Starting a New Practice: To Thine Own Self Be True
What’s the most important thing to know about launching your own practice? I’m often asked this question and given a very finite amount of time to answer it. Of course, launching your own practice is not something that can or should be reviewed that quickly. In fact, I would say that in some ways you should look at launching your own practice a lot like going to school. For the next several years you’re going to learn many strange and new concepts, and it’s going to cost you a lot of money.
Keeping on that train of thought, what did you need to be successful in school? I would say most critically: 1) guidance from others with experience; 2) books, lots and lots of books; and 3) persistence. Business will be no different. If you get guidance from the right people, read the right books, and are persistent, you will be successful. In fact, many top business experts list persistence as the #1 factor in determining success. I, however, am writing this article in an effort to help you with the first item on this list.
Location, Location, Location
When you ask a real-estate agent what is the most important thing about a given property, you will often hear the quip, “It’s all about location, location, location.” Generally speaking, this is accepted to be true, including having to deal with actual physical location of the property in relation to other places of interest; schools, mountain views, shopping, what have you. I often will say the same thing when asked, “What’s the most important thing to know about launching my own practice?” However, when allowed to dig a little deeper, I like to focus on what those 3 “locations” mean to me.
Location #1: Comfort
This is where my Shakespeare quote comes into play: to thine own self be true. Your medical practice should physically be located somewhere you fit in and feel comfortable. If you like being in the heart of the big city where all the fast-paced action is, your clinic should be there; if you prefer being out a little further in the suburbs, your clinic should be there.
Don’t ever consider starting a new practice somewhere geographically that you don’t feel comfortable, regardless of anything else. If you do, you may, but likely won’t, have financial success. You will almost definitely be giving up something much more important: quality of life. Most people who work in an area they don’t fit in are not happy; in fact, in my experience, they are often miserable. When challenging business situations arise, this dynamic makes them even more challenging. If you have a choice, why choose somewhere you wouldn’t want to be? Remember you will likely be at your place of business more hours per day, week, and year than anywhere else.
Location #2: Density
If you just love the desert and thus stick your practice in the middle of it, of course it will not be successful. So, this is where the second location comes in. Place your practice where there is enough population around it to achieve the success you desire. In other words, the population density needed for your success directly correlates to how busy you want to be.
Take the proposed location of your practice, put it on a map, and draw a circle around it that represents a 10-mile radius (there are several free ways to do this online; you could start by Googling “census tract info”). Do 10 000 people live there? 100 000? If you are fine with seeing 10 patients a week, in a 2-day/week practice, then the smaller population density will likely be fine; however, if you want to have a bustling 5-day/week practice with ancillary service providers, you will find that the population density needs to go up tremendously.
Location #3: Details
These are the “nuts and bolts” location questions you need to answer. The answers to these questions will be unique to your practice’s resources and needs. To that end, only you can answer them; I can only tell you to be realistic. If you think you are going to launch an entire successful clinic, anywhere, for less than a few-thousand dollars, you are not being realistic.
- Where exactly is your practice going to be? Does the surrounding area support the concept of putting a medical practice here? For example, if the area is heavily known for, say, car dealerships, you probably should not put your practice there.
- What does the building look like? Does it fit your identity?
- How much is the rent? How long is the commitment?
- How much competition is nearby?
- Note: take the population density and divide it by the number of direct competitors within the same radius. That’s your new baseline.
- Who is nearby that can refer business to me? Not just population, but from where else can I get business?
Advertising & Specialty
In this article, I have intentionally oversimplified the concept of starting a new practice, in an attempt to at least get you thinking on the right track. The 2 most important items I haven’t specifically touched on are advertising and your specialty. There is no time here to take a deep dive into these 2 important items. However, I do want to briefly address them.
First, advertising your business… You simply cannot employ the “build it and they will come” method of advertising; you will need to do something to make sure your prospective patients know you exist. Usually, financially driven, this means you will be physically getting out there and pounding the pavement to drum up business and creating most of your own sales and marketing material for distribution. You likely won’t have a good grip on marketing concepts such as hooks, taglines, target demographics, and the other driving forces that motivate people to buy your service. This is why the first location is so important. If your clinic is where you “fit in,” you already know your target market – it’s you. So, go out there and advertise however you feel is right. The greatest secret in the sale for the medical services industry is that patients buy bedside manner; they have no idea how good a doctor you are. So, keep that in mind.
Second, your specialty… Your specialty can completely turn some of these ideas on their head. If you are doing something so unique and so needed, it probably doesn’t matter what you do or where you do it; patients will find you. However, once again, I encourage you to be realistic. For instance, thinking “I’m going to be the first and only naturopath in this town” does not qualify. While it may be unique to that town, it may only be needed in your mind. The town itself may have other ideas.
I would love to hear any comments or feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Jacobsen, Business Operations Provider, has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and an associates degree in accounting. Over the last 18 years, Mr Jacobsen has developed practical, on-the-job experience in various facets of business, including banking, finance, and healthcare. Prior to launching MTSL Group, he held the titles of Credit Manager, General Manager, and COO in locally-owned, small-to-midsize companies, serving several different sectors.