TWO THOUSAND FIFTEEN has been the most exciting year of my entire life. In May, I got married, and just a few months later, I moved from San Diego to southern Oregon to become the owner of a multidisciplinary clinic. While writing this, I have been in my new practice for only two weeks. For those of you considering taking the leap from associate to business owner, here are what I perceive to be the most important factors in my success thus far:
1) Take advantage of your time as an associate.
I thank the staff of PainCare of San Diego for teaching and mentoring me during my time with them. I know that as an associate, it can be easy to immerse oneself in the clinical aspect of practice and leave business management to the owner. Learning as much as you can about the business processes (e.g., billing, marketing and office management) as an associate will help you when it’s time for your transition into your new role as owner or partner.
2) Hold out for the right situation.
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.
3) 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, ethical and beloved by the community. I am fortunate that he is going to continue practicing within the clinic and is mentoring me during my transition. News of an ownership change can spook longtime patients and community members who know the doctor. Don’t underestimate how quickly news spreads in a small town.
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 let them know about the transition. The patients and staff have been reassured by this slow and steady approach to our transition.
4) Prioritize updating of processes with legal ramifications.
Your liability as a practitioner and a business owner begins day one, so you cannot afford to push this item to the bottom of your lengthy to-do list. At the top of my priority list was updating HIPAA, informed consent and employment paperwork. Luckily, these changes were fairly quick and easy to implement with the tools available to ACA members on the www.acatoday.org website. Again, learning what a business owner thinks about as an associate helped me be prepared in my first weeks as a new owner.
5) Build a team of professionals early on.
Becoming a business owner and buying a practice require a lot 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 will be 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 frustration. Know where your expertise is and is not. Too many doctors attempt “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 community and office.
Finally, I must acknowledge how vital the support and love of family and friends have been to the success of this exciting new chapter in my life. They are truly my secret weapon in achieving my goals.
Have You Taken the Leap?
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 ACA know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heidi Henson, DC, is editorial contributor for DC Aligned, powered by MeyerDC. Dr. Henson is a 2013 graduate of Northwestern Health Sciences University and is the owner of Southern Oregon Spine + Rehab in Central Point, Oregon. www.sospineandrehab.com