupuncture Today – May, 2000, Vol. 01, Issue 05

The Business Plan

By Stanley Greenfield, RHU

Do you know why most businesses fail? It usually boils down to four reasons: lack of planning; poor management; lack of adequate information; or being undercapitalized.

Acupuncturists struggle and fail for the very same reasons.

Would a lack of planning hurt you? I think it would. Poor management does not just affect the corner grocery store. You manage your own practice, so take a look in the mirror at the person who really manages your business.

Is that person doing the best job for you? Do you have all the information you need? Do you have a track to run on? How about all the products and services you offer? Do you understand them and what your competitors offer? When it comes to money, do you have a budget for your practice, or do you just write a check when you have the money? If there is no money, do you get back to the job of building your practice and getting more new patients? Is that the way you want to run your practice? Is that the way you want to live?

Are you ready to have a business plan? The first part of a plan is examining the type of practice that you will have. I refer to this as the why a patient should come to you. Think about that for a moment. Why should a patient come to you? Do you have the answer? What makes you different from the other practitioners in town? Do you have a different technique? Different training? A unique background to draw on? Answer these questions, and you will be ready to move on to the next step.

The second step is the market you are going after: what I refer to as the who. Who will be your patient or target market? Is it senior citizens or juveniles? Males or females? Athletes or just average people? What types of patients do you want? Identify them.

Step three is to know your competition. Who are they? What do they offer? Where are you stronger? Where do you need to get stronger? What are they doing that you should be doing? It is important to know everything you can about them so that you know what you are doing that is different.

The fourth step is one of the most important: marketing, or what I refer to as the how. How will you get into specific markets? Will it be through direct mail, referrals, seminars, screenings, health fairs or mall shows? How? Now you can see why you need a plan. This is what makes your practice work. You need to lay out a strategic plan for the first year.

Step five: What is this plan going to cost? What do you expect it will cost to run your practice? Do you need an assistant? If so, when? Do you need other help? What about direct mail costs; supplies; advertising; insurance; and consultants?

Step six is your management team, of which you are chief executive officer. Identify your team. Know what each player is supposed to do and when. Everyone needs to understand what is expected of them -- even you. You are the CEO, and you need to make sure the employees are doing their jobs.

The last step is financing, or cash flow. How will you pay for all of this? Where will the money come from? It's time to start operating like a real businessperson. You need to have an overall plan and a budget. You need focus and direction.

Once you have a plan, do not just put it aside and forget about it. Make sure to review, update and modify it as changes occur. Without a plan, you have no direction or focus. If you don't know where you are going, how will you know when (or if) you get there? Simply put, a business plan states what you propose to do, when you propose to do it, and how you are going to achieve it.

The entire purpose of this exercise is to build a successful practice and have a plan to accomplish it. Without a business plan, you have no direction or focus. Take some time and develop a business plan that will work for you. It's time well spent.

My Ideal Practice

Here is what I propose to do and how I am going to achieve it:

  1. Examination of type of practice (why)
  2. Patients/Target market (who)
  3. Competition
  4. Marketing (how)
  5. Cost
  6. Management
  7. Financing

Attempting to open or run a practice without a business plan is like attempting to fly around the world without a map! You will get lost. You do not have to find someone to draft this plan for you and spend lots of money for a plan that really isn't yours. There are many good books and computer programs available today that will walk you through the process and assist you in developing a plan that will truly be yours: a plan you will understand, adopt and use as your map through the maze referred to as running your practice. Take a walk through your local bookstore or computer software store and see what program or book speaks to you.

Click here for previous articles by Stanley Greenfield, RHU.

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