What I Wish I Had Known When I Opened My Practice

My business partner, Julie, and I opened our practice, All Care Therapies of Georgetown, less than 2 years ago. One thing that has been rather surprising to us is how many people have come to us with questions or advice on opening their own practices. We certainly don’t feel like we are pros in this area yet! The best question we’ve received when talking with other therapists about their potential practice is, “What do you wish you had done differently?”

While we anticipated some of the challenges and difficulties we’ve faced over the past two years, there’s definitely been a bit of a learning curve. As we get ready to celebrate our second birthday, I wrote up a quick list of things we frequently tell people we wish we had known before we got started.

  1. Budget Well

Everyone knows that starting a business costs money. What we didn’t realize is that no matter how hard you try to plan, starting a business is always going to cost more than you think it will. When we first started, we tried to write down and account for every expense we thought we would encounter, all the way down to the trash bags and brooms! We were also very frugal. We rented the smallest space we could find and limited our equipment purchases as much as possible. Even with all the pre planning, we still went over budget. Way over budget.

Physical Therapist

Jenna Coe, OTR, MOT, C/NDT, is the Owner and Director of Occupational Therapy at All Care Therapies of Georgetown and brings experience in pediatrics, adults, and orthopedics in the clinical, hospital, skilled nursing facilities, and home health settings. Jenna is also a member of the AOTA, TOTA and NDTA. She loves helping all individuals she works with become as independent as possible, and loves to help clients meet goals that are important to them.

We also did not plan well for how long it would take for our cash flow to get started. We had visions of opening our doors and having referrals and insurance payments flooding in within a few weeks. This didn’t happen.

My advice? Write down every expense you think you might have, add everything together, and then increase your budget total by 15 to 20 percent. On top of that, have money saved to protect your business and your personal finances while you are waiting for your cash flow to improve.

  1. Manage Your Time

One thing we heavily underestimated was the amount of time starting a business would take. Throughout the startup process, Julie and I typically worked 60 to 70 hours a week. A lot of days started before 8 AM and didn’t end until after 10 PM. Yes, starting a business is hard work, but I am in no way advocating for this type of lifestyle. Looking back, I wish we would have done a better job of leaving work at work and prioritizing other things that mattered in our lives. Our relationships with our family and friends, our health, and our sanity all suffered because of the way we were working.

At the beginning of this year, we both set a goal to do a better job of balancing work and life. We’ve in no way perfected this, but we’ve definitely done a much better job. How? We’ve learned to accept it if something doesn’t get done that day and has to wait until tomorrow. We’ve learned to delegate tasks. We’ve also made it a point to schedule time to complete administrative tasks into our day and made protecting that time a priority. Learn from us, and start out doing these things from the beginning.

  1. Hire Great People

Behind every great business is a great team of people. There is no denying All Care wouldn’t be where it is today without an exceptional staff. Be picky about who you bring onto your staff. Don’t just hire the best available choice because you are in need of additional help. Bring on the right individuals that match the personality and needs of your current staff.

These principles don’t just apply to employees! Some of the vendor relationships you establish will last just as long, if not longer, than your employees. During our time in business, we’ve had some amazing vendors, and some vendors who were less than stellar. Be sure you are bringing on vendors who are honest, reliable, and whose opinions you trust. Don’t be afraid to be picky about your vendors. Ask lots of questions and verify information with references.

  1. Know Your Partner

I once heard Dave Ramsey say, “The only ship that won’t sail is a partnership.” When I heard him say this, I was well into starting All Care, and it definitely made me stop and think! If long term visions and commitment to the practice are not aligned, it can make for a difficult experience for everyone.

Julie and I also regularly tell people that looking back, we now realize we did not know each other well enough to go into business together. We both acknowledge how lucky we are that we happened to go into business with a partner that thinks like we do and has a similar vision for the practice.

While I don’t necessarily agree with Dave’s statement above, I do think if you are going to go into a business with someone, it needs to be with someone you know very well. When you are in the trenches of the first year of business, you are going to want to know that you can trust them in every situation. Prior to doing anything else start up wise, you should also sit down with your potential partner and make sure your visions are aligned. Where do you want your business to go? What will be the next steps in growth? How many hours a week will you each put into the business? I could write an entire other blog on questions to ask potential business partners so I’ll stop there, but really, make sure you work out all the details. It’ll save you a lot of trouble down the road.

  1. Plan Your Growth

Even if you are opening your practice on your own, you really need to have the vision for where you want your business to be established. A day in the life of a business owner can get very hectic, very fast. It’s very easy to get caught up in solving small issues that come up throughout the week and these small day to day decisions can get in the way of your business’ growth if you don’t have a solid plan established prior to starting your venture.

Julie and I have time set aside each week where we discuss our visions and plans and develop programs that may not come to fruition for many years. We discuss and set measures for when our next hires will happen well before its time to start interviewing. We are currently working to refine our policies and procedures to help regulate a large number of staff, even though we are currently only managing a team of 15. We work hard to make sure that our business can run smoothly, even when we aren’t there.

I’ll let you in on one other thing I frequently tell potential practice owners when they come to us with this question. Opening a practice is by far one of the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is also so worth it! The gratification that comes from ending each day knowing you’ve helped to build something that is making a huge difference in the lives of so many people is worth all the long and stressful days. If you are anything like us, you’ll ask yourself several times during the first years, “What am I doing?” Keep your chin up, and take it from someone who has been there, there is a light at the end of tunnel. Good luck!

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