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If you have a goal of practice growth in 2018, the analysis and planning you do now is vital.

Essentially there are five ways to grow your dental business:

1. Convert your existing patients to existing treatments or services

 2. Convert your existing patients to new treatments or services

 3. Increase the number of new patients

 4. Increase your fees

 5. Buy a list of patients / goodwill of a practice

So which areas should you prioritise? If you haven't already considered this, here are FIVE key questions to ask yourself :

1. What marketing is working for your business?

Take a look at where your new patients have come from in 2017 (if you don't measure this I urge you to prioritise creating a system for doing so), then consider:

• Can you improve the amount you are generating via your existing patients?

A simple calculation of your active patients versus the number of patients who recommend you can be revealing. Make the calculation and consider whether you are happy with the percentage of patients who are currently generating new patients for you. If not, take a look at your patient recommendation systems.  Do your patients actually know they can recommend you?

·         Can your patient journey be improved to provide more remarkable moments for patients?

·         Can you stop paying for advertising or other marketing which doesn't generate new patients for you?

·         Can you redirect these funds to create more promotional materials which help you talk about your treatments with existing patients?

2. What price rises should you make in 2018?

Your business costs have undoubtedly risen over the last few years. Your accounts should clearly illustrate this increase for you.

If you don't systematically review your prices each year to identify those fees which should be increased, you fail to redress this balance and your subsequently profit margins reduce.

A mystery shop exercise can be very useful. This involves someone calling your closest competitors as a potential new patient. It gives you an impression of how your patient experience and prices compare with your rival practices.

Formerly the domain of the retail sector, this exercise is now being used frequently in the dental sector. Chances are your practice has already been 'mystery shopped' more than once, so you should have no qualms about using it to your advantage too.

With knowledge comes confidence. Perhaps there are opportunities for you to raise the price of larger treatments if you are worried about increasing your fees for exams and hygiene appointments. Some dentists do both. Just make sure you complete the exercise annually in order to highlight the opportunities you have, rather than simply seeing your costs rise and doing nothing to balance these additional outgoings with extra income.

It makes sense to consider this in advance and make any price rises in line with the start of the financial year for your business.

3. What untapped profit potential do you already have?

Which of these still have potential for you:

·         What potential do you have to convert more patients to other dental services, such as hygiene or cosmetics? 

·         Have you assessed the working structure in your business to match your revenue to profit?

·         Can your exam and hygiene patient recall rates be improved further?

4. What is your 2018 marketing strategy?

When you review the key areas of profit potential you reveal opportunities to improve systems and carry out specific projects to drive the growth of your business. You create your marketing strategy.

It's important to collate these actions into a plan for 2018.  The earlier you do this, the more of the year remains to take the action and generate growth.

A key part of your Practice Manager's role should be managing this plan for you, so you can make the most of your own time. For smaller and sole practitioner businesses, Clarke McEwan can also stand in place of a practice manager for you.

Now is a good time to meet with us to agree a plan at the start of the year and make reviewing the plan progress a standard part of your meetings with us.

Your marketing strategy will dictate some of the Key Performance Indicators you should track throughout the year via your plan. And it should ultimately contribute to achieving your business vision.

5. Are you capturing the stories you create for your patients?

Giving your patients confidence in a healthier, fresher mouth creates a difference to them. So does giving them a brighter, straighter smile.

A key part of the process of promoting the 'magic' in what you do is capturing and sharing these stories with potential new patients.

Make sure you create a system with your team to identify and capture these stories. In marketing terms they are worth their weight in gold.

Need to discuss your 2018 strategy? We are always happy to talk to practitioners and you are welcome to call us on 07 5475 4300 for an obligation free chat.

Read more…

 One of the most important aspects of building a successful medical practice concerns creating a solid staff of qualified medical professionals as well as a team of management and administrative professionals that can help operations run smoothly.

The best medical practice management teams are made of up of a diverse group of professionals that can actively contribute to the success of the organization.

In many larger practices, these teams are made up of representatives from all aspects of the practice – from business managers to nurses and medical specialists. 

For smaller, private organizations and sole practitioners, practice management usually falls into the hands of the head physician or the sole medical manager who may be too busy to devote time to such an important role.  This is where we come in.  

Clarke McEwan provides a range of accounting and tax services and we assist your staff in creating and maintaining procedures that will ensure your interactions with the tax office are accurate and timely. 

 Our professional accounting staff, administrative team and tax bookkeeping staff can advise on procedures such as billing, Business Activity Statement preparation, income tax lodgement, whether the use of a structure for trading is advisable, and other practice related concerns.  

 For growing organizations, an important aspect of practice management is to recognize when there is a need to consult additional professionals, especially when it comes to finance and taxation

When you are investing a significant amount of time and money in staffing and procedures a medical practitioner needs to be sure the processes reflect both the nature of the practice, and any contracts you have entered into.

 

Clarke McEwan recommends a review of your organization to ensure your systems provide accurate reporting.

How to manage the pressures of family finances

A creative's approach to making money work

 

When you're busy running your own business, personal finances and business finances can become inter-related. For creative agency director Shani Langi, successfully managing both is a question of balance.

 

Shani started her business Usual Suspects, a live experience and events agency, in 2016 after working in creative agencies for more than 15 years.

 

"When I was a CEO, I learned all the things to watch out for. Balance is one thing I think about all the time. It's not only the bank balance, it's all the things that make up a good business."

 

She says the best advice she got when starting Usual Suspects was "if it doesn't directly make you money, outsource it."

 

Hiring a bookkeeper and financial adviser helps Shani validate the business plan and implement a strong financial system.

 

"We tried a few systems, and we now use Workamajig for all our financial reconciliation and reporting, and Xero for payroll. We couldn't go back to Excel."

 

She says visibility is very important, so she looks at the reports all the time. "We can look at the big picture and the granular detail. That helps me have more confidence, I've learned to trust my instincts."

 

The key is to get the number-crunching done by somebody else so we can focus on what really drives our business – our relationships and creativity. Money is just the enabler.

 

Usual Suspects' financial system also makes the team more efficient. "We can turn things around really quickly, and we all know what's happening. We're all working mums, so we need to be as productive as possible because we've got other priorities as well as the business."

 

"The key is to get the number-crunching done by somebody else so we can focus on what really drives our business – our relationships and creativity. Money is just the enabler."

 

Shani also puts balance first when it comes to the personal lives of her team.

 

"When we started the business, we wanted to be able to make our own rules. Work/life balance is so hard to achieve. So as a business we're closed on Mondays."

 

Everyone who works with Usual Suspects has to embrace having a four day a week job, Tuesday to Friday.

 

For Shani and her husband, a musician and radio presenter, finding balance with two young children is also about working out priorities.

 

"He has flexible hours, so we can juggle the family. But now we have to be realistic about spending and saving. I'll admit I love spending, but with two mortgages I have to be really strict. So we have two bank accounts: one for fun spending, and one for all the necessities – mortgage, bills, kids and a bit of saving if we can."

 

When her first child was born, Shani didn't think they'd ever be able to buy in Sydney so they bought an investment property on NSW's far south coast.

 

"We'd saved enough to do that, and we kept renting. But then one day our landlord told us he was selling. I was seven months pregnant. So we decided to bite the bullet and buy in the same neighbourhood."

 

She admits it was hard. "It was a huge step in financial accountability. It literally doubled our housing costs, and so we really needed to start planning rather than just 'see how we go at the end of the month'.

 

Travel is important to this family. "We do have an overseas holiday every year – it not only gives us downtime, it bonds us. We want to make the children as worldly as possible."

 

Using two accounts allows her to prioritise the 'fun stuff' with the realities of managing a household budget. Shani also uses Macquarie's banking app to track her spending.

 

"I really like the technology – I think Macquarie is on the front foot here as a nice alternative to the big four. The app is fun – who knew banking could be exciting, but it is!"

 

One of her favourite features is the tax coding for expenses. "You can just tick whether it's tax deductible or not – at the end of the year, you can pull a report. It's really amazing and a huge time saver."

 

"The interest rate is competitive. I think as a bank, Macquarie is quite unexpected. I also love their philosophy about empowering people's lives."

 

With her husband now setting up his own business, these creative professionals are adding another priority to balance.

 

"I think, looking back, I'd probably tell my 25 year old self to value experiences over things. I never regret all the travel we've done, but I've learned now material things don't matter. It would have been good to have saved a bit more, but we'll be more cautious now as we've got other priorities."

 

She says she expects her bank to be an 'enabler' – not just financially, but in saving time too. This support makes it easier to find balance across all the different priorities of her life.

 

CPA Australia interviewed more than 2900 small business owners in eight markets in its annual survey of small businesses in the Asia-Pacific and the findings provide some quick reference points for the DOs and DONT's in growing a small business.

The factors that had the most positive impact on businesses over the past 12 months were strongly   "people-focused" with the categories of  'customer loyalty', 'good staff' and 'improved customer satisfaction' showing a rating of 38% or higher, whether or not the business grew.

However, the businesses that grew strongly were significantly more likely to say that 'improved customer satisfaction', 'improved business strategy' and 'improved business management' had a major positive impact on their business.

Among those small businesses showing significant growth, the focus tended to be on innovation, e-commerce, social media, training and exporting and were more likely to reach out to existing and potential clients through social media and e-newsletters and thereby make it easier for consumers to buy online.

Those businesses were also prepared to invest in staff and increased training as their firms expand.

Following on from the survey, we've prepared a quick list of the DOs and DON'Ts for growing your business:

DO

Innovate - offer new technology and products or services

Ask for outside advice - Consult your financial adviser a couple of times a year

Plan and measure your progress - Map out the future

Hire the best and keep them engaged - Offer stimulating work and a positive culture

Build strong relationships - Work out where yours are and nurture them

 

DON'T

Don't rely on too few customers - reach out through social media

Don't underestimate the importance of effective financial management - Use your accountant and adviser to best advantage

Don't leave contingency planning too late - Plan for the slow times during the good times

Don't ignore what is happening in your market - keep up with technology and production advances

Don't wait too long to get help - Seek assistance from accountants, planners and bankers

 

In short, confident businesses are significantly more likely to undertake the activities that will help them grow over the long term.

 

For a confidential discussion about how your business might benefit from advice, contact us or book a consultation.

How to Get More Done in Less Time

Have you ever spent all day working, but at the end, after at least eight hours of straight desk time, you have nothing to show for it? How is that even possible? And how can you fix it?

By doing something unexpected: working for less time. It sounds backwards, but working less can up your productivity. As more demands are placed on you and your life gets busier, you often compensate by working harder and for longer periods of time. Instead, you need a smarter system that allows you to get more work done per hour. And to do that, you need to remove the activity that clouds your mind and slows you down: multitasking.

The human brain is not built to multitask. Ask someone to walk fast in a straight line and solve a difficult math problem; their walking speed will slow down while they try to calculate the answer.

When you do two things at once, your brain is "context switching." When you stop doing task #1 to start task #2, you have to mentally bookmark what you were doing and where you were to then come back after you finish task #2 to start task #1 again. This confusing chain of events is called a context switch-and just like a computer, your brain slows down when you give it multiple commands at once.

Many people live in a "mixed mode"-they're not fully focused on work, but they're not completely switched off, either.

It slows them down, burns them out and drains them of all their energy.

Signs You're Stuck in Mixed Mode:

1. You work until you're distracted. You work on one task until you get side-tracked, then you start a new task until your attention is diverted again. You have trouble focusing.

2. You are always multitasking and never fully disconnecting. You're at a social dinner but you talk about work, or you're at home with your family but you check emails constantly. You never completely relax and recover, so you feel tired all the time.

3. You don't tend to work on tasks until they are 100 percent complete. By ignoring the mental cues that you need to take a break, you run down your mental energy faster. When your concentration evaporates, you don't have the energy to reboot, so you get stuck in mixed mode.

Our bodies have natural "work and rest" cycles built into them. A runner who runs without rest will damage their body, but a runner who over rests will become weak. The solution? To run and cause a little stress to the body, then have a period of rest where the body recuperates and makes itself stronger.

The secret to personal performance is to work in a similar way. If you work without breaks, you will burn out-mentally and physically. But if you unplug too often, your performance will weaken. So to maximize your output, you need to focus your working time in 90-minute chunks ("focus mode") and follow up with 30-minute breaks ("stop mode").

You should try to get your first "focus mode" completed as early in the day as you can-logging 90 minutes of focused, uninterrupted work first thing will give you something substantial to show with just one session.

Next up will be your first "stop mode"-that 30-minute period where you're completely disconnected from work. The idea is to switch gears, to switch modes. So get away from your desk. Don't even think about work. Unplug and unwind. When you come back to your work, you should feel recharged.

If you run the "focus mode" session four times a day, you'll get six solid hours of work done, which is much better for you than working eight straight hours. And it's definitely better than eight straight hours of being in the "mixed mode."

Your thoughts will feel clearer because you're focused. You'll feel more energetic because you're not wasting your energy in the mixed mode any more. And you'll get more work done in less time.

Getting out in front with your business

Remember when you were excited about running your own business because you got to do the type of work you always wanted to do?  

Have you turned into the night owl who stays up until all hours balancing the books and spreadsheets?  If you want to escape, read on...

 

It's a scenario we often see when a business owner first comes to see us for advice.  They tell us that they absorb some of the expenses of running their own business by handling the accounts themselves, but there is a big cost in taking this approach because the very person who should be out there "front and central" as the face of the business is stuck in the back room with the spreadsheets.  

According to a report based on research from the International Federation of Accountants, using accountants is linked to better performance and higher profits for business. Those business owners who are doing their own accounting are not only adding frustration (and sleepless nights) to their lives but compromising their bottom line profitability as well.

Too often people associate accountants only with tax returns. However, Clarke McEwan prides itself on its business advisory role.  With regular financial "check-ups" about business performance we can analyze your accounts and see trends that might identify opportunities that would otherwise be missed, or prevent risks before they lead to disasters.

 

We have also found our clients can benefit from accounting and tax advice that has proven to work for similar businesses. 

 

Then there is the benefit of another point of view:  once you come on board we know your objectives and we can quickly see when your business practices are getting off track or are no longer aligned with your goals.

 

We also communicate with your staff and managers about how to improve business performance by developing inherent and sustainable values.

Expert analysis of your business leads to better decision-making and helps you to apply your vision more effectively. Global trends in every field have shown that businesses of all sizes, and even in all places, have better performance when using an accountant.    Accountants are experts in financial management, not just taxes, and this expert knowledge can be used to help your business thrive. 

If you are looking for ways to apply your goals and values to your business's financial decisions, we are here to help. Our Business advisory service gives you the advantage of having an expert on-board, while allowing you to focus on your vision for your business.

Talk to Clarke McEwan about how we can increase your performance and help you get out from underneath your spreadsheets.

Spring Cleaning the Finances for a healthier Christmas

While spring is usually associated with a clean-up at home, the co-founder of a payment collection agency believes it is an important time for businesses to do the same and get their finances in shape ahead of the busy Christmas period.

Smell that? It's the seasonal bouquet of spring time, bringing with it the perfume of blooming flowers, the earthy fragrance after rain, and the heady odour of freshly cut grass. It also brings with it the smell of opportunity.

Spring heralds the fact that Christmas is around the corner, and it's the time of year when you need to have capital available to buy more stock, pay seasonal workers' wages, and build up cash reserves before companies shut down for the holidays and recovering debts becomes much harder.

With one in two Australian businesses owed more than $20,000 on overdue invoices, putting effort into this area can make a material difference to your business' bottom line.

Unclogging cash flow entails taking stock of all of the overdue invoices, organising them by due date, and then tackling them one by one – with the oldest invoices receiving your immediate attention.

Remember: as an invoice ages, the cash becomes harder to recover, and the probability of making a collection decreases

As part of this debt spring clean, you'll need to prepare a log of all previous communications undertaken with each client in relation to the debt. This includes the date they received the first bill, who it was addressed to, and any subsequent interactions.

An audit trail of communications will help you counter the top two debtor excuses: "I never got your invoice" and "You should have reminded me to pay."

Each debt needs to be dealt with on a case by case basis. Generally, using different forms of communication as the debt ages is the recommended course of action.

Start with an email reminder two weeks after the invoice due date, with copies of the overdue invoices attached, and give your customer a reasonable time to respond. At this stage, you might agree on a payment plan if your customer is experiencing cash flow problems.

If that doesn't bear any fruit, follow up with a text message one to two weeks later (SMSes have a very high read rate). Otherwise, email a second payment reminder. Even better if debtors can click on a 'Pay Now' button from your invoice or reminder, as it removes friction from the process and enables them to settle the bill instantly.

Two reminders should be plenty in terms of flushing out payment, but if the money still hasn't landed in your bank account, it's time to work the phones.

If you've been dealing with a generic accounts receivable email address rather than a specific person, you'll need to identify the best person to chase at the business.

But what if you've done all of the above, and still haven't had any luck?

The next step is sending a debt collection letter, also known as a letter of demand. This is considered a more formal follow-up, and is typically sent with your business' letterhead.

Recently, the acceptable time frame for sending a debt collection letter has reduced from 90 days to 60 days from when the invoice is due.

You may also want to consider outsourcing collection of the debt to a debt collection agency. This agency works as an agent of your business to collect overdue debts, and is typically paid a fee or percentage of the total amount collected.

Whether to go down this route depends on a number of factors. If it's come to the point that your business is running out of cash, then calling in the professionals may well be a worthwhile investment, despite the fees involved. The beauty of a debt collection agency is that it has the resources to keep the ball rolling when your own in-house collections have stalled.

Another good reason to hire a debt collection agency is that they're one step removed from your business. While personal relationships with suppliers and customers can sometimes make it difficult to have that hard conversation regarding money, external agencies don't have that issue.

Finally, if your debtors have gone into hiding, and aren't returning phone calls or responding to letters and emails, debt collection agencies have a number of means at their disposal for tracking people down.

Ultimately, prevention is better than the cure

Once you've gone through your cash flow spring clean, it's worth ensuring that you have an effective debt collection strategy in place to stop overdue invoices spiraling out of control.

A pre-planned strategy will include your process for following up overdue debts, your time frame to escalate to management, and the third-party agencies (like legal and debt collection agencies) that you will call on as needed.

If this is applied consistently with every customer, it sends the message that your accounts receivable house is in order, and reduces the likelihood that debtors will drag their feet when it comes to future invoices.

Business Identity Theft

Individuals have long been warned about personal identity theft and advised to keep information such as passwords, their tax file number and bank account details as closely guarded secrets.

However, the ATO has recently warned that thieves can target unsuspecting small businesses and the information that is stolen can be used to commit various crimes.

Once a business identity is stolen it may be used to commit tax fraud, create other fake business entities, lodge fraudulent GST claims, and take out loans.  The identity thieves might then have access to a business entity's information, and through this, gain the opportunity to further employee personal information, tax file numbers, bank details from payroll data, super fund details and personal addresses.

The ATO says considerable time and effort is required to restore a business's identity, amend credit profiles and sort out financial arrangements, so the best protection is prevention.

The following steps be used to protect your business  from identity theft (and of course you personally as well):

  1. secure your business files and employee information when these are not in use
  2. regularly change all passwords (and don't use passwords that may be easily guessed, such as the business name itself)
  3. ensure that the business's principal and staff log out of systems and lock computers when they are not in use
  4. make sure that your computers and other devices have up-to-date security and anti-virus software.  If in doubt, consult an IT expert.  Clarke McEwan recommends that the cost of a small  IT consulting fee may significantly save you the repercussions of identity theft.

If you are concerned that your identity may have been compromised, the ATO would like to hear about it (Call the Client Identity Support Centre on 1800 467 033).

 

Why Doctors Should Think about Outsourcing the Bookkeeping part of their Business

Running a one-man-band type of business sounds great on paper, because if you do everything yourself, you don't need to pay anyone. That's the main reason why so many doctors choose that kind of approach when it comes to running their offices.

But ... is this path really the best one to take considering that being a doctor of medicine typically doesn't involve any kind of business training

 

Doctors tend to be rather dedicated people, that goes without saying. The training process that takes place before they receive their licenses can be long and tedious, and it takes a substantial amount of willpower to make it that far. Regardless of that, however, understanding medicine is only one aspect of the business that doctors need to know.

Truth be told, it's hard to be an expert in more than one field, and running a successful business typically requires you to either know multiple things, or start outsourcing the tasks you're simply running out of time to do or lack the skills they require. Luckily, hiring someone else to do them for you is the answer to both of these situations.

Expenses don't need to be sky-high, especially if you do your due diligence and search the market to find an employee who has all the needed skills and is willing to share them for a reasonable price. And by hiring someone to take care of the tedious part of your business like bookkeeping, finances, and dealing with insurance companies, you will be able to devote more time to doing the things you love, and your patients will appreciate it as well.

Given the fact that there are only a limited amount of hours in each working day, it's important to manage them wisely. If you're trying to tackle too many things at once, especially those that don't exactly fall under your main field of expertise, how are you going to manage them all?    Furthermore, things such as bookkeeping and finances really have little to do with the field of medicine.  It's not realistic to expect a doctor to be proficient at both. But by sacrificing just a little bit of monthly profits by hiring an employee who's going to handle it all for you, you're not only gaining additional time for yourself, but also getting a massive stress relief.

Bookkeeping can quickly get very technical, and trying to do it all yourself (and doing it incorrectly as a result) can open you up to several penalties if the inspection decides to visit your medical practice one day. You want to avoid this at all costs, because these kinds of actions against you can quickly end up costing you a lot of money, likely much more than you would have paid for your employees in the entire year.

Doctor's are better off outsourcing elements of the business, like bookkeeping and finances.  Not sure where to begin?  Call us at Clarke McEwan and we will put you in touch with a qualified tax bookkeeper who knows the ropes.

Financial Planning for Doctors

Financial planners are often the first point of contact for doctors seeking advice on investment.  A specialist medical financial adviser has the expertise to help you achieve your goals and objectives by tailoring strategies to specifically address your needs.

At Clarke McEwan we have the knowledge and skills to provide you with assistance and guidance on:

  • Education – By building your knowledge and confidence we can help you achieve a better understanding of your investments and other key financial matters.
  • Budgeting – Part of our strategies are to identify opportunities to manage debt and save money. For a review of your finances and how these measure up, contact us now.
  • Estate planning – We will also work proactively with our network of estate planning professionals to show you how best to structure your assets to benefit your estate.
  • Insurance – One of our most sought after services is assistance is in guiding clients through the maze of insurance options available to protect you, your family and your assets in the event of illness, injury, disability or death.
  • Retirement planning – helping you find answers to those complex questions such as: "Will I be able to retire comfortably now?"  "How much money do I need to retire?" and "What do I need to do before I retire?"

A well-qualified financial planner for doctors can help alleviate the worry and stress associated with your finances, leaving you with more time to enjoy life. To book an obligation free appointment about financial advice click here or call Clarke McEwan on 07 5475 4300, and our specialist financial advisers will begin to assist you in planning a better future for you and your family.


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