The Reality Of Owning A Private Practice: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

The reality of owning a private practice article image

In this accompanying article to Nancy Duncan’s ‘Under The Hood’ podcast with Dr. Tracy Board, we extract the 6 biggest lessons on how to achieve a high-performing private practice that Dr Nancy and Dr Tracy discussed.

Dr. Tracy Board, Au.D, from Audicles Hearing Service, is an exceptional example of an audiologist, turned entrepreneur. Having taken over her practice back in 2019, below are her candid answers to Nancy’s questions, which reveal just how turbulent life can be as a private practice owner!


#1 What’s The Secret To A Smooth Takeover Of A Private Practice?

Taking a leadership role early on.

In the podcast, Tracy describes how, although it was a little easier for her to take over her practice because she was already working there, (opposed to someone completely new), it was essential that she established herself early on as the leader of the company and not just a member of the staff.

“Getting involved in the recruitment process and supervising all new recruits so they were already familiar with me was essential in order for me to gain the respect from my staff and ensure they understood my role as a leader.”

Tracy also attributes the smooth transition to the fact she and the former owner both shared the same core values, which was to always put patients first, treat the staff well and keep looking to improve the practice; without these shared core values, things might have been different.


#2 What’s Your Definition Of A High-Performing Clinic?

Dr. Tracy is part of a professional group of CEOs (from different industries) and, having discussed this at length with her peers, believes that it all comes down to 3 key things:

  • Not accepting mediocrity
  • Ensuring your team hold themselves accountable at all times
  • Learning how to embrace feedback.

Of course, the definition of “high-performance” is subjective and differs from person to person, however, it’s widely accepted that to achieve great things in general you must break through the wall of mediocrity.

Dr. Tracy has instilled within herself the need to always strive for better and not accept mediocrity as an acceptable standard for her practice, her staff and herself.

Fortunately for Dr. Tracy she has two superstar team players within her staff, who both have the same mindset as her and always want to strive for better.

“Being able to call each other out on mediocrity if we see it is part of our culture. We have to have a great amount of respect for each other to do that and learn not to take things personally when it comes to work”

By doing that, Dr. Tracy is then able to ensure her staff always hold themselves accountable for their work, which means that mistakes are dealt with integrity and lessons are learned and applied.

Finally, by creating a culture that actively encourages everyone to give and receive constructive feedback, it means that everyone has an opinion, a voice and an outlet to express, while also accepting that feedback givers should also be ready to receive it back!


#3 What’s The One Thing You Attribute To Your Clinic’s Success?

Dr. Tracy believes that her commitment to empowering her team to work well in her absence is by far the biggest contributor to her success, as she realizes her clinic HAS to function without her.

“It’s absolutely good to feel NOT needed!”

To achieve this, Dr. Tracy ensures that her team always know their responsibilities, what to do and who to go to should they ever need help.


#4 What’s The Biggest Mistake You’ve Made Since Taking Over The Business?

When the pandemic hit back in 2020, private practices were told they had to close their doors, however, not every private practice owner lay down and took it, instead opting to find more creative ways to help their patients…

…Dr. Tracy regrets not doing this quick enough.

“My biggest mistake was closing my doors for 6 weeks and not taking action quick enough. People needed me and I didn’t know what to do. I beat myself up so much over it.”

Fortunately, Dr. Tracy got some advice from her professional peers and discovered some of the creative ways they had adopted to help their patients, including introducing a curb-side service and tele-audiology.

By thinking outside the box and creating new services designed to go to the patient, instead of them coming to the clinic, it meant that even in the worst months of the pandemic, Dr. Tracy was able to get out of her own funk and still make a huge impact to her community.


#5 What’s The Best Decision You’ve Ever Made Since Taking Over The Practice?

Dr. Tracy describes the moment she had to let a member of staff go who had been with the company for over 29 years…

“When I took over the practice, there was a staff member, who, by default became the office manager.

Although she had been there for 29 years, it was clear to everyone that she wasn’t a go getter, had no energy, didn’t take any responsibility and was an overall bad influence on everyone else in the office.

My star performers kept coming to me saying ‘is this how you want your office to be run? She is ruining your image and reputation’.

It was then that I knew I had to do something. I sat her down in the office and asked her to leave. It was heart-breaking and by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, especially as I had a relationship with her outside of the office, however it was by far the best decision I could make for the business.”

The key lesson Dr. Tracy learnt here was the importance of not allocating job titles by default, or sticking with staff just because they had been there a long time.

In short, hire slowly, fire quickly.


#6 What Do You Believe The Future Of Private Practice Looks Like?

Of course, the world of private practice has been shaken up and tipped on its head with OTC and the serious undercutting in hearing aid prices.

However, it’s a testament to the forward-thinking audiologists of the era and their determination to keep private practice alive that shows that the future is still bright for this industry.

“I feel, although more of us are going to become boutique practices due to insurance reimbursement not getting any better, this whole thing is making us grow and become better service providers. We’re being forced to think outside the box and add other dimensions to our business, such as hiring hearing aid dispensers – things that make us even more competitive than we were before”.

The idea that audiologists across the United States are now in a position to “be the experts” and show that their expertise has greater worth than a cheap hearing aid product, will always appeal to the people who value service and experience over price.


Inspired By Nancy And Tracy’s Discussion?

If you’ve been inspired by anything you’ve read here and you’re ready to put your focus on achieving a high-performing clinic of your own (or expanding upon the good work you’ve done already), then you’re welcome to have a 45-minute private practice strategy discussion with Oli Luke – the man who assisted Nancy and Tracy with their exponential growth. Just click on the banner below to schedule your call.

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