While your ophthalmology practice may have thrived in its initial stages by garnering a great location, securing a reliable staff, and offering excellent patient services, the “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” method will only carry any business so far. Sure, a hard work ethic is a necessary criteria for any entrepreneur, but flourishing in today’s ever-changing business and technological environment requires thoughtful and strategic planning.
The Need for Strategic Planning
Strategic planning not only calls for looking down the road for future opportunities to improve or expand your practice, but it also requires analyzing your current state of affairs. Similar to driving a car across the country, you need to always be aware of where you are, in order to get where you want to be. A strategic plan is a formal process that will look at ways to invest resources into areas that will move the practice towards the most desirable position to reach long term goals.
A good strategic plan includes an initial vision or mission statement, which leads to planning and documenting strategies and milestones that will be met, and finally to the execution of the plan along with accountability measures to stay on track. Still, before going down that road, take a critical look at your present situation. It is necessary and can be accomplished by implementing a technique called a SWOT analysis, which is looking internally and externally at four factors concerning your practice.
What is SWOT Analysis?
A SWOT analysis is well-known in the business sector as “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”. It has even been used as a personal coaching tool, to help individuals reach life goals. A SWOT gives a business the framework upon which to build, especially when looking to increase revenue or expand into other markets. As quoted in a Business News Daily article:
“This analysis leads to business awareness and is the cornerstone of any successful strategic plan,” said Bonnie Taylor, vice president of strategic marketing at CCS Innovations. “It is impossible to accurately map out a small business’s future without first evaluating it from all angles, which includes an exhaustive look at all internal and external resources and threats. A SWOT accomplishes this in four straight-forward steps that even rookie business owners can understand and embrace.”
See more at:
Performing a SWOT analysis will offer your medical practice a look at some specific internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) issues that need to be addressed as part of your formal strategic plan. It has been strongly recommended that every business should perform a SWOT analysis every two years. That way unhealthy business or customer practices can be detected before they get out of hand.
Internal Factors you can Control:
Strengths – what gives your practice that competitive edge? What things does your practice do well that can be capitalized on? Here is a checklist to get you started:
- Do your patients refer others to your practice often?
- Have you been able to offer discounted services to attract patients?
- Is your location well-suited to attracting a good mix of patients?
- Have you been trained in a new and cutting-edge use of technology?
- Has your practice been able to network for outside referrals?
Weaknesses – Taking an objective look at every aspect of your business to identify areas that are lacking is an important element in forming a strategic plan. Existing holes in your practice that are leaking revenue will only limit the practice’s potential to implement any new plans to grow the practice.
- Are you aware of any problems with management or staff?
- Have you given customers a chance to provide satisfaction feedback?
- Is your office or professional/technical equipment outdated?
- Have you suffered from bad online reviews or press?
- Do you lack a good marketing plan – both print and digital?
External Factors You Can’t Control:
Opportunities – looking outside of your practice to what’s going on in the world should be done often. Staying up to date on technological breakthroughs can be ensured by going to trade shows and conferences, reading the latest trade magazines and networking with others in your field as often as possible.
- Has a new market segment opened recently, such as the trend in new “Geek” eyewear or the debut of “high definition” lenses?
- Is there a lack of similar practitioners in your geographic area?
- Is there a new vertical market that can offer new opportunities?
- Has there been a significant change in demographics in your area such millennials replacing the baby-boomer generation?
- Has a competitor left your area, whereby a direct mail campaign may generate a new customer base?
Threats – looking for threats to your business, which may hinder your strategic plan, requires some guesswork. Not knowing what the future holds is a concern for every business. Even unforeseen natural disasters, new government regulations/tax increases or IT and data losses can hinder the most thought-out long term plans.
- Identify the impact of the loss of key personnel.
- Consider the possibility of new competition, especially “big-box” competitors.
- Seasonal changes which shift market demand occur periodically.
- Economic shifts can happen, especially during changes in government administrations.
- What if a major area employer moves or changes insurance plan?
By using a SWOT analysis to look at internal and external factors to enhance your long term strategic plan, your practice can uncover hidden opportunities while being proactive regarding future threats. Contact us to discover how we can help you assess your operations. The result can be increased patient volume, collections and net profitability!