Published: 11.08.2004


New business strategy benefits chiropractor


 When Susan Demith's business began growing, her excitement was quickly tempered when she encountered a whole new set of challenges. Eventually the stress caused by worrying over increasing administrative problems began seeping into her work, affecting her ability to work with patients.


Before allowing things to worsen, Demith turned to consultant Cheryl Vallejos to revise and create a business strategy to best address her growing pains.



The story


Susan Demith is by her own admission a much better chiropractor and doctor than a businesswoman.


The petite, tanned blonde would appear to be more comfortable on the beaches of Southern California, but it's in her office's nature-themed rooms that she finds comfort.


It was a different scenario a couple of months ago.


Despite having an office manager and at least three other staff nurses and assistants, she was finding herself increasingly burdened with handling what should have been their responsibilities in addition to seeing her regular patients - sometimes up to 18 a day.


Demith wasn't able to fix the problems to any one source. If everyone was doing their job, then everything should have been running smoothly, she thought.


She began working longer hours, leaving little time for much else. But, the constant worrying over the business side of the practice was starting to take its toll on her health and her ability to focus on the job.


"When I'm in the back with patients, I tend to lose track of what's going on out front," she said. "Things weren't being dealt with, and patients could sense the stress I was feeling."


Staffing issues evolved and spread to other parts of the business, affecting patient retention and even cash flow. After speaking a few times with consultant Cheryl Vallejos, Demith realized that the firm's accounting system was inefficient for her growing business' needs.


Accounts receivable were not being collected in a timely manner, nor were bills being paid with any consistency - interfering with any attempts to create a workable budget.


Demith knew what she wanted from the business, from her employees and from herself. Her goals were clear, but the path to achieving them was not.


Sensing her practice was in need of a tune-up - and fast - she met once again with Vallejos and set to working on an entirely new strategic plan.


The advice


"Susan did not have a balanced life," said Vallejos. "She was spending the majority of her life working, worrying about work, trying to resolve work issues, and burning herself out in the interim."


A more decisive system of management was needed. Before beginning with the plan, Vallejos suggested Demith hire an office manager experienced in working within a similar environment to alleviate some of the stress - allowing her to concentrate more on the healing side of the business.


Diana Green, who had an extensive background working in medical offices, was hired to train and supervise the employees. Additionally, Demith says, Green greatly assisted in putting the finances of the business back on track. That included implementing electronic billing and a computerized accounting system to track incoming receipts.


With a new staff in tow, the patient count doubled, and the issue of outstanding accounts receivables has greatly diminished.


More work was still needed, though, so Vallejos laid out the plan. The first step was to establish a starting point, measuring where the business stood, followed by a step-by-step plan with a timeline.


"A solid understanding of organizational goals and required results is essential before investing in any new improvement initiative or moving to the next phase of an ongoing initiative," she said.


A business should "perform an assessment of the current state and once a plan is developed, keep it updated as the situation changes."


Many of the concerns seemed to stem from a lack of shared vision among staff and management, coupled with a lack of definition regarding employee roles and duties.


Job descriptions were rewritten to include specific expectations, and Vallejos suggested having frequent team meetings to ensure all employees are aware of where the business stands with respect to its vision and goals.


A more effective patient tracking system was also advised, helping staff assistants - and subsequently, Demith - understand which patients were likely to return for follow-up visits, or why they were choosing not to.


The system could also be useful in determining what other opportunities were available, assuming patient profiles could be used to determine the type of individual most likely to request Demith's services.


"Demith Chiropractic recognizes that it is facing a business transformation, not just the implementation of new processes," Vallejos said.


By recognizing this, she added, it is aware that the business strategy will be different. While there are still areas that can be improved upon, Demith is likely in a much better position to address them, with a staff that's behind her and willing to develop along with the practice.  




The business: Demith Chiropractic and Acupuncture Healing Center LLC, 885-7944.


The owner: Dr. Susan Demith.


The services: A wide range of therapeutic massage techniques and chiropractic care.


The challenge: Create a business plan that can resolve issues stemming from business growth.


The consultant


Cheryl Vallejos is the president and CEO of Endorse Success LLC and Prime Leaders Community. With more than 22 years of experience in organizational business management, and an author of four books on leadership and budgeting, her passion is helping small businesses create big profits. She can be reached at 730-4456 or cheryl@primeleaders.com