To be honest, I didn’t want to write this blog post.
This would be the part of my business where I feel I have the least amount of credibility and possibly the part I don’t spend enough time or effort on. Well, actually, the least amount of “time” isn’t true – because I expend A LOT of anxiety and frustration over my business operations (and sometimes… a lack thereof).
I like to move fast and I have always been a strong implementer – and I credit this part of who am, in large part, towards the success I have seen in business. But, of course, being fast to move has its drawbacks…
Once your practice is full or on the way to being full, ( and consistently full) you will notice how you have created a process or a system for doing things – either accidentally or on purpose, you DO have a system. Whether or not it’s working for you is an entirely different story.
If you are like me, your systems and processes tend to happen by accident. If this is you, then you probably have the sense that you need to reinvent the wheel everytime you write an email or carry out a simple operational task. I know that I’m qualified to speak into this subject because I have lived it. But before I tell you a story, I think it’s important to get clear on what your business’ operations actually ARE:
(Stay with me. It’s a little dry. But future-you will LOVE me for this).
What the Heck is “Operations” and Why Should You Even Care?!?
I know that’s not a lot of fun to read, but like learning the numbers in your business…. effective operations will set you free. Why? because smooth operations allows you to streamline and position yourself for growth – they are the foundation in your business that lets everything else happen consistently, smoothly and usually without a hitch. When operations are in place and running effectively, you have:
- Solid marketing and sales
- Sound corporate governance
- Sound money management
- Sound service delivery
- Sound compliance with tax, and other regulators
- Sound organization and the sense that everything is where it needs to be
In short, if you’re not running operations effectively, then you’re not running your business effectively.
At this point, you may be thinking… but what’s the difference between admin and operations? It’s a great question and one I often find myself asking, too.
Admin tasks tend to sit inside the different operational functions of your practice. Examples:
- Bookkeeping could be seen as an administrative task of the operational function of Finance.
- Updating client notes could been seen as the admin task of the operational function of delivery (ie what you deliver as a service to your clients).
- Adding potential referral source’s information into a CRM could be the admin tasks for the operational function your sales process.
- Organizing your accommodation travel, and registration for a education event would been seen as an admin task within the operation of Professional Development.
If you’re still reading, you might be thinking – wow Jo, this sounds like a lot of admin – why do I need to bother about operations? I’m glad you asked, because I used to roll my eyes at the need for operational thinking too.
You see, I don’t naturally think in terms of systems and processes. I often find myself saying things like:
“Everything we do here is an exception to the rule, therefore we don’t need systems and processes – we just do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.”
“Where the heck did I save the….”
“Hang on – haven’t we already created this before??”
Without Effective Operations, YOU Are The Bottleneck and The Ceiling (And The Leaky Tap) in Your Business:
Now please don’t think that this is just me being lazy and unorganised, because to be honest I am not lazy, and I am not unorganised. I am very organised…. I’m just not effectively nor efficiently organised. And once I had people helping me in a business that was growing it was very very clear that I was the lid – the ceiling (thank you John Maxwell) in my business. The reason why we couldn’t grow any further was because everything was in my head.
Which isn’t the best form of storage out there – just saying. We have the cloud now, people.
The lack of operational thinking was really evident to me back in 2015. This was a really tough year that continued to be tough in 2016.
I had grown Purple Co to 5 Consultants on my team, and I had 2 virtual assistants working on two pieces of the business (well, that’s what they were tasked to do, but it wasn’t happening because I had to micro- manage everyone because we had no foundation for the transfer of information in the business. No one knew how to do things the way I did them, because it was all in my head, so every time something needed to be done they would ask me – which means I was the bottle neck who was holding up:
- Clinical delivery
- Content Creation
- Managing Finances
- Paying wages and vendors
- Ad-hoc filing systems
- Troubleshooting complaints…… and the list goes on.
I was trying to do all of this while managing my own clinical load of around 30 clients and getting frustrated with myself and everyone else around me.
#StoryTime: When Google Drive Became the Bane of My Existence:
We had an event here at Purple Co back in mid 2015. You see I very cleverly thought that Google Drive was going to be the answer to all of our problems. After all if we throw documents into Google Drive surely we would all be able to find everything. So VA #1 and I set about creating this filing system so we would know where things would go. And Praise the Lord someone introduced me to the search function! Can you see this is already not working, and is not creating a foundation for growth? By now my business had been operating for 5/6 years and I tend to keep everything, so we are talking about a LOT of data. WE had a system that now worked for us, the two of us which was awesome until we had a new person come on board. SO, please understand I had already PAID someone to help me create this amazing filing system of awesomeness… not to mention that I had also invested time and energy trying to create something that would work.
Enter VA#2. And enter the desire to restructure the architecture of the Google Drive. Because I was not thinking operationally and I just needed stuff to get done, I said yes to the complete structure of the Google drive which took 2 weeks and about 60 hours of time (60hours x $50 per hour = $3000).
And what happened – the brand new architecture STUFFED everything up and no one knew what was happening. So VA#1 could not execute the marketing activities she was tasked to do; and I was fielding calls from everyone else in the business who’s files had suddenly changed and disappeared.
Neither I nor my consultants could execute work, because our clients’ paper work system had been deleted and rebuilt, and we hadn’t been advised on the rebuild. That meant customers were not served, and worse it meant we let our clients down!
Because EVERYONE was thinking administratively – ie what task do we need done – the task simply got done. I failed my business in this respect because I was NOT thinking operationally – which is my job as owner. I should have asked questions like:
- What will be affected by this change?
- How do we best plan for this type of change?
- Who else needs to be involved in this change?
- When should this change occur?
Yes — business operations sounds a lot like strategy doesn’t it? It is the execution of the vision and the strategic direction from the leader of the business.
This projectThe Google Drive saga caused me a lot of pain and helped me realize that I wasn’t the right person to sort this out. If I wanted my business to grow (and for me to stop being the answer for every question) then I needed someone to come alongside me and help me to think strategically about the things I don’t naturally think about.
Getting my Operations in Order (Finally):
So I employed a Full time Practice Manager, who took this role on, and has been an incredible asset to my business. Instead of re- creating the Google drive (which I was secretly scared she would ask to do) she said, why don’t we map it and find out what’s there. So now we have a functioning G-Drive complete with a Filing Key. This took 3 months to complete – yes people, 3 months. It needs updating and we need to regularly dedicate time to keeping it current, but I can assure you that we now have a foundation for filing and storage that makes it so much easier to do things effective and efficiently — which frees my headspace up to do to other things that I need to focus on (which is managing people and marketing the business).
So dear entrepreneurial clinician…. where can you start?
You might be thinking, Jo – its just me and 5 hours of admin support a month. That’s great, and you can still start there. Ask yourself: how would you train a new VA to do what your current VA is currently doing – or what you’re currently doing that you wish you didn’t have to anymore? That will give you massive insight into how you operate right now.
Example: When you create a new file for your client, what are all the steps that need to be considered? Draw a flow chart and look to see exactly where this process has an impact on other parts of your business. Congratulations – you’ve just dipped your toes into the waters of operating like a #boss.
Here are some more examples of operations that are affecting your business now, for better or worse, whether you like it or not:
(ie we want to get paid, but how do we take payment, and then what happens with no-shows; what happens with taxes; who prepares the tax returns?)
We need to be insured and credentialed (so do you have a system for keeping up with when is our insurance due; are we adequately insured; do we continue to meet regulatory requirements to be able to trade and practice; what continuing professional development do I need to be undertaking to keep my knowledge and skills up to date? Do I need supervision, do I have a consultation group or people I can go to in my life for clinical support).
Marketing & Sales
Who is associated with this client that I can communicate with that could lead to new referrals or paying clients; how do I store this information and how will I keep a track of the communication so have an effective system for follow up and won’t become an annoying spammer?
How are all the vital parts of the operations in your business going to get done? And not just done – but looked after? How are we going to know when things need to be done, and how? Who will take responsibility for this? (ps saying you will remember is NOT the smart solution here – don’t be like Jo).
When push comes to shove how we OPERATE within our business is the key to your ability to grow your practice. Smart business owners are not just focused on marketing and sales – they also focus on what they could be doing more effectively and efficiently. Your operations bring together all the separate moving bits and pieces of your business into a cohesive whole.
So – I dare you to set aside an hour to look at your operations this week and find just ONE thing you could improve. Could you save an email template? Create the start of a new filing system? Start writing a process for something you do frequently that you could outsource?
Share with me in the comments below, once you’ve decided what you’ll focus on.
I know it’s tempting to say, “that’s nice, Jo”, quietly close this blog and pretend like you never read it and go about your business as usual. But if you… promise you’ll think of me next time you’re swearing under your breath wondering where that really important document or email went, OK?
Here’s to your success,