Want to Be a Rich Doctor?

Did you ever wonder why two similar clinicians can have such similar practices with wildly different financial situations? I see this all the time. Similar services, similar payor mix, similar age, location and patient demographicsâ€"yet astonishingly different revenues.

The Mindset of Financially Successful Physicians

Did you ever wonder why two similar clinicians can have such similar practices with wildly different financial situations? I see this all the time. Similar services, similar payor mix, similar age, location and patient demographics—yet astonishingly different revenues. Similar practices, similar services—different results. One is struggling and the other is breaking records every week.

It seems both unfair that there can be so little parity, and intriguing as to why it should be so. The difference must lie in the mindset of the two physicians. They must prioritize their activities differently; perceive things according to differing values and beliefs. I decided to do some research into this field to find a satisfying answer. I studied the gurus, including T. Harv Eker, Robert Kiyosaki, Tony Robbins, Dan Kennedy, Jay Abraham, Michael Gerber, Suze Orman, Sir John Templeton and many others. Here’s what I found out:

1) Successful people keep score. Many professionals, including doctors, are renowned for impulsively putting high-ticket items on their credit cards, presumably as a way to distract from the stresses of their career.

Expenditures—both business and personal—must be considered carefully. Will the expenditure bring in more revenue? If so, how much and by when? And how will it affect you if it doesn’t meet the performance criteria that you bought it on.

So if you’re going to buy a whiz bang piece of diagnostic equipment, can you rent it first to make sure it performs prior to committing to the purchase? Can the rep bring it into your office for at least a complete billing cycle so you can be sure the reimbursement is there? Or to get the patients’ perception of the new doo-dad?

Business expert Michael Gerber says that every decision you make has financial consequences. All too often, physicians are drawn to the bright shiny new object rather than optimizing the value of what they already have.

The traditional way to keep score is to sit down with your accountant at regular intervals and evaluate trends in income and expenses. Perhaps an equally important way is to track your net worth (assets less liabilities). Income tends to evaporate away whereas net worth tends to be much more stable. The very successful physicians have net worth goals as well as income goals.

2) Positive Expectation. Highly successful physicians tend to be optimistic rather than pessimistic. They tend to have clear expectations of the people around them and the circumstances they find themselves in. Less financially successful doctors are slower to evaluate opportunity and tend to “hang out” more waiting for the right opportunity to come along. Tony Robbins puts it this way: “In life, you don’t get what you want, you get what you expect.”

3) Plan better, including for contingencies. Rich doctors tend to have their day’s work organized the night before. It tends to get organized into lists for better follow through. Better planning doesn’t just involve attention to detail though. It also includes a keen recognition of what does not need to be done on your list. According to T. Harv Eker, “cleanups, completes and deletes” are important to you psychologically.

Anything that you committed to but didn’t follow through on or are procrastinating about carries a heavy mental weight in your psyche. Eker encourages you every week to either delegate a task, resolve to complete it once and for all, or acknowledge that it is no longer important to you and allow yourself to let it go and release it fully.

4) Work to the clock. Marketer extraordinaire Dan Kennedy writes ad campaigns for $100,000 per project and up. He acknowledges that the best thing in the world for him is a deadline.

Working to task and to the clock, keeps him crisp, focused and efficient. The structure of deadlines and commitments improves performance in the same way a speed skaters performance improves when a coach is measuring performance with a stop watch.

5) Build championship teams. You can’t become extremely successful at anything alone. You not only need the help of others, you need the help of the very best people you can find.

This means that you have to have all the team members talking together and you have to sell them on your plan, your vision. I hear all the time that the doctors staff just doesn’t want to work, doesn’t want to be told what to do and basically they don’t want to come back from lunch.

I’m really a “nice guy” at heart so this is a little hard for me to say. Sometimes there is nothing better for the success of a practice than a few well-earned pink slips. Usually the rest of your staff knows when someone needs to be fired long before you do. The good ones are always relieved when the troublesome employees are fired. It is a reminder to everyone of the reason they are there in the first place. Building a championship team means you sell your vision to the team members so they can carry you forward to your ultimate destination.

6) Never complain, blame and justify. Successful doctors avoid blaming, complaining and justifying as a way to deal with not getting what they want. And they avoid people who use these coping strategies. Simply put, this is a low-energy force field that carries your motivation and enthusiasm down a greased shaft into depression. According to T. Harv Eker, “There’s no such thing as a really, really rich victim.”

7) Take action. Rather than getting stuck in the paralysis of analysis, successful doctors live in the field of action. They tend to bulldoze through multiple projects simultaneously. They tend to make decisions before all the facts are in. In a study or Fortune 500 CEOs, the typical CEO make a decision based on when 30% to 70% of the relevant information has come in. They shoot from the hip.

At the same time, successful doctors tend to look closely for feedback on what is working and what isn’t in their endeavors. They use this feedback to make an adjustment in their method and quickly move back into a new action. They continue to alter their methods until they finally get what they want. They are decidedly biased in favor of action.

8) Model what works in others.

You won’t find a highly successful doctor doing his/her own taxes. However he/she may call 20 of the most successful people in his/her circle of influence to get the name of a great accountant or CFP.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, these success minded people tend to keenly observe what works around them and try to implement it into their lives by “modeling successful behaviors.

9) Respect and learn from more successful people.

Rich people tend to not get immobilized feeling envious of others. They seek them out and learn from them. Business guru Jay Abraham advocates taking a millionaire out to lunch once a month. Successful people are often surprisingly generous when it comes to sharing their wisdom and contacts with someone who has a genuine desire to improve their situation.

Better yet, is to form a mastermind group that meets monthly to allow the flow and interchange of best practices and ideas from a number of highly successful people.

10) Invest in education. It has been said that if you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Rich doctors are constantly learning, growing and challenging themselves to be better people. Not just at making money, but at everything. High education and intelligence correlate with high self esteem. Why not take advantage of that fact and commit to education in all facets where it is important to you.

Can a physician really feel great if they are out of date with their clinical acumen? Or for that matter if they are out of shape physically? Or if they can’t pay their bills because their practice isn’t profitable. The best reason to educate yourself is the growing confidence you will gain that you have what it takes to manage anything life throws at you. I think that is what it means to be rich—confidence and certainty that you will be okay no matter what.

Dr. Zahaluk is a practicing physician and the founder of MIP Consulting Group, a coaching and consulting group for physicians only, offering innovative solutions to practice marketing and staff development. The website offers free practice-building tips, a practice diagnostic, and a Make My Practice Work Harder Than I Do individual practice consultation. His new book is, The Ultimate Practice Building Book. He welcomes comments at 800-297-0711.