*disclaimer* I am just going to try to keep it light and funny. I am not telling anyone HOW to succeed. I am NOT saying this is the ONLY way. Just giving some ideas.
1) Location: Easy to find or at the very minimum great signage. (how are people going to find you? Just think of it as a give and take if you don’t have good signage you might need to put more time, energy, and money into marketing to compensate for it)
2) Regular Hours: How are people going to get to you? Imagine in your mind you work a 9-5 job and then see if you can find time to go to your clinic. Don’t vary the hours too much, it should be easy to remember for people. (example: M/W/F 9-5 T/TH 1-6:30).
-**Memory Challenge:** If I had my hours at M 9-2 T 10-1 W 8-1 Th 10-1 F 9-2 S 10-12 see how many times it takes you to memorize and recite that back, and see if you can remember in an hour. If you can’t it’s too complicated and no one else remembers either.
3) Marketing: You MUST market all the time (at least monthly) during your first year and do a huge grand opening! Or else you’re missing out on a great OPPORTUNITY. You’re a NEW business get people excited about you! Do as much marketing as you can with as much help as you can without burning yourself out (it needs to be consistent!). But your opening has to be BIG! Wouldn’t you rather start out busy rather than wait 6 months until your business gets busy?
-**No so Fun Exercise** Imagine yourself wallpapering your city with 100 flyers. Doesn’t that sounds exhausting? Now please stop and imagine 5-7 real life people/interns/friends/teenage rebellious other people’s children that can do that for you….
-**Tedious List**: Sample Grand Opening: 2+ Banners, 100+ Flyers, 100 Postcards, Free Acupuncture for 1/2 day, Announcements to all newspapers, local magazines, etc, Sidewalk table? Music? Food?
-**Tedious List 2**: Sample Annual Marketing Plan: Free Day (once a month with 100 Flyers, 1 Banner, 100 Postcards, Email to email list, Get on event calendars, Press Release to local media), Talks (at least once a month at different locations, treat as many people can you can each time *check with organizer to see if okay*), Health Fairs?, Distribute Free Treatment cards at Farmer’s Market? Patient Education Flyers/Banners/Info, Don’t you feel exhausted after reading all that? Now please get some help. No not the mental health kind but the volunteers/interns type.
4) Schedule People RIGHT AWAY!: This applies to ALL circumstances (Day to Day operations, people calling for information, people asking for information, free days, talks).
**Controversial Opinion** (Makes dark ominous sounds) (Dark rain clouds gather) Okay I am not a big fan of online scheduling. I know LOTS of successful clinics that are. My opinion ISN’T the only true Jedi way. Because you NEED to schedule people right away. You NEED to make yourself ask every patient to come back on a specific day and schedule them in the book before they leave ( What about Tuesday? I can put you down at 3pm. Here I’ll show you how to do it just write your name in). People aren’t going to remember once they get home.
You might need online scheduling if you have tons of erratic hours, because people can see the hours when they’re scheduling. But if you have regular hours (see above?).
What about all the computer illiterate people? I have people who can’t dial a cell phone. And I love my older patients. They’re all like my grandparents and I care for and love all of them. (Make dark ominous sounds) and make them do online scheduling (NOT!)
5) Allow Walk-ins: You want to be busy in the beginning right?
**Controversial Opinion #2** (Makes menacing growling sounds) (Sky turns pitch black) (I should go into poetry) Okay I know allowing walk-ins makes your life a pain. What if 6 people walk in at the same time?!!! (I know how horrible! people inconveniencing you!). But realize in the beginning and/or 1st year or 2 you’re not going to be THAT busy. If 6 people walk-in all at the same time I start singing Amazing Grace and treat them all as quickly as possible or schedule them immediately for an hour from now(if they can’t wait, tell them to go get gas and come back).
What if 10 people walk-in at once? What if a whole church does?!! Well ALLELUIA you MUST be doing something RIGHT then! Ask 4-5 people to wait and schedule the rest IMMEDIATELY! Panic silently and spring into action immediately!
Walk-ins will not work with online scheduling and penalty for missing an appointment because people will not schedule and just walk-in and then you’ll have a mess.
6) No missed appointment penalty
**VERY Controversial Opinion #3** (wolves howling in a dark deep night) Okay, so it really all comes in one bundle if you’re going to try to be busy and do immediate scheduling, take walk-ins, you have to not charge for missed appointments, or most people will just walk in instead of risking a fee for a missed appointment and you’ve just made a vicious circle.
If you choose to do online scheduling, appointment only, and charge for missed appointments that’s fine too. Other people do well doing that.
It all comes down to how convenient it is for you versus your patient. Yay online scheduling, appointments only, and charges for missed appointments. I know exactly how many patients I will see one day. I have a supremely relaxed and happy boring days.
Busy is for adrenaline pumping daredevil excitement seekers. (It’s like flipping upside down in motorcycles) (Did I mention I have a terrible fear of heights or anything involving any risk? how did I ever go into business for myself is miraculous. Kiddy roller coasters make me nervous). It’s just going with the flow, the yin and yang of life.
Do you want to make it convenient for you or for you patients? Imagine if you’re having a headache, and wanted some acupuncture for it NOW how would you manage to get yourself there right NOW? You want to make it risk free for your patients and convenient for them!
Well you don’t know about acupuncture huh? Why don’t you try it for free? Ahh you work feeling awesome! Great! let’s do 2-3 treatments close together (no risk right? just one more). Okay let’s schedule you for Tuesday. And if you want to cancel at anytime that’s fine.(no risk all benefit) Oh, you don’t have a regular schedule, well if your xx pain start bothering at ANY time just walk-in! (no risk all benefit) (I should be a car salesmen, besides you know what I suck at sales. I can’t sell stuff I don’t believe in. Maybe I can sell Toyota Priuses next to some used bikes).
7) Schedule 6 an hour as soon as possible
I know that sounds terrible. I have been treating one patient an hour and now I have to treat 6!!?? But you NEED to get yourself on a time line. If you start out treating 4 an hour fine. But in a month or two you must force transition yourself to 6. WHY? WHY? the horror!
Because it’s easier for your patients.
**Word Problem** (Start crying now) Let’s imagine a common situation there’s 4 people who all can only come in on Tuesdays at 3pm. So what do you do? You only have ONE 2pm Tuesday appointment unless you have other people working with you or can split yourself into 4. Well if you treat 6 an hour. You offer the other three people the choice of 2:40, 2:50, 2:10. and 2:20. You see what’s going on? Sheer logistics, 10 or 20 minutes earlier or later than the only time they can come looks a lot more appealing than 15 or 30 minutes before or after their available time.
**Mathematics Exercise** If ideally 60-70% of your slots are full what is 60% x 4 x 30 hours = 72 patients. What is 60% x 6 x 30 hours?
You ends up with a lot more coveted time slots and can treat a lot more people.
8) Have at least 6-7 chairs to start. If you’re going to schedule 6 an hour unless you can slow down time people aren’t going to be able to sit for very long.
9) DON’T DO IT BY YOURSELF!!!!
Get some family, volunteers, interns!! Being a janitor, bookkeeper, office manager, receptionist, CEO, acupuncturist, customer service agent, HR manager, tax person, etc.etc. all at the same time sounds really exciting to me. Just as exciting as going on a cruise all around Europe really. I think I should go on a cruise now I am getting burned out looking at the job description.
10) Be Proud of Yourself!
Hey I think we’re all good people inside. Too good. I personally would like to find a dark jedi master once in a while.
(Ending filled with tons of positive cliche messages that invoke warm feelings like chicken soup)
We want to please everyone and make everyone love us. Well, that’s impossible. You will always have a difficult patient especially if you end up seeing 20-30 patients a day. Don’t worry about it! You don’t have to do everything perfectly! Pat yourself on the back sometimes, don’t be that super strict parent that rewards yourself for nothing. Acupuncture yourself. Pat yourself on the back for a good day preferably EVERY day. Be happy for the small steps in the right direction. Everyone makes mistakes.
I think there’s some more things, but I am tired of ranting now 😉
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you?”
-YODA, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back