If you’ve done any Google searches on marketing for physical therapists or participated in any online therapy discussions then you’ve probably noticed a movement taking shape. Everywhere you look, it seems like there are therapists embracing entrepreneurship, autonomy and lifestyle practice as never before.
Even recent therapy graduates, undeterred by huge amounts of student debt, are embarking out on their own to start up their own businesses. They are abandoning traditional clinical practice for upside opportunities of being their own boss. Promises of flexible schedules, higher incomes and a more exciting career are almost too good to pass up.
But are these therapists being led astray by a glamorized version of entrepreneurship?
Are they setting themselves up for disaster when the harsh realities of business hits them like the ALS ice water bucket challenge?
I think not.
I believe they know more than we think they do. Perhaps more experienced therapists can learn from their optimism and courage to push the envelope on new ways to deliver care.
Consumers Want Alternatives
I think we all can agree that healthcare reform has upset the fee for service apple cart. It’s an understatement to say that many therapists are uneasy about the direction healthcare is going as they scramble around trying to put the apples back into the cart. One of the problems is that the cart keeps moving.
As it stands now you may sense something is wrong with the system and it’s limiting you from doing your best work. There’s too much emphasis on productivity leaving too little time to provide the care our patients deserve. This can leave healthcare providers feeling like another gear in a gigantic therapy factory that churns out one patient after another.
Don’t be surprised but therapists are not alone in our frustration. Many of our patients feel the same way.
There are millions of consumers tired of waiting rooms, impersonal care and inflated fees. They are millions of uninsursured, hight deductiable, self-pay consumers seeking more affordable and convenient alternatives to ‘Big Medicine’.
One positive result from the chaos in health care it’s created fantastic opportunity for therapy entrepreneurs to meet dissatisfied consumers where they are hurting. This requires that therapists step out of therapy as usual to offer services in ways that are more attuned to self-pay clients.
Self-pay clients are more informed and sophisticated than ever before when purchasing professional services. Ordinary people have a access to high quality medical information when selecting a healthcare provider of their choice.
Armed with blog posts, Dr. Oz and Yelp reviews consumers are buying therapy and wellness services a la carte. Consumers are “unbundling” care from their primary care providers to take control of spending their own money where they think they can get the best value.
A recent study by Fritz and other EIM researchers found that for every 100 people who have a primary care consultation for low back pain only 7% are given a recommendation for physical therapy. The natural follow up questions are:
I believe this 93% is the future of private practice.
Therapy Entrpreneurs Provide Alternatives
The desperate shortage is for musculoskeletal experts who charge $100 per hour and are able to help patients with 2 to 3 visits.
Poor people, even those in the shrinking middle class do not have access to adequate, economical medical help. They are the consumers who are want to use their own money for a non-drug, non-surgical options to keep active and mobile. They’ll skip the doctor and go straight to the provider who can provide a cost effective, personalized solution to their musculoskeietal pain.
The challenge of therapy entrepreneurs is to be seen and heard in a noisy, competitive marketplace. You need to rise above the crowd so that prospective patients can get to know you and understand how you solve their problems to make their lives better.
It’s the provider who has the clearest message that captures the attention and business of the self-pay client.
We all know it’s not necessarily the most skilled or qualified expert that has the successful practice. It’s trusted experts who clearly communicate whom they help, who they are and how they make people’s lives better that has the most ideal clients.
Most therapists do not know how to do this. We have minimal training in branding and marketing. It’s much more than learning marketing tactics but getting real life experience to find out what feels right for you and works in the marketplace. To learn and develop these skills effectively can seem like a part time job.
Part-Time Therapy Entrepreneur
Becoming a part-time entrepreneur is one way to develop marketing and business skills without quitting your full time therapy job. Taking an incremental approach to private practice allows you to develop your professional brand while keeping risk and start up costs low.
Part-time entrepreneurship provides an opportunity for therapists who don’t have the credibility or networks to learn by doing. Having a business on the side allows time and flexibility to find out what clients will to pay for. You don’t have to quit your full time job to do so. As a matter of fact, I think it’s better if you don’t.
Pursuing part-time entrpreneurship offers clear advantages over depending on a corporation to have your best interest at heart. It’s an alternative to diving head first off a cliff into private practice. Before you jump into the fray here are four steps you can take before you begin your journey into part time entrepreneurship.
4 Steps to Take Before You Quit Your Day Job
1. Know Your Big Goal
As therapists, we know the most important step in the treatment plan is choosing the primary goal we want patients to accomplish. Choosing a goal that includes what you want to do, what you want to achieve, and why you want to do it is also the most important step in launching a successful practice.
I refer to this goal as the Big Goal. Your most important goal for starting a practice is your destination and the smaller goals that get you to your destination are milestones. Take a moment to write down the number one reason why you want to start a practice. Put it on the wall above your computer screen so you can look at it every day.
2. Know Your Big Why
Your big goal cannot be impersonal. It has to have deep meaning for you. Something that you believe in. Something that is the right thing for you to do. Knowing what you want to do and why you want to do it may sound easy.
In practice many of us lose focus on our motivation to achieve our big goal because of fear, distraction or disillusionment. During the journey to practice ownership you’ll want to regularly ask yourself: what are my goals and what is my motivation to accomplish those goals.
I refer to this motivation as the Big Why. To help you discover your big why one of your action steps is to answer the following questions:
What matters the most to you?
Identify the key relationships in your life.
Define what meaningful work is to you
Define what success means to you
3. Know Your Key Assets
When launching your own practice you rely primarily on yourself. Your key assets include who you are. Prior to launching into a part time entrepreneurship stop and examine who you are.
You’ll build your practice with your key personal assets. Your assets are not only your knowledge, abilities and skills but you’ll include other intangible resources like your interests, personality, life experiences and professional contacts.
What are the key assets that you’ll use to build your new practice?
4. Know Your Sweet Spot
All of us bring skills and abilities, both acquired and natural, to our careers. Your practice sweet spot will combine your personal assets, passions and personality into a unique blend that you’ll use to position yourself in the market place.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being my own boss was it allowed me to express my creativity. I loved being able to imagine an idea and then bring it to a practical reality. I loved the chance for self-expression through my work.
What are your passions that can be expressed in your new practice?
How can you find enjoyment in your work and regain a balance to your life?
Maybe you pursued your therapy career because of the security, respectability and good pay it offered. Part time entrepreneurship gives you the freedom to rediscover the joy in life. You can tailor a practice to your lifestyle as never before.
Build A Stronger And More Meaningful Career
A therapy practice on the side allows you to gradually build a stronger and more successful business for the long term without all the risk.
Part time entrepreneurship has a tremendous upside. At its core, private pracice is about being your own boss. It provides you a chance not just to collect a paycheck but build true wealth.
Investing your talent, time and hard work into a part-time business is a great way to pay down student debt. Directing the profits from your own business towards eliminating debt transforms loan obligations into an exciting goal.
Most of us want our lives to count for something. We want more than a steady paycheck and benefits. We want to express our values at work. We want to connect with new people, be creative, utilize our knowledge and skills to the max.
We want to do work that’s meaningful and be part of something bigger than ourselves.
Part-time entrepreneurship means you don’t have to settle. Rather than putting off doing something meaningful and enjoyable. Part-time entrepreneurship gives you the chance to practice in a professional and profitable way while doing the work you love.