Recently my business partner and I felt like an old married couple: we were coming up on our “anniversary” month, but weren’t exactly sure of how many years our private speech therapy practice had been established. Danyela Williams, my partner, is younger (and possesses a better short-term memory, and lately long-term), and was certain this was our four-year milestone.
But my 15-year older brain wasn’t so sure. After pulling out our certificate of formation, I was shocked to see that we would be in business for officially five years on February 17, 2015. Mixed feelings continue to wash over me, similar to a mother reflecting on the experience of raising a child. And like raising a child, much of our experiences in starting a private practice were of the “learn-as-you-go” type.
Despite our blunders and stumbles, our practice not only survived, but thrived! Five years ago we opened our doors with 3 clients; today there are 64 on our roster and 4 additional employees on our staff. I’ll be spending this and several future posts sharing our successes, and failures, what worked, and what didn’t, as well as the pros and cons of running your own practice.
|Danyela Williams & I hanging our plaque at our first location in 2010.|
In the initial phases of establishing our practice, we did some things very correctly, which formed the basis of our success. Probably the most important was having a plan (of sorts) and clear vision of the direction of our practice. From day 1, Danyela and I knew we wanted to focus on social skill development. Our vision was to work with clients in small groups; I had extensive experience with adolescents and teens and Danyela was more comfortable with the younger set.
We consulted with organizations such as SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives), wrote down the goals for our business, how we wanted it to function, who would be in charge of what duties; we came up with a marketing plan and budget. We decided to form an LLC (limited liability company) so our personal assets would be protected (**on a side note, please do not ever pay anyone to set up your LLC, it is very easy to do it yourself on the internet at minimal expense) and hired an accountant.
You might also be wondering about the decision to go into business with a partner. Although the business model was originally my idea, I truly felt that getting the practice off the ground alone would be an enormous challenge. Danyela and I had only been working together a brief time, but I recognized in her an enormous clinical talent, as well as creativity, energy and personal character. This was someone I respected and that I enjoyed working with. Five years later, our professional (and personal) relationship, although tested, has remained solid.
In retrospect, the decision to build a practice with another SLP was a terrific one. Even though our practice is part-time, the work-load is heavy: billing, client intakes, insurance, session planning, insurance, scheduling–and as the business grows each area grows proportionately. Having someone to bounce ideas off of, share dreams with and vent frustrations to has been a critical part of our success. We both agree that we could not have done this alone.
Another good call was to start small and not spend beyond our means. We struggled with the decision of where to run the practice: I had a large finished basement that could easily be converted into a therapy area, but did I want strangers in my home? Ultimately we sublet a small office in the back of a lawyer’s suite; we moved twice more before settling in our latest (and most costly, and hopefully permanent) home. The rent and lease terms are ones we are finally able to comfortably commit to within our budget parameters.
Next time: Marketing: what worked and what didn’t!