Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
I only expect opportunities in life and to be paid after creating value for others. This attitude—which pushes me to excel and constantly improve my service to my patients—has been crucial to my success.
I know as an acupuncturist, you value your service. And you have invested a lot of time and money to treat people effectively and safely. But your patients aren’t interested in paying off your school debts. For consumers to depart with their hard-earned cash, they need to see the value for them. Think, for a moment, about who you typically perceive as an entrepreneur. It’s probably an innovator of some kind, right? Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page, who created extraordinary products, did it better than anyone else, and had people lining up to buy them or signing up by the millions to use them.
While you may not be reinventing the wheel or creating new acupuncture techniques, there’s a lot to be learned from these individuals. They look at the world, the market, or a product and see it not just for what it is, but for everything it could be. They’re constantly looking for ways to make things better, be it faster, cheaper, or more feature-rich. Google is constantly updating its algorithms and adding new services; a new version or upgrade of the iPhone comes out every year.
In other words, they are all looking for ways to provide value. Most people don’t throw their money around indiscriminately, but if they really see the value in a product or service, they’ll pay for that value.
So if you want to draw people to you, then you have to give them a good reason to come. Remember the early 2000s when you would wait to get a new cell phone until you could get the “free upgrade” that came with renewing your service contract? In those days, no one would ever think of replacing her cell phone until she could get that bonus. Today, many of us spend a lot of money on a new smartphone every year or two, even though the one we have still works. We went from never paying for a cell phone to paying for a new one almost every year. Why? Because we value having the most updated features a new smartphone provides.
Fees Are Tied to Deliverables
You do not get paid for working harder. You get paid for creating value for others. Think about this for a moment. If we were sitting at opposite ends of a lecture hall and I offered you a ten-dollar bill in exchange for your twenty, all I’d get is a confused look. You might ask, “What else am I getting?” because we’re so programmed to think in these terms that an exchange like that doesn’t even make sense. And in this case it doesn’t. If I offered you a straight-up exchange of your twenty-dollar bill for my twenty-dollar bill, would you bother to walk over and make the trade? Probably not. What’s the point? If I offered you a hundred dollars to exchange with your twenty dollars, would it be worth it then? You’d make an easy eighty-dollar profit. Suddenly, there’s some value for you to stand up and walk across the room.
The key, then, is to offer more in perceived value to your patients than you are asking for in price.
In clinical terms, if you charge seventy-five dollars for a patient visit, then your patients need to feel they’re getting more than seventy-five dollars in value, if you want a line of patients booking to see you. If they feel like they’re just getting seventy-five dollars in value, then it’s like exchanging a twenty for a twenty—why bother leaving the house? However, if a cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) costs $15,000–$25,000 with a 40 percent success rate, yet twelve acupuncture sessions can double the odds of live birthrates (1), then it is likely they will see the value in adding at least twelve acupuncture sessions to their IVF.
Is your practice set up like a commodity so that you are basically offering the same as every other acupuncturist in your area? If so, then you will need to compete for patients by being competitively priced. Over time this leads to you working harder and making less as you reduce your fees or provide free add-ons to compete and attract patients, which is the opposite of the entrepreneur’s way of working less and making more.
If, on the other hand, you look for ways to provide more value, then you can absolutely charge more, and patients will be happy to pay it because they know it’s worth it. And if you look, these kinds of opportunities are everywhere.
Some things we do at Acubalance to create value: Firstly, we have established ourselves as an authority in treating infertility, which is valued by both patients and referring reproductive endocrinologists (IVF clinics). We also do lots of little things that are very effective and appreciated by our patients. We provide handouts and articles for patients to read at home, as well as books they can borrow from our lending library. We spend time in the visit educating clients on what they can do at home (natural homework) to improve the effectiveness of treatments and accelerate results. We write out what we discussed at treatments and summarize it an e-mail or on paper so that they do not have to worry about remembering it. And we offer an integrative approach by discussing their case with our team of healers (TCM, ND, MD, and often other caregivers), which patients now seek out.
PUT IT INTO PRACTICE
Brainstorm a list of ways that you can offer services or products that would be valuable to your patients. Then put at least one of those into practice. Remember I said being successful is simple but not easy. Creating value is a continuous effort. It can take time to innovate and implement your ideas. The point is to focus on creating and providing value for your patients that will have them choose you for their care.
- Hullender Rubin et , “Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes,” Reproductive biomedicine online 30, no. 6 (2015): 602–12.
-excerpt, from Chapter 7, Missing the Point