Is the best answer literally staring you in the face?
By Heather Chavin, MA*
Most practices pursue strategic partnerships to improve their financial status.
What if there was a partnership that could impact retention, clinical quality, specialty development, and succession planning, which in turn impacted your bottom line? What if that partner is in your clinic right now? The strongest strategic partnership may be the sharing of ownership with staff.
Many practice owners opened their own practice because they wanted to be the decision maker and find the “right” way to run things. The personality that has the courage for that path may not be as focused on collaboration and power sharing. As an entrepreneur and an innovator, however, you know that collective intelligence is an asset and that those who try to walk the path alone are usually eclipsed by more effective, collaborative teams. As one brilliant clinic owner told me, “I made more when I owned 90 percent of my business than when I owned 100 percent. And I made more when I owned 80 percent of my business than when I owned 90 percent.”
Nothing creates loyalty like ownership. It changes a person’s perspective and identity. Once your name is attached to the practice, it becomes a representation of who you are as a professional. People with an ownership mentality start looking more closely at the numbers, checking Google reviews and reading about business, marketing, and the customer experience. You likely experienced a similar shift as you transitioned to ownership.
Clayton Anderson with Therapeutic Associates Advantage South Hill states, “Having a path to ownership changed my perspective. It made me think about how I might be able to improve how our clinic flows, the types of patients we attract, and how efficiently we balance patient-centered care and our budgets. Being on a path to ownership has empowered me to wrestle with these challenges rather than deferring to someone else. As a staff therapist, I left work at work. Now I look for opportunities to integrate what I enjoy doing outside of physical therapy with my clinic. It has been an invigorating journey thus far.”
Once you make the decision to share ownership, your perspective will shift as well. When this employee-owner asks for funds for a certification or business training, you don’t have to wonder about a return on your investment. You know those skills will be applied to your patients and your business, not your competitor’s.
You’ll also change your perspective when recruiting. All practices benefit from great followers, those clinicians or staff who just want to see patients or do administrative work and let you handle the business. Strong managers often recruit for great followers—no power sharing required. If you commit to incorporating more leaders for the immense benefits they bring, you’ll need to move from being a strong manager to a strong leader. Your hiring process will involve recruiting for staff with complementary leadership qualities, and you’ll need to commit to mentoring them.
Clinical Quality and Specialty Development
If you have a practice that is comfortable investing in professional development, you will develop a more highly skilled and ambitious staff. Social influence literature suggests that creating an environment of high achievers will create an environment that encourages others to behave similarly to maintain effective relationships and a positive self-concept.1,2 We are all heavily influenced by those around us.
One form of professional development that all practices should consider is the development of specialty practices. Specialty practices are a vehicle to compete in saturated markets and develop new revenue streams. They broaden the market you can serve, focus marketing efforts, and give you something to talk about to referral sources that they haven’t already heard from your competitors.
Do you have time to not only train in a new specialty but also to launch it? Launching a specialty means that the clinician involved is responsible for collaborating on marketing efforts, outreach and education of the public, referral sources, patients, and mentoring any other clinicians who will be providing care within the specialty.3 Does this sound like a job for a leader or a follower? For someone who takes initiative or someone who does what they are told?
Any owner would be nervous about this go-getter striking out on their own or pursuing another opportunity. If this employee had some skin in the game and you weren’t worried about losing your investment, the landscape would change. Alternatively, if clinicians who are interested in pursuing a specialty don’t feel financially secure and that you are invested in your joint success, they will always keep an eye out for another opportunity.
As a brilliant client also shared, “Trust and loyalty are things you can’t require people to do. I want them to stay because they want to stay, not because some legal document told them they have to stay.”
For you big-personality decision makers, the idea of giving up the game may be even less appealing than thinking about power sharing. Time will not stop for you, however, and the earlier you plan for your exit, the better off you will be financially and with your cultural legacy.
Many owners find themselves in a position where they have no employees to sell to because they have a practice of followers who want a job, not a business. Larger chains interested in the practice might not be willing to pay you what it’s worth—if you have no other options, they don’t need to.
A few years before retirement is much too late to consider an employee-owned model. There is no time like the present to start the shift from manager to leader and open the door to the high achievers in your practice. As Simon Sinek says in his book Leaders Eat Last, “No one wakes up in the morning to go to work with the hope that someone will manage us. We wake up in the morning and go to work with the hope that someone will lead us.”4
Whether choosing to share a leadership or transition entirely to retirement, your best option for succession may be the staff working already within your clinic. Consider starting a leadership program to facilitate learning as well as a structured evaluation process to determine those who are most suitable to lead. You’ll find that in the end your investment of time will yield a lucrative profit.
1Cialdini R, Goldstein N. Social influence: compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology. 2004;55:591-621.
2Turner JC. Social categorization and the self-concept: a social cognitive theory of group behavior. In Postmes T, Branscombe, NR, eds., Key Readings in Social Psychology. Rediscovering Social Identity. New York, NY: Psychology Press; 2010:243-272.
3Collie M. The fit factor: promoting niche practices. Impact. 2017;10:79-80.
4Sinek S. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. New York, NY: Penguin Groups – USA; 2014.
Heather Chavin, MA, is a member of the PPS Administrator’s Alliance and the business partnerships manager at CareConnections Outcomes Platform. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The author has a vested interest in this subject