Steps to a Successful Business Plan Knowing who you are and who you want to serve builds a strong foundation for private practice success. In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   July 01, 2018
Steps to a Successful Business Plan
Author Notes
  • Amy Wetherill, MA, CCC-SLP, is co-owner of the Pediatric Development Center, providing speech-language and occupational therapy in Rockville, Maryland. She is immediate past president of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology. amy@pdcandme.com
    Amy Wetherill, MA, CCC-SLP, is co-owner of the Pediatric Development Center, providing speech-language and occupational therapy in Rockville, Maryland. She is immediate past president of the American Academy of Private Practice in Speech Pathology and Audiology. amy@pdcandme.com×
Article Information
In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   July 01, 2018
Steps to a Successful Business Plan
The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.23072018.40
The ASHA Leader, July 2018, Vol. 23, 40-41. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.23072018.40
You’re thinking about starting a private practice, and you know you need a solid business plan. But you’re a clinician, not a businessperson—so where do you start?
Writing a business plan, complete with projections, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, and goals, can be daunting. Business mentors call this paralysis by analysis. My business partner and I have narrowed down our business planning to five simple principles that we believe are the most integral to the success of our practice.
Know your values
Clearly defined business values that align with our personal values serve as our road map and sounding board for decision-making. In my practice, the Pediatric Development Center (PDC), developing relationships and providing a nurturing environment are our cornerstone values. Our values dictate our methods of service delivery, hiring, advertising, community outreach and staff development, and guide our relations with other community service providers.
Identify your ideal client
I often wonder how many audiology and speech-language pathology practices can thrive in a small geographical area. I believe it’s because every client has a “best messenger”—a clinician or private practice that fulfills their need in a way that no other practice in the area can. For instance, a family with a 2-year-old who requires a late-afternoon appointment because of parents’ work schedules may be happier with a solo practitioner who can offer flexible scheduling options, rather than going to a larger practice where many active, older children are vying for after-school appointments.
Taking the time to identify our ideal client has been essential in growing our business in a positive way. Defining your best-fit population steers you away from a mass-marketing model and allows you to build relationships with professionals in your community who are serving a similar population. As a result, we have filled our schedules with clients for whom we are the best messenger, resulting in client and staff satisfaction—as measured by staff participation and new client referrals from professionals and current clients.

Defining your best-fit population steers you away from a mass-marketing model and allows you to build relationships with professionals in your community who are serving a similar population.

Understand community needs
At PDC, we take time to listen to families and referral sources in our community. Our administrative and therapeutic teams collaborate to understand what our community is asking from us. Be it something small, such as an adjustment in treatment plan for one child, or large, such as meeting the needs of an underserved population, we strive to meet that need through our operational procedures and methods of service delivery. Listening and responding with a solution has deepened our professional relationships and provider reputation.
Keep your ‘why’ central
Every successful business owner I have met knows their “why”: Why do you want to own a practice? Each owner has a unique answer: For some, it is the pursuit of a work-life balance. For others, it is the autonomy of service delivery.
“Why” is at the core of our business plan, with “what,” “where” and “how” wrapped around the outside. For my partner and me, our “why” is to create a platform for clinicians to specialize in their own area of interest and grow professionally within the support of our company. Within this model, PDC is able to best serve the various needs of our community as our clinicians develop into leaders in their field. Understanding our “why” provides us with resilience and grit to solve issues as they arise and to recognize and act on opportunities as we develop our vision.

Why do you want to own a practice? Each owner has a unique answer: For some, it is the pursuit of a work-life balance. For others, it is the autonomy of service delivery.

Communicate what you do
There is a balance between overselling and underselling your services. Finding the equilibrium is crucial to the reputation of a private practice.
Clinicians who oversell—that is, they overstate their expertise by describing themselves as “experts” or “specialists”—risk confusing their ideal client and losing the respect of the community they wish to serve. We have found that sharing and demonstrating our “why” (and our “what” and “how”) with our ideal clients and referral sources has a more positive impact than proclaiming our expertise. We choose to allow others to decide those titles for us based on how we meet community needs.
Business planning is a fluid process that starts with a vision, but is defined by values and a why. The plan evolves and changes as the business owner and business grow and change. At its core, owning a small business is rooted in offering a solution to a need in a way that resonates with a community of patrons for whom you are the best messenger.
Learn More at Private Practice Connect

Amy Wetherill will present “Connect, Share and Grow Your Practice” at ASHA’s Private Practice Connect, a three-day conference for private practice owners July 20–22 at the Baltimore Convention Center. Co-located with Health Care Connect and Schools Connect, the conference offers sessions on documentation, coding and reimbursement, emotional intelligence, Medicaid, audits, business decision-making, growth opportunities and other topics.

Resources for Private Practice Owners

Whether you are just starting your private practice journey or have an established business, check out the resources of these organizations. They offer many programs and opportunities for small business owners who are growing their private practice.

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FROM THIS ISSUE
July 2018
Volume 23, Issue 7