Whether it is a physical therapy practice or a fast food restaurant, efficient systems are the lifeblood of any successful business.
Let’s use the phenomenal story of the leading fast food restaurant in the world; McDonald’s as an example. The McDonald’s story all started back in 1948 when a set of brothers founded McDonald’s after shutting down their original BBQ business for a few months in order to implement their innovative "Speedee Service System" - an efficient assembly line for hamburgers. As a result, McDonald’s was able to make a 15 cent hamburger the staple of their menu. At 15 cents, McDonald’s hamburgers were not only half the price of other diners in the area but they were served immediately.
In 1954, the McDonald’s brothers were approached by entrepreneur and milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc with the proposition to let him franchise McDonald’s restaurants outside the company’s home base of California and Arizona. In 1955, Ray Kroc founded "McDonald's Systems, Inc." and opened his first McDonald’s restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. In 1958, McDonald’s Worldwide sold its 100 millionth hamburger. Today McDonald’s has grown to over 35,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. McDonald’s also employs more than 1.7 million people who serve over 70 million customers each day.
So how was founder Ray Kroc able to do this? The answer is “systems.” By having exceptionally strong systems in place, McDonald's is able to hire and train their employees to become extremely efficient and successful at their position. The burger always has the same taste, the burger always has the same look and the burger is almost always prepared before you can even make it to the drive through window. All of these items are made possible because of the step by step systems that have been implemented.
The significance of systems is that once they are developed and implemented properly, the company can move towards an operationally independent identity. This in return is what allows the duplication of the systems and the overall growth of a company.
Whether you are admitting a new patient or ordering supplies for your clinic, each physical therapy business should have a policy and procedures manual outlining their systems. As the director of five outpatient physical therapy clinics in Florida and Ohio, the implementation of systems was a critical component of the day to day operations of each clinic. When I was first introduced to this role, my colleagues always joked with me that I should carry a hose around because it seemed like all I did was put out fires. It did not take long for me to realize that something needed to be done in order to dissolve the operational hurdles that were clearly limiting the practice from maximizing their potential.
We didn't need better equipment, better staff or better marketing. Instead, we needed better systems. It wasn't until I created and implemented efficient systems that were universal throughout all five locations, that each clinic became more and more operationally independent.
If you find yourself reading this and are feeling very similar as if nothing productive can be accomplished because all you do is “put out fires”, I challenge you to start simple and identify the fires that are draining you. Make a list of them as they present themselves. However, don’t just make a list. Take the next step and develop a solution. Once you have identified an operational hurdle, develop and implement a system that will streamline the process and eliminate that fire or operational hurdle from happening again.
Do not get discouraged. Remember that systems whether small or large are contributions towards making your clinic one step closer to becoming operationally independent.