Everything You Need to Know About Running a Profitable Weight Loss Practice
— By Karol Clark, MSN, RN
Whether you are starting a weight loss practice from the ground up or striving to grow your existing practice, you are in the right place. Implement these timeless strategies for faster growth and predictable profitability.
Statistics show that with the recent pandemic, the medical weight loss industry, including bariatric surgery realized a decrease in market value by 20 percent (from $8.8 billion to $7.1 billion) — much more of a decrease than other commercial and online meal replacement programs.1 This forced many weight loss practitioners to make business decisions in nearly every operational aspect of their practice. Some changes you may have wanted to make for a long time and others, you never though you would have to make.
And, like most weight loss practitioners, you likely began your weight loss practice or joined an existing practice to help those in and around your community improve their health. Yet, from a business standpoint, sometimes “you don’t know what you don’t know” and, as a result, you learn the hard way (we all do) since clinicians are not generally taught the business side of health care. It’s time to change that by embracing the following tried and true strategies for creating a stable and profitable weight loss practice that serves your patients, your team and you in the best ways possible.
1. Plan for Predictable Success
When it comes to growth and profits, most businesses focus on a marketing and sales plan. Often, they outsource this to “experts” without much involvement or internal measurement. However, when it comes to practice growth and profitability, your plan for predictable success must focus on more. Call it a business plan or blueprint; but, in addition to marketing and sales, you need to specifically plan for the following (including a timeline with responsible parties identified):
- Your Team: The people that will efficiently manage day to day operations, track/nurture potential new patients while optimizing your current patients experiences and outcomes.
- Your Systems: For predictability and consistency in nearly every aspect of your practice
- Your Cash Flow: The systems for easy sales, timely billing and collections, as well as the technology to track everything including profitability and cash on hand to ensure stability and growth.
- Your Ongoing Patient Engagement: To attract new patients and for established patients to keep you and your practice top of mind now and in the future thus, extending their relationship/lifetime value to your practice and happily referring others.
2. Know Your Numbers
One person can’t take on everything. That’s why having specific goals or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for yourself and everyone on your team makes a big difference. While these will change as your business evolves, having clear measurements of what moves the needle in your practice is critical. Such measurements may include the number of new patients, revenue, profit, conversion to surgery rates, scheduled/completed consultations, referral sources, testimonials or anything in between. What you measure tends to improve. And including your team helps them share their ideas, have ownership and increases accountability to you and the entire team — especially when measurements are reported regularly (weekly/monthly).
Your business should have a main focus such as medical weight loss or surgical weight loss that is your primary economic engine. Once this is operating efficiently and proven successful, it is a great idea to contemplate diversification. This is adding products or services that complement your primary offer. Such diversification can include nutritional products, among others. In fact, diversification is a great way to kick start a struggling business or extend profitability for a successful business.
Multiply refers to duplicating a system that is working well or multiplying sales for an existing offer. This works in many areas such as taking an onsite product or service online, extending your market area, or packaging products/services to “multiply” sales.
Simplify refers to making sure who you serve, what you offer and how an interested patient takes the next step for purchase or inquiry is easy to understand. It also involves simplification of your technology for a seamless patient experience. Simple is great because it is more likely to get done. When your team or patients are confused, they tend to avoid action.
4. Take Care of Yourself and Your Team
It has never been more important than today to make sure you take care of yourself as well as your team. You need to practice what you preach to your patients so you can feel your best. Develop a great morning routine for yourself and your team. Get to know them. What do they value? What are their short- and long-term goals? What untapped talents do they have? What suggestions do they have? Stay interviews are a great way to do this as well as addressing accomplishments as well as areas for improvement in a timely manner. Try not to micromanage. A great team wants a challenge and will rise to the occasion. When involved, they take greater ownership for establishing efficient systems and ensuring goals are met.
5. View Your Patients as Customers
Your patients have a choice. Thus, you need to understand their pain points and what they desire most in a weight loss program. Appeal to these pain points and deliver what they desire in a convenient and affordable way. That doesn’t mean you need to be the least expensive option, but you do need to prove value, facilitate positive outcomes and exceed expectations whenever possible. An entire article on this topic can be found here.
6. Consistently Communicate with Your Current and Prospective Patients
It has never been as easy as it is today to nurture and engage your current and prospective patients. Organic content marketing is a great way to do this as well as capturing e-mail addresses and sending weekly e-newsletters with a timely article, recipe, some motivation and a reminder of the services and products you offer at your practice. You can also accomplish this by sending links to your blogs, videos, podcasts, articles or whatever other online assets you have available. Also, asking for 5-star reviews and testimonials. Coincidentally all of this increases your SEO increasing the chances of you showing up on page one (often more than one time) in online searches.
7. Don’t Go It Alone
Involve your team as you brainstorm and implement new systems, communication, education, sales offerings and more. The more they are involved, the greater their sense of ownership, confidence and knowledge. Your external business professional team such as your corporate attorney, accountant and business coach/consultant will help you focus on what matters most. They can also be instrumental in helping you develop your goals, plans/blueprints while keeping you accountable to ensure success.
Always remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to have all of the answers. Learn from mistakes and grow from experiences. And, if you always keep your patient and what they want/need most top of mind, your path will be easier and more fulfilling.