Author of The CashPT Blueprint; business owner, coach and podcast host helping healthcare entrepreneurs scale their time, income and impact.
When the economy takes a sharp downturn, as it has this year, you need to find new ways to stay profitable and keep your business afloat. You may be facing a new set of challenges specific to running a business during a pandemic-driven recession, but you can still draw on the creativity, flexibility and resilience that have helped you overcome problems in the past.
Through building a physical therapy practice and a consulting business over the last 11 years, I have learned some hard-won lessons. Here are four tips to help you survive and thrive amid economic ups and downs.
Question the status quo.
When I started my physical therapy clinic in 2009, during the last recession, I quickly realized that the standard approach to seeing patients and marketing my services weren’t going to work for me. Instead of going along with the status quo, I listened to my instincts and went in a different direction.
The traditional insurance-based model didn’t allow me to spend the time I wanted with patients, so I opted out of signing insurance contracts and developed a cash-based payment model. The marketing strategies that other physical therapists were teaching, like marketing to physicians, relying on referrals and buying expensive print ads, weren’t effective. I looked outside my industry for ideas – to personal trainers, for example – and adapted their marketing strategies to work for healthcare businesses.
Learn to question business practices or industry norms that don’t fit your vision. Why is this the way things are done? Who benefits? What else is possible? Explore other alternatives that make sense for your business and your goals.
Identify the new problems people are having.
During periods of change and uncertainty, the problems you solve for your customers may also shift. People aren’t working, shopping, socializing or going about their daily routines in the same way now that they were four months ago. Pay attention to these habit and attitude changes, and identify the new challenges your customers are struggling with. Start by listening to what they say, whether on the phone, in person or on social media, and then adjusting the message you use to communicate with them. What are they concerned about? What is getting in their way? What do they think is the problem – and is that accurate?
Before the coronavirus, PT patients would often come to me with an injury from playing a sport or working out. Now more patients have been complaining of soreness or stiffness related to their new routines. Maybe they are more sedentary working from home and need to incorporate simple exercises into their day. Or maybe they’ve been consumed by family responsibilities and haven’t had time to work out, and discovering activities they can do with their kids would help. We try to get to the heart of the problem they’re dealing with right now and looking for new ways to help them.
Be willing to pivot quickly.
An economic crisis changes the rules of the game, and you must be able to adapt swiftly. Before the pandemic, we saw nearly all of our patients in person at the clinic. We shifted to a telehealth model virtually overnight even before North Carolina issued a stay-at-home order in March. Some other clinics shut their doors until they could see patients face-to-face again, but it was more important for us to find a solution that would help the most people during a tough time. We’ve found that 85% of people get 85% of results via telehealth, which is far better than shutting down and not treating anyone.
When dealing with change in your business, be adaptable and willing to do things a bit differently, even if it’s not perfect. Translate your in-person service to a live video call, or build an e-commerce version of your brick-and-mortar store. Set aside ego and perfectionism, and look at it from your customers’ perspective. Would they rather have a solution that is good enough to meet their needs or nothing at all? Remember that some help is better than none.
Double down on what’s working.
Not every idea or strategy will be a success, but you have to be open to experimentation until you find something that works. When you do, run with it, even if it’s just for a short period of time. If a product or service is resonating with your audience, invest in it more. In the past, I’ve made the mistake of chasing the next great idea instead of doubling down on what people were already buying. Be sure you are spending your time and resources on what your customers actually want.
We are navigating a lot of unknowns in this economic crisis. Ensuring your business’ survival requires a level head, creative thinking, persistence and drive. Show customers your ability to adapt and solve their new problems, and you will demonstrate the long-term value of your business.