This page is divided into two sections.
For those who are currently contemplating private practice lets start here:
How do you know if you should open a private practice or not? Ask yourself these questions before you start your private practice:
- How many hours are you available to work?
- What happens when you are sick?
- Will you be able to take any vacations?
- Does your family agree with your business decision?
- Will you be able to pay your personal bills and maintain your current lifestyle?
- What type of personal sacrifices will you and your family have to make?
- Are your personal finances in order or do you have excessive debt?
- Do you work with people well?
- Are you organized?
To really know if you should open your own private practice or not you need to do two very important things:
1. Pray. You are going to need all the help you can get.
2. Do some research.
Let’s talk more about research. Before I opened my practice, I investigated the situation in my community thoroughly. The number one mistake you can make when opening a private practice is jumping in without taking time to examine your circumstances. Early on, I saw this happen to a therapist I knew and it was a real shame. Because he jumped in without any research or consulting, his therapy practice quickly fell apart, and he was left with no referrals and no source of revenue to pay for his expenses. How sad. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. With good research and planning, your practice can be a success. Just don’t put the cart before the horse!
In doing your research, it is critical to examine the following: current market trends, competition, financial resources, employee availability and referral networking.
Analyze Your Market
What is the market like in your area? To organize this in my mind and to then see it on paper (or computer screen), I came up with a market analysis. Don’t let the word “market analysis” scare you. It’s just a fancy word for sizing up the community and seeing if there is a need for your service. Any owner of a good small business does this. For example, if you are going to open up a new pizzeria in your city, would you open up one within a mile of the hottest pizza joint in town and three others? If you are interested in opening up a senior citizens’ fitness center, would you choose a city thriving with young families or the one down the highway full of retirees? The basic question to ask yourself: what are the needs of my community and are those needs being met?
Now that you are ready to start your practice or you have been doing so for a while here are some tips
Be A Detective To Figure Out Your Referral Networking
The absolutely most important business consideration for a private practitioner is referral sources. You absolutely must do research into referrals before opening a therapy practice.
You need to establish a good, professional relationship with your referral sources. When I was first considering opening a private practice I went to a local physicians office and talked to the office manager. I asked her if she thought there was a need for a therapy practice in the area and if she thought they could send me referrals in the future. Rarely a week passes now when I do not go by this office in person to pick up referrals or thank them for their business. I try to maintain contact with many other physician offices in my area too. The person who coordinates referrals is often the “office manager” and sometimes larger offices will have a designated “referral coordinator”. I always try to find out who this person is. In the therapy world, there are other referral sources to consider besides the physician. These may be specialists, social workers, teachers, day cares, independent living centers, senior citizen centers, retirement centers, and of course the community at large. In my practice, parents, teachers, and day care staff frequently refer families to our practice. This being the case, I make sure that I market my practice to these individuals.
What is your community like? Are there intermediary sources that you will need to consider in order to gain referrals? Do you know these people or are you willing to get to know them to market your practice?
In other settings where referrals will already be obtained for you, such as with school or hospital contracts, your job will be much easier. Your goal in these settings will be to market yourself directly to the contract source. You will want to find out who the people are that handle and decide on contracts and begin a marketing strategy to these groups. Find out if there is a bidding process and what the competition has to offer.
Create a Client Profile
Before you begin your market analysis, create a generic client profile of your target group.
Ask yourself questions such as these:
- What are the clients’ age ranges?
- Where do the majority of the clients live?
- What type of jobs do they hold, if any?
- What are their interests?
- What community groups are they members of?
- What is the average income?
- What are the typical diagnoses?
- What are the typical needs in therapy?
- Are they going without therapy services?
Questions such as these will help you identify the needs of your target group, if their needs are being served, and where they will go for help.
Cash Flow Analysis
The flow of cash in and out of your business must be constantly monitored and maintained. Schedule time at least weekly to address your practice’s finances. Permanent savings is your emergency fund for worst case scenarios. Working savings is your back up fund for the dips that occur in a referral based business. There will be a referral cycle. The quicker you can learn the trends of referrals the better off you will be.
Equipment And Supplies
When I first began my therapy practice, I had a lot of fun buying equipment and supplies. I thought I needed all kinds of things to go in my 800 square foot clinic. I had a lot of zeal, and I had to learn quickly to temper it when it came to purchases. Now I think hard about every purchase I make, and I weigh its worth in relation to my financial goals.
Think of Money as a Tool
Think of your financial resources as a tool to grow your practice and not just something green to put in your bank account and spend as you please. The more you increase your wealth and use it wisely, the more chance you have of growing your practice. And the inverse also holds true. The more you misuse your revenue, the less chance you have of growing your practice. This is basic business economics. The shrewd investor builds wealth while increasing his business at the same time.
Choosing a Location to Lease
Do not open a practice in a dark alley. In other words, remember your facility is a huge marketing tool and needs to be seen by the community and referral sources.
Consider locating your clinic within high traffic areas. The more people drive by your clinic, the better.
Consider locating your clinic near physician offices and other medical providers. This gives credibility to your practice and serves as a constant reminder to the medical community and the community at large that you exist and are ready for business.
One of my clinics, which is in a more rural area, is located on a state highway (used daily by everyone in my target area) and within two to three blocks of all physician offices. My other clinic, in a larger city, is located within both the heart of the medical community and the heart of where my target population lives.
Track Your Marketing
Once you begin your marketing, you must keep track of what’s working and rate each marketing tool’s effectiveness. This is why you must visit your marketing spreadsheet often.
A few methods for tracking what works:
- On your initial client intake sheet, include a place where the client can write where, how, or why they found and chose your practice. You can even create a list of your marketing tools on the intake form, and they can check which ones affected them the most.
- Ask the client, in person, why they chose your practice.
- Use Google Analytics on your website to track numbers.
- Notice how many pamphlets or business cards are being taken from the various locations you have them at.
- Track the actual number of clients you are treating. Are they growing?
- Keep up with how many clients come from each referral source.
- After presentations, ask the audience to fill out an evaluation form on its effectiveness.
Market Yourself as a Teacher
Teaching others, especially for free, can draw more attention to your business than you would believe. Being known as an expert in your field and being willing to share your knowledge is a strategy that works. And the best way to do this is with presentations.
If you have a specialty that you are good at such as feeding or splinting, create a presentation about it on Power Point, Keynote or Prezi (the one I really like), and offer it to an appropriate audience in the community. I suggest creating presentations on at least 3 different subjects, and have them ready to go. Here is a link to a Prezi presentation that I do for day cares.
After you have these presentations ready (or even before), call or make personal visits to potential referral sources, and ask them if you can present to their group. In the beginning, present in front of small audiences if you are not used to speaking formally in front of others. As you do these presentations be sure to collect your audiences email addresses so you can market to them later. Use MailChimp or Aweber to send out future emails to your potential clients.
As this page suggests, this is only a starting point. You will want to check out my Learning Resources page and my E-book which will give you a lifetime of learning and help eliminate the fear and confusion of starting and running a therapy practice.
I love to receive questions so please send them to me through my Contact Page.
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