Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Setting Goals

Personally, I don't know how these people keep updating their websites every day. I'd be happy updating even once a week. Let's see, my last post was . . . 5 days ago?


That's the secret to success: set your goals low enough and you'll achieve them even if you barely try.

It's 3 PM. I'm waiting for the daughter of a family friend to come in at 3:30 PM to measure her blood pressure and enter it on a form for a summer camp. In my experience, people who have forms to fill in rarely need "just" a blood pressure measurement to be filled in. They often need a complete evaluation and a physician's signature, so that in case the person keels over while hiking/playing soccer/wrestling bears/fill in your own dangerous activity here/juggling kittens, they'll know who to point to when the lawyers come to sue.

Earlier today, I was sitting at home making finishing touches on another ad when the phone rang. I don't usually answer the phone at home because, well, because of this: "For the 50th time, no, I don't want to subscribe to the newspaper! Why? Because I already subscribe!" But for some reason I picked it up today. Good thing. An aquaintance from our kids' school was on the line. They have a construction company, and one of their workers accidentally shot a nail through his thumb. It hurts just thinking about it.

Could I see him today? 45 minutes later, they were in my office. 30 minutes later, they were done. I figured I saved them about 3 hours and $150 if they had gone to the local ER. The only drawback was that I didn't have any tetanus vaccine. Namely because up until now, I haven't had any patients who needed it. So I told the guy I'd give him a call when I had some available and then I quickly ordered it online. Supposedly Besse Medical will ship it out tomorrow. $165 for 15 doses works out to about $11 per tetanus shot. I never had any idea how much they cost before.

My friend's daughter just came and went. The form really did just need a BP and pulse reading filled in. Her mom told her to pay me for my time, but I refused to accept payment. How often do doctors refuse to take money from patients? I don't know, but apparently in China, you can face "serious punishment" if you accept money from patients. I'd make a good Chinese doctor.

Last Friday, I gave the first of my monthly health presentations at the local Senior Center. Topic: Mad Cow Disease. If you define success as having more than 2 people show up AND pay attention AND not riot afterwards because they thought it was supposed to be Free Fruit Cup Day, then it was an unqualified success. Actually, 8-9 seniors showed up and a few told me they thought it was a good talk. Even the little old lady who kept asking, "What about chickens? And milk? Is it okay to drink milk?" After I reassured her for the 3rd time that milk seemed OK, she confided, "Oh, that's good. I don't drink milk anyways."

It occurred to me that perhaps I was missing calls from potential patients who would call my office, but never leave a message on the answering machine. Because I haven't had patients every day, I have not necessarily gone to my office every day, instead doing work at home or running errands, and checking in about once an hour to see if there are any messages. Usually none, but when I checked the Caller ID log, there'd be calls - just no messages. So I signed up for Call Forwarding and now have all calls routed to my cellphone. And since I've done that -- I can't tell the difference. Is that supposed to happen?

But another ad is coming out tomorrow in the local newspaper. I'm taking a "high road" approach, trying to present a positive and dignified image, featuring a photo of a happy local family each time. I've wondered if I should include marketing gimmicks like a coupon for $10 off. But I feel that 1) they don't work to generate new business and 2) they cheapen the image of physicians, putting us on the same level as a fast food chain. Then again, McDonald's made over $500 million last year. But they did give us doctors a lot of business while doing it, so maybe it evens out in the end.

I sent out email inquiries today to 2 other local newspaper about their ad rates. Maybe it's time to expand my advertising range, which so far has been limited to our little city. This weekend is the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" fundraising event. Perhaps there is still time to be a sponsor and set up a tent with water bottles, since it's probably going to be over 90 degrees.

I delivered a check for $500 today to the City Recreation Dept. to be a sponsor for the "Concerts in the Park" series this summer. A month ago we received notices that it was in danger of being cancelled due to budget shortfalls in the city government, and thus a call for help to the local business community. Even though we've never personally attended one, my wife and I do feel that this is a worthwhile community activity to promote and continue. And perhaps this year we will attend our first "Concert in the Park".

It does seem like there are an infinite number of charities in need of money these days, and each one represents a marketing opportunity. On the positive side, it's good to be seen as a supporter of the local activities and community at large. To be a good neighbor. On the other hand, I'm running out of money.

For the first time in a long time, I've started acting like the average American consumer: specifically, carrying a balance on my credit card. Fortunately, I'm still in the 0% grace period. Unfortunately, that grace period runs out in June.

I suppose I can then start playing that other American pasttime: the Credit Card Shuffle.

My new goal: to not go out of business before next week. I have reasonable hopes of success.