In the age of austerity, and ever tighter NHS budgets, its essential that you scrutinise your expenditure. Small business expert and author of Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business, Erica Wolfe-Murray, provides some simple, money-saving tips borrowed from business
When you start your own small business you can determine many of the processes you use – supply contracts terms and how your team operates for maximum effectiveness and financial efficiency. As a practice manager, however, you are very likely to have inherited a whole range of commercial activity that is now your responsibility.
With ever-tightening budgets, how best can you borrow that small business thinking to drive economies across the board? What simple ideas can you introduce that small businesses use every day to minimise waste, gain best value and drive more from your budget and your practice assets?
Here are six money saving ideas for you to consider.
- Re-look at all supplier contracts
Taking a look at all your supplier contracts is a good place to start. Most companies offer 30 or 60-day payment terms but, rather than trying to extend your credit, have you thought of agreeing a 7-day payment term for a sizeable discount?
Many supply companies will welcome a client who pays within a short timeframe and, if your current supplier doesn’t, find one who does.
- Go for marginal savings, everywhere
Remember how we all watched in amazement as the British Olympic cycling team won gold medals galore? This extraordinary achievement was arrived at by taking apart every single aspect of the equipment, the athlete’s physical performance and their on-track performance to seek a tiny gain in every single way. When put back together – those tiny marginal gains added up to world-beating gains.
You can use this method in your practice too. Look at every single element of spend, asking how you can save 1, 2 or 5% absolutely everywhere. It could be through better buying, limiting usage or turning switches off. Get your team to help, awarding a small prize to the best ideas. And implement these savings relentlessly; you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.
- Additional revenues from your assets
Practices vary across the country – each one will have a different building, different facilities, different assets. Stand back from the business and write a list of all the assets you have access to. Can you use any of these to drive new revenues?
The Old Dairy House practice in south west London operates from a new, purpose-built, contemporary surgery. The practice now earns a revenue from hiring out the building for film/tv production shoots when the surgery is closed.
Do you have space which local interest groups could hire when the surgery is closed? Could you offer your reception space to local tech companies looking to run a ‘hackathon’?
- Get everyone involved
And I mean everyone. Suppliers, patients, doctors, clinicians, nurses, children.
You don’t have to have all the answers yourself. Everyone who steps into the surgery will have money-saving tips they use in their own lives and in their businesses; welcome, and mine, this rich seam of knowledge. Be open and ask for help; then put up a monthly ‘thank you’ notice in reception for those who came up with those ideas you are implementing, with the savings made.
For example, if you have a south-facing sloping roof, would installing solar panels bring in some long-term savings? A local company can help you with advice on this. If you have to pay regular monthly licence fees for software – paying annually can shave 10% off these.
And don’t forget to share your achievements with other local practices and organisations. Good ideas can flow out from your practice, as well as in.
- Finding new revenues from new trends
Just as small companies are best placed to pivot their business models to take advantage of new trends, outpacing larger rivals, you too can borrow this capability to see if you can bring in new revenue streams from emergent trends. For example:
- Think about the fast growth of co-working spaces. If you have one or two of these in your practice vicinity – could you offer them a once-a-week, 2-hour consultation clinic in their building? For a fee, of course.
- With the rise of gap year and adventure travel, GP Geoff and his wife, nurse Nikki Lewis, launched a small medical kit containing key needs along with a single dose morning after pill and a prescription antibiotic.
- And as the acceptance of remote working rises, is there an opportunity to charge a monthly subscription for short Skype session for patients working overseas, available to pre-book during a set hour late in the day?
Once these new ways of earning revenues are set up you could run business development workshops for other practices too… for a fee.
- Don’t feel you need to do it all yourself
If you feel there are new revenues or practice tweaks you could make, but your diary is just too crammed, think about taking on part-time help. Your local community is likely to have a stay-at-home parent with enterprise experience who would welcome the chance to work a few hours a week, helping your practice evolve. Pay them a basic fee plus a percentage of the savings made, or the new revenues earned, recouping their fee from the new income.
Of course, not all of these ideas will be right for you, so cherry-pick those that you can make work. Some could be quick wins, whilst others may offer longer term development opportunities.