This week, I read Jim Collins’ new book How The Mighty Fall: And How Some Companies Never Give In. I knew this book would have application to chiropractic offices as soon as I read the back cover in Barnes and Noble.
“Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.” – Jim Collins
How true this statement is. Not in a mystical, ‘think and it will happen’ kind of way. Not in a flippant statement some consultants throw at their clients for a ‘pump-me-up’.
But simply a statement of truth.
The success of your practice depends on you! Not the economy. Not the size of your town. Not where you practice. Not the government’s attempts at screwing up healthcare. Not Obama’s spending that you’ll never see a dime of.
Sure, these things make practice a bit more difficult. No one would say they don’t have an affect. But they are not the determining factor in your success.
You would be amazed at the doctors who’ve simply given up marketing their practice the last couple of years. And paid dearly for it. Some haven’t done any outside marketing in 10 or 20 years, but now find themselves forced to due to a declining practice.
Granted, most marketing out there sucks at bringing in new patients. Yet there are proven methods and strategies that work.
And the simple fact is that if you’re not marketing your services to the public, it’s just a matter of time before you’re practice will decline.
Back to the book. Collins has taken various failed companies and studied them to determine what caused their decline. Based on this he has uncovered 5 stages of decline.
Below I list the 5 stages and show how they apply to a chiropractic office. I’ve chosen to give our imaginary chiropractor a name, Dr. Decline, so as not to insinuate that all chiropractors are declining. But it’s very likely many of my readers will be in one of these 5 stages, whether they know it or not.
Hey, I admit I went through stages 1-4 in my early days of practice. Most of us do at some point. But hopefully reading this will help you to recognize it better next time.
Are you in one of this 5 stages?
1. Hubris Born of Success
Hubris is a word from ancient Greece that means overbearing pride or presumption. It’s the thing in Greek mythology that always brought down the hero. It’s what Proverbs 16:18 says well “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. ”
This is what Dr. Decline says at some point, “Things are going great right now. I’ve done well. Money is coming in. Why should I even pay for that ad in the newspaper anymore? I can cut back and just rely on referrals. After all, my patients refer because I’m the best doctor in town, not because of some words they read in my newspaper ad or website.”
2. Undisciplined Pursuit of More
Collins thought his data would show declining companies had become complacent and lazy, watching the world go by. But his data showed quite the opposite. He found “overreaching much better explains how the once-invincible self-destruct”
Here our doctor says to himself, “Maybe I’ll buy that new decompression table or new rehab equipment. What’s a big fat lease payment when I’m doing this well. We better hire some new staff too, to get ready for big growth. Things have been busy lately, after all. And I’ll have money because I’ve cut back on my marketing expenses too.”
3. Denial of Risk or Peril
This is when the effects of stage 1 and 2 are starting to set in. Money is still coming in, but signs of danger are starting to appear. There aren’t a lot of new patients on the books next month. The bills are starting to pile up. But the leaders deny the risk.
But our good doctor says, “Ah, it’s probably just the economy or the summer slump or insurance companies. Things will be fine. After all, I’ve been in practice over 10 years, and I’m still here, right?”
4. Grasping for Salvation
The risks of stage 3 have now become a reality, throwing the company into a sharp decline. Collins says this is a pivotal time and brings up the critical question of “how does its leadership respond?”
Does Dr. Decline grasp for a savior in the form of a charismatic chiropractic coach, a “bold but untested strategy” or any other number of magic pill solutions? What he does here is pivotal because once in stage 5 below, there is no coming back.
5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death
“The longer a company remains in stage 4, repeatedly grasping for silver bullets, the more likely it will spiral downward”, says Collins. The leaders abandon all hope and either sell out or liquidate assets.
This is a sad state for chiropractors when this happens. Let’s hope Dr. Decline never gets here. But the truth is some chiros do.
So how do you prevent the 5 stages of decline listed above?
It’s hard to say for your particular case. But a couple of general guidelines are “don’t ever stop using marketing that works” and cut, cut, cut your expenses.
Oh, and kill that awful sin we all struggle with: pride!