She was forlorn. A thirty something year old dentist with a KES two million loan to be repaid and not enough patients to attend to at her rented clinic! She had tried all the text book marketing gimmicks - free community check- ups, Facebook marketing and hiring agents to source for insurance companies to put her on their lists of service providers. It was not working. It is the economy, everybody told her. She kept asking herself, "Why now? Why me?"
Down the road was another dentist with a "well" equipped clinic with a dental unit installed in 1974!! He wanted out. "Was there a young dentist willing to take over his premises?", he asked. At close to 70 years one tires of doing the same things, day in day out.
Both these solopreneur professionals shared a common lack. Neither had a written strategic plan. They both wished to be consulted but were not willing to pay a consultant to develop a strategic and operational plan to translate a great business idea into a profitable one, with an entry, growth stage and exit level strategy. Were they both merely surviving from one office rent payment to the next?
Elsewhere in the doctors' plazas, malls and office complexes, doctors and dentists worked in silo-like clinics, content with cash-flows which seemed impressive compared to the wages of their fellow countrymen. Truth be told. they were only a phone call away from financial disaster. They looked enviously at older colleagues in their large four-wheel drive cars and smart suits and asked, "Why are the young so disadvantaged in this collegial system, that is the medical profession?"Across the generational divide the binding factor was the lack of a written strategy. Upstream the insurance companies, health management organizations and hospitals had written strategies on how they were going to use the large workforce of qualified doctors and dentists to their own economic advantage.
A dental or medical practice business strategy is a formal process. It helps to identify your mission, values, goals, projects, timing, barriers, opportunities, and strategies. Having a clear strategic plan for your business means providing clear direction for your team. It also helps prevent wasted activities that may work against each other. It is very easy to skip this process when starting a practice. However, without a practice business strategy, you are also likely to miss opportunities and make some expensive mistakes as you grow your practice.
Everybody upstream and downstream in the supply side of the healthcare business ecosystem requires a strategy. Clearly not everyone has one. Maybe most players don't know where to turn to for help in project planning, execution and exit. Maybe they do, maybe they know it all? The jury is still out on that one.
Dr. Melvin D'lima is a business coach in the Entrepreneurship Development Department.