Opening a private practice and helping patients has to be more than just a job – if not, you’ll never get overwhelmed…
While many physicians enter chiropractic school with dreams of opening a private practice, the harsh truth is that not everyone is cut out to own a clinic. If you’re considering buying a clinic, it’s important to be aware of your own limitations and choose the path that works best for you.
We have identified some key characteristics that we see in the buyers who will later become successful in clinic ownership. But also remember that most things worth doing have a learning curve and will get easier with time as well. So, consider your suitability for clinic ownership in the context of your current skills and preferences, as well as the areas you wish to develop further as your career progresses.
1. You are not paralyzed by risks
The world of chiropractic is like the normal world: risk and reward go hand in hand.
Chiropractic practices are small businesses, and about 20% of small businesses fail within the first year. Only about half make it past the fifth year. Buying a practice is one of the best ways to mitigate some of that risk. If you choose wisely, you are entering a clinic with a proven business model in a location that can support your income. The systems and employees are set up and ready for use.
No matter how much fundamentals change, circumstances and markets will change. The risk of starting a private practice will never go away entirely. But good business owners understand that risk and change also create opportunities for growth.
Being comfortable with risk is the first step in owning and growing a clinic. Successful clinic owners are able to roll with the punches, adapt to unanticipated changes, and turn risk into significant rewards.
2. You have (or can learn) management skills
Patient care is just one aspect of a successful clinic. The goal of any buyer should be to turn their clinic into a valuable asset that can be sold when they are ready to move on or retire.
That’s a realistic goal, but it means learning to deal with more than just patients. Operations, finances, marketing – all of these are just as important as treatments. For many first-time buyers, that sounds overwhelming. You don’t have to have this know-how from day one. Most buyers don’t.
What you need is a willingness to learn and a desire to develop your own business acumen. As you expand your skills, your clinic grows and you can turn the knowledge you gain into added value.
3. You are a sociable person
The majority of successful clinics are not run by just one doctor. Even if it does, it makes for a challenging sale later – buyers are reluctant to take ownership with limited support.
Well-run clinics depend on good employees. A good employee is well trained, well suited to the role and willing to stay. To maximize a practice’s success, you need to find these people. To attract and retain good employees, a clinic owner must be committed to their growth and development. When you can help your people grow with your business, the value multiplies.
In other words, to achieve your dreams, you must help others achieve theirs.
4. You are motivated
The most successful clinic owners take great pride in their work.
When you own your own business, no one else will hold you accountable. Opening a private practice and helping patients has to be more than just a job. If not, you will never push yourself to keep your clinic prosperous and growing. The moment ownership becomes a liability, most doctors should start thinking about selling.
Your livelihood isn’t all that’s at stake in owning a clinic. Patients, staff, family – they are dependent and rely on you. A good buyer needs the motivation to keep their clinic on track to support themselves and the people they serve and work with.
Sometimes that can mean sacrifice. Especially in the first year or two, owning a clinic requires extra work to get up to speed. A good owner must be proactive and willing to work harder than their employees. When that work translates into growth and stability, owners can reap the rewards.
5. You set boundaries
As important as it is to work hard, it is also important to use your time and resources wisely.
The world is a busy place and owning a business office doesn’t make it quieter. The best business owners know how to keep balance in their lives. Burnout can be a problem for overworked doctors, and clinical decline is usually not far behind.
Opening a private practice places a variety of demands on your time. Not all of them are essential or valuable. Being an entrepreneur means ruthlessly prioritizing so you can spend your time on the things that matter most—including your loved ones.
This is another reason why buying a clinic is a smart move. An established practice minimizes the time you need to spend developing customers, employees, and marketing. You can use this time for growth, stability and joie de vivre.
6. You are willing to ask for help
If entrepreneurship were easy, everyone would do it. Every aspect of your clinic’s financing, equipment, marketing and development can be customized and optimized. Some changes will result in significant gains, but it can be difficult to know which ones, and even more difficult to implement them effectively.
You may be an expert at patient care, but no one is an expert at everything. Good entrepreneurs seek help from experts when necessary. This is a good idea from the start when experts can help you jumpstart your growth. When your business encounters obstacles, reach out to the people most likely to solve your problems.
Technology in particular is a growth opportunity for many clinics. From practice software to online marketing, the right use of technology has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your clinic. If you don’t have the time to acquire this knowledge yourself, hire someone who already has it.
Choose these experts carefully. Many consultants will happily take your money, but not all will justify the cost. Make sure the experts you work with have a proven model that will justify your investment and provide you with tangible returns.
7. You are aware of yourself
This is possibly the most important feature on this list. No entrepreneur can cover all the bases all the time. Any good entrepreneur must know both their limitations and their strengths.
If you love patient care first and foremost, you need to build a practice management team to take care of the administrative side and keep you informed. If you enjoy working in a commercial capacity, you need support with patient care. Both rarely work. Many doctors spend too long doing all of this before accepting that they need support. The problem with this attitude is that nobody will stop you. When you’re in charge, you have the last word. It’s a form of freedom, but it comes with responsibility to your patients, your practice, and yourself.
For those who take the plunge, the benefits are significant. Besides the financial side, owning a clinic offers the intangible reward of running your own ship. Rather than being tied to an employee’s salary, clinic owners can focus their efforts on increasing the value of their own practice. When you’re ready to move on, you can sell to another motivated buyer.
Open a private practice – the sky is the limit
Note that the characteristics listed above do not imply anything about age, background or specialty. Clinic owners don’t necessarily need to have huge savings or prior experience.
Instead, what a business owner needs is to avoid analysis paralysis, stay focused on their goals, remain open-minded and adaptable, and maintain their passion throughout. If this sounds like you, the sky is the limit.
CRYSTAL MISENHEIMER is co-founder of Progressive Practice Sales. Her team harnesses the power of today’s technology to help physicians sell and acquire clinics, saving them time, money and effort in the process. She can be contacted at (512) 523-9110, [email protected], or via progressivepracticesales.com.