Posted on May 17, 2022
Nick Ferran is a Consultant Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon who works with top imaging centres and shoulder physiotherapists across Central and North West London.
Today we asked him to share some of his experiences as owner of a medical practice with clinics in Chelsea, Chiswick, Harley Street, Harrow and St. Johns Wood.
How would you explain your business to someone who has no knowledge of it?
I am a Consultant Shoulder & Elbow Surgeon and I offer private consultations, outpatient treatments, and surgical treatment for common shoulder and elbow conditions.
How long have you been in this business? And in other businesses?
I have been an NHS Consultant for 6 years and have been doing private practice for a similar amount of time. I have been a qualified doctor since 2002 and spent my time training to be an Orthopaedic Surgeon and then specialising in Shoulder & Elbow surgery.
Why did you choose it?
I have been inspired by role models throughout my life. As a 4 year old, I gave an interview while in kindergarten where I stated I wanted to be a doctor and then I was inspired by my GP. In medical school, I was inspired by a neighbour who was an Orthopaedic Surgeon and during my training, I was inspired by a Shoulder & Elbow Consultant to specialise in Shoulder & Elbow Surgery.
How did you get started?
My journey started in Med School in 1997. I graduated as a doctor in 2002 and moved to the UK. I started my Surgical Training in 2003 and my Orthopaedic Training in 2008. I completed my Orthopaedic training in 2014 and went on to fellowship training in Sydney and then the UK specialising in Shoulder & Elbow surgery and I was appointed as a Consultant at London North West University Hospitals NHS Trust in 2016.
How do you attract your clients?
Private patients come to me via several routes: referrals from insurance companies, referrals from other colleagues and physiotherapists, and more and more patients find me online.
Can you describe your customers?
My patients range from young adults with sporting injuries, to middle age and older people with degenerative conditions causing shoulder or elbow pain. The one thing they have in common is the need to manage their pain in order to return to normal activities be that sport, work, or recreation.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
I continue to try to grow my private practice in order to provide my patients with timely diagnosis, and the best evidence based treatments I can.
Which things make you happy as a small business owner?
Doctors don’t get a lot of business training. Private practice has taught me loads. I have had to learn basic business principles, see myself as a CEO, spend time focusing on how I can help patients navigate the world of private healthcare, learn to provide accurate information for patients in multiple formats, all the while working with them to provide excellent care. The thing that makes me the happiest is getting positive feedback from patients and knowing that all the effort is providing them with the service and care that they want and need.
Which is your best-selling product or service and why do you think your clients love it so much?
I have invested heavily in my website and YouTube channel in order to provide patients with accurate, up to date, evidence based, information in multiple formats. We have patient information pages on common conditions, blogs on topics of interest, diagrams explaining conditions and anatomy, and a host of videos explaining different shoulder and elbow conditions and their treatment. My website gets over 13K hits per month and my YouTube channel just crossed 1K subscribers. This information is open to all. One of the most common compliments I get in my patient feedback is my communication and explanation of their issue and treatment options and my website and YouTube Channel are an important part of this.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
More and more my customers choose me based on my online presence. I have worked to make sure my website provides the content they need, my SEO is right so that patients can find me, and I collect and publish reviews from patients online. I have over 190 Doctify reviews online rated over 4.9 out of 5 stars. I think having good ratings from patients and strong recommendations from colleagues with a solid online presence helps patients to choose their surgeon with confidence.
Customer Retention: how do you keep your customers happy?
Besides having great information resources for patients, I have an excellent admin team that works hard to make sure patients are looked after and the appointment process is smooth and easy. I have online booking so customers can book live online. In the clinic, we try to be as on time as possible so patients do not have to wait too long in the clinic. Where possible we offer one-stop clinics for some conditions where we take a history, do the investigations and start treatments all in one appointment. I treat patients with respect and make sure decision making around their treatment involves them and is centred on their goals while making sure their expectations are accurately set.
Which challenges did and do you face, in running your business?
The biggest challenge is time. I have learned to make time to think about the business, assess things from time to time, make time to innovate and make our improvements patient centred. Having a great admin team, great web designer, great SEO team, and great video and illustration support mean I can focus more on delivering for patients.
Is there any business lesson you learnt through experience that you wish you knew about earlier in life?
I learned to understand each aspect of my business before hiring it out to others. I am constantly bombarded with people offering me SEO and first page rankings on google. After trusting a couple of them with no results I decided to take the time to learn and understand SEO better. I was then put in touch with Pink SEO and they have been excellent. Understanding what they do means I have peace of mind leaving them in charge of this aspect of my business.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
In my career burnout is common. I do my best to try to switch off from work, particularly on holidays. Most private practice consultants run their private practice outside a full-time NHS job and I am no different. Time management is key to making sure that I maintain my downtime, enjoy time with family and look after my health and wellbeing so that I can do the best for my patients.
Which is your best strategy for time management?
I have become better at using calendars to block out my work so that it is done when intended. In clinics etc, if I have a moment of downtime I use it to respond to emails and keep on top of work issues so that when the day is done I am not having lots of work to do in the evenings during my personal time.