In a growing trend, consumers are increasingly turning to walk-in clinics and urgent care centers for treatment of minor ailments and injuries instead of trying to squeeze in an appointment with a primary care provider or waiting at a crowded emergency room. In fact, an estimated 3 million patients visit urgent care centers each week, according to the Urgent Care Association of America.

Urgent care centers are a win-win situation for owners and their communities, but they are not immune from the business start-up statistics — 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first five years because of management mistakes. Although you can recover from many mistakes as you begin operating your urgent care, there are other mistakes that are not so forgiving. Here is a look at five mistakes to avoid, along with some tips to help:

1. Poor customer service

There is no excuse for not treating patients like gold. This should be your top priority no matter how busy the center may be.

  • Randomly check patient satisfaction by hiring a mystery patient to visit your clinic, much like the department store mystery shoppers.
  • Ask patients to complete a survey about their experience at the center.

2. Not creating a culture of success

It is important to create a culture in which your staff can succeed, one in which they feel good about coming to work each day.

  • Take time to hire the “right” people. Attitude is first, skill set is second.
  • Include staff in a feeling of ownership. Encourage them to help solve problems, be productive and ultimately help the business to succeed. This will help them feel their jobs are rewarding, challenging and exciting a recipe for success.
  • Make sure your staff know what is expected of them. Periodic evaluations are a good resource for meeting with your staff and reviewing performance and responsibilities.

3. Spending too much in the beginning

It’s easy to get excited with a new business and fail to differentiate between necessary items and unnecessary items, thereby putting huge dents in the center's cash flow.

  • Avoid spending too much money up front on items that do not matter.
  • Avoid purchasing fancy business cards, furnishing fancy offices within the clinic and overspending on computers, phones and other electronic gadgets.
  • Consider leasing equipment or buying secondhand.
  • Ask, “Do I need this for my patients or do I want it for me?”

4. Not marketing effectively

Survival, growth and success are your ultimate goals. Traditional and nontraditional marketing in the right combination is important for the success of your center.

  • Shoot for a marketing contract of three months or less.
  • Consider nontraditional marketing such as social media and local community activities.
  • Be sure to get oral agreements with your marketing sales person in writing.

5. Not understanding your numbers

  • Always remember that your cash flow is your job and your responsibility.
  • Learn how to understand your profit and loss statement and your balance sheet.
  • Track your success by tracking your profits in relationship to your payroll expenses.
  • Track numbers monthly to see how much you are spending per person:
    • Profits/number of employees (P/E)
    • Percentage salary (S/P x 100)

Remember that your patients (customers) sign your paycheck. Customer service is key. Hire the right people and create the right attitude by developing a culture together. Create a positive customer experience that will keep urgent care patients coming back to your center again and again. Bottom line, the point of running your urgent care center is to make a profit.