The irrelevance of being a doctor

Massimo GaetaniWe can in general assume that the prefix “Doctor” or “Dr” can identify people with two very distinct academic paths:

  • Medical doctors, including various specialisations
  • People with a PhD or Doctorate in any subject, ranging from history to engineering or physics

People belonging to both of the above categories can call themselves “Doctor” and it’s legal to do so.  If you work in a hospital and you are Dr Smith most people will assume you are an MD; if you work as a researcher at the engineering department of Cambridge University and you are called Dr Jones most people will assume you have a PhD in a relevant scientific discipline. Somehow it doesn’t really matter as the HR department of your employer will have done their job to check that you are qualified for the job they are offering.

When people operate as freelance self-employed in private practice within health care and complementary health, there are indeed governing bodies to ensure that each individual is not misleading people by using titles they are not qualified for.  The point I am making about the irrelevance of being a doctor is when certain individuals have a PhD in a subject which is totally irrelevant to what they are practising (e.g. maths) and still call themselves doctor when working as a massage therapist or a hypnotherapist.

In the five years I have been running our clinic, I have met at least a dozen people who are using their doctor title when practising in private practice while having a doctorate or a PhD in a subject which is irrelevant to what they practise.

So if you are about to get a treatment from someone and you are not sure about their background and qualifications feel free to ask and let them explain why they call themselves doctor.

We are different

salus-wellnessIn a world where all businesses claim to be different by having a unique approach in the way they deliver their products and services, I decided to write this post after repeating, both to practitioners and members of the public, how different we are from the other clinics in Cambridge.

So what are the differences between us and other clinics in Cambridge?

Professional management

Most clinics are founded by therapists who need a room to work; they acquire a property with a few extra rooms and sublet the extra available space/time to practitioners who need a room to practice from.

Salus Wellness was founded by professional managers and business consultants who saw an opportunity in the market and setup a business to meet such opportunity.  Our aim was to put together a great team of practitioners passionate about their practice and create a clinic which would allow them to offer their services in a pleasant and professional environment.  Being run like a proper business, the clinic has precise procedures which allow as many as 50 practitioners to share a common space and work together in harmony and collaboration.

Client funnelling and referrals

In many clinics the founder(s) somehow determines the main therapy offered by the clinic and all practitioners offering the same treatment are somehow getting the requests which cannot be satisfied by the busy founder(s).

At Salus Wellness all enquiries are assessed against specialisation and availability of each practitioner and, when all conditions are equal we keep a tight round robin to ensure equal opportunities of business for all practitioners.

Eight therapy rooms

Other clinics have on average 4 or 5 rooms allocated in various ways so the availability of extra time for emergencies or unexpected bookings might be tricky.

Salus Wellness has 8 therapy rooms which are all used according to three slots of 4.5 hours long.  That means that each day we could potentially have 24 different people working at the clinic.  The reality is that we have a few practitioners spending one or two days per week with us, many who use just one slot and others who are at the clinic just a few hours per month.  Having eight therapy rooms we are available, over 95% of the time, to allocate a room to a practitioner who needs it at just a few hours’ notice.

Rent vs. commission fees

Many clinics charge, for their room and some of the services they offer, a percentage of the practitioner’s fee; typically 40%.  Getting charged a percentage of income often suits people with no clients but, when they get busy, they realise how much money they are actually paying for the usage of a room.

At Salus Wellness we charge a very competitive rent that, depending on the practitioner’s fee structure, represents between 8 and 30% of their fees.  Each client pays their practitioner directly and practitioners pay their rent to us on a monthly basis.

Help with marketing and business development

Most clinics are run purely as a place to rent by people who might be very busy but do not necessarily have a professional background in marketing and business development to offer any help.  There is no proactive marketing work done by the practitioner with perhaps a website and some advertising in the local press.

At Salus Wellness we offer:

  • an optimised website with thousands of visitors per month. The website is continuously supplied with fresh content in term of news, articles and announcements
  • a proactive social media strategy with blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Google+
  • a free profile page for each practitioner that puts them on the first page of Google for their name and practice
  • an initial discussion about individual practitioners’ current marketing and business development situation when they join and help for them to draw up a marketing plan for their practice
  • free advice about how to best choose the most suitable marketing tools and social media for their practice: e.g. you cannot market massages in the same way you market clinical psychology
  • organise networking events for practitioners to create an independent support group
  • run a free monthly workshop about marketing and business development

So, if you are a practitioner in complementary health or working in the NHS and are interested in private practice and working from a clinic, which is likely to maximise your chances of success for your practice, please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to explain how you can join our already busy team.

My case against printed adverts

Massimo GaetaniWhether we accept it or not we live in a world dominated by social media; it’s easy for anybody to publish content which can potentially reach every person in the world which in theory sounds just great. This factor is however a double- edged sword because everybody can do it and the level of competition is far higher today than it was just a few years ago.

I know I am not saying anything new when I state that potentially, any company and individual interested in offering a service or product to the market place, is in the media business as well. Everybody can write blogs, be active on a variety of social media platforms and create a brand for themselves.  For many this is becoming increasingly difficult because the only thing they want to do is provide their products or services but… here we go, there is no going back.

Those companies that were traditionally in the media business like newspapers, magazines, radio and TV find their market share taken away by new media and by an increasing number of business people who are investing their advertisement budgets in new technologies which offer more traceability and increased control on how they are targeting their adverts.

Because of the reasons described above I personally suggest to all of our practitioners to steer away from adverts in magazines and newspapers; this is my case against printed adverts for practitioners in complementary health.   It’s not about whether printed adverts work at all; it’s simply that the return on investment (ROI) they offer is way less than it used to be.  Many of these media companies still live in their ideal world and keep their prices as they were in 2007.  Here are a few examples of how the world has developed a total permeability to printed adverts:

  • We spend an increasing percentage of our pause time, e.g. lunch, travelling, waiting rooms and so on, reading updates on our phones; the probability of seeing one of these adverts is therefore diminished.
  • We are so bombarded by adverts in every media that our minds simply don’t see them.
  • It’s already difficult for an on-line advert to convince us to click through (think about it: when was the last time you clicked on an advert? What was it advertising?); it becomes virtually impossible for us to follow up on a printed advert (same exercise: when was the last time you saw an advert in a magazine or newspaper and decided to buy that product or service?).

The main reason I advise people against printed advertisements is ultimately budget and low ROI, particularly when advertising complementary health services such as massage or similar therapies.  If you offer massages at £50 per session and the typical advertisement in a local magazine will cost you £300 for a half page (+VAT = £360), you will need to have at least 8 people in that month that see the advert, are in the right mood and mind set to receive a massage and pick up the phone and ring you immediately;  if you are available to pick up the phone at that time and you can speak to these individuals and arrange an appointment that suits both them and you.  Even if 8 people are actually committed to arrange an appointment there are at least a couple of scenarios which can play against it:

  • they might decide to do it at a time you are not answering the phone or they want to meet you at a time that doesn’t suit you;
  • the massage concept stays in their mind but not the details of your advert; they search “massage” on-line and find one of your competitors and book with them;

In short I just find that the probability of these 8 people to successfully arrange a massage is incredibly low, hence I suggest against it.

Of course there might be good reasons, for certain companies, to advertise in magazines and newspapers: that should be when the value of just one purchase might pay for advert by itself.

Hints and tips for newbies and prospective practitioners

Massimo GaetaniThe majority of enquiries from practitioners interested in working at our clinic in Cambridge can be grouped into 4 main categories:

  • Experienced practitioners working for the NHS who decide to go private, either part or full time
  • Experienced practitioners working at other clinics who appreciate the free business and marketing support they can get at Salus Wellness
  • Experienced practitioners who have built up a home based practice and decide to take it to a higher level by working from a professional establishment
  • Experienced practitioners with an established practice in another town interested in creating a presence for themselves in Cambridge

To the best of my knowledge we are the only clinic in Cambridge with a clearly stated work with us page and we invest a substantial amount of time and resources to help our practitioners to learn how to grow their own practice.

This is the main reason why we have recently been receiving several enquiries from people who have literally just qualified or even from some who are months away from qualifying. All colleges and institutions teaching complementary health are offering some kind of marketing preparation in some shape or form.  Very often information is delivered as just a few hours of tuition and perhaps a booklet with little substance about the real details and intricacies of running your own business.

So here are my tips about starting your private practice:

  • Failing to plan is planning to fail. Have a plan in terms of how many clients you are going to see and how much you will charge, check what the common price is for your market in your geographical area; if you need a simple idea about how to plan your numbers check this post
  • Define a precise marketing image for your practice. Will you work with your own name or with a different brand? Once decided you need to go ahead and prepare and get ready with your marketing material; the essentials are discussed in this post; remember that everything takes a long time to develop, usually longer than you expect so if you wait until you are qualified you will have weeks or months of delays before your marketing material is as ready as you are
  • Find a place to practice; some people assume that working from home is a good idea but you are exposing yourself and family to lots of strangers.  Be aware that the journey to self-sustainability for your practice will take time, as I wrote in this post; therefore it’s best to find a place that will not cost a fortune when you start but also will not charge a large percentage of your income when you become successful
  • Be ready to face fast times, slow times, stressful times and again and again; starting your own private practice is effectively like starting any other business. Just months or years of consistent and good quality work will ensure the complete establishment of your practice.

Having done lots of mentoring work with start-ups, I often remind them that most projects will take twice as long, cost twice as much and will generate about half of the revenue you calculated in your initial forecast.  It is easy to be optimistic about our own plans but when they don’t work we feel very frustrated.  So it’s a good idea to have a plan, perhaps using a scheme I previously described above and be realistic/pessimistic about expected outcomes.  If we can be of any extra help please contact us via our standard phone numbers and email addresses.