This month we have been covering key business considerations your simulation teams needs to have in place to build or expand your program. Previous articles in this series include the “Language of Sales – How to Increase Your Simulation Budget” and “3 Key Resources to Expand Your simulation Program“.
In today’s article I share how as the Director of the Clinical Simulation Center of Las Vegas, I was able to secure $250,000 in external business contracts in just two years. These additional funds helped the center hire additional staff and purchases new equipment. So, note that although this article focuses on external contracts, a lost of the materials presented here will also help you expand your simulation services to internal departments within your institution.
The discussion focuses on 7 key areas necessary to create a successful sales funnel for your simulation services, the first 3 of which we will cover today:
- Gaining support
- Building a program
- Seizing opportunities
- Marketing yourself
- Providing quality services
- Securing feedback
- Perfecting systems.
1. Gain Support
Before building an external simulation program, I knew I would need to gain the support of the executive leadership of our department to spend time and energy focusing on clients outside our internal stakeholders. At the CSCLV this leadership was the Deans of the collaborative schools sharing the space (all of whom were under the roof of the Nevada System of Higher Education UNLV, NSC, and UNSOM).
After our first year of utilization I was able to show the deans that our center’s spaces were not being utilized during many nights and weekends. This was followed up by the reminder of an opportunity to “rent” those spaces to groups that may be interested in training healthcare learners or being in a healthcare looking facility without actual patients. The deans agreed that an exploration of external business development could help to cover the costs not only for the staff time needed to manage those engagements, but additional staff time to help our own programs and also pay for new equipment in the future when needed.
The deans reminded me that I would need to get permission for a special account from the State system to take in revenue, and that I would need to generate a contract template for external users to protect the center — one that included a demand for proof of insurance by the external programs to cover any accidents. Following this I met with the Center’s legal support out of UNLV to address all of these concerns in-order to get the final sign off on starting an external program.
2. Build a Program
The most important thing to remember when starting the development of a new simulation program, internal or external, is to start small. By creating a successful program that is manageable and repeatable, your team can “rinse and repeat” on cruise control while reserving development energies for bigger projects. Remember that teams fatigue by new information, new processes, new technologies, and new systems. By aiming too high in the beginning, we risk exhausting ourselves and our programs. With a smaller program, we can be sure not to extend our resources too far too quickly and burn out. Remember, the longterm success of the program is the goal — and smaller steps will help us to build upon our achievements and ultimately move farther, faster.
This mindset helped our team pick our first external client, the ATLS course from the County Hospital next door. The group was looking for a new host to provide the space for the training, and store the materials necessary for the courses. Their educators would provide the training, and the local marketing. Our team would store their equipment, provide them space, provide additional marketing, and secure a small fee for our work.
This 2-day smaller program enabled our team to work through hundreds of issues that came up without overwhelming us from our “8 to 5” work for internal users of our simulation program. Items like catering, collecting payments, scheduling, contracts, and security concerns were addressed during the 2 months leading up to the first event. How we would deal with parking and directions to the room itself needed to be considered! Profits from this program were small at just about $1500 per weekend event.
Obviously we learned a great deal from the first program at the Center which we incorporated in future events (more on this later). The important thing to note here is that following this course we could now handle bigger, longer, and more expensive programs for external clients. Following this we launched simulation based training courses in partnership with an external consultant that lasted 4-5 days and required a great deal more support by our team for simulation experiences, marketing, and administration. Profits from these events increased to about $6,000 per event.
Following the successful completion of several such trainings, we were ready for multi-week programs with local hospitals and private schools that ended up generating $50,000+ contracts. Had we started from nothing to this high level of service I am sure we would have failed to provide high quality programs which are necessary to ensure supporting long-term relationships and positive testimonials, while minimizing staff stress levels.
3. Seize Opportunities
Consider what makes your simulation program special? What services can your team, center, program provide that internal stakeholders or external clients may need? Think small and think big: what local groups could benefit from ongoing long-term training engagements and what international groups would visit your center for one-off specialized training programs? What equipment does your program already have access to which is rare? Are you located in a travel destination?
The CSCLV is located in Las Vegas, which means that it can attract individuals from around the world that are interested in gaining necessary CEUs/CMUs while traveling to a fun location. What unique opportunities does your equipment, faculty, program, and city offer to potential clients?
Another benefit of Las Vegas is its close proximity to Hollywood, which helped Our Sim Center Have Its Most Profitable Day Ever. Production companies will pay big bucks to rent facilities that look like clinical locations but that don’t have real patients to worry about.
Knowing what you can offer local, regional, national, and international clients will enable you to identify and build programs which will speak to and attract new business to your program.
Are you interested in a deeper dive into these topics?
*Update: Part 2 of this article series is now available, which provides us with 4 more insights necessary to grow your simulation program: Marketing, Delivery, Feedback and Growth!