New practice owner Heidi Henson gives us a look into her recent transition from Chiropractic Associate to new business owner.
2015 has been the most exciting year of my entire life. In May, I married the most amazing person I have ever known, and just a few months later, at the beginning of September, I moved from San Diego to Southern Oregon to become the owner of a multidisciplinary clinic. At the time I am writing this, I have been in my new practice for only two weeks. But, I cannot imagine this transition going more smoothly and hope my new journey continues on this course. For those of you toying with the idea of taking the leap from being an associate to a business owner, here are what I perceive to be the most important factors in my success thus far:
Take advantage of your time as an associate.
I cannot begin to thank the staff of PainCare of San Diego enough for being my teachers and mentors during my time with them. As an associate, I know it can be easy to immerse yourself in the clinical aspect of your practice only and leave business management aspects to the owner. Learning as much as you can about the business processes, billing, marketing, and office management as an associate will help you be ahead of the game as when it’s time for your transition into your new role as owner or partner.
Hold out for the right situation.
One mistake I’ve seen others make is letting their preferred timeline take precedence over finding and recognizing the situation that will set their career trajectory on the path for success. Don’t delay jumping in if you find a great opportunity that could disappear by waiting for the “right time.” Conversely, don’t try to make the wrong situation fit, just because the timing is right for you. Perfect timing rarely exists.
Opt for a slow transition (if possible).
I won the jackpot when it comes to my new clinic’s former owner. He is an incredibly skilled clinician, ethically beyond reproach, and beloved by the community we serve. I am even more fortunate that he is going to continue practicing within the clinic and is serving as a valuable mentor to me during my transition. News of an ownership change can spook long-time patients and community members who know the doctor, especially when the former owner has a well-deserved, sparkling reputation. Don’t underestimate how quickly news spreads in a small town, which can be overwhelming for both patients and staff.
We have elected to delay any name changes, rebranding, and any other large structural changes until after we have had a chance to meet more of the members of our community together and personally let them know about the transition. The patients and staff have expressed reassurance by this slow and steady approach to our transition. A slow drip approach is better than a tidal wave, especially when a too-fast approach could impact patient visits.
Prioritize updating processes with legal ramifications.
One of the first things I chose to implement were updates to aspects of the practice that had legal ramifications. Your liability as a practitioner and a business owner begin day one, so you cannot afford to push this item to the bottom of your lengthy to-do list. Topping my priority list was updating HIPPA, informed consent, and employment paperwork. Luckily, these changes were fairly quick and easy to implement with the tools available to ACA members on the acatoday.org website and some of the knowledge I had gathered while an associate. Again, learning what a business owner thinks about helped me be prepared in my first weeks as a new owner.
Build a team of professionals early on.
Becoming a business owner and buying a practice take an incredible amount of paperwork and transactions. Build a skilled, reliable, and trustworthy network of professionals including a lawyer, accountant, bookkeeper, and business banker to make sure your transition is smooth and covered from start to finish. If you work with these professionals from the beginning, your systems, payroll, and contracts are set up efficiently, lawfully, and correctly.
Resist the temptation to skimp on these services to save on costs as a new business owner. A little investment up front will save you time and frustrations in the future. Know where your expertise is and is not. Too many doctors attempt to “DIY” tasks that should be handled by professionals. An additional bonus of delegating to your team is the time you will have to focus on patient care, practice building, and integrating yourself into your new your new community and office.
Finally, I couldn’t conclude this piece without acknowledging how vital the support and love of family and friends has been to the success of this exciting new chapter. They are truly my secret weapon in achieving my goals.
If you are in the process of or have recently transitioned from being an associate to a business owner, I would like to hear feedback about your experience. What has worked well? What have your challenges been so far? Let me know in the comments!
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