Chiropractic is unlike other businesses in that it seems to have spawned a parasitic industry of chiropractic consultants, coaches and advisors. Whether this is the fault of chiropractic colleges, fearful of being perceived as mere trade schools, or because it is a profession that confronts the mainstream notion of health care is hard to know. However, for $500 a month (and often for considerably more) you can secure a consultant happy to coach you on the finer points of practice success.
Choosing a practice consultant or management firm can be difficult. First, because there are so many of them, and second, because a successful choice depends on what you’re looking for. There appear to be five motives for hiring a consultant. Start your selection process by clarifying your motives.
1. Acquire practice management systems. If you’re a freshly-minted chiropractor and lack experience working in the field, you’ll need some help. You’ll be looking to systematize your practice, install predictable marketing and improve patient flow in your physical plant. A practice management company can be quite helpful. You’d want to ask for the names of clients, which they have similarly helped.
2. Purchase Discipline and Accountability. If you’re one of those chiropractors who has made the rounds and already know what to do, but seem powerless to implement all ideas, a consultant could be well worth the expense. Make sure the practice coaches you hire know that you’re looking for the nagging, browbeating and shame necessary to motivate you into action.
3. Belong to a Group of Like-Minded Chiropractors. I call this the “chiropractic country club” reason. If you feel isolated, alone, victimized by insurance companies and non-compliant patients, getting together for the quarterly seminars and rubbing shoulders with others similarly afflicted may produce a measure of comfort. Clearly, your choice of consultant will be based on their philosophy, meeting frequency, location and other aspects.
4. General Success Principles. If you’re a student of success, maybe even a seminar junkie, then it might be compelling reason to sign up with a practice consultant. Look for a group focused on self-development and who will provide leadership in the areas of self-esteem and essential success habits.
5. The Magic Wand. Sadly, the motive for adding the extraordinary expense of a practice coach for many chiropractors is vague and unclear. Their practice isn’t working as well as they would like and they are hoping someone can identify and fix it for them. These are the chiropractors who go from group to group with little to show for it except increasing doubt and resignation.
After you have clarity about your motives, it’s time to get to work and find a good match. Fortunately you can do this initial culling process without having to actually attend the usual complimentary teaser seminar and its accompanying heavy-handed sales overtures.
1. Get a referral. It works for patients searching for a chiropractor, and it can work for a chiropractor searching for a consultant. Ask as many trusted chiropractors as you know who they would recommend as a chiropractic coach. Be sure to ask specifically what tangible results the management company produced for them.
2. Ask for some referrals. When you get the list of potential candidate firms down to a manageable number, call and ask for some referrals. To avoid talking to their short list of ringers, be sure to specify that you want to talk to some chiropractors who were clients, but aren’t any longer. If they balk, it’s an important clue.
3. Interview the candidates. With your list narrowed to no more than three or four candidates, request an interview with one of the coaches. Speaking with the namesake of the company may not prove very helpful. You want to talk with someone in the trenches, on the phone, actually helping chiropractors. Do you sense a connection? Is this someone you could take direction from?
Keep in mind, they way a consulting firm shows up and attempts to “manage” you, is how they will teach you to manage patients. If their style leaves a bad taste in your mouth, rest assured you’ll be guilty of doing the same to your own patients.
Perhaps one of the most important dimensions of a good fit is when the consultant shares a similar worldview. I’m guessing you don’t want to change religions to get some practice guidance, nor do you want to be urged to deliver scripts or implement procedures that manipulate patients into doing something they don’t want to do. While these directives are often justified as “being in the best interests of the patient,” there is a heavy price that is paid when attempting to run roughshod over a patient’s free will, ultimately reducing referrals and stopping reactivations in its tracks.
Bottom line? A successful chiropractic practice does not require the implementation of advice that makes you feel dark inside. Yes, you’ll probably need to enhance your social skills and be willing to leave your comfort zone. And yes, you’ll want to show up coachable and actually implement the advice you’re paying for. Otherwise, why even hire a chiropractic consultant in the first place?
Bill Esteb is the creative director of Patient Media, a chiropractic supply and patient education products company for chiropractors. He provides one-hour ad hoc coaching calls for chiropractors looking for a chiropractic consultant, but without a long-term contract. His money-back guarantee provides assurance and confidence that the session will be practical and beneficial.