If you own a business—or would like to own one at some point—then you’re probably on a constant hunt for the secret to entrepreneurial success and the formula for profitability. Business leaders want to know how to maximize profit and streamline workflows without overburdening staff and tanking morale. Some clinics have found their individual sweet spots, and that’s awesome—but the truth is that profitability isn’t all about hitting KPI goals and benchmarking a mountain of metrics (although these things absolutely contribute to a clinic’s overall success). In the grand scheme, though, profitability is most deeply influenced by how you treat your people—which is exactly why strong leadership is important in any organization.
There is a secret connection between people and profitability, and it all boils down to one thing:
Happy employees work better.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a super big secret. It’s an established, data-supported fact that happy employees are more engaged and effective than their less-satisfied counterparts. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Warwick found that happy employees are about 12% more productive than unhappy employees. Another study conducted by Glassdoor found that there was a strong connection between employee job satisfaction and customer service ratings. So, if you want to improve your clinic’s productivity and your patients’ overall satisfaction levels, you need to prioritize your therapists’ happiness.
Workers who are stressed, overwhelmed, and generally unhappy can also be a big financial drain. A study published in BMC Public Health shows that job strain is linked to an unhealthy work population. (In other words, your unhappy and stressed employees get sick more often and have more health problems than your happy employees.)
The onus is on you to make your employees (relatively) happy.
Obviously, you can’t solve all of your employees’ problems—especially personal ones—but you can definitely solve the problems that originate in your clinic. I’d even argue that it’s your responsibility as a practice owner or manager to actively foster a workplace environment where therapists feel supported and encouraged—not discouraged and torn down. A positive environment will motivate your workers to perform at their best (which, as we’ve established, will improve your bottom line).
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy as all that. You can’t barge into your clinic, hand out PTO like you’re Oprah, and expect your employees to fall over themselves with happiness; you have to methodically lay the foundation for an open, communication-oriented, motivational, and constructive culture. Your ability to do this hinges on three factors:
1. A Strong Clinic Core
The first component of a constructive culture is a strong clinic core. This encompasses the entire clinic’s attitude toward patients and staff—so, if you want to tweak it, you have to look at everything from your clinic’s vision and mission statement to your organization’s core values. When Sue Hawkes, CEO and Founder of Yess! spoke at Ascend, she emphasized how important it was for a clinic to have a clearly defined purpose. “Great” means different things to different individuals, she said, which is why it’s so important to establish what “great” means for your clinic.
Once you establish your clinic’s mission, vision, and core values, you need to encourage your staff to actually get on board with that mission and take your core values to heart. That means everyone has to know what the core values are—and they must be attributes that someone can emulate or work toward. “They have to be demonstrated. They have to be vibrant,” Hawkes said. Otherwise, they don’t really contribute to the culture of your clinic.
Take WebPT, for example: Each month, we recognize and reward WebPTers who demonstrate our core values—and many of our company activities are inspired by those values (e.g., our annual step challenge is inspired by our “Live Better” core value, and our culture council coordinates volunteer opportunities that align with our “Give Back” core value).
2. Solid Communication
Poor communication can completely derail your clinic by lowering morale, causing resentment, and even spurring therapists to quit. So, if you’re trying to improve your clinic’s culture, communication should be a top focus. Set clear policies and expectations, recognize your employees’ accomplishments, speak in person as often as you can, and be tactful when you have to have tough conversations about poor metrics.
Hawkes also recommended avoiding what she refers to as “thump thump” leadership (i.e., when leaders think they’re communicating a vivid and pitch-perfect message, but listeners only hear vague thumps and completely miss the true intent of the message.) Additionally, she recommended being respectful of your colleagues’ time. During her Ascend session, she said that the average “have you got a minute” meeting hijacks 45 minutes out of the average work day. That’s something you can easily avoid by writing down non-urgent concerns when they come to your attention—and then parking them until you really have time to sit down with someone and address them.
3. Effective Task Distribution
Believe it or not, effective task distribution (read: delegation) can help you improve your therapists’ attitudes toward work. The trick here is to know how to delegate effectively. In her Ascend session, Amy Lafko, MSPT, MBA, founder of Cairn Consulting Solutions, suggested that leadership could potentially hurt employees by relying on “gopher” delegation where you tell a person to “go for this” or “go for that.” Instead, she recommended that leaders opt for “spark-their-passion delegation,” where you dole out work based on peoples’ strengths and interests, and then give them the freedom to approach the task in a way that works best for them.
By shuffling around work (when possible), you might be able to prevent a PT or administrative staffer from getting crushed under the burden of a job task that drains his or her cup—and, in the same swing, give another employee a project that excites and empowers him or her. You do need to set a precedent for strong communication before you can do this, though. People need to feel comfortable voicing their concerns about their workload before you can effectively shift around tasks.
Good clinic leaders regularly gather their employees’ opinions.
If you’re in a management position, you won’t be able to see all the ways in which your clinic’s processes are falling short. You may be able to pinpoint a rising churn rate at the drop of a hat, but your therapists are the best people to tell you if, for example, your processes are alienating patients, or if workloads are unreasonably heavy. And, as you might suspect, your therapists and administrative staff really want to tell you what they think about work—they just don’t want to face repercussions for voicing their opinions.
That’s why you have to be sure to give them a safe place where they can express all of their professional criticisms and suggestions—one that’s totally anonymous and that won’t get them in trouble. We recommend collecting eNPS®—your Employee Net Promoter Score®. To collect your eNPS®, simply ask (anonymously, of course), “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend your practice as a place to work.” Then, leave a space where employees can leave detailed feedback that you can use to improve your clinic.
There may not be an ironclad formula for clinic profitability, but you can definitely put your clinic on the right path by treating your therapists right and creating a positive, uplifting clinic environment.