Many aspiring health care service providers dream of huge profits when they start up a practice. The reality is, however, that without an effective cashflow system, your practice won’t survive long enough to for you to enjoy those dreamt-about profits. In its simplest form, cashflow is about making sure there isn’t a big gap between the money you pay out to staff, suppliers and other overheads, and the money you receive from patients and their medical aids.
Delaying the former for as long as possible while encouraging prompt payment of the latter has traditionally been the way to maintain healthy cashflow, allowing your practice to operate day-to-day as well as grow.
Cashflow is the lifeblood of your medical, dental or allied health care practice. As the saying goes “revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, but cash is king”. While big income numbers at the end of the year are great and high profit margins are important, it is the everyday management of your practice’s cashflow that can make or break you. So how do you manage your cashflow effectively through both the lean and lucrative months?
Here are 8 Tips to Boost your Practice’s cashflow:
1. Get paid before you treat the patient!
Make sure you are paid up front. That means before you have treated, and not after you have examined and discharged the patient. We don’t get to pay for our petrol after we’ve gone through the tank or get 30 days to pay for our groceries, so why should your practice be any different?
The fact is patients take longer to pay once they have received what they wanted. They’re happy, their need has been fulfilled, and there is no longer a motivation for them to pay in a hurry. By getting them to pay upfront while they still have a need or a problem gives them motivation to get it paid – fast.
2. If you can’t get paid upfront get a substantial deposit
While getting paid up front is the best-case scenario, this only works 100% when it comes to cash patients, or medical aid patients of means. In these cases it is important to get a large deposit upfront to compensate you for at least some of the work you are doing.
It might be that you are offering a payment plan to secure a client who can’t afford your products or services immediately, or it could be due to a client’s 30-day payment terms (you can expect this with government departments and large corporates). Either way, when you’re a small business owner who is trying to make a living you need to secure some income for your own cashflow.
Charging a deposit (preferably 30-50%) upfront and a halfway payment (if possible) protects you in case a project changes or gets cancelled after you have commenced work on it. It also helps you to have money to pay your own expenses, this is particularly important if it is a project that has the potential to go on for months.
3. Have short payment terms
To increase your cashflow set short payment terms. Forget putting 30-day or even 14-day payment terms on your invoice, think more along the lines of seven days or even pay upon receipt of invoice. You want your invoices paid as quickly as possible so make sure your payment terms reflect this.
4. Pay your own expenses at the end of the payment terms
In business your aim should be to get money in as quickly as possible and have it leave as slowly as possible. To do this, pay all of your expenses at the end of the specified payment terms. Better the money stays in your account gathering interest than someone else’s.
5. Plan for your commitments
Set money aside each week, fortnight or month for tax obligations and major expenses. Putting small amounts away regularly as money comes in will save you having to find large amounts and really disrupt your cashflow later on.
6. Reduce your stock levels
Getting rid of surplus stock (for those with products) and controlling your stock levels carefully based on demand can be another way to increase your cashflow. Stock that is not selling is quite literally money tied up on the shelf, so set up a promotion or have a sale to help move your excess, outdated stock. Also look closely at your stock levels and product demand to see if you need to adjust the amount you order.
7. Increase your patient volume
Boosting your patient numbers is obviously one of the best ways to increase your cashflow; to do it quickly though takes a little creativity. The cheapest and easiest business you will ever generate is from the customers you already have, so look there first. Do they have any pressing needs? Are there any opportunities for you to upsell additional services? Could you do any deals or discounts to get them over the line?
8. Reduce your expenses
Always remember that it is easier to save money then make money, so always be on the lookout for expenses you can reduce, negotiate further on or cut altogether. Watch your expenses closely over six months to see where your money is going, then take a long, hard look at what you can cut back on without it affecting the quality or service levels in your business.