Have you ever considered starting a pediatric therapy clinic? New developments in technology have made starting a clinic more practical, so we're seeing more pediatric therapy professionals than ever starting their own practices.
To get more insight on what it takes to start a pediatric therapy clinic, I talked to Kyle Meades.
Kyle Meades is a Speech Language Pathologist, Private Practice owner, and host of the Speech Therapy Private Practice Startup Podcast. He graduated from LSU Medical Center in New Orleans more than 25 years ago and, since then, has become a successful business owner and a friend and coach to countless therapists.
Kyle's podcast covers everything from managing expenses, when to buy new office space, what you need to know about payroll and a whole lot more. And almost all of it applies equally to every discipline of therapy. Whether you're an SLP who wants more control over your schedule, an OT with an entrepreneurial itch, or a PT looking for a change, Kyle's got something for you.
Before you start a clinic, you ought to ask yourself if it's worth it. There are a lot of advantages to owning your own clinic (but there are some downsides too).
For Kyle, one of the biggest perks of running his own clinic is having more time to spend with his son. When he started his business, he just wanted more family time.
"When I was working, I was the one who had to go in on 4th of July or Christmas Eve. Everybody else was barbecuing or having a good time and I was going to work," Kyle says. "I was making good money, but I wanted more time."
Another thing Kyle enjoys is getting to see his patients and their families get the services they need. "In our clinic, we take all the payers, we take all the Medicaid plans, we take all income levels--everybody gets the same treatment," Kyle told me.
You also get to see your employees thrive. "I like seeing my employees make a really good living, They all have free health care now, free vision, free dental insurance, a 401k plan, and time off," Kyle says. "Offering all that and making sure that employees get to work and patients get the help they need is great. All of it costs money, but it’s my responsibility to make sure this thing rolls."
Along with that responsibility comes some challenges. Starting a clinic can improve your life or, as Kyle has seen, "it can cripple your finances."
As a worst case scenario, Kyle knows of at least a couple of therapists whose clinics didn't last. One of them went bankrupt before all was said and done.
"When you’re starting out, there are things that you have to plan for. You have to consider the fact that you are the business," Kyle said. "Without you, the practice cannot continue to operate. That means you have to be present to make money, and when you aren’t able to be present, your practice might be losing money."
You can succeed, but you have to prepare for the challenges.
Don’t go in blind and just assume that things will work out or that you can figure them out as you go. That’s a surefire way to fail. You can be successful if you plan to be successful.
Here are some signs that might indicate that starting a clinic might not be the right choice for you.
If you've decided that starting a clinic is right for you, here are three tips that Kyle shared on how to get started.
First off, you're going to need a name. Kyle recommends choosing a name that showcases your services and your community. I want something that will grow with the business.
"When choosing a name, think about what will set you apart from other people in the space," Kyle says.
I remember I went and got some magazines and I was thinking: What can I name my business? I didn’t want anything cheesy because I wanted to serve both kids and adults. I wanted a name that was neutral. I remember looking at buzz words and magazines and picking out words like “support,” “prosper,” things like that. I finally came up with supportvoice.com for our clinic Therapy Group of Tuscon.
Once you get your name, it's time to make it official. "You can go see a lawyer if you want but I use paralegals," Kyle says. "You can even get online and get incorporated, just put in your name and your business address."
After that you’ll need to go to the government website to get your tax ID number (EIN).
Then Kyle recommends taking that information to the bank and opening up a separate business checking account. Finally, get some general professional liability insurance for your business.
Many people get halted by fear because they are so afraid of getting sued or getting in trouble. All you need is a license to operate in your state. Honestly, you don’t even need to set up an LLC if you're just going to start out taking patients on the side.
There are some forms you'll need before you begin seeing patients but you can find those online. Kyle pointed out that there are entire websites and communities dedicated to offering these forms. You just download them, change the business name, and you're ready to go.
You might decide not to bother with accepting insurance at first. "If you’re gonna charge cash or fees, type up a little agreement," Kyle says. "It can be as simple as: 'We agree that, for every hour that we spend together, I’m going to charge you $60 and I’m going to take cash, credit card, or check.'"
The next step is to find some clients. For most clinics, that means getting referrals. Kyle says that "the main thing is to create relationships." Seek out physicians, pediatricians, and other professionals in your community.
I think the best person to introduce myself to at any doctor’s office or physician’s office is the referrals clerk.
The referrals clerk is the person who actually sends patients out to referral sources. As Kyle says, "a physician’s not going to pick up the phone and go, 'Hey Kyle, you know, we’ve got a 4.2 year old male with a speech delay, you think you could…'"
Kyle recommends introducing yourself to the referrals clerk. "Be authentic and tell them what you’ve got to offer."
Kyle says his biggest piece of advice is this: just start. Avoid analysis paralysis. "Don’t sit there and over analyze everything. Us therapists are notorious for getting hung up on ideas but never following through on the implementation."
Don’t get swallowed up by the little things and lose all your focus and motivation. Just get going. Come up with a plan and take action on it.
The Next Step
Kyle shared a lot of great information, and if want to keep learning, there's more where that came from!