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Got what it takes to own a business?

I am often asked, "Is owning your own business really worth it?" Those who’ve read these columns know that I have written about both the glory and the struggles of being a business owner. There’s the always present dichotomy of loving what you do and enjoying the autonomy while struggling to create something that can take nearly all of your time, energy and money.

For those considering taking the leap, know this: Once you take the leap, you will quickly realize that to build a work life beyond the traditional, by-the-hour service, you will have to grow. Sometimes people are ready for that, and other times, people get a taste of it and decide that, in the end, they have no desire to own a business.

I have had several personal connections that have lost their practice or chose to abandon it to return to a paid salary position for that very reason. They were not ready and/or interested in being the “business owner.”

One colleague was tired of being treated as an employee and working for someone else. After stepping out on her own, however, the reality meant she was solely responsible for generating her leads/referrals to establish her business, and she realized that she had no desire or the skills to network and create partnerships to build up her practice. She ended before she even started.

Here are some questions to consider when thinking continuously about a business or practice:

• Do you have a passion or interest in the business side of things?
• Are you ready to leave your clinical practice in order grow the practice and step into the administrative side?
• Are you ready and able to put in some serious hours into getting your business to the point where it can run itself?
• What are your resources for self-support during this time?  Do you have a good personal support network, do you have monetary support, etc.?
• Do you have a passion for learning? Those who take this journey will have to learn the ropes quickly and to continuously adapt themselves to what they have learn to be successful.

If you answered "Yes" to these questions, now what? Here are some key steps necessary for taking that pivotal leap into the private practice world:

• Begin Building Capital: Begin by saving and building any surplus revenue. Look at ways to do things cheaply so you can continue to build capital in your practice in order to begin the expansion process.  
• Create a Business Plan and Marketing Plan: This is helpful in creating your vision of your business. A plan must detail products and services you sell, your target audience or demographic, who your competition is, and budgeting and marketing information, including marketing strategies and objectives. A business plan is also necessary if applying for a Business Loan. 

• Resources/Insurance for referrals: Do you plan on taking insurance? If so, which ones? What steps do you need to do to get on insurance panels? If you are a cash-based practice, what marketing efforts will you put in place to generate leads?

• Create marketing materials: In the beginning this does not need to be fancy.  Look squarely at your budget. A great set of business cards and a website can launch a beginning practice. Later, you can build on what materials are needed to build your brand.

• Tracking systems: How will you track your success? Areas to consider include an Intake process set-up, accounting records, and referral tracking forms. You may also want to run annual, semi-annual, or even quarterly reports, so that you can track trends in your business. 

• Creating solid partnerships: Meeting and joining forces with other power players is a good way to boost your business and gain new insights into running a company or practice. Good partnerships are key, especially if you are a cash- based practice.

• Professionals to hire and professionals and services better outsourced: As you grow, these pros will be the other players that you bring on your team. The may include an accountant or bookkeeper, an office manager (who may also do bookkeeping), marketing and development specialist, public relations person, and social media specialist. It is also important to seek out a good tax specialist to help with filing, since business taxes are usually complicated and best handled by a professional that specializes in tax or tax law.

It’s thrilling and satisfying to build and run a solid and thriving business. It may require more time, energy and money than you originally thought, but what worthwhile effort doesn’t? But the truth is, with a commitment, a vision and not a little faith, it is more than doable — and for many of us, it’s a “must do.” (You know who you are.)

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Teri Karjala

Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at www.talkingwithteri.com.

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