Giving Thanks for Hard Times?

A couple of years out of chiropractic college, I had hit rock bottom. No money for rent. Barely enough for food. And certainly no money for Christmas presents for our little daughter at the time. (If you want an exercise in empathy, try telling your two year old that there’s not enough money for even a single gift!)

Not being able to provide for one’s family is a heart-wrenching affair, which can send any “tough guy” into a deep depression. And that’s when I had a huge business awakening. Here’s what I learned:

“It’s not just about your patients!”

I know, you’re probably thinking this isn’t any huge breakthrough at all. But here me out a bit. I had been told over and over in school, by consultants and many industry leaders that “If you take care of enough people, they’ll take care of you” or “Don’t worry about the money, just take care of the patients.” Now both of these have an element of truth. You certainly can’t focus your life on the ‘love of money’. You also can’t be worried about ‘numero uno’ all the time. But the problem with these coined phrases is that they don’t tell the whole story.

You see, I had plenty of patients at the time. But I was giving away so much free care and discounted care that I was barely able to feed my family. People would pull up in Porsches and Jaguars to my office, while I was parking my old jalopy at the other end of the parking lot. I realize now that I was ‘doing stupid’ by the shovel full, but at the time I was under the impression that I just needed to see more patients. More visits from more new patients would solve my problems.

Except that it didn’t solve anything because I was marketing to the wrong patients! And on top of that offering them severely discounted care plans!

That’s why it was a huge breakthrough for me. Because for the first time in practice I realized that patients didn’t give a darn whether I drove a jalopy or a Mercedes. They just wanted their care. And I had a lot of nice caring patients, but in the end it didn’t matter to them how successful I was.

So why on earth am I so worried about what they thought of my recommendations. An extra $10 a visit was nothing to them, but a huge blessing to me and my family at the time.

This is one of the reasons I went from an average of $17 a visit to over $80 a visit — in just a matter of 4 months.

Now it wasn’t just charging more that turned my practice around. Thankfully, I was blessed with a wake-up call on how to use effective marketing too. My marketing plan before had simply been this: whoever calls or comes by asking me to market, that’s what I’ll use to get more patients in the door.

A few thousand dollars later and very few new patients I realized the famous “marketing doesn’t work” saying must be true. Little did I know that this saying was both right and wrong. You can guarantee that crappy marketing does not work. But effective marketing does indeed work. The key is being able to determine between the two!

Lessons to learn from this true story:

#1. If you’re not struggling now, make sure you never have to by doing right things right now. Don’t wait to market when you need new patients. Put a chiropractic ad in the newspaper every month. Make sure your internet marketing plan is up to speed. Send your patients “stick letters”.  And more.

#2. If you are struggling, stop wasting money on ineffective marketing and get some good marketing. Passing out business cards and brochures isn’t going to cut it in most cities. Get an ad set up to run before Christmas. (My Ultimate Chiropractic Ads have a 90 day guarantee. What do you have to loose?)

#3. Be thankful for what you’ve been given. I learned my lesson the hard way. But not a Christmas or Thanksgiving holiday rolls by without me thinking back on those hard times, and being thankful for the blessing I now have: a great wife, four beautiful children and I get to help chiropractors grow their business every day!

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2 Comments

  1. This is such a great article and especially for this time of year…

    So many doctors suffer from this same story, including myself. I have done the same things and wasted a lot of money buying into management groups that didn’t work and cutting myself out of money by giving deep discounts.

    The key is learning from Pro’s such as yourself and making sure you keep tabs on what’s coming in and what’s going out. Not being able to pay rent doesn’t help any of your patients.

    Great article Doc…

  2. For all DC’s who have been through the hard times of building a successful practice from scratch, please consider mentoring a chiropractic student or recent graduate. It is a great way to give back to a profession that has given us all so much.
    When you give and expect nothing in return you reach a point where any problems that you may have no longer carry the weight that they once did. And when your load is lighter…so is your spirit!

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