Here is the ultimate guide to starting your own practice. Here we focus on the essential areas for starting a practice. Additionally, you are guided to more detailed discussions on each of these crucial topics.
But before we begin, let’s consider what we are constructing. Let’s briefly review what a business is.
Understanding what a business is
There are many definitions of what a business is, and they have some standard features. A business:
- produces or creates a product or a service
- consists of a team of people working together (personnel)
- creates consistent methods for creating their product or service
- has consumers who know about the product or service (marketing)
- has enough paying customers to be viable (billing and collections).
These features point us toward some essential truths. Business functions best when we:
- have consistent, standardized ways of doing things (Mastering Core Activities)
- work together well (The ultimate guide to building your staff and culture) and
- when we manage our growth well (The ultimate guide to managing growth).
GrowingOurPractice.com devotes large sections to posts about the details for Mastering Daily Core Activities, Building Staff and Culture, and Managing Growth. And as we are beginning, we want to keep all these aspects in the back of our minds. They all interweave with each other.
I highly recommend another resource. Read Micael Gerber’s book “The E-myth Revisited: Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it.” It was written long ago (1995), and yet it is still relevant for starting any new business.
For example, he begins by explaining what he calls the “Fatal Assumption”:
If you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.Michal E. Gerber. (1995). The E-myth Revisited: Why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it. Pg. 13.
He goes on to help us understand ways of thinking about what a business is and how to succeed at building it.
For our purposes, we are going to focus on four dimensions to getting ready for your practice launch: your infrastructure, team, office space, and brand.
1. Build your infrastructure
Building a practice begins by developing structured ways to do many details. This infrastructure will help you get everything done that needs to get done to stay in business. Included in this list is a website, phones, billing software, legal structures, liability insurance, forms, and getting on insurance panels.
Each of these areas takes considerable effort to develop. No doubt, you will rebuild some of these many times throughout your practice’s life. As a result, the name of the game is flexibility.
2. Assembling your team of advisors
No one can build a practice on their own. We need a team of supporters and advisors. And like all teams, strong members, in sync with each other, make the best teams.
Your team of advisors includes your attorney, accountant, website designer/branding manager, and then a crowd of supportive peers.
Your attorney and accountant are especially useful in the early days of getting things set up correctly. They will help you decide on your corporate and financial structure and help you get off on the right foot with the various bureaucratic agencies involved in starting your own business.
Your website designer will also be your initial consultant about your branding and marketing. You will bring your thoughts about what will make your practice unique to your website designer. Then together, you both formulate a message and the images you will use to support your message. Your website, messaging, and images become some of the first pieces of your branding.
Furthermore, you need a group of peers who are in your corner as you face some lonely days ahead. Starting and then the early days of building a practice are quite isolating. One cannot underestimate the value of having a group of caring people who will listen and support as you face the initial challenges of starting your own practice.
3. Setting up your first office space
Seeing your first office space is one of the more exciting days in this process. You may have looked at several options before finding “the one.” But when you find it, what a rush. But I have to admit that my first offices were all a compromise from what I would have liked. (I had more than one “first” because I have practiced or owned practices in five different communities. Each one felt like a first.)
Finding the right space and getting it set up the way you want takes time. I remember walking the streets of a new town for several days. Finding the right building and get a feel for the city took time. I considered many possibilities and then settled on an adequate but less than five-star building. Ultimately, I chose it for its expansion potential and stayed there growing there for eight years. I finally moved when my landlord sold the building to a new owner who used it for his business.
My point is this. If you do your search well, you can find a space that will do most of what you need it to. And with some foresight, you will find the right fit for your next few years of growth.
4. Build your brand
Let begin with a simple but profound definition of what branding is:
Your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual…and emotional…. Your brand exists only in someone’s mind.Jerry McLaughlin. (2011). “What is a brand, anyway?” Forbes Magazine
I find this definition helpful because it moves our focus off of the technical stuff like websites and design and onto the importance of what our customers experience. What our customers feel when they think of us is what matters–the whole experience. Everything else is supportive of what we hope is a positive emotional experience.
Yes, we need to be thoughtful about our website, our marketing materials, our office design, our messaging, and every other aspect of our clients’ experience with us. Additionally, all client-facing elements of our practice, such as phone calls, the first session, and billing are part of the brand. They all contribute to the clients’ experience. And we want clients to have a positive experience at every step.
And now the big day is approaching. You have laid the foundation by setting up your infrastructure, building your team of advisors, leasing and setting up your office space, and marketing your unique brand to your community. What is left? The celebration of your Launch.
Opening a new office is more than about seeing your first client in a new space. We want to make it an event in your community. We want everyone to know your practice exists. Let’s use the Launch as a marketing opportunity.
Starting your own practice
Put all these together, and you are well on your way to starting your own practice. And once begun, it is yours to nurture and enjoy.