How many days (or hours) per week is your practice operating? Say the answer is five days, or roughly 40 hours, per week. If you increased your availability to 50 hours a week—a 25% increase—do you think you’d see a corresponding 25% increase in patients and/or revenue? Probably not. If it were that easy to increase the financial metrics of your practice, you could stay open throughout the night, see insomniac patients and increase your revenue by nearly 400%.
The Financial Bottom Line
An increase in financial performance is not linearly related to the amount of hours your practice stays open. In the early 1900s, Henry Ford instituted the work week as we know it today—after deducing that 40 hours was the ideal amount of work time for maximizing productivity. In fact, he found that asking employees to work more than 40 hours decreased productivity. So, what would happen in your practice if, in the quest to achieve a better work/life balance, you decreased the hours your doors remained open?
Let’s consider an extreme example. Say a 40-hour-per-week practice suddenly reduced its weekly availability to 20 hours? Would you expect a corresponding 50% decrease in revenue? We wouldn’t. What we would expect is that each hour spent in the office would be significantly more demanding—probably not twice as busy, but certainly hectic. Also, with fewer available hours, the productivity per hour will increase—to a point. Obviously it is impossible to complete 40 hours of work in only one hour, for example.
If you could theoretically earn similar revenue in half the time, why do you have your current office hours? When we ask our clients this question, the most common answers suggest it is simply part of the routine or based on times that are most convenient for the patients. But, is that true?
Rethinking Office Hours
Let’s see if it is possible to find a few more productive and profitable hours for your practice without adding any extra time to your schedule.
• “That’s the way things have always been.” For entrepreneurial practice owners, those hours may have made sense 10 years ago—and, in fact, they may still make sense today. But, to continue to increase revenue, you must continually challenge the way you do things and make improvements, even if they are minor tweaks.
For example, think back to the last time you closed your practice early for a special event. Maybe last Thursday you ended the day at 3:30 pm, an hour and half earlier than usual, so you could attend your son’s baseball game. Was your office production decimated and/or did your patients write dozens of negative online reviews? Of course not, and that’s because no one noticed. Think back to the day after and you will likely remember that you were not measurably stressed or overwhelmed with piles of backed-up admin tasks. Why is that? It is because any extra details that you would have addressed during that time instead got absorbed into the rest of your daily schedule.
Following that logic, what would happen if you consistently closed on Thursdays at 3:30 pm? The odds are that, other than working fewer hours, not much would change financially. And, if you repurpose that extra time, at least initially, for management, you may even see an increase in your practice’s profits.
• “That’s when my patients want to come in.” Have you asked them? Start by asking your patients to complete a simple survey asking their preferred day and time to make appointments. A recent survey at one of our clients’ offices found that Saturday hours were not as big a draw as the practitioner believed, which easily answered the question about whether to stay open on Saturdays or not. And, in fact, after eliminating Saturday hours, there were no corresponding changes to the incoming revenue. Instead, the practitioner saw a savings in staff wages and an increase in personal quality of life with uninterrupted weekends!
While there is no one-size-fits-all model for every eye care practice, it is important to take the time to periodically reexamine the way you run your business. A few small adjustments can potentially make significant improvements in both your business and your personal life.