Building Your Practice through Stakeholder Relationships, Part I

Thomas E. Cavanaugh, DC, MBA

The reference to the word "stakeholders" refers to individuals or groups who can affect or are affected by a corporation's activities. In our field of chiropractic this means the staff, community, patients, attorneys, insurance industry, Chamber of Commerce, other local charitable clubs and any other organizations pertinent to your business.

What you do in and outside of your practice and how you do it will create a reputation amongst all of these stakeholders. The way you bill will be observed by the claims adjusters. The way that you fill out your reports and charge for your services will be scrutinized by the attorneys with whom you work. Your ability to treat and satisfy your patients will go by word of mouth throughout all of the community. Your method of employee management will ring loudly in your neighborhood. All that you do will slowly establish your future reputation. And it is that reputation that will be the deciding factor of your future success and failure.

Larger corporations have people and departments to deal with their stakeholders. They have a public relations department to deal with the media; a customer service department to handle the client's complaints; a marketing and advertising department to market and sell the product; a human resource department to take care of the employees; the purchasing department to handle the supplies; and a community relations department to deal with the affairs of the community. Guess what? As a solo small business owner you get to do it all by yourself! You wear all of the hats. You are the "go-between" between your office and your stakeholders.

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Developing the Stakeholder Relationship

Every chiropractic business relies on good relationships with their stakeholders and visa versa to experience mutual benefits. A good chiropractic office realizes that it cannot act independently from these outside relationships. They are mutually interdependent on one another. The stakeholders are to be nurtured and developed, and if you do not do it correctly you risk not being able to attain the success that you desire. It is vital that you as the doctor realize that the values and ethics that you possess will need to match the value of your stakeholders in order to develop great relationships.

Since we have entered into an era of mistrust and deception at the highest of corporate levels employees, clients and patients are less trusting. They tend to come into the workplace with skepticism of existent ethical behavior. They wonder about the type of corporate culture they are in and what it represents. They more quickly evaluate the mission statement to see if it is aligned with the morals and values of the employees through their words and actions. If you have such mistrust within your own office due to your business practices you will suffer negative financial consequences.

Ann Sevndsen, author of The Stakeholder Strategy, says "companies that are well managed and have strong stakeholder relationships tend to do better than those who are focused only on the bottom line." She sights a research paper studying the top fortune 500 companies done by Sandra Waddock and Samuel Graves from the Boston College Carroll School of Management that showed that great stakeholder relationships are associated with other positive characteristics, particularly strong financials.  In the study Corporate Culture and Performance by Harvard researchers John Kotter and James Heskett they pointed out that companies that responded to the needs and interests of the stakeholders showed four times the growth in sales.

How does that apply to you in a small chiropractic business? History repeats itself; and businesses, if modeled correctly or incorrectly will produce the same results. Taking care of those around you will go a long way with trust and loyalty to your office. For example, those chiropractors that has sound business practices will increase consumer support and alliance and thus increase community confidence. This type of confidence can only increase profitability through growth.

You may not be on the New York Stock Exchange but you have an invisible stock. The value of your company is measured in net revenues which come from consumer support due to their confidence in what you do as a doctor. That confidence will only come by your ethics, honesty, professionalism and by your focus on developing the good stakeholder relationships. Stakeholder consciousness is long term thinking. You are going to spend many years in your profession so consider today how you come across to your stakeholders. It will reward you or destroy depending on how well you manage this aspect of your practice.

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