Measure What Matters: Once we started assigning a “number” to everyone in the company, things just got easier. A number isn’t always revenue; It could be requiring the front desk to get 2 google reviews from patients a day. Giving employees a goal to focus on helps encourage feedback. People want to know if they’re doing a good job and having this type of open communication allows you to be honest.
As a part of my interview series with prominent medical professionals about “How To Grow Your Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Allen.
Thomas Allen is President and founder of Practice Real Estate Group and Practice Transitions Group. He has been Lead Advisor on hundreds of transactions involving doctors expansion or sales of their businesses, and has served as principal in the investment of healthcare real estate.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell our readers a bit about your ‘backstory”?
I had a successful career as an advisor and broker working with doctors expanding, but I felt like there was a place in the market to be more than just your standard real estate agent. I had a vision that if I could get a team of people focused on helping doctors expand their businesses, it would create opportunities to create wealth for me, my team, and our clients.
I started like many small businesses: with just a small book of my own businesses. Since then, I’ve grown it by over 1000% by hiring the right employees and utilizing technology to help both our clients and ourselves scale.
Managing being a provider and a business owner can often be exhausting. Can you elaborate on how you manage(d) both roles?
I’d say this is the hardest part of my job. It’s a constant balancing act to work both in the business with clients, while working on the business to ensure success for our team and our clients.
The best thing I’ve done is hire and partner with operations and technology-focused people who are now partners in the company. I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without them. I have become a big believer in meeting rhythms and systemizing the business to focus on what really matters.
As a business owner, how do you know when to stop working IN your business (maybe see a full patient load) and shift to working ON your business?
You have to hire the right people within your company, and occasionally hire the right outside consultant/advisor as well. Making sure you block out time for this should be non-negotiable. That is your time to work on the business for yourself, and there’s nothing more important to the success of your business.
From completing your degree to opening a clinic and becoming a business owner, the path was obviously full of many hurdles. Is there a specific hurdle that sticks out to you?
Cash flow and hiring the right people. You have to make sure you have access to enough cash to keep expanding, and you have to hire the right people. I’ve lost so much money hiring the wrong people versus making the wrong investment in the business call.
How did you build up resilience to rebound from failures?
I wish I knew how I built resilience but I really don’t. Sometimes you just have to take it on the chin, laugh about it, and move on. I will say that I do try to be mindful of my social media use. They are filled with overnight success stories of multi-millionaires etc. The truth is that is rare, and if I just stay in the game and keep fighting for my own success, then it will pay off. I’ve always liked this quote from Teddy Roosevelt regarding resilience:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Grow Your Private Practice” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Understanding Your Customer: You have to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. We have helped all kinds of doctors open up practices and expand or sell. It wasn’t until we really drilled down and determined our ideal customer was the “entrepreneurial doctor” and spent our time trying to get in front of them, that things got “easier” around here. That isn’t to say that the entrepreneurial doctor is always a multi practice owner or private equity back (though we love those too.)
- We work with many first-time owners or sellers that are entrepreneurial but just in a different way. We spent too much time dealing with super scare or nervous clients that just weren’t entrepreneurial. They didn’t value our service and just sucked up our time.
- Marketing: It goes with understanding your customer but once again, you have to figure out what speaks to them and invest in it. We are generating significantly more business laser shooting after good customers.
- Technology: If you choose the right kind that works for your business, technology becomes your best friend. It has allowed us to scale and understand our business much better than before we were utilizing advanced CRMs, data tracking systems, and scorecards.
- Measure What Matters: Once we started assigning a “number” to everyone in the company, things just got easier. A number isn’t always revenue; It could be requiring the front desk to get 2 google reviews from patients a day. Giving employees a goal to focus on helps encourage feedback. People want to know if they’re doing a good job and having this type of open communication allows you to be honest.
- Location and Demographics: As a doctor, if you choose a location that doesn’t make sense, the chances of success are limited. We help people understand the best location for their practice, as it’s different for every business.
Many healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization”. How did you overcome that mental block?
Money doesn’t have to be what matters to you, but you can still bring in successful amounts. If you have a strong patient flow and fare morally-driven, the money will most likely come. The key is finding what brings in patients for your practice.
What do you do when you feel unfocused or overwhelmed?
I take the time to sit down and try to figure out what is making me feel that way, and how to solve it. I, like many others, can tend to procrastinate when something tough comes up, but I always try to remind myself that when I just sit down and face it, the results will come quicker and most of the time, it turns out okay.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career — None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
I can’t say I’ve ever had a “true” mentor, but I think I’ve done a good job of being able to find smart, credible people and learning from them. Many people in the company have a unique and insightful perspective on certain subjects, usually different from my own. Using this diversified way of thinking opens my mind to different ideas that I couldn’t have come up without them.
I also try to offer everyone I’m pulling knowledge from something of value in return. I enjoy deep conversations on complex topics and when I find someone similar, there is always something to learn.
What resources did you use (Blogs, webinars, conferences, coaching, etc.) that helped jumpstart you in the beginning of your business? Can you explain why they were helpful?
I’ve used blogs, Twitter, conferences, webinars, coaching, people with MBAs in the company. I’ve used nearly everything. I think you just have to immerse yourself into your business, and read and learn as much as you can about it. Not only will this give you valuable knowledge, but it can tell you if this is truly what you want to do in life.
In interviews like this one, people often ask about the best advice that one was given. I’d like to flip the script. What’s the worst piece of advice or recommendation you’ve ever received? Can you share a story about that? Was there a lesson or take away from that story?
Some may not agree with this, but I was told to really just focus on one thing and be an expert in it. They suggested I focus on advising doctors on real estate transactions. I said “No, I’m going to build a firm that advises on their expansion through real estate, how to build and own real estate, and how to maximize the sale of their business.”
As a result, we have a thriving real estate advisory business. I’d even argue we can maximize value on a practice sale better than anyone, and we’ve made millions of dollars developing real estate. We put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and help them execute. As a result we’ve provided huge success to our clients and ourselves.
Please recommend one book that’s made the biggest impact on you? Can you explain why that resonated so much with you?
“The E Myth,” by Michael E. Gerber — hands down. You have to learn to work on the business and not just in it. I am far from perfect at this concept, but keeping this top of mind helps you to become a business owner as opposed to “owning a job.”
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these great insights!