Starting your practice is both exciting and more than a little bit daunting. For most therapists, it’s their first brush with being an entrepreneur. While they’ve had years of intensive clinical training, internships, supervision and other training related to their degree, most practitioners have not had a single business course to prepare them to hang out their shingle.
So what does it take to start a practice? Here are just a few of the basics things I suggest therapists carefully review before moving into private practice:
- A Business Plan
I recommend that you complete a formal business plan before you venture into your new practice (even if you aren’t seeking financing from a bank or other source). I suggest that you go through this step to get yourself in the proper frame of mind for starting your business, and to see the “numbers” side of starting your practice in black and white. It is terribly important that you are clear about what you taking on financially before you make the leap into private practice. The Small Business Administration offers a simple walk-through template you may find useful, along with a number of other basic tools at SBA.gov.
This is covered in your business plan, but, generally, I suggest you begin looking at how you are going to afford your start-up. It costs money to buy the equipment, furnishing, office space and other items you will need to buy or rent to get started. You must consider how long it will take for you to begin generating income. What will you live on while you’re waiting for your revenue to pick up? How will you cover your overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, liability insurance, etc. while you are building your caseload?
- Office Space
Depending upon your location and the nature of your practice, securing office space may be more or less difficult. Giving thought to the type of client you see (children, geriatrics, young professionals, etc.) may help clue you in as to the locations you should be scouting. Your business plan figures will give you a range in which to look rent-wise, and you must be careful not to over-rent or under-rent. Your image must also be considered when renting your new space.
- Equipment & Furnishings
You will need to invest in basic office equipment and furnishings to set up your office. It’s very tempting to skimp here, and while I certainly don’t recommend going overboard, I’ve seen clinicians undercut their chances of a successful practice by being much too conservative with their startup investment. If you can’t meet the expenditure projections outlined in your business plan, it’s far better to delay the opening of your practice until you’ve saved up for the right equipment, than to press on.
- Marketing Plan
When I say Marketing Plan, I mean more than just having business cards printed. I truly mean having a vision– knowing what your patient base is, how you will reach them, and what your message to them will be about the services you are offering. It also means getting the message about your services to your friends, neighbors, family members, local businesses and professionals in your area so that they can make referrals to you when appropriate.
- Support Systems
This is something I think is often overlooked in planning of practice startups, but it can be an incredibly important factor in your success. Having the support of your family and friends, as well as a network of peers with whom you can consult regularly is absolutely invaluable.
I hope this gives you some food for thought as you make plans for starting your own practice. I’ll dive more deeply into all of these topics in my blog posts.