Posted by Leigh MacKenzie, February 13, 2014
Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of clinics across Canada. There are many diverse business models and ideas on how to build a practice. There is no doubt that opening a practice has its challenges, but the rewards are obvious early on. With some research combined with many conversations with Canadian physiotherapists, most advise to ask yourself these six basic questions as you move forward.
1. Why do I want to open as practice? It is important to determine your goals early on, as this will guide the type and culture of your practice. This is the phase when you start thinking about your mission statement to help drive the direction you intend to go. For example, offer the highest quality of care with an emphasis on addition cash-based therapy such as Pilates, golf fitness/rehab, and personalized care. Build a practice that will have the flexibility to adapt to your life, goals, and the market change. Lastly, be a resource for patients and other rehab professionals.
2. Where can I open a practice? Time is money, so consider how much time will be spent commuting to your business versus developing it. Also, consider whether the location has the demographic that can support the services that you’ll be providing, and if there are already similar service providers nearby. This is where online search engines and ratings sites, Yellow Pages, and social media sites can help. Take a drive or walk around the area you are considering. Be mindful of parking, nearby public transportation, noise, stairs/elevators, safety, and the surrounding neighborhood. There may also be nearby businesses that are complimentary to yours that would make it a win-win situation.
3. Do you have a speciality? Know that you can’t be everything to everyone. Trying to do so will make you a miserable and lonely practitioner. It is more fruitful to offer services that might be underrepresented within your community. Also, having a specialty helps broaden your patient/client base to outside your geographical location. For instance, as a Pilates-trained therapist the network of other local practioners in the geographical area (i.e. PT’s, OT’s, Chiropractors, AT’s, and fitness professionals) can be an excellent referral or recommendation circle. This team approach builds a sense of community and trust among colleagues and clientele. Word of mouth spreads, which then leads to clients who live several hours away wanting to come in for consultations for specialized services.
4. What equipment will I need? Considerations that you will need to make are: 1) Does your focus or specialty require special equipment? 2) How do you choose a manufacturer or vendor? 3) Should you lease or buy? 4) How big do you want to be? 5) Will your choices allow for the flexibility to expand or contract?
5. What resources are there to help me get started? Today, the Internet has brought together communities of like-minded people and professionals to discuss their practice issues and gain recommendations through various forums. The 21st century resume is a LinkedIn profile, and with it comes the fabulous opportunity to network and brainstorm with thousands of professionals. Whether you start your own group or you join other discussion groups, the Internet is a great source for ideas. Find a continuing education course about how to start a physiotherapy business. The Private Practice Section of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association or Service Canada sites are very helpful.
6. Do you have a team in place?Remember what you are good at and where your dollars are best spent. Get the professionals to do their jobs and answer the questions that aren’t part of your primary expertise. This team may include an accountant, bookkeeper, attorney, graphics design and/or IT professional, and even friends/family or a business coach who can provide additional support with business development. Your team can give you guidance on which type of business entity you wish to be (sole proprietor, corporation, etc) and what paperwork needs to be filed (business license, liability insurance, etc). Your team can also give you guidance on how best to track your day-to-day flow, know when it makes sense to bring on competent staff, and how to market and brand your business.