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Economic slowdown requires quick business

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:03am

When working with practices, I often hear comments like this:

“It’s hard to compete with the hospitals, they have all the physicians locked in”
“It’s hard to compete with XYZ rehab corporation, they have so many locations”
“XYZ company has all the insurance contracts.”

However, in times of change, more is not always better.  Small businesses - specifically private practices - may not have every insurance contract, every referral source locked up, or every location covered; but they do have something their large competitors do not — the ability to implement change quickly.  

This is a big deal, especially in a slow economy, and it is often overlooked.  More referral sources, more locations, and more contracts also means more to manage.  Many organizations struggle to manage one or two referral sources, contracts or locations well, and adding more to the equation can sometimes simply compound inefficiencies, errors, or quality.

In response to the economic slowdown, having “more” requires greater efforts to change.  Small business, private practices have a greater ability to implement change and respond more quickly to the market.  Despite this, it is common for managers and owners to overlook this opportunity, and they often do not leverage this strength of their business to compete against the larger players in the market.  

In fact, managers and owners often make business decisions that limit this quality of their practice.  When making business decisions, consider how to sustain your practice’s agility and quickness to implement change.  With our economic slowdown, everyone is rethinking how they do business to thrive in this climate.  In response, implementing change could be like riding a jet ski for those in private practice, compared with navigating the Titanic for the behemoth hospital organizations or corporations.

To maintain quick and agile business practices during the economic slowdown, consider the following:

  1. Flexibility is an invaluable, intangible characteristic.
  2. Hire the person who offers to work a range of hours rather than the person who demands 40 hours per week from 9 am to 5pm.
  3. Avoid accruing large fixed costs, these will limit your ability to sustain a profit with highly variable revenue.
  4. Contracts with lengthy time commitments need hard consideration. Do you have a solid vision for where your practice will be in 12 months given our dynamic health care climate, let alone 3 or 5 years from now?


Bridget Morehouse PT, MBA is a consultant with Steffes and Associates, a rehabilitation consulting firm based in Wisconsin.


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