Before you jump headfirst into expansion, make sure you consider these important questions and decisions.
Posted in Planning on Tuesday, May 24, 2022
You’ve been in practice for a while now and you’re doing well, with a full book of clients, strong finances, and great processes with and workflow with your staff. Business is booming and it feels like the time is right to look at adding a second location to your lineup. But look before you leap – make sure you take the time to fully assess your practice from all angles.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you’re considering adding a new location, start by asking some questions:
Is this the best way to grow?
Perhaps expanding your current practice by adding complementary services might be a good option. This can be less stressful on your practice, your lifestyle, and your goals.
How will it impact your existing location?
When you open a second location, it will have an impact on your current practice. Your attention and focus will be split, especially in the beginning. You may need to share resources. Your finances may be tighter. These things could impact the patient experience and may also influence your staff.
Do you have the financial resources you’ll need?
Speaking of finances, opening a second location will require money. You’ll need a space, equipment, furniture, technology supplies, staffing, and marketing. Are you prepared to invest in yourself without putting stress on your personal and business finances?
Do you have the human resources you’ll need?
If you’re considering a second location, you’re likely successful enough that you have a front office person, an associate or two, and possibly a couple of assistants. Will you divert some of these resources to the new venue, or add new employees? If you’re going to split your existing staff’s time between two locations, are they agreeable to this? It will require additional travel time on their part, and possibly some adjustments to their schedule. They likely will expect additional compensation in salary or benefits (such as more time off or flexible scheduling).
Is your family supportive and understanding of what is required to get a new office up and running?
Starting any new business demands time and money. Those closest to you should be made fully aware of what to expect. They should also be supportive of this new endeavor. Like construction projects, starting a new business – and that’s what a second location is – will probably take more time and more money than originally planned.
Decisions to Make
Once you’ve answered some of those questions (and more!) and have determined that you’re ready to proceed, you’ll need to make some additional decisions, including:
- What demographics are you interested in? If you want to serve families, don’t choose a neighborhood that’s mostly empty nesters. If you want to collaborate with other health care providers or treat non-native English speakers, look for a neighborhood that aligns.
- What is the current competitive environment? Once you’ve decided on your patient profile and preferred neighborhood, check out the competition. If there are already several practices in an area, it might make sense to look for another that meets your criteria.
- Will you buy or lease the new space? There are pros and cons on both sides. Talk to your accountant, your financial planner, and your attorney before you decide. Then ask your network for an introduction to a good real estate professional with commercial experience.
Staff and Management
- Will you be the only doctor at both locations? This can be complex to manage so think through the logistics before finalizing your plans. If you’re ready to expand, it might be time to add a new associate. An alternative is to split your schedule so that your time is split between the two locations, but ask yourself if you’re increasing revenues this way, or just effort.
- What about your support staff? This is another key decision. If you’re going to ask staff to divide their time between locations, you may need to add some sort of carrot. Don’t assume everyone will share your excitement.
- Will you need to hire or contract out administrative tasks you currently tackle yourself? Perhaps you manage your own bookkeeping and marketing now. When you double locations, there will be double the work. It may be time to hire an employee to handle these tasks or look for a consultant.
- Do you want to brand the locations as two parts of one larger practice or maintain separate identities? If the locations are similar in practice philosophy and services offered, you can simply promote them by their geography. But if you’re going to focus on a new audience segment, you should give them unique identities to avoid patient confusion.
- How will you tell your current and prospective patients about your new location? If the two locations will remain publicly separate, it’s not necessary to inform your current patients of the addition. But if you want to expand your offerings to your current patients, this is a great time to celebrate and make a big deal about it. Word-of-mouth can help generate a list of new patients at the new location.
There are many other factors to consider before you add another location but starting with these concerns should give you a pretty clear picture of whether you’re ready to grow – or not. Even if the time isn’t right today, you’ll have a better idea about how to expand in the future.