Business Strategy with SMI Financial Coaching
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Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Today we have Silvia Inks. Sylvia is a Business Coach, Speaker, Author and Financial Coach. She spoke most recently at the FinCon conference in Austin this year, one of the biggest conferences for finance and media. And she’s a business strategist, financial expert and speaker who teaches small business owners how to make sense of their numbers, so they know what to do differently and build multiple profitable income streams. She’s helped coaches, consultants and creative experts find hidden opportunities to make more money without having to chase down more leads.
She is the author of the number one Amazon best selling book, Small Business Finance for the Busy Entrepreneur, The Blueprint for Building a Solid, Profitable Business. She’s been a guest on podcasts such as Side Hustle Nation, Influencers Radio, His & Her Money, The Military Money Show, Paychecks and Balances in Couple Money. She holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from UNC Chapel Hill, and before starting her business, she worked as a financial consultant for Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, helping Fortune 500 Organize achieve their business and financial goals. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and two sons. So without much ado, let’s welcome Sylvia. Welcome. Great.
Sylvia Inks: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yes, as I was alluding to, we both connected at FinCon this year, we both spoke there. And you had a great presentation. And like I said, I try to bring people from different parts that have offered value to the physician audience. So I know a lot of physicians today. They’re really running small businesses, they don’t really know how to do it, and they want to make it more efficient, more effective. So that’s what we’re gonna talk about today. But before we begin, tell us more about yourself, how you got started.
Sylvia Inks: How I got started, I just saw so many small business owners making the same mistakes over and over again. I come from a family that is actually a small business owner, as well as an employee and my father. I saw the pros and cons of owning a small business. And I also saw that even if a business was successful two years ago, it doesn’t mean it’s going to stay successful. So for me, I see so many great small business owners end up having cash flow issues or end up having to close up shop, even though they had a great product or service. And when I dig down into it, a lot of times, it just came down to finances and didn’t have anything to do with not having a great product or service. So my passion is to help small business owners stay in business.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s awesome. In the thing is, what I’ve noticed is that school teaches us how to be great specialists in engineer lawyers, doctors, dentists.They craft the skill, but there’s a lot of other skills that we that we need to learn that we were not learning, such as financial education, how to start and run a business. So, you help small business owners start businesses, make them more efficient. And so tell us, if I’m a physician, I just got out of residency fellowship, I’m starting my practice, what are some of the key things I would want to know, if I were to go to start my own practice?
Sylvia Inks: Yeah, two things, definitely is number one, making sure that you have the tools and processes in place to run an efficient business. Because especially as a physician, if you are basically kind of trading your time for money, you want to be as efficient as possible, you don’t want to be doing a lot of the manual tasks over and over again, where that takes time away from seeing patients. So tools and processes. Processes are a big thing for me that I help a lot of small business owners with. And the second piece, I know, sometimes physicians might not have a lot of control over this, is just pricing, making sure that you are pricing your services in a way that you are able to run a profitable business.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: That’s wonderful advice. And what’s interesting is that in our pre conference call, you were talking about one of your clients, he was a physician, and he also had trouble and he was struggling in running his business. So tell us more about what you’re starting to see in terms of some of the mistakes that you’re commonly seeing when you’re consulting with these small business practices when you’re coaching clients, etc.
Sylvia Inks: Yeah, the biggest thing again, is the systems. Not having a system in place having everything manual. So I’m really big on if there’s things that you’re doing more than 2, 3, 4 times, then that’s something that you need to be able to automate, you need to be able to have systems in place. One of the biggest things that I see with small business owners is that they are wasting a lot of time trying to schedule appointments with people. So across the board, it’s whether it’s trading a lot of voicemails or trading a lot of emails or trying to schedule appointments. So a scheduling tool is the number one biggest tool that I tell everybody. I see so many small business owners want to spend money on things like advertising or social media, but yeah, that’s great for them, but when they’re doing so many things manually in their business, they might be losing prospects and customers. Because one of the biggest things I’ve seen is, sometimes if it takes too long to try to get in, get an appointment or you’re trading a ton of emails, people will just go somewhere else. They’ll schedule while they’re waiting to hear back, or they’re struggling, they may just pick up the phone and call someone else or if the other person has a way to easily schedule online. They’re gonna go with the other person that’s easier to book an appointment with.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: So are you seeing a lot of, for example, a lot of small business owners. So in the past there used to be for physicians. It used to be administrative staffing. You had charts and paperwork. And now a lot of these things are being digitized, a lot of things are being automated. So tell us some of the tools that you offer, as well as some of the trends that you’re seeing in terms of the tools being used in today’s digital age.
Sylvia Inks: Yeah, so again, I think probably the biggest one, again, is scheduling, having a way for. I get it, like sometimes a new patient appointment is not as easy, you might want more information, but having a way for repeat clients to easily be able to schedule appointments with you, without having to physically talk to somebody can be time consuming. And the tool that I personally like for service based business owners is called a Book like a Boss, it’s really great, you can even actually request upfront payment. So if you are a business that has a lot of no shows or you want to minimize no shows, you can ask people to pay up front and have their credit card information in order to actually book a time slot on your calendar. So that’s a big one.
The other one, for other other service based businesses, I’m really big on using tools like DocuSign, like a contract based system, if you need something that’s going to be signed. So I think from a physician standpoint, where I could see that is like making sure there’s a way that people can do intake forms online. Instead of waiting until the last minute to get into the office and not letting people do any of the forms upfront. And having everybody do it through paper, and there needs to be manual input into it afterwards, right. So having a way to be able to allow people to do some of that paperwork up front and digitize even better, right, like being able to have that directly in some into a CRM system, a customer relationship management system, where you have all that data and you’re not having to rely on somebody to re enter data again. That’s the biggest one is like having some sort of contract contract system or some sort of intake system where you can get that information upfront.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, you pointed to so many, there’s so many ways to be efficient, make your business better and more effective, especially in terms of the intake system. And a lot of ERs they’re using now have what they call Scribes, and they basically document what the ER physician is doing when they’re taking in the patient. And I know a lot of companies are starting to use artificial intelligence to start to really automate these things. So when it comes to your tools you said it correctly a lot of things that are just so repetitive, that are dull things, these things can be automated into electronic and digital realms to save money and things.
Sylvia Inks: Especially if there’s ever a fire, right, like, I mean worst worst case scenario, something happens. Like, if customer data is like lost in a fire, like having a digital backup somewhere is going to be huge. I mean another one of the biggest things that I tell all small business owners that they need to have is a cloud system, right? The biggest ones that I recommend to a lot of small business owners I work with is a cloud system, like Microsoft Office 365. That’s really popular. I’m not sure if there’s specific ones in the physician realm, but definitely having a way where everything is digital, there’s a system where if there’s employees or freelancers or anybody else that’s working on your team can also access it off site if need be.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, clouds are very important. I know Microsoft is really big in the cloud now, Amazon as well. So from your standpoint, what are some of the potential savings that a practice can save the investment costs up front? And what are some of the savings down the road, if they were to employ some of your tools?
Sylvia Inks: One I mean, like, as mentioned, for the scheduling tool, like you may be losing prospects that you don’t even realize, I’ll share just a personal example I had, I did have a scheduling tool, I have always had a scheduling tool. But there was one prospect that it was a warm prospect they had, they were ready to hire me, but they just wanted to get on the phone with me. And by the time we traded emails back and forth, where I was trying to give her additional times that we could meet outside of my scheduling tool. By the fourth email, she said thanks for your time, but I already hired somebody else that I could meet with sooner. Yeah, so I lost out on a $2,500 deal, prospect because it just took too long to get on the phone. So I think that’s the unknown, right? How many patients or new patients would be willing to see, but it just took too long to get on the phone with you or get or no one called them back? Or took too long to call back and they just went with somebody else that they could get into the appointment. sooner? Yeah, so there’s definitely lost sales there.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, definitely. I noticed, especially with scheduling, if you can put everything in automated and just everything easily scheduled, it makes it so much easier instead of having the back and forth.
Sylvia Inks: A thought about the scheduling, I have a local acupuncturist that I’ve seen, and it was great. He was one of the first acupuncture clinics in the area where he had a scheduling tool online, it was like, if it was a Saturday and you realized you needed to book an appointment, you didn’t have to wait until Monday to book an appointment. You just go on the website and easily book appointments by yourself. Yeah, so scheduling tools, a big big one, that I see that a lot of just physicians are missing the ability to make it easy for people to request appointments up front.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Do you offer any tools for billing? I know, that’s quite complicated, because you have a lot of billing codes, and you have to deal with insurance. I know, your other clients may not have to do that. But describe some of the billing tools that you offer for small businesses.
Sylvia Inks: The one that I work with, again not specific to physicians, but the one that I love the most is FreshBooks. It’s one where it allows you to invoice, you could do proposals, as well as invoicing through that. You can even bill clients on a retainer basis. So a lot of times again, it takes away from having to remember to invoice someone. I’ve had clients before where they forgot to invoice someone because they did it manually. Versus FreshBooks, if you’ve got a patient that you’re seeing, or a person that you’re seeing consistently or recurring, you can make it on a retainer basis and say bill this client 299 a month for the next six months or every, every month until I cancel this recurring invoice. So Fresh Books is the one that I recommend to all my service based business owners because it was really meant for service based business owners. QuickBooks tends to be really confusing to a lot of small business owners and really have to, you do absolutely have to have a CPA and a bookkeeper who knows QuickBooks to set it up properly.
Because I had a health professional who didn’t Set Up QuickBooks correctly and thought that they would save some money and have their own office staff set it up. And then six months into it, when they hired a CPA bookkeeper realized they set up some of the initial setup incorrectly, they had to pay money for that person to literally strip it out and restart everything from scratch. And so they basically paid almost double what they would have had they just paid up front. So definitely, QuickBooks is a little bit more complicated. But for service based business owners who aren’t having to deal with inventory, etc. FreshBooks is super easy. And you can easily see your profit and loss for the business on a monthly almost instantaneous basis. Like you can pull up the reports and see it as long as all your bills and all your bank and credit cards that you’re using for the business are connected to the FreshBooks systems, you can immediately on a daily basis, you can log in and see what your profit and loss is.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, awesome. If this is a fantastic conversation we could do an entire workshop on this. I know so many physicians are interested in your products and services. And we may have you back in the future episode. So I know you wrote a book as well. And what are some of the ways that physicians can go and learn more about you? Take advantage of your products and services, and stay in contact with you.
Sylvia Inks: Yeah, you mentioned my book at the beginning of the podcast. So yes, my book, Small Business Finance for the Busy Entrepreneur, is available on Amazon. But you can also go on to my book URL, it’s SmallBusinessFinanceBook.com. And it’s 21 kinds of lessons learned from small business owners, from experienced business owners to even six-figure business owners. All kinds of lessons have taught me some mistakes that I’ve seen business owners make with their finances and how they set up their business. So I put it in this book so it’s easy to follow. You can jump straight to the chapter that you need to help, you know need help the most. And even my own physician has used my book as a kind of go-to guide on how to better run his practice.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Awesome. And for the audience and listeners all of Sylvia’s resources and links will be included in the show notes. So Sylvia, thanks a lot. much for being on the show and we hope to have you back in the future.
Sylvia Inks: Thank you so much.
Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at Chris@drchrisloomdphd.com. I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!
Editor’s note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.