When patients come to you to improve their appearance, they look to you for expert advice and your honest opinion about available options. They also rely on your proven track record and time-honored experience.

The time you spend on personal consultations is incredibly valuable not only because it creates a positive impact on the lives of your patients, but also because it helps develop a loyal customer base for repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing. But are you doing everything you can to achieve maximum results for your clients and your business? Do you know the factors that will determine your continued—and rising—success in the industry?

If you haven’t already taken the next step on the road to success, it’s time to have a consultation of your own—not for which aesthetic services to offer, but for solid business guidance that will help you to develop a clear plan for a sustainable, competitive advantage. If you have opened a medical spa, are considering opening one, or already offer a high-quality range of noninvasive aesthetic services, it is vital to conduct a professional, independent, objective, and forward-thinking practice assessment.

“After a good start at expanding my practice, I experienced some painful missteps,” says Leonard Tachmes, MD, who practices in Miami. “That’s when I sought professional consulting advice. Since the assessment, conducted with the help of professional medical spa consulting services, my cash flow has greatly increased and my plan for the future is no longer just a dream, but an easily navigated route to my increased success.”

Whether you use professional consulting support or decide to conduct a practice assessment on your own, do not overlook this important business evaluation. It is an essential step toward achieving short- and long-term practice success with a significant return on investment.

If you choose to use a medical spa business consulting firm to conduct your assessment, expect it to provide a review of your practice, methodologies, strategies, staff, and systems—all the information necessary to jump-start your goals and create a vision for your practice. For a relatively small investment (typically ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, depending on the specific services selected), a practice assessment can produce rapid returns and results—and keep you moving steadily in the right direction.

Still not convinced that a practice assessment is worth your time? If you answer yes to one or more of the following questions, a medical spa practice assessment might be the perfect prescription for your practice revitalization:

  • Are you unsure about the direction to take your medical practice or spa project?
  • Do you struggle with the decision of whether to open or buy a medical spa—or sell or rejuvenate your existing spa?
  • Have you contemplated adding new services or technologies?
  • Are you certain of your staff’s skills?
  • Do you have issues with declining profitability and volume?
  • Are you comfortable with the future of your medical spa project?

Your goal is to create the perfect environment to meet both the needs of your business and the needs of your clients. The idea behind choosing a professional service is to allow the consultant to deal with issues and concerns that he or she is specifically trained to handle so you can continue to do what you do best: provide outstanding service and care for your clients.

What Does an Assessment Entail?

A practice assessment will typically require a consultant to spend 1 or 2 days on site, as well as perform some preparatory work, conduct conference calls, and provide a detailed written report.

Such an assessment usually includes the following:

  • “mystery shopper” assessment of your business operations—a consultant will make an undercover visit as a potential patient to assess the quality of service currently available at your site;
  • interviews with staff members to determine perceived and actual job duties, as well as collect workflow suggestions;
  • discussions with physicians to determine goals, priorities, and areas of strength or weakness;
  • profit–loss and cost–structure analyses;
  • a marketing review, including budgets and public-relations and promotional materials;
  • Web site and search engine marketing review;
  • review of the practice’s menu of services and products; and
  • technology and database assessment.

Prior to the visit, the consultant typically contacts the physician or practice manager and has a detailed discussion regarding the reasons for and the goals of the assessment. To get the most out of your consultation, it is essential to have a clear objective and time frame for the process and a deadline for the implementation of your plan.

A practice assessment is a collaborative process that relies on all parties to determine the best course of action. Your consultant will work closely with you to investigate every area of concern as well as identify others that may have gone unnoticed. Your staff will be at the core of the consultation, and will add their experience, expertise, and business knowledge to the assessment.

At any point during the process, you and your staff should be able to access a snapshot view of the entire assessment. Seeing where you started, where you currently are, and where you are headed will allow all parties to appreciate the appropriate courses of action. This also allows for fine-tuning along the way.

Benefits of an Assessment

In general, plastic surgeons and other aesthetic procedure specialists have little idea about the huge benefits of engaging in a practice assessment. Many are surprised at the findings, but after analyzing these results, physicians and their staffs are then able to recognize their shortcomings as opportunities to increase service and treatment options while improving the bottom line.

The Most Common Tasks in a Practice Assessment

  • Diagnosis and assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Developing solutions that fit your needs and style
  • Research and analysis to investigate the trends, events, obstacles, and opportunities that may affect your organization’s goals and return on investment
  • Ensuring you hire the right team and training your staff with the skills essential to quickly and easily implement your plan
  • Systems development to devise reliable methods for accessing the best-available equipment to accomplish important tasks
  • Reviewing marketing and business plans to keep you on target to reach your goals
  • Identification, mediation, and resolution of problems in communication, personnel conflict, and collaboration that may hinder you from attaining your goal
  • Reviewing client-retention rates and retail sales and service revenues
  • Designing a strategy for your organization’s future growth

The medical spa industry is a fluid business environment that continues to undergo change. This means that you need to be savvy enough to know when to respond immediately to industry changes or when to avoid trendy solutions that lack substance. An assessment provides you with a clear understanding of the ways in which client expectations and perceptions might shift with the industry and its offerings. It will also reveal to you how these changes might affect your practice.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons member Bernard Shuster, MD, who practices in Hollywood, Fla, explains, “The results of our practice assessment revealed some startling insights that included an unmotivated staff, outmoded technology, and a narrow menu of services. Once we understood some of the key barriers to our success, we created a plan of action and now, 6 months later, we can see a substantial improvement instead of barriers, and we have a clear path to success.”

Whether you conduct your practice assessment yourself, or receive help from a professional consultant, do not overlook the incredible benefits that a practice assessment yields, usually within 6 months of implementation. Make practice assessments a regular part of your business plan to be sure that you are doing everything possible to maintain and advance your burgeoning practice. For the continued efficiency and success, assessments should be seen as ongoing reviews that are conducted on a regular basis to keep up with both the industry’s rapid growth and the competition inherent in the field.

While established practices should aim for an assessment every year or two, new practices should undergo a 6-month follow-up. For those considering opening a medical spa, performing an assessment can eliminate a number of costly mistakes.

“Planning and launching a successful medical spa would have been a daunting task without the guidance of a consultant,” says Peter N. Bogdan, MD, director of New Horizons Medical Spa in Yorktown Heights, NY.

“By handling the market research—especially regarding current and upcoming trends—and providing the operational know-how, our consultant put us way ahead of the curve. The real beauty of the process is that we can concentrate on doing what we do best—practicing good medicine—with complete confidence that our business plan will mirror our drive to succeed by delivering the best services to our clients.”

The Right Consultant

You may decide it is important for your practice to hire a full-time business administrator with the training, skills, and experience to conduct regular in-house assessments, provide staff training, and keep abreast of industry news. This is an excellent way to maintain the successful forward movement of a practice, but it may not be a practical option for your organization at this time.

Should you choose to seek outside assistance, remember that the process and the benefits of an assessment are directly related to the firm you hire for the job. Choose a firm that specializes in your industry and is dedicated to embracing your vision and ensuring that your investment will save you not only time, but also money.

Your consultant should have impeccable credentials and the expertise to provide the services you need to grow a more successful practice. Look for one who has carried out practice assessments for a variety of clients, particularly physician-owned medical spas and related entities. This information should be readily available on the firm’s Web site and be easy to verify. Testimonials from prior clients also can help you make your final choice.

A consultant’s job is to prevent you and your staff from being overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of research, time, and work involved in starting or assessing your practice and developing a solid plan. It is also important that he or she has the training to follow up and implement this plan after the assessment has been completed.

Insist that your consultant meets the following requirements:

  • superior knowledge and experience in the medical spa business;
  • current knowledge of the latest trends and treatments;
  • dedication to reach your goals in the minimum amount of time;
  • access to leading equipment, service and product suppliers, designers, and cosmeceutical labs at the best quality for the best price;
  • ability to guide you step by step through the unique process of starting or further developing a business in a fairly new industry, while helping to prevent you from making costly mistakes;
  • devotion to your medfical spa’s continued success;
  • desire to employ creative and innovative strategies that will set your practice apart from the crowd;
  • knowledge and skill to interpret laws in your state; and
  • ability to work on multiple projects simultaneously.

While the steps to success may be generic in terms of process, the result is completely unique to your organization. Determining your strategic goals and aligning them with your priorities are the keys to a successful practice assessment.

Cheryl Whitman is the founder and CEO of Beautiful Forever, where she spearheads a successful team of medical-spa consultants and business professionals. For more information, call (877) SPA-MEDI or go to www.medicalspaconsultant.com.