Business Planning to Rock Your World



Indira Alvarez, Au.D.

Setting and achieving business goals are often how we measure success. The tricky part is what happens between setting the goal and achieving it. Growth of a practice and financial success don’t just happen overnight. They take hard work and intentional planning. As many business owners know, it is no simple task. Too often, audiologists get caught in the minutia of daily clinic life. Providing patient-centered care, charting, staffing, etc. can take most of our focus. Business decisions get put on the back burner and are made from a place of reaction.

Failure to plan leads to less control of our business environment and ultimately our success. However, if we can flip our approach on its head and be intentional with our business decisions, we will be proactive instead of reactive and in full control of our environment. According to Clear1 business professionals who keep goals at the forefront and are purposeful in their business planning, are more apt to have a successful and fulfilling journey to success. So where do we start with intentional business planning and setting goals?

Write it Out
Did you know that setting a goal doubles the chance of succeeding? If you take it a step further and write out a thorough measurable goal, it is ten times more likely to come to fruition1.
  • Writing goals down makes it easier to remember them.
  • Posting your goals where you can see them, makes thinking about and acting on them part of your daily routine.
  • The process of putting your goals on paper will force you to really evaluate them, strategize for the future, think about your current processes, and start to brainstorm how to attack the goals.
The process of writing out goals can be as simple as utilizing key words, bullet points, pictures, or phrases. For example, if your goal is to take your family to Tahiti, print out photos of that beautiful island to motivate you. There will be times you need a boost of motivation to stay on track. That’s when you pull out your pictures and written goals. Getting refocused will recharge you and help you push forward toward the goal, and before you know it, you will find yourself relaxing in Tahiti with your family. When it comes to managing a successful practice, the process is the same. Documentation is a must for success, and this starts with the goals.
Plan it Out
Next, move to documenting the plan to achieve your goals. The journey to achieving goals for practice success may be a tough path and you will likely have to step outside your comfort zone. Your plan is the “owner’s manual/users guide” for your practice. It provides the strategic framework and steps to operationalize your goals. It is also there to pull out of the drawer when you need to review or go back a step to stay on track. There are several influential factors that we need to consider when building our plan. These are efficiency, drive, creativity, and mindset.

Your plan will drive the activities and behaviors of your practice. Are you headed straight towards a destination or veering off course? You are the captain of the ship and a solid, intentional business plan will help you to navigate confidently. Having a clear understanding of where you are headed will provide direction and motivation to help encourage your employees to join and work with you to achieve the goals. Your entire team will feel confident that there is a rationale for all of the daily activities in the practice.

Get creative. Think outside the proverbial box and be willing to change current processes. Focus on the end goals with an open mind, to see things differently and find new ways to approach obstacles that you may not have thought of before. Take marketing, for example. Do you market with intention? Do you plan before and analyze after to see if the intended impact occurred? If you intentionally review your marketing and evaluate its success, you can assess whether a particular campaign should be repeated or if it’s time to change the plan and try something new.
Work it Out
Time is money and there are only so many hours in the day. We have all heard those clichés, and while they are both true, if we are efficient with the hours that we are given in a day, we can generate more money with the same amount of time spent in the clinic. By starting with the highest priority goal, or a shorter-term goal, we can reverse engineer the steps to get there and be more effective and efficient in our work. Utilize to-do lists in your practice. As with goals, simply writing down tasks and to-dos markedly increases the likelihood that they will get completed. When you have a plan and a list, you won’t find yourself wondering, “Did I accomplish anything today?” You will know exactly what you did and what is left to do.
Think it Out
So far, we have established the pathway to progress through goal-setting, planning, and action. While we are checking off things on our to-do lists, seeing patients, cooking dinner, or even sleeping, our subconscious mind is always thinking and working towards our goals. In fact, your mind is one of the most powerful and influential factors in your success. Taking time daily to focus on your mindset can make a large and lasting impact on your ability to achieve your goals. Believing that you will reach your goals in your mind, will show outwardly in your stride, your attitude, and your affect when speaking to others. People will take notice and you may even have a positive influence on their mindset as well.
Count it Out
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s step it up! Explosive growth is within reach, even in just a few months. To get there, we need one important thing (besides coffee, of course) and that is data. You need to know where you are, in order to figure out how to get where you’re going. Once you have a starting point, you can track results to measure success. Tracking data allows you to see what is working and where there are areas for improvement.

At the bare minimum, for a hearing aid dispensing practice, you should know your average per unit selling price (ASP), the number of units dispensed per month, and your help rate (the number of patients you treated, divided by the total number of consults for the time period, multiplied by 100).

Financial data analysis is imperative. Gross revenue is a marker that is essential to track. Other important data include the cost of goods sold (COGS), expenses, marketing costs, and net income. Accurate recording of this data is crucial so training of staff that will be reporting these numbers is critical. Tracking and planning with incomplete or inaccurate data will move you backwards instead of forwards in the goal attaining journey. Implementing an Office Management System (OMS) makes digitally tracking and analyzing your data much more efficient. If you haven’t already, add ‘Researching OMS Systems’ to your to-do list. There are many OMS products and each of them has merits—your job is to identify the one that best suits your practice.

In the meantime, let’s look at a real-world example of exponential growth through data tracking. We will start with calculating anticipated gross revenue for hearing aids using three basic key performance indicators (KPI’s): number of patients (or treatable ears), ASP, and help rate. These are easy to calculate and should become, if they aren’t already, something you know off the top of your head each month. Onto the math. Imagine that you see four new patients per week, who have a treatable, bilateral hearing loss (8 ears). Your data reflects a $2100 ASP per unit, and a 50% help rate.
HA Anticipated Gross Revenue Formula
Number of treatable ears X ASP per unit X the help rate or 8 X $2,100 X 50% = $8,400 per week or $33,600 per month.

Next, use this data to establish a new stretch goal (perhaps to hit $50,000 in revenue a month). How do you get there? Intentionality and reverse engineering. Let’s look at three ways you could shift each of these KPIs to attain the new goal.
  1. If you increase your patients by just two per week (4 ears) and keep the other two the same, you would increase to $16,800 a week totaling $50,400 for the month.
  2. If you increase your ASP by $200 a unit, (yes this does mean possibly increasing your prices), you would increase to $9,200 a week for a total of $36,000. Not quite the $50,000 we’re looking for, but this is the easiest KPI to adjust and implement compared to number of patients or help rate.
  3. If you increase your help rate from the industry average of 50% to 75% without changing the other KPIs you would increase to $12,600 a week for a monthly total of $50,400.
Breaking down your goal and looking at it from different angles can help you decide which route to go in your planning process. If you want to see more patients every week, consider looking at your scheduling, front office intake calls, or marketing. If you want to increase ASP, examine pricing structure. If you decide to increase the help rate, the first step is to review and improve your consult process.
Amplifying Growth
Now, imagine if you took it another step forward and adjusted two or all three of these KPIs, simultaneously? If you implemented all three tactics listed above, you would almost triple your revenue, from $33,600 to $82,800. Let that sink in a moment. What could you do with an extra $50,000 per month in revenue? How much faster would you hit your goals? Stacking, or implementing multiple things concurrently improves the chances for success. Remember, these were just three of the dozens of data points and KPIs that exist in a practice. The possibilities for growth are virtually endless.

This is the power of planning and reverse engineering. Once you know the impact that changing a measure can have on your business, you can jump right into figuring out how to make it happen. Focused intention means immediate traction.
Getting Technical
After your goals are written and you have started the planning process, it is time to look for gaps. (A gap is the delta between the goal you have established, and the actual data collected.) Examine your existing data against your goals to find the deficits, the gaps. If your current revenue is $33,600 and your goal is $50,000 you will know the gap, or more realistically the “mini goal” is to increase revenue by $16,400.

Computer-based spreadsheet and executive dashboard software programs are an asset to this process and provide a visual means to quickly analyze data. Tacking a yearly calendar up on your wall and/or using a white board for jotting down ideas and notes can also be really helpful in terms of staying on top of where to apply resources toward improvements. If you decide to focus on a gap related to the number of patients seen in the clinic per day, then you need to strategize with your team on ways to make this happen. How often do you reach out to your tested-not-treated patients who are in your database? What is your marketing plan for the quarter? Accountability is imperative and getting your staff engaged in these meetings, and strategy sessions will help you stay accountable in this process and keep them engaged as well.

Once you have identified and prioritized your gaps, work backwards to figure out how to close them. Reverse engineering, simply put, is taking your goals and working backwards to break them down into small manageable bite-sized pieces so that you do not become overwhelmed and stay on course.
Stack it Up
Let’s put these goal-achieving initiatives together and consider one final concept that will bring the effectiveness of your planning full circle. When you use the basic concepts of exponential growth to your advantage, it doesn’t take a large amount of effort to see big results. Stacking, as mentioned earlier, will increase profit while decreasing the amount of time needed for results. Stacking can be used and applied to all of your goals, just as it is to leverage financial growth. Stacking allows you to use one goal to set you up to hit the ground running with the next goal. For example, if your goal is to increase the number of patients seen by one per week (keeping the same stats from earlier), you would increase your monthly revenue by $8,400. If you take this profit and invest it into marketing initiatives, you could see an increase to two or three more patients a week, which increases your monthly revenue even more. You could then decide to take the additional revenue and hire a practice manager or community liaison. Both positions can play crucial roles in efficiency and growth for the practice. They, in turn, will provide cost-saving or revenue-generating opportunities. Achieving your first goal has fueled success for future goals, exponential growth, and identifying new goals to strive towards. Success is being stacked.
Conclusion
Once you change your thinking, plan strategically, and monitor daily activities, you can take the steps to stack success and reach your goals more efficiently. How exciting would it be to always have to set new goals for yourself, your practice, and your team, because you keep crushing the ones you set? Even small incremental shifts in business strategy can have a huge impact. Being in the right mindset and confident in your planning will help you to step boldly forward. You will be ready to take calculated chances and achieve personal and professional growth along the way.

There is no secret formula for success. It is achievable and uncomplicated. Write down your goals, reverse engineer the steps to get there, step beyond your comfort zone, and last, but certainly not least, celebrate your successes. You did it! You built and then rocked your plan. You hit your goal, so take the time to enjoy the victory…and then come up with a new goal to tackle, because you are ready for anything. I did it and you can, too!    
Indira Alvarez, Au.D., is a board-certified audiologist and founder of Alvarez Audiology and Hearing in Tampa, Florida. She is also a business strategist and executive coach. Dr Alvarez can be reached at www.indyalvarez.com.
References
1 Atomic habits : an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones. James Clear, New York, Random House 2018.