I pick up pennies when I see them lying on the sidewalk, in parking lots and elsewhere. Nickels. Dimes. Virtually any type of currency. Picked up a $20 while jogging one morning. I snagged a 200-peso note in Mexico last month that came in with the tide. I'm often ridiculed or laughed at for this, but I’ve probably acquired close to $100 over the years. It's not a living, but these gifts, in the form of free money, add up.
Do you bother picking up a penny? Consider the scripture that suggests that those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much. Do you ignore pennies? Or is that beneath you? How about a quarter? Or does it have to be paper? What’s your threshold?
This came to mind after a recent conversation with a chiropractor who was feeling the economic pinch. Not everyone is. And while I don’t have a lot of data, I don’t think it’s necessarily the economy, geography, weather patterns, insurance companies or any of the other usual suspects. I think it has to do with pennies.
Not in the penny-pinching sense! Far from it. Because while these days squandering money on needless overhead expenses makes less sense than ever. Conversely, trimming 10% here and shaving 3% here won’t get you where you want to go, either. But it does have something to do with numbers.
It’s practically a chiropractic cliché that when two chiropractors get together one will ask the other, “So, how many are you seeing?” or something similar. This means only a couple of things:
1. I hope my numbers are bigger than yours because as we all know, whoever sees the most patients is the better chiropractor.A decade or more ago, meaning #1 was the primary motive. These days, it’s often #3.
2. I’m doing great and I need to show off to someone who can appreciate it.
3. I’m not doing so well and I was kinda hoping you weren’t either.
The numbers game that so many chiropractors played over the years, tracking practice statistics with the concentration of a day trader, is coming home to roost. Patients who felt like a number and never bonded with their chiropractor are finding other demands on their time and money more enticing.
Here’s the point. Busy, successful practices, regardless of the economics of the time, are based on how they deal with pennies. Not in the monetary sense, but in the way they deal with the smallest increment of a bustling practice: individual patients. The individual patient is the smallest currency in a practice. In other words, practices that help 100 individual patients a day or more are achieving it one patient at a time. Penny after penny after penny. Do it well and after awhile, you have a dollar. And on it goes.
If you look after your pennies carefully, you invoke, according to Einstein, the most powerful force in the universe: compound interest. In other words, referrals. But it all starts with looking after “the least of these.”
As you contemplate the New Year, I encourage you to look after the smallest of practice units: an individual patient. Here are some ideas to get you going.
Be 100% present with every patient—avoid all distractions to the sacred time you’re with patients.
Do more listening and less talking—show up curious and authentically interested in what patients know and believe.
As you adjust locally, think globally—it’s not about the patient’s spine, it’s about their life!
Lower your guard and show up as you—stop imitating “professionally” distancing medical doctors.
Trust your intuition—adjust with your heart, not just your head and hands.
Don’t keep score—forgive missed appointments and lapses in good health habits by being thankful they’re with you now.
Take nothing personally—what patients do or don’t do is out of your control and worrying about it compromises your stride.
Make 2010 the year that when asked, “How many are you seeing?” you answer, “One at a time.”
Happy New Year! It's going to be a ripper!