Building Your Practice through Stakeholder Relationships, Part VII

Thomas E. Cavanaugh, DC, MBA

Putting it All Together
As defined in Part 1 of this series of newsletters, “stakeholders’ are individuals or groups who can influence or are affected by a corporation´s activities. In our field of chiropractic this would be staff, community, patients, attorneys, the insurance industry, Chamber of Commerce, local charitable clubs and any other organizations pertinent to your business.  In Parts II, III, IV, V, and VI we established the importance of “Patient’, “Supplier’, “Community’, “Political’ and “Employee’ stakeholder relationships.  In this issue, I will address prioritizing stakeholder relationships.

Prioritize Your Stakeholder Relationships
Today´s ever-changing health care environment makes building and nurturing stakeholder relationships vital to achieving and maintaining a highly successful chiropractic practice.  However, the many pertinent relationships, including attorneys, schools, civic organizations, political candidates, the chamber of commerce, churches, the community as a whole, employers, hospitals, insurance companies, local chiropractic association, etc., make prioritizing essential.  Doctors can easily accomplish this by working with their staff to determine which particular and specific stakeholders are beneficial to the success of the practice, to what degree and the best way to mutually work with each of them.  

Taking the time to be involved with stakeholders, will not only help you build your practice today, it will keep you informed and thereby better prepared to adjust your practice to meet tomorrow´s unique challenges.  We have seen major external environmental changes in our profession in the last decade.  Those doctors deliberately involved with their stakeholders, heard the forecast and trusted it with confidence.  They prepared and adapted their practices and procedures accordingly.  While the massive advent of HMOs and PPOs into the health care arena crippled and bankrupted many D.C.s, those doctors actively involved in their communities were able to keep their practices growing and thriving.   
Especially notable is that whether your stakeholder relationships are nurtured to further your business, or because you have caught the vision of becoming more socially responsible, doesn´t matter.  The results are the same.

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Involve Your Staff
Building and prioritizing stakeholder relationships does not have to be a solo act performed strictly by you, the doctor.  You will accomplish more and in less time by recruiting staff members to help.
If your budget will allow it, hiring a public relations coordinator to work part time in the office and part time outside the office is a good way to satisfy some of your strategic goals.   Be sure to consider the views and opinions of your staff when preparing assignments.    

Develop a Success Plan
Whatever you decide to do with stakeholders will require a commitment of time and money … don´t waste it … develop a strategic plan of action that will work for you and your practice.   Know what your goals are and exactly what you want in return.   In developing your plan, consider that the constraints on your practice may only allow periodic involvement by one or more of your staff members and a somewhat more regular involvement by you, the doctor.

To begin your plan, make a list of all your stakeholders. Next, evaluate the time and cost factors (dues and fees) for participating in them, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, the local Rotary Club, speaking engagements, community service, etc. Then consider what is called your “opportunity costs’ (those things that you must give up or pass up, time and/or money wise, in order to carry out your stakeholder plan).

Once you lay it all out on paper, it will become much clearer as to how you want to spend your resources.  Having established that, you can incorporate your social or stakeholder involvement in your written mission statement, stating your core beliefs and what you want to accomplish and do with your stakeholders.

You Can Make It Work
It is understandable that doing extracurricular things as I have suggested could be time consuming to say the least. But, you can do it if you organize yourself properly.

I opened at 7:00 am and closed at 7:00 pm. I was a local ecclesiastical leader for a congregation of about 500 members while I practiced for several years. I also visited the local Folsom prison three times a week for three years teaching and counseling with prisoners of my faith. And, my wife and I raised five beautiful children whose ages range from 16 to 24 who are all on their way to being successful, happy and without addictions. Were we lucky? Of course not! We planned it all out by setting forth our priorities. This is the same thing you do with your stakeholders. Prioritize, plan and schedule, act and be consistent!

The One Thing That Doesn´t Work
If you find it difficult to develop stakeholder relationships, it may be because you made a huge mistake from the beginning.  One important key to being a good stakeholder and creating great stakeholder relationships is this: LIVE IN THE TOWN WHERE YOU PRACTICE! If you live 20 minutes or more away from your practice you will find it virtually impossible to be adequately involved in the community and balance the other important aspects of your life.  Also, the community will not as well embrace you if you do not actually live there, making your job of building relationships a lot tougher.  If you want to build your practice and be known in your area, then live there.

Success in stakeholder relationship building will come to you when you believe it is important to your bottom line success, when you communicate its importance to your staff, when your staff understands their role in the process and when you prioritize your time and resources for the best results possible.  What are you waiting for?

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