Getting a Successful Start in Practice

The Six Tenets of a Naturopathic Startup
Written by Jaclyn Chasse, ND

It's such an exciting adventure, starting a practice. You've done the hard work to get through school, pass the boards, decide where you want to live, and now it's going to be easy, right? For a lucky few, yes. But for most of us, a new practice comes with a lot of learning opportunities. Let's discuss the 6 philosophical tenets of successful practice startup, naturopathic style!

The healing power of a business plan

It might not seem natural at all to you, but a realistic and thoughtful business plan is crucial for startup success. There are many resources (books, websites, templates from small business associations, etc.) available to guide you through this process, but most of us don't take advantage of these. Rather than feel overwhelmed about writing a perfect business plan (which you'll need if you intend to get a loan from a bank), think of this business plan as a tool to brainstorm all aspects you'll need to consider for your business (dispensary management, marketing, startup cost, 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year goals, etc). You don't know what you don't know, but now's the time to learn!

2.       Identify and treat your potential patients
One key to success, in my opinion, is knowing yourself and what kind of practice you want to create.   If you are practicing in an area with a lot of NDs, you may be tempted to try to fit a certain niche that you think will be most successful. While this is an important consideration, identifying your potential patients involves knowing both who is out there that may want your services as well as knowing who YOU are and who you want to work with. This is an important step not only for a financially successful practice, but also for one that is emotionally successful for you.

3.       First do no harm
One big mistake I see is doctors taking on too much too soon, be it space, overhead carrying cost, or one-time costs associated with fitting up an office space, etc. Take it slow–find an existing office that will rent you a room, or a small space if you want to be on your own. You can always grow into the office of your dreams. Don't make the mistake of getting in over your head!

4.       Doctors as teachers– partnership or not?

We learn a lot from one another, and that is definitely the case if you are in partnership with another doctor. Having a business partner may seem like a great idea, but remember, it's like a marriage. I've seen a lot of practice relationships (and unfortunately, friendships) change due to a challenging business relationship. If you are planning to work with someone, which can be a fantastic setup, make sure you're very clear from the beginning what the expectations are around working together. If you're not on the same page to start, keep talking until you figure it out! 

5.       Treat the whole practice
We usually focus on what we're good at. For you that may be patient care (hopefully!), business financial planning (if you're good at this, please call me- I'd love to have you join MY practice!), marketing, web development, etc. But being a small business owner means that you have to wear all of those hats. If this is not something you're good at, look for a practice situation where you won't be responsible for that aspect of practice. If you are in business for yourself, don't neglect your blind or sore spots. They WILL get bigger if left untouched. And a successful practice requires work in all areas (whether you are the responsible party or not). For example, you could be the smartest clinician in the country and if you don't have a marketing plan no one may walk in your door and you'll be in trouble!

6.       Prevention
Just as it is with patient care, prevention is the best cure. This loops me back to the importance of a plan. Thinking your practice through on paper can prevent a lot of stress once you're up and running. Use your resources, whether it's a family member with business expertise, a preceptor, or a book or website! And understand that just like any healing process, there will likely be obstacles to cure and maybe even a healing crisis. But be persistent, make healthy business choices each day, and soon you will see your practice transform just like your patients' health!

Thank you to Emerson Ecologics.