New grads starting a new business/practice is not super common. Yet, here we are trying to do the dang thing. Now, this wasn’t an easy decision, there were a lot of factors to consider. In our industry of manual and physical therapy, most work in 1 of 3 streams. These streams are clinic employee, independent contractor/associate, or clinic owner/partner. While there is no right or wrong, and no correct career path, we needed to make a decision that was right for us.
There are pros and cons to the 3 options listed above. Often the decision comes down to 5 major influencing factors: position availability, job security, autonomy, overhead, and day 1 case/patient roster (perceived).
Here is a simplified breakdown of how we evaluated these 3 paths:
DOESN’T ASSOCIATE SEEM LIKE THE OBVIOUS CHOICE?
Again, this is a very simplified sketch as to how we saw these options laid out for us in school. At surface level it may seem like the associate route is the safest bet for a few reasons:
- A lot of clinics are looking to hire, with both part-time and full-time positions available
- Signing a contract dictates how long you will be in that position (controls your job security)
- Low risk and overhead depending on what is in your contract. This typically includes supplies and equipment. Most of this is reflected in a split agreement between the contractor and the clinic (ie. 50/50% of billings)
- Perceived day 1 workload (I say perceived because we often assume that taking a job at an already established clinic is the safest bet to have patients ready for you once you start). This is opposed to starting your own clinic and having 0 patients ready for you. Definitely true in some instances, but certainly not a universal rule.
To add to the polarizing attraction towards associateship, a common mindset we hear from colleagues, friends, and family goes a little something like this:
“Why don’t you work as an associate at a couple of clinics to learn the ropes, save some money, and build a loyal patient roster for a few years, then open up your own clinic?”
While this seems like a logical plan we weren’t sold on it. Perhaps, the terms “associate” and “apprentice” often get confused. Associates sometimes sign on with the impression there will be a vast knowledge transfer from the owner. While for some, this is the case, I don’t believe it to be true for everyone.
CHOOSING OUR PATH
For us, this took some discussion about what we envisioned for our lives together. We were confident enough in our relationship to know we were in it for the long run. We were also confident in the different strengths we bring to the table. Either way, we knew we wanted to work together eventually; whether that be right away or in a few years. It’s also important to know that we’re both in our mid-20s with relatively few responsibilities aside from ourselves. With marriage and kids in mind down the road, we figured this would be the optimal time to take this risk while being able to devote ourselves and our time completely without sacrificing much else.
As mentioned, we made the decision that was right for us. You know your wants and needs better than anyone else. So, do what works for you.
Now that we were aligned on our goal, our biggest barrier was our lack of knowledge on how to make it happen. I did the Management Option (essentially a business minor) in my undergrad which gave me basic knowledge of the cornerstones of business. In chiropractic school, business was not an area of focus in the curriculum so we knew we would have to seek out the information we needed. One way to do this, we enrolled in a course aimed at students and new grads who wanted to start their own business/practice.
THE LIGHTBULB MOMENT
This course was taught by 3 Ivey MBA’s; a chiropractor, a commercial banker, and a digital marketing guru. During this course, we learned a ton of valuable information that we could start applying right away to building our business. The biggest takeaways we got from this weekend seminar were:
- Realizing the possibility of starting our practice without taking on excessive debt
- Programs available to help limit risk
- Business planning essentials
- Contract negotiation
- Digital marketing basics
- Ethical practice management strategies to build a healthy business
The biggest takeaway of all after leaving this course was that we knew that this was 100% what we wanted to do and that it was possible!
NEXT STEPS AS NEW GRADS STARTING A NEW BUSINESS
We walked out of that weekend with the understanding and confidence that our goal was absolutely attainable. However, in order to make it a reality, we needed to get to work. So much to do, where do we even start?!
Building a business plan, figuring out our finances, scoping out potential locations, and speaking with faculty and colleagues for advice seemed like a few good places to start.
While the ultimate goal of starting a new business as new grads may have seemed daunting to us, taking one day and one task at a time has kept us grounded and motivated to keep moving forward, and we are excited to take you along with us on our journey!