When it comes to opening your own pediatric practice, you don’t have to be a seasoned business person to know that location matters.
But knowing location matters is one thing. Deciding which location is the best choice for a practice is another matter.
Common sense tells us to not open a practice in an area that is saturated with pediatricians, but how do you define saturated? Is 1 or 5 or 20 competing offices too much? What if there is only one practice in the area but the practice has 25 pediatricians?
Is proximity to a hospital better than proximity to a school? Should one consider number of daycares and schools in the area over the number of OBs?
If you are opening your second office, perhaps these questions aren’t difficult to answer because you’ve already navigated these waters.
But if you are flying solo, in other words, deciding to open your own practice, these can be daunting questions to answer.
Susanne Madden is the President and CEO of The Verden Group. The Verden group advises physicians on a variety of practice management issues. Among the services is coaching doctors to set up their own practices.
I recently caught up with Susanne. I asked her if she had any words of wisdom or practical advise for doctors opening up their first office and are weighing location options. As usual she had great insights.
IT IS NOT AS SIMPLE AS SELECTING A LOCATION
Susanne cautioned that there is so much to cover to adequately address office location because office location isn’t just a location question. Branching out involves setting up a whole new practice!
PROXIMITY VS CONVENIENCE
Susanne advises physicians looking for ideal office space to first consider convenience before proximity to a school or OB group, for example. Being close to a school is helpful, but it’s important to make sure the office is along regularly traveled route.
You don’t want to be 1-mile from the largest school but in the opposite direction of where folks are headed to/ from home and work.
ONLY GAME IN TOWN
When it comes to competition – the number of pediatric practices already in the area – Susanne thinks it is best to find a location far from other practices.
And I agree. Ideally you want to be the only game in town. But realistically this can be a big challenge for someone opening a practice in an urban area like Chicago, New York or San Francisco.
ALREADY A PRESENCE
Other considerations must be evaluated in addition to the location challenge when one doesn’t have the option to open far from other practices. The considerations, however, depend on the circumstances.
If there is one big group nearby and not much else, that could work really well. The new practice potentially can draw patients that don’t enjoy a big group experience (provided the new practice markets itself as the alternative to that).
On the other hand, if there are a lot of solo / small practices around, then the new practice needs to figure out what they have that the competition doesn’t and make that distinction their central marketing strategy.
STUDYING THE AREA
Susanne reminds physicians the importance of market research. Knowing the area factually, will help physicians answer many questions, she says.
If the area is growing and the market demographics suggest that there is ample demand and not enough supply, then opening a practice where other pediatricians practice could work just fine.
NEGOTIATING LEASE TERMS
Most property manager or landlords require lessee to sign a 5-year contract. When we were opening our practice, I remember the 5-year lease stipulation terrified us. I wondered, what if our new office doesn’t survive five years?
Fortunately, we were able to negotiate a 3-year lease (instead of a 5-year lease) and a few other accommodations to help us get up on our feet. Consider negotiating with your landlord lease terms. More often than not, they will be willing and able to work with you.
Share space with another physician is a great way to start. Susanne points out that staying lean initially will mean the practice can branch out later without being saddled with having to build volume quickly in order to pay debt.
New practices that are sharing office space with another physician, Susanne recommends to not sign more than a year-to-year sublease. The idea is that once the practice reaches capacity, it will be easier to move the practice and their patients to their own location.
Susanne was kind enough to send over a few resources she had so that physicians could glean more information on this topic.
Setting up a practice support pages:
Medical Economics Resource:
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