The Numbers That Count – what happens next?

EOFY – End of Financial Year – a time for checking how your practice is traveling. The one time per year (for most of us) when we take an interest in the financial numbers of our business.

No longer a physical transfer, we deliver the electronic shoe box of invoices, bank statements, receipts, petty cash vouchers to our accountant where the alchemy occurs and columns of figures are produced which will mystically reveal our financial situation.

Well sort of.

Typically the financial reports will include a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet and a cash flow statement. These will form the basis for your company and personal taxation reports. Sadly they won’t tell you much about your financial future or the likely state of your business in three, six or twelve months.

The balance sheet will tell you about your debts and assets including cash holdings. The profit and loss will tell you how you arrived at this position, and the cash flow statement will inform you as whether you can afford to service your debts and finance your business growth. Or not. Mind you, most of as are only interested in the final number – how much tax is due and where can we find the cash we have allegedly accumulated to pay it.

These reports are historical in nature and necessary for financial compliance. However other numbers will be more useful for business planning and stability.

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There are some numbers hidden in your business data that may be more accurate lead indicators of future business growth than these financial compliance reports. You probably already record these numbers but may not be giving them the credit they deserve. And thus not allocating resources toward developing them.

For about five years I tried to measure as many variables in my physio practice as possible (much to the frustration of my long suffering staff). I measured attendance figures, referral patterns, satisfaction scores, cash flows, conversion rates, re-booking rates, medical record compliance, appointment saturation rates, work in progress indices plus many, many more. And then I looked for links, congruence and patterns. I analysed the raw scores and then indexed various scores against each other to search for hidden relationships. This search had a few goals but one was to identify key numbers that would predict ongoing work levels and thus cash flow and business growth.

I wish I could tell you I found a complex equation that I have trade marked and will sell you. But is was much simpler than that. And being a good bloke I am happy to save you five years of analysis and tell you the two of the critical numbers that best predicted how busy our clinic would be in the next three months or so. Not a long lead time, but it was a start.

Two simple numbers, easy to find, that correlated positively with appointment saturation rate and cash flow several months later.

It must be pointed out that for one of these numbers to operate as a lead indicator there is a condition to be met: the current number of treatments per episode of care must not decrease. Or if you are not in that type of industry, the current spend per customer encounter must not decrease.

So the two numbers:  here is the big reveal –

Firstly – the breadth of referrers. The more sources of new client/customer/patient referral on a consistent basis the more likely new work will continue to arrive. For most of us word of mouth referrals from satisfied clients is the best source and thus it is a constant for all practices and disregarded. But what about all the other sources of referrals? Not just medical but all sources. The more of these that are active the better your business is insulated from variations in any one or two of them. In other words, the less reliant you are on any single source. To qualify as a referrer the source must contribute at least two new clients per month.

Secondly – the number of new episodes of care commenced each week. These can be either new clients or previous clients returning for a different or recurring problem. This number depends on the number of clinicians in the clinic and you need to determine it for your own situation. As an example, when I had four physio and one massage therapy providers this number was 26 new episodes per week. Fewer than this number for a couple of weeks would result in a down turn in work about five or six weeks later. Knowing this gave me few weeks to crank up our internal marketing, ensure letters to referrers were up to date, put out a topical e-newsletter, review our return rates, remind staff of their KPIs in this area, schedule time off for me or one of the other physios in four weeks or so, or some other intervention that might arrest the decay or utilise the down-time.

These are just two of several really valuable numbers to monitor in your business. I share others in my various Practitioner Business Academy workshops but for the moment you have enough to work with.

All the best in your prosperity,

A/Prof. Craig Allingham APAM, MBA
Director, Practitioner Business Academy