If you want to be successful in a hearing care business, you need enough money to survive your mistakes. All of us make mistakes, some bigger than others. A few weeks ago, I told you about how I lost a lot of money to an embezzler on my staff. But, sad to say, that is not the only mistake I’ve made.
Actually, looking back over the 40 years that I’ve been in private practice, I realize that I’ve made many mistakes. Sometimes I think it’s a wonder I’m still in business!
In this post I want to talk about a few other serious mistakes I’ve made. I hope by doing so I can help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Don’t Let Your Ego Take Over
Let’s start with opening new offices. There was a time in my life when I was very ambitious. I had worked very hard and built my practice to the point that I had six offices with four audiologists and six secretaries working for me. And yet I was functionally broke!
Oh yes, we were bringing in heaps of money. The problem was that my expenses were growing even faster than my gross income, and I could not write myself a check.
So, the message here is, watch out for your ego. If it grows too big it can “sink the ship.”
Beware of “Experts” Even in the Family
Another problem I had was my brother, Jay, a self-proclaimed expert in marketing. He told me that he had made several business owners “rich” with his advertising and marketing ideas, and he was sure he could do the same for me.
So I tried many of his ideas:
Penny-Saver inserts, ads in the local new newspaper, even a huge billboard advertisement. Some of these were complete flops, but that never curbed his enthusiasm.
Had I continued listening to him, I would have gone out of business. He disagrees with this assessment, but then we seldom agree on anything.
Monitor Your Costs!
Another mistake I have made is failing to pay careful attention to the true cost of all the goods and services I buy. Elavon, my merchant credit card service provider, charged me 10% on my credit card payments. I talked to these people several times and was assured I was getting the 2.83% charge shown on my contract.
However, it turned out that the company’s telephone support “rep” could not see the total charges I was being assessed. The rep saw only the line-item costs and transactions. The final result was that for several years my charges had approximated 10%.
Scrutinize your merchant credit card costs through a microscope, and don’t just accept the rep’s nice words.
Like everyone in business, I have been burned by insurance companies many times. They say yes on the phone, but then they forget they ever talked to you.
When in doubt, get everything in writing (Fax, e-mail). This will save you down the road.
Avoid Mistakes You Can’t Afford
Anyone who opens or buys a hearing care practice knows there are risks involved. You wouldn’t go into business if you were afraid to take a chance. And, I’ll bet there is not a single practice owner, no matter how successful, who has not made some mistakes along the way.
However, the owners who survive their mistakes are the ones who recognize them quickly and take steps to fix the problem. They also carefully weigh the potential down side of an initiative, say opening an additional office or launching an expensive marketing campaign. Then, before going ahead, they calculate the risk and make sure they will have the wherewithal to keep their business afloat even if their initiative fails.
Robert L. Martin, PhD, was the author of a popular Nuts & Bolts column at The Hearing Journal for many years before to joining HHTM as an editor and regular contributor. He owned and managed a private audiology practice in the San Diego area for nearly 40 years.
*This post was originally published December 2, 2014. Updated March 15, 2019