Setting Up in Private Practice - My Personal Experience
I’ve had a few requests over the last six months to provide advice and answer questions for SLPs wanting to set up their own private practice. I’m by no means an expert but this is my two cents worth.
The when and the why:
I had worked in Public Health for 12 years and decided it was time to make a leap, the appeal of taking vacations when I wanted, and not when seniority dictated, was strong!
I took a gentle sidestep into Private Practice at another clinic prior to setting up on my own. This learning experience was invaluable.
I spent approximately one year as a contractor at a Private Clinic before beginning to take on private clients independently in another geographical area. I then built up a client caseload for over a year prior to considering taking on a clinic space. This was mainly to keep costs low, most leases are minimum three years and that’s a big commitment to make.
Once I had a caseload, with steady new enquiries, it was time to rent space and hire employees. Writing it down in a sentence does negate the time it actually took!
It’s not what you know; it’s who you know!
The key has been surrounding myself with knowledgeable and supportive professionals that have had patience for someone that does not have a business background. There’s nothing worse than having someone roll their eyes at you.
I have needed:
*Bookkeeper – perhaps the most important person! It’s still like a foreign language to me when talking about reconciling corporate accounts and payroll tax etc. never mind the day to day logging of invoices and expenses. A good bookkeeper is an investment worth their weight in gold!
*Accountant – files corporate taxes and liaises directly with bookkeeper
*Business lawyer – needed for filing incorporation documents, reviewing business leases and other small business legal advice
*Employment lawyer – Providing employment contract templates for hiring employees
*HR Consultant – Assistance in putting HR law into practice with employees
Things I’ve learnt:
I never thought it would be easy expanding to having and running a clinic but the learning curve has been steeper than expected.
It’s unusual for a new small business to make any sort of profit before two years in operation and therefore keeping costs low is incredibly important. The best investments in my opinion are the professionals discussed above, a great office manager and enthusiastic, motivated employees. I’m now lucky to have all of those but it has taken time and as in life, not everyone you meet in a professional capacity will be a good fit for your business and that’s ok.
Definitely try not to get tied into long and expensive leases when you’re new to private practice. Shop around, there’s plenty of leasing agents out there and sublets if you want to contract in an existing clinic.
Do research contractors versus employees thoroughly and seek advice. There are penalties for falling foul of the CRA on this.
**I hope this is useful information to someone, all of the information is my personal opinion based on my experience. It is not to be confused with professional advice**
By: Sarah Castell
Registered Speech-Language Pathologist