by Denise Altman RN, IBCLC
Many (most?) business owners are feeling stuck after all of the challenges of 2020. It’s hard to be creative or inspired when hit with wave after wave of difficulties. When your energy is used for frequent adaption, it seems like that is nothing left for anything else. So what to do?
Any large or overwhelming task should always be managed with baby steps.
Clean Up Last Year
The basic act of getting your accounting records up-to-date can create a positive sensation of productivity, and may even be energizing.
Begin with the paperwork. This may be boring, alarming, or something you usually avoid. However, evaluating the health of your business is the first step. You do this by making sure all of your revenue and expenditures have been entered into your bookkeeping system to finalize your Profit and Loss (P&L) statement. That means pulling those crumpled receipts out of your desk drawer and reconciling your bank statements. You should also review your itemized credit card bills to ensure that everything has been entered on your expense sheet. The same goes for Venmo, PayPal, or any other e-purchase app you may use. While you are on those sites, compare your transfers to your revenue sheet. Finally, check your mileage. There may not be much this year, but make sure all of your business miles are accounted for, because this can add up.
Whether you use small business software or your own spreadsheets, your P&L statement should be linked to your accounting documents so that your totals will auto-populate. The P&L is where you will get the financial details of your business. Once your update is complete, take a good hard look at your expenses. Some will be fixed such as office rent, phone, internet, and other basic overhead needs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be changed. Whether you are operating at a loss or profit, it’s still important to evaluate your costs to determine if they can be reduced. Perhaps there is a cheaper phone service that continues good coverage? Budget bloggers can be a great resource for cost comparison, but feedback from other small business owners is helpful as well; especially with practice-specific items.
While you are closing out the old year, do a physical inventory on your supplies. Many businesses will let stock run low for tax reasons, but IBCLC’s should maintain pars, or minimums. This is to avoid supply chain issues that can impact the ability to give good care while running a cost-contained business. Pars can be a hard thing to judge, but in general, I would recommend keeping enough supplies to last for at least three months at your average patient numbers. Supply inventory ties up capital so this area requires ongoing monitoring.
The next step is to sit in a quiet, comfortable space for a personal brainstorm session. Think about your dreams and ideas, along with things you want to accomplish. Now is not the time to figure out how, or even to be realistic, these are just thoughts. Write them or type, whatever allows you to freely express yourself. If you are hesitant or having trouble getting started, give yourself a 20 minute time limit to make a wish list. Remember, there aren’t rules or “can’ts” for this step.
Once you have your list, it’s time to narrow down. To determine which ideas should be explored further, you must prioritize. Simply number each item, starting with one and use that for the most important thing on your list. Take your time with this step. For example, you may have the following things listed: speak at a conference, offer a fixed price postpartum package, and create an online support group. Out of those three, speaking may be your number one choice although the package may be your best option for improving your revenue. Go with your heart on this round, because that will ultimately help you clarify your goals.
Once you have your numbered list, compare it to your P&L and ask yourself the hard questions because now is the time for reality.
- Can you afford to expand or change?
- Will this idea benefit your business?
- Does it meet your mission?
- How much will this cost in terms of time and money?
This step may be where your priorities alter and some ideas may be set aside, at least for now. Take an honest look at what you can manage, based not only on your revenue, but also your time, other resources, and commitments.
Reprioritize your list if necessary based on your answers. Next, narrow your ideas down to only one or two things from your list, educate yourself on what you need to know to accomplish your goals, and then create a detailed timeline. Make sure to incorporate any needed knowledge acquisition within the timeline.
Finally, identify the specific resources you need for your goals. Money is likely to be the first thing on your list, so try to determine exactly what it will cost you. For example, if your goal is to offer the postpartum package, you will need to create a plan for marketing. Your associated marketing costs may include internet advertising, rack cards to distribute in medical offices, or flyers for prenatal classes. Hidden costs such as changes in productivity should be included in your estimates as well.
Investing the desk time to assess the health of your business first, followed by a surge of creative thinking can lead to the right balance for stability and growth when making decisions. It’s also a great way to renew your passion for your practice.
Denise’s lactation story:
Denise Altman has been an IBCLC since 1998 with a broad range of patient care and leadership experience in the lactation community; including hospital, pediatric office, lactation medicine clinic, and private practice. She has authored numerous articles for parents and healthcare professionals, as well as two clinical monographs. In 2013, Denise began offering business coaching along with freelance writing, course development, and public speaking; her practice name is Denise the LC. She is highly motivated to help others grow within the profession, and created a video titled The IBCLC Project (YouTube) to promote and support IBCLCs.
The content of this post does not imply endorsement and may not reflect the position of USLCA.