It was a hot, sunny July 4th weekend in the Texas hill country. Thankfully there was a slight breeze, but not much help when the thermometer is near 100.
After returning home from church, I was reading on the couch when I heard a loud cracking sound outside. At first, I thought it was my air conditioning unit falling apart. Great! It’s gonna be a hot afternoon now! But then the sound was gone so fast, I thought maybe it was only the wind,
Then about an hour later my daughter took the dog for a walk and nearly fell over this tree in the front yard. She ran saying “Daddy, this huge tree just fell in our yard!” I thought she must have been exaggerating, as some of the females in our house are prone to do.
But sure enough, a huge post oak, over 40 feet tall and with a trunk bigger than my waist, had cracked and fallen in the front yard.
The very tree that my little children had been playing under just the previous day. Next to this tree, another one exactly like it shades our picnic table and holds up a swing for the kids.
Why did the tree fall?
It was perfectly healthy. No disease. No bugs inside. Sure we’re in the worst drought in Texas history right now, but this tree had green leaves and was thriving.And it’s not like we’ve had any hurricane winds lately.
There was absolutely no outward sign this tree would fall over.
Yet once it fell, you could see what the cause of death really was. I’ll get to that in a moment.
Why am I telling you about a majestic oak falling down in my yard?
Because it applies to how you run your practice. Let me explain…
When my practice was struggling, it looked great on the outside. The patients really had no idea it was in trouble. The carpet was clean, the paint looked good, I dressed well and my staff was professional. And while it’s true there weren’t ever more than a couple of people in the office at the time, most patients just thought we had scheduled them during a special time.
However, on the inside the whole business was starting to crack. Marketing was pretty much useless, because every time I let the newspaper design an ad for me it failed miserably. New patients began to dwindle, visits decreased and cash flow quickly dried up.
My family noticed though. They noticed every time we climbed into the 1998 4 door Ford Escort in the August heat (with a broken AC to boot!) Anyone who came by the house noticed, as there was sparse furniture and even less food. Business associates and friends noticed as well, but I pretty much ignored their sage advice.
After all, I was told not to associate with such “negative thinking people”.
Things did turn around at the 11th hour of my practice, thanks to finally mastering marketing and patient care plans. (You can read the whole story at my Ultimate Chiropractic Ads site.) And we were blessed to be given a second chance right on the verge of bankruptcy.
But the point is there were signs–very big signs—that my practice was headed south. But I just ignored them and chose not to deal with the problems.
The same thing is true with the tree collapse. There were signs. I had been warned when we moved in to this house. And as soon as I saw what had happened, his words came back to me, “Ya, post oaks are pretty. But they grow up to just fall over in your yard!”
But I thought, “No way, won’t happen to my trees.” Just because the tree trunk weighs a thousand pounds and is growing at 45 degree angle doesn’t mean anything. Just because the neighboring lot has 5 or 10 trees that have fallen over doesn’t mean anything. I just need to ignore those negative trees
Of course, once it fell you could see the inside of the trunk had split. The crack was completely undetectable on the outside. But inside, the crack had completely taken the support out of the base, going 2-3 feet into the ground even. Once that trunk base split inside, it was just a matter of time before the tree collapsed. Thank God my children weren’t playing under it at that moment.
Here’s the point. Wherever your practice is right now…whether it’s super successful or fallen on hard times…you better take a look at it’s health. What’s your marketing look like? Are you focusing on condition-specific marketing yet? Is your monthly new patient volume trending up or down?
There are a lot of factors to look at in addition to marketing. I’ve listed just a few. But often the loss of new patients (which means no or poor marketing strategies) is where serious problems start.
Don’t wait until the whole thing collapses. Fix the cracks before they get worse. Next week we’ll look at specifically how to do just that.