I want to talk about operations management in this issue, to get you thinking about, and if necessary, implementing, new ways in which you could streamline your processes for a smoother overall running of your clinic. Operations or operational management is the planning, organising and supervising that governs your being able to provide the services you do as a business.
“As such, it is delivery-focused,” says writer Tim Dhoul, “ensuring that an organisation successfully turns inputs to outputs in an efficient manner. The inputs themselves could represent anything from materials, equipment and technology to human resources such as staff or workers.
“Examples of the types of duties or specialist positions this encompasses are procurement (acquiring goods or services from external sources), managing relations with those involved in processes and improving a company’s sustainability with regard to their use of resources”. 1
Now, I’m guessing you weren’t exactly aware you were singing up for all these jobs when you opened your clinic, and that these aspects of running the business can often feel overwhelming on top of everything else, not to mention actually treating patients.
Let’s simplify it. Realistically, operations management involves the planning, strategy and supervision of three elements: people, process and technology.
This covers your staff, patients and suppliers. We live in a world of very easy access to information and people via email, social media channels and instant messaging.
When used correctly, the joy of this hyperconnectivity is the ability to build relationships quickly and easily, but are you leveraging it in the best ways possible?
Immediate action step:
• CRM system – If you don’t have one, get one. Simple but incredibly useful customer relationship management (CRM) systems are now often free. When you meet someone (be it a new patient or business contact), take their business card (if a business contact) and log the person’s telephone number, email address and social media channels in your system. This allows you immediate access to the individual’s interests, passions and regularly-updated live feed. Of course, I’m not in any way suggesting we start stalking people, but having this information to hand becomes an incredibly powerful tool to build a rapport and make it easier to keep patient and business relationships going strong.
Thanks to the pandemic, many of you will have become more in tune – whether you like it or not – with technology. But there are some simple technology hacks you may not have thought about which we can within the business to modernise the way some lesserconsidered things are done.
• Private YouTube channels and cloud-based drives –I regularly use these for staff training, instead of or to support written internal documents. Whenever you are training someone in any aspect of the business, or even just performing a task yourself, record it to then go on to form a digital operations manual. For visual learners, actually seeing tasks performed as opposed to reading instructions is much easier to digest. And, if you’re inclined to do so, you could even begin filming learning material for any future courses should you wish to move into the training sector.
I can’t emphasise enough how much time I save from doing this. When new members of staff start at the clinic, they immediately have a starting point for training; and your existing and future staff have a standardised point of reference for tasks that they may not perform regularly. This will not only increase staff efficiency but will also make future training efforts more effective and save you no end of time in re-training or answering questions for task-based processes.
As aesthetic clinic owners, we input products and skills to provide the output of services to our patients or clients. Processes can range in length and complexity and while we are in an industry in which automation is not an option and the delivery of professional, high-quality care is paramount, don’t overlook the ability to implement processes into your clinic.
Immediate action steps:
• Stock control – This can be as simple as a note to reorder X amount of stock stuck to the inside of your stock cupboard. Or, it can be a task reminder on your device or time blocked out in your calendar to check stock. Is your current process working for you? Could it be more effective? Manual methods of stock control can include a diary reminder to check stock levels and re-order on either a weekly or monthly basis. Or, if you are using bookkeeping software, these often have built-in capabilities for tracking stock levels. Most people often simply associate the feature with use for shops or e-commerce-style businesses, but I’d always recommend logging treatment and product sales too, as this will allow you to track the most popular treatments in your clinic and give a greater focus for marketing. The majority of accounting software (such as Xero, for example) has the ability to record stock.
If you record how much filler stock you have, for example, then each time a treatment is recorded this will automatically reduce the stock level, and you are able to set up auto re-orders or alerts when stock reaches below a certain level. As I mentioned, you will already have many of these systems in place within your business, and simply looking into different ways to make the most of them can make a big difference to the efficiency of your operations management.
• Checklists – As a pilot, checklists are at the heart of my processes when I’m in the cockpit. Even in an emergency situation, I know that those set actions are to be followed in a set pattern to get the best outcome. This is a simple but very effective process we should be adopting into our clinics. One very key point, however, is to make sure that these are reviewed regularly and that all those involved are part of an open-door policy so that these particular processes can be refined if necessary, as and when changes occur. Checklists can be used for the most straightforward to the most complex chain of events to ensure consistent outcomes.
Operations management is a huge subject, but the most important message I want to get across is to encourage you to open your mind to thinking of ways in which to improve. Whenever possible, think about how you can leverage a resource, system or skill to allow you to push forward. And do take note of the suggested immediate action steps – education is a wonderful thing but without implementation it is worthless.
So, as soon as you finish reading this article, take an immediate step towards implementing or at least reviewing something we’ve discussed.
Phil Elder is a multiple business owner. His portfolio includes Neos Clinic, an aesthetic clinic in Ipswich, accountancy practice RSZ Accountancy and a finance company.
Blogs, videos and other resources on business efficiency, structuring a company, tax savings and more can be found on Phil’s website: philipelder.uk.
Follow him on Instagram: @philipelder