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Develop a Business Plan by hae80741



    Develop a Business Plan
                     Getting the framework right for a new cataract/refractive practice.
                   BY TOM VAN        DER   HEYDEN, MBA; AND ERIK L. MERTENS, MD, FEBO PHTH

                   hat do an entrepreneur in the software             all the permits you need?) Other surgeons have shown it

   W               industry, an engineer wishing to build his first
                   manufacturing facility, and a doctor consid-
                   ering setting up a new cataract/refractive
   practice have in common? The answer is this: They all need
   to take a moment to sit down and write a business plan.
                                                                      is possible; you can do it too.

                                                                      GOAL S AND MI SSI ON
                                                                         To begin, make sure you define the business goals and
                                                                      mission of your practice. This may sound like stating the
      This plan will constitute the framework and guidelines to       obvious—your goal is to offer cataract/refractive services to
   successfully set up their respective ventures. Whether each        your patients—but you will need to clearly define where
   will need to do this on his own or with the help of an expe-       you will do so, to which patients, and how widely or nar-
   rienced business person, investor, or lawyer will depend on        rowly focused you want your practice to be. Do you prefer a
   the individual’s professional track record. However, finalizing    standalone operation, or would you like to practice as part
   a business plan is an essential step toward the success of any     of a larger clinic with a wide range of related activities? Any
   of the above-mentioned examples.                                   option is valid; there is no uniquely correct concept. But
      Setting up a successful cataract/refractive practice has,       think it through because it will define the rest of your busi-
   from an entrepreneurial point of view, many points in com-         ness plan and, needless to say, your professional future over
   mon with any other business, hence the generalist focus of         the next 5 to 10 years. Follow this process with a short
   this article. Most of the points we mention in this article are    overview of how the idea has grown, which also serves the
   applicable to any venture, and that is no coincidence.             purpose mentioned above.
                                                                         Once you have defined the overall picture by identifying
   F O CUS                                                            your goals and mission, it is time to plan the more practi-
       The main purpose of the business plan is not—contrary          cal aspects. Begin by writing a summary of the location,
   to what many people think—getting the numbers right,               construction, equipment, people, permits, and other
   checking in advance whether the often huge investment in           essential points you will need to take into account when
   resources will pay off, and determining whether you will           building your practice. These are a lot of things to handle
   really create a profitable practice. That would be naïve           and probably the areas (except for the equipment) in
   because such preliminary figures are mere estimates. The           which you have the least experience. Just like the engineer
   entire business plan refers to the future, often relying on        in our original scenario who may only have scant exposure
   guesstimates; therefore, no matter how well prepared one is,       to financials, turn to others for help in any area in which
   there will always be a degree of uncertainty.                      you lack experience. If you have never chosen an appropri-
       Let us assume you are ready to build a new practice. The       ate location or handled permits (do not underestimate
   real objective of your business plan is to focus your mind         this part), get outside help and calculate this expense into
   and make sure you do not overlook essential elements that,         your financials. The investment will be payed back. Relying
   if left unattended, could jeopardize the entire investment.        too much on your gut feelings might save money initially;
   To simplify, ask yourself these questions: Will I be able to       however, it generates expensive errors. Do not try to con-
   purchase all the required equipment? Will the initial invest-      trol the entire process; this is something you will most like-
   ment starve the operation of cash? Will it be difficult to pay     ly notice yourself while writing the business plan.
   staff in the first 12 months?
                                                                                         TAKE-HOME MESSAGE
       Another focus should be to make sure none of the
   points detailed below get inadequate attention. Yours                • The first step of the buiness plan is to clearly define your
   would not be the first venture crippled by an overlooked             business goals.
   detail, jeopardizing a project that has absorbed most of             • The main considerations for any business plan include
   your time over the past 2, 3, or 4 years. If you go through          product mix, sales estimates, market analysis, pricing policy,
   with the investment, make sure you do a complete, pro-               corporate image, advertising, promotion, SWOT anaylsis, and
   fessional job. (For instance, does your lawyer know about            marketing goals.

                                                                                    TODAY’S PRACTICE PRACTICE BUILDING

M AR KETING                                                         give your practice, such as its location (and why there),
   Marketing is easy, right? Most surgeons think they               what the premises will look like, and the sort of layout
know how to explain what they do and highlight their                you consider ideal for the comfort of your patients. The
surgical accomplishments. Sure, knowing how good you                layout should also ensure the optimal operational effi-
are in your field is half the job, but getting the message          ciency for the medical staff.
across is the other half—the tricky half. Learn from your
peers but also seek help on strategies for advertising or           R I SK M ANAGE MENT
public relations campaigns; this is a specialist job. The               Risk management is challenging. We all think that, having
main points you need to consider in your business plan              thought through it so many times, nothing will go wrong, yet
are (1) Product mix: Exactly what services will you offer           things will go wrong from time to time. The business plan is a
to patients, and when? Will you offer them all at once              document describing future events, so the odds are that
or step by step while growing? (2) Sales estimates: Be              something will go wrong or at least not as smoothly as you
realistic. (3) Market analysis: Who are your competitors?           imagined. Pay attention to defining possible risks (a good
Will you focus on a specific category of patient? Is there          SWOT analysis will help you move in the right direction) to
still a lot of scope for growth, or will you be the next            reduce their potential impact. For example, consider linking
one on an already crowded block? (4) Pricing policy:                with other practices for surgery rooms, and maintain good
Will you lead the market, or will you have more afford-             relations with financial institutions for the occasional cash
able fees to undercut the already established practices             squeeze.
in your area? (5) Corporate image, advertising, and pro-                Finally, although it is probably the last thing to worry
motion: Exposure is key, but remember what advertis-                about at this point, how do you plan to exit your
ing agencies will not tell you—half of your budget                  cataract/refractive practice? Will you sell it? Will you transfer
might be wasted money, but nobody exactly knows                     it to one of your children? All of the points above are essen-
which half. (6) Analysis: Be realistic about your                   tial, but in the end they are all dwarfed by your dedication
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats                    to working out the numbers. Your cataract/refractive prac-
(SWOT)—an extremely useful exercise if well done.                   tice will be your source of income and your way to create
Make sure you drop the draft analysis on the desk of a              future wealth. This is the time to get your calculator and
few close outsiders (ie, people you can trust who are               open the spreadsheets. Things to take into account include
not experts in your field). You might be in for a few sur-          the investment budget, statistical data and ratios, return on
prises when you get their feedback. (7) Marketing goals             investment, and financial projections.
and strategies: This should be a document summing it
all up.                                                             CONCLUSI ON
                                                                      For most action-minded entrepreneurs, which hopefully
ORG ANIZATION                                                       includes the majority of us, writing a business plan is not the
   Describing the job profiles of the staff you intend to hire is   most pleasant task. However, it is a crucial deciding factor for
one of the most cumbersome parts of the business plan. Yet          the success of your practice. Understating its importance can
staffing is a key element in almost any venture. It is crucial      be a painful mistake. For those counting on some sort of
that you dedicate the appropriate time to this task. Do not         outside financing (most of us, we guess), it is a sine qua non
forget to spend more than a few moments on the adminis-             condition to simply get started. Overall, a balanced business
trational organization of your practice and, importantly,           plan will help focus your mind on all things needed and will
what to do in case key personnel decide to leave. Set up a          be a handy script to fall back on while implementing all
contingency plan for those cases. The same applies to major         those great ideas for your practice. ■
incidents that could seriously affect your daily activities,
including equipment failure.                                           Tom Van der Heyden, MBA, is Managing Partner of S3
   The operational side is your favorite part, for which you        Strategic Sourcing Solutions in Barcelona, Spain, and Shanghai,
have already developed the most detailed ideas. Make sure           China. Mr. Van der Heyden may be reached at tel: +34 93 205
to put these down in well-defined terms that are easily             87 50; e-mail:
understandable to the nonexpert, in case you wish to                   Erik L. Mertens, MD, FEBOphth, is Medical
attract outside investors or convince your bank about cru-          Director of Medipolis, Antwerp, Belgium, and
cial financing. People will not invest in a venture they do not     Medical Director of FYEO Medical, Eersel,
understand. (Although events of the past few years seem to          Netherlands. Dr. Mertens is the Associate Chief
contradict that statement.)                                         Medical Editor of CRST Europe. He may be reached
   Put your main focus on the overall identity you want to          at tel: +32 3 828 29 49; e-mail:

                                                                     JANUARY 2010 I CATARACT & REFRACTIVE SURGERY TODAY EUROPE I 61

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