You have a passion for your clients and private practice. You have felt a burning desire to go into private practice and make a difference in the lives of individuals, families, and communities. You have put in more hours into your own business and have worked more nights than you ever have before. How do you know if your systems are going to work or are currently working? If you have ever laid awake at night with racing doubts about if you have covered every angle of your business you are not alone. This blog will cover how to know that your processes and procedures will be ready and effective.
Before implementing any process in your business, you need to plan. Most therapists and business people approach systems in their business with a haphazard approach, and they don’t document a single thing.
Take Ray Kroc as an example. For those of you who don’t know, Ray Kroc was a fast-food tycoon and known for creating the behemoth that is McDonald’s. Ray Kroc was so committed to processes and procedures that he thought down to the very last detail. If you have ever had a McDonald’s burger or sandwich that has pickles you probably didn’t realize that Ray Kroc found a way to fold pickles so they don’t slide off of the sandwich into your lap.
You need to start planning your processes with the same kind of eye for detail that Ray Kroc had. Why? Because your city, state, and country needs mental health providers to be in private practice for a long long time. For the third year in a row, the United States has seen the life expectancy of its citizens fall. According to a CNN article, “For people between the ages of 25 and 34, the rate of alcohol-related disease deaths increased by 157.6% from 1999 to 2017. Suicide rates increased by 38.3% for people ages 25 to 64, and by 55.9% for people ages 55 to 64.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/26/health/us-life-expectancy-decline-study/index.html). This tells you that therapists in private practice need to plan to deliver high-quality services for a long time.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to plan for your business to be sustainable for the long term:
- Write out your processes before you launch them
- Think about the patient experience and how you are going to make that experience a flawless one
- Start detailing the financial projections of where you want your business to go
- Think about the employee experience at your practice. What do you want that to be like? How will you manage your staff in a way that leads to long term sustainability?
- Run tests of your processes to see if they will work in a way that actually leads to the result you want.
While planning is necessary beyond reasonable belief, at some point you have to execute your processes. Talking with a Microsoft executive friend, he mentions how Microsoft encourages team members to fail early. If you are going to fail at something, you might as well find out early and never repeat that mistake again.
You have to execute on the processes that you have created. This means that you and your staff need to have “big-vision small-ego” thinking when it comes to doing processes and procedures. It doesn’t matter whose idea it was, everyone needs to be on the same page and as committed as possible to the system. Be overly committed in the execution of the processes without complaining or whining. If something is not working you will fix it, but right now you are trying to make sure that the processes that you have set up will actually work.
Here are some tips on how you can “do” your processes to the best of your ability:
- Have all of your processes documented on paper, and be sure to make notations on the documentation as you encounter issues or pitfalls
- Have a timeline in mind for when you are going to stop “doing” and reevaluate
- Create buy-in on all parties that will be involved in the new process or procedure
- Don’t be afraid of failure! The faster you fail at something, the faster you will be able to fix it and move forward
- After “doing” the processes or systems, schedule a time to reflect on the system.
“Where have we been, Where are we going, and How do we get there”?
- What went well?
- What didn’t go well?
- What did I like?
- What did the patient like?
- What did I dislike and why?
- What did the patient dislike and why?
- Honor the past without disdain, but know that you are going to move forward with something better in the future.
Ask yourself these questions when approaching the “Where are we going” question:
- What do I want my future to look like?
- What do I want to make from my business?
- What do I want this business to accomplish for the people it comes in contact with?
Then you get to ask yourself, “How do we get there”. The essential purpose of this question is to draw out the tools, skills, and strategies that you have to bear on any given process or business challenge.
- Who can I ask to help me see this differently?
- What resources do I have to change this process?
- Do I have the necessary people and tools to make this happen?
- Do I have a clear picture of where we are going?
There is a principle that you can use from archery. Archery and Buddhism are often paired because archery is all about form and being present. You can control what you can control, and the rest is out of your hands. This is the same idea with this framework. Control what you can control (i.e. your processes and procedures) and the rest may fall into place, but we must adjust to changing conditions.
Now, it is time to act! Execute on the changes that you have made to your original processes and procedures. Implement those changes and see what ends up happening. This means that you have to develop a culture of thinking like a scientist. When you act on changes to your business hypothesis, you are trying to influence the outcome.