How to get your practice up and running
(NC) Starting a new professional practice may sound intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. Whether you're a recent graduate, an experienced professional looking to be an independent practitioner, or perhaps a seasoned veteran starting a post-retirement practice, there are a number of essential steps to follow that will put you on a path to success.
“On top of being a lawyer, doctor, veterinarian, or a practitioner in your chosen vocation, you'll also be an independent businessperson,” says David Wilton, the director of small business at Scotiabank. “It's important when starting any small business that you create a business plan, break down the elements you will need to focus on to accomplish your plan and then work through the process of dealing with those elements in a systematic way.”
Wilton offers his advice to get a new practice up and running:
Location, location, location: Picking the right site is one of the most important factors for long term success. Think about the visibility of the practice, the ease of access, availability of parking, and suitability for future expansion. Do your market research, look at demographics, population and competition in the local market. Will you buy, build or lease and what are the ongoing costs of occupancy going to be? These estimates will be among the essential inputs needed for your business plan.
Make a plan for growth: Successful businesses don't happen overnight. Having a simple, straightforward business plan helps ensure your new practice has the fundamentals that it needs to become successful as it grows. It should include an executive summary, overview of your planned practice, a discussion of the business environment, your business objectives, strategy, financial projections and action plan. A plan is also crucial when seeking financing, allowing you to gauge your progress and prepare for the unexpected. Online tools are available for this. Wilton points out, for example, that Scotiabank offers a free, interactive planning tool called the Scotia Plan Writer, accessed at getgrowingforbusiness.com.
Build up your support network: Starting a small business can be time consuming as you work to overcome obstacles, putting in the long hours to make your business a success. Take advantage of the expertise of advisors such as an accountant and your business banker. An accountant can help you with the books, find ways to keep your costs low, and do your tax return. Your business banker can advise you on cash flow, the use of credit, investments, and borrowing, among other things. Joining a professional organization, your local business association or working with a mentor are also great ways to build networks of strong advisors.
So get a head start on your competitors. Combine your professional training with a straightforward business plan and surround yourself with a support system of experts. Very quickly, says Wilton, you will find yourself in the best position to launch and grow a successful practice.
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