Space and location. These are one of the first decisions new practice owners make. In many ways, it is all about the location and then the spaces you have within that location. Is there a demand for the services your practice is offering or will you be fighting for your life in the face of stiff competition.
Finding your community
Over the course of my practice development experience, I have chosen to locate or relocate within four different communities. And within every one of those communities, we have moved from one office location to another. How did we decide? There were actually many factors. When thinking about which community, consider these factors:
- Who else is in town and why? Communities have reputations, and that can affect where to locate a counseling center. People are territorial and prideful about their communities. People from Community A may go to Community B for therapy, but perhaps not the other way around. Know your communities when deciding on a location.
- Within every community, there will be a mixture of payers for outpatient psychotherapy, but each community has a different mix. The main sources of income for mental health services are these: payments that are made out-of-pocket by the clients, private insurance companies based on the clients’ employment, and government insurances—Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, etc. Careful evaluation of how therapy gets paid for in different communities is important to consider.
Finding your office space
In most communities, there will be more than one option for leasing space. When I first looked at space, I spent weeks calling and meeting with landlords, trying to envision my counseling space at each location. When looking at specific spaces, think about these factors:
- Look at the location considering nighttime security and daytime sense of privacy. People worry about safety at night and who will see them entering during the day. The best buildings are well lit and have several types of businesses located in the same building so people cannot tell exactly why someone is is parked in that building’s lot.
- You will need at least three types of spaces—a waiting room, therapy rooms, and a business office space. Exact configurations vary considerably, but each of these spaces has slightly different factors to consider. For example, you want frosted windows in your waiting room for privacy, sound-proofing for your therapy walls, and access to the internet for business office efficiency.
- Obviously space can be very expensive. It will be your largest expense after salaries. And it is a fixed expense, which means that you have to pay for it whether you have the income to support it or not. Some landlords will give a discount for the first few months to get you to sign up, so pay careful attention to the lease. Are you paying for real estate taxes, association fees, etc., as well as monthly rent? Know what you are signing. Ask someone who is familiar with leases to help you.
You can see there are quite a few factors to think about when choosing a location. Doing that process well can help you be successful and cut down on your headaches.