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01/07/2006 - The Business of Acupuncture 2

I have been thinking long and hard about what to write for this month’s newsletter. There are so many things to discuss and so many places to begin. This highlights an important point about Professional Practice Building. It never is just one thing to do, it is hundreds of little things added together that make the big success stories. These successes belong to the people who are wiling to spend many hours perfecting their skills. The first step towards success is your willingness to change. Change is one of the keys to practice growth. I guarantee that if you are struggling in clinic it is mainly because you are not willing to make changes, but I bet you expect your clients to.

The second master key is communication - Verbal and non verbal. Are you a good communicator? When you explain things, do clients understand or do you get that 'rabbit in the headlights' stare back at you? In other words are you being heard, do you get through? Please remember that there are many ways to communicate or dare I say fail to communicate. When we communicate only about 10 to 20% is done by words and the voice inflection. The rest is made up of body language and intuition.

So what are you telling people by your appearance, your gestures and mannerisms, your office environment, in your correspondence and the types of services you offer?  An easy example of how having the right service can increase business, is how chiropractors use x-rays to convince a client that they need anything from 1 year to, well the rest of their lives, just by showing a picture. "A picture tells 1000 stories". That is why I use an Iridology photo or energy read out chart to show clients. If you can 'show' that they have low energy in the liver you will often have a better response than reading the pulse and 'saying' their liver energy is low.

One of the easiest places to change is the clinic environment and as a visual demonstration of who you are it, carries powerful messages to the client on the type of person who is about to treat them.

The Clinic Environment.

I am always amazed how so many practitioners forget how important first impressions are.

I am taken back at how bad some clinics are. I have seen some bad ones over the years. Curtain doors into cubicles, half walls where you can hear about Mrs. Jones haemorrhoids, dirty couch sheets, cheap towels, dusty waiting rooms and ceiling fans that have never been cleaned, old magazines, sick plants, plastic chairs, etc etc.

It is a simple thing to correct but you must first become aware of what is needed. So the first thing to do is go out side and have a look at your clinic as a client would see it. Is the street clean; are the windows and door clean, what do your street signs look like? Go inside and sit down in your waiting room chairs, what do they feel like, what does the reception area look like, is it clean?

Now go and lay on your treatment couches, even take your cloths off, lay there. What would a client feel like, what can you hear and what would they look at? How clean is your ceiling? Simple things yes, but you would be surprised at how simple small things can stop a client from returning and more importantly referring other people to your clinic.

True you might be a great healer and you don't have to care about anything, people will just turn up because you have the magic touch.

Wonderful, I envy you. But I have a practice in the most over serviced area in Australia. There are more health practitioners per captor that anywhere else in Australia. So I need to have something that will draw people to my Practice. When I built my clinic I spared no expense. I decided that I would make the best clinic I could. We have clients who come in and comment on how peaceful it feels just to be in the clinic. In fact I have had people ask if they could just come and sit in the clinic when they feel stressed. By doing my best to create the best environment, I realised that I have also created a Sacred Healing Environment, which means that the healing has already commenced as soon as they have entered.

Building a practice is really all about educating the client.

The good old Chiropractors did a huge amount of research on the type of people who came for treatment. They found that all of their cliental where well educated, most with college degrees. They discovered that 10% of their clients where totally open to what ever the practitioner recommended, 10% where closed to what ever the practitioner said, they just what to be fixed and get out and that 80% of their clients didn't know much about what the practitioner did but they where willing to be educated about the services and methods of treatment. This 80% is where the Chiros have been trained to build their business on. Does your clinic have a notice board? Do you have information sheets and handouts? Do you run educational evening talks? How do you educate your clients on all the things you can do for them. Remember it is about what you can do for them not about how great you are.

I don't know about you but I get pretty tired saying the same thing over and over to every client. I have found it invaluable to say, “if you would like to learn about

that, why don't you come to one of our educational evenings" or "let me get an information sheet for you".

Quality of service versus Quantity of Treatments

How do you manage your time, how do you treat enough people per day to pay the bills and how do you keep a high level of service while treating all the people you need to treat to make a healthy income?

When running a clinic there is always a trade off between how many clients you treat and how long you spend with them. The problem begins when you first start treating you have plenty of time because you don't have many clients so you give them as much time as you can. I fell into this trap when I first started. I would often spend 11/2 hr treating one person. Now I will only spend 15 min with a regular client, but let me say here the client still feels they are getting the full service of an hour treatment, it all boils down to time management.

Over time you learn that more time doesn't always mean a better treatment. Also some clients don't want to be in the clinic for that long and they will tell you by not coming back. If you have to spend a lot of time with your client then you will either have to work long hours or charge more for your time.

A kinesiologist friend of mine charges $120 an hour but he only can see 7 people a day. I charge $45 for an hour and see 20 a day, but I can see 4 people an hour.The only difference is, and this is what I love about Acupuncture, is that I don't have to spend all the time with the client. While the needles are in, I am out into another room treating someone else. So the first things to look at are, how do you wish to treat?  What style of acupuncture do you use? How long do you need to treat a client? And the big question how much money do you need to make to a) break even, b) be able to save and c) live a good life? You then look at how many rooms you have to treat in and how many hours and days you are willing to work.

Once you have all that worked out we can begin to see what you will need to do to make the money to live well.

OK here is an example: You practice Acupuncture, Let us say that you need 50 mins to treat (10 mins to welcome the client into the room get them down on the couch, read the pulses, look at the tongue ask the relevant questions, 20/30 mins for the needles to stay in, 10 mins for cupping, massage and getting them out). So 50 mins a room X by the number of rooms, say 3 rooms, means you should be able to do at least 3 people and hour maybe 4. If you charge $45 a treatment that is $135 an hour X 7 hours a day = $945 a day. How many days you work is up to you.

When I first started I was lucky enough to have a chiropractic friend who took me along to all the chiropractic seminars on practice building. Boy do those guys know how to set up a practice and make it work.

Now if you want to get into the ethics of how many clients to treat let me say that the chiros believe the more people you treat the bigger effect you have on the larger community. The Chiropractors believe that each client will have an effect on 10 other people. So if you treat 50 you will influence 500 people. If you treat 500 people in a week then you will influence 5000 people. I have see chiropractic clinics that easily treat 100 to, dare I say, 300 people in one day. There are chiropractic systems that successful practices are built on 2min treatments with clients coming in 3 to 5 times a week.

I must say at this time, this is not how I would practice and I have chiro friends who hate this type of Chiropractic. I only tell you all this to break any closed mind attitudes that treating many people a day can't be done. It is probably being done in a chiropractic clinic near you.

So what is their secret? Well if I tell you I will probably have to kill you, nahh only joking, it is common knowledge. It all boils down to time management

First thing that you need to do is divide up you appointment book into New patients time (1hr) and regular client time (15min). In other words you have, go fast times and go slow times.

Keep you clients together do not space them out because you might only have 4 for the day. Bring them one after the other. One, it makes them think you are really busy and two, you have the rest of the day to do all the million other things that have to be done in a clinic. In fact you will feel less tired after a busy morning than a stretched out full day.

It might seem stressful at first but with time, it takes about 3 months, you will see where you waste time and you will begin to speed up.

Now when you start you have an hour for new clients. In this hour you spend all the time you need to help the client feel comfortable and very clear about what you can do for them. It is at this time You outline the next 9 appointments. The client now knows what to expect and you know what you have to do. Now they are set up to have you spend only 15/20 minutes with them in a regular appointment. What you have to watch is that you don't keep rediagnosing what to do with each treatment. This will waste huge amounts of time with little change in results.

Now if the client needs to talk to you, ask them to come back in one of your extended times to chat. At the end of a course of treatments you then book them in for an extended appointment again, where you do a full reassessment and if need be, set up the next round of appointments.

Having fast and slow times makes the day more interesting, it can be fun and very satisfying. The day goes quickly and you feel that you have had a good day. You have helped as many people as you can and you have been well paid for all your work.

I love working in a busy clinic it is exciting and invigorating.

To summarise what you can do to build a better practice.

1. Be willing to change

2. Look at how you communicate, verbal and non-verbal

3. Check out your clinic environment, what are you saying about yourself?

4. Find ways to educate your clients on what you have to offer.

5. Explore ways to manage your treatment times

Robert Kendall is in practice on the Gold Coast, Queensland. He may be contacted on TEL: 07 5522 0411 or email website: