“How did it happen?” I asked gently.
“He said he was feeling a bit restless so he told me he was just going to go down stairs and sleep on the couch so he wouldn’t keep me up,” the recently widowed woman told me as she choked back the tears.
“I went down to wake him in the morning and he was gone. He died quietly in his sleep. He was only 54 years old,” she moaned as the tears started flowing.
“There were so many things we planned on doing but he loved his practice so much that he always said, next year we will get to that or some day we will travel there. I always thought there would be a next year,” she said as her voice trailed off to a whisper.
“I have no idea what to do with his practice now. Who will look after the patients? Who will look after the logistics and administration? Can we sell the practice and get someone to take it over? If we can, what is it worth and how do we get it evaluated? I have so many questions and I am really hoping you can help,” she pleaded.
Sadly, this is a true story that I was called in to assist with a few years ago but I know that variations of this story happen all the time in the chiropractic profession. I want to share what I feel are some key factors that all chiropractors should be considering and/or focusing on as they move through their professional career, so situations like the one I described above do not need to happen.
Chiropractic Succession planning
Most chiropractors I interact with share a proactive and preventative approach to health and well-being with their patients. They teach them the value of not just focusing on their health when they are symptomatic and achy, but to focus on their health on an ongoing basis.
They teach them to invest in good lifestyle habits like eating healthy, staying hydrated, stretching and exercising, cleansing toxins from their bodies, managing mental stress and being conscious of their thoughts and feelings.
Yet, many docs don’t apply this same headspace to their practice and as a result they do not have a succession plan.
Succession planning is wise for several reasons:
- ensures continuity of service for your patients and community
- provides an opportunity for legacy transition to younger practitioners of the massive body of knowledge and skill experienced chiropractors have developed
- provides a way to protect your family from the confusion and stress of dealing with the business aspect of evaluating and selling your practice
- provides a way for you to maximize the return on investment from the sale of your practice
Continuity of service
There is no doubt that every chiropractor reading this article realizes the phenomenal gift of service they provide their community. The essential primary health-care service we offer our communities is vital for not only the alleviation of suffering and pain but for the maximization of health, vitality and human potential.
If taken to the extreme, it could be reasoned that not having a succession plan translates to not serving your community at the highest level or even to selfishness.
Regardless of your philosophical slant on chiropractic, your community learns to know and trust the level of service your clinic provides. They count on you being there when they feel they need your care. Without a succession plan the continuity of care for those wellness and prevention oriented patients is not there. Without the vital component of an optimally functioning nerve system in their personal health plan, their health and well-being will regress and the great service you provided them will be minimized or lost.
Without a continuity plan the patients that are more symptomatically focused will not have your clinic to turn to in their time of need. As a result, they may suffer longer and/or turn to other forms of treatment, like medications, that will not offer them the same value, and might even be harmful for them.
Ensuring we are thinking about the health and well-being of our communities for generations to come and not just during our short time on this planet, is the highest level of service we can provide, and succession planning ensures this.
Transition your chiropractic legacy
The education of a successful chiropractor is an ongoing process. Certainly, the education we received at university gave us the base level skills and experience necessary to go out and practice chiropractic in our communities. However, speaking for myself, my real education in chiropractic began the day I started practice and has never really ended.
Learning advanced adjusting skills, learning about nutrition and supplementation, learning the newest and best exercise and stretching techniques, learning how to help people manage stress, learning how to listen and really connect with people, learning how to educate patients effectively, learning how to train and manage a team, learning basic business practices are just a handful of the skills and experience necessary to run a successful practice and serve your community at the highest level.
Most chiropractors I speak to undervalue the vast and broad knowledge they have accumulated over their many years of practice. They assume that all chiropractors have been as dedicated to the art, science and philosophy of chiropractic as they have been, and know what they know and do what they do. Sadly, that is not always true particularly for the less experienced and/or younger chiropractors in the profession.
Passing on this legacy of knowledge and experience to a younger and/or less experienced chiropractor is not only a gift to them but also a gift to your family and the community at large.
Your family will never have to endure the chaos and confusion that the family I referenced at the start of this article had to endure if you have a chiropractor on the team that can step in and take over things on short notice.
Your community will continue to experience the same high level of care and service they have become accustomed to, because you chose to pass on the legacy of knowledge and experience you have gained to a junior member of the profession. Any way you look at it, legacy transition due to careful succession planning is just wise.
Protect your family
Living consciously in your ideal and intending to live a long and healthy life are helpful mindset components for longevity. However, as I found out last spring when I was suddenly dumped into the icy waters of an early spring lake I was fishing, stuff does indeed happen and you never truly know how long you are going to be here on the planet.
Most chiropractors’ families have a cursory understanding of the business aspects of running a successful practice at best. The details and complexities of evaluating and successfully transitioning a practice to someone outside of the existing team is something that most families have neither frame of reference nor skills for. The stress and chaos this creates for them is intense, and certainly something no loving chiropractor would ever consciously wish for or choose to thrust their family into.
The value of having a carefully thought out succession plan is the greatest insurance you can provide to protect your family from this unnecessary stress and confusion.
Maximizing return on investment
Our practices are analogous to our children in many ways. We have gestated, birthed, guided, directed and helped them grow over the years. We have invested enormous amounts of blood, sweat and tears into their development, and just like with children, the more energy we put into their development, the more potential there is to enjoy and maximize the return on the investment in the future.
The two basic components of the value of a practice are the depreciated assets and the goodwill. Goodwill is a wide ranging variable in evaluating a chiropractic practice but there are at least 15 components that can be reviewed, evaluated and optimized to ensure you get the most value for your practice when it is time to sell. Knowing the strengths and growth opportunities in these 15 areas of your practice allows you to grow your practice and optimize the reproducibility of the outcomes in your practice.
Reproducibility of profit is the bottom line in the evaluation of any business and the more reproducible your profit is the more value you will get out of the blood, sweat and tears you have invested in your practice.
Succession planning is a key and vital factor in serving your community optimally, passing the torch of knowledge and skill you have developed, protecting your family and maximizing the return on investment from your business.
It is my intent in writing this article that more chiropractors will consider the value of succession planning and take the steps necessary to have a solid and competent plan for the value it provides them, their families and the communities and culture we all love and serve.
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