Your first office doesn’t have to be perfect. As a matter of fact, easing into your new space and growing slowly over time is a smart way to manage cash flow while growing your referral base. In this episode, you’ll hear how we moved from community visits to our first office, then adding 2 additional offices in that suite before settling into our first free standing clinic.
In this episode:
01:48 – A growing, functional speech therapy practice
03:25 – Choosing an area of town
04:30 – Accessibility for all
05:34 – Multiple etiologies
05:58 – Office suite number one
07:26 – Big ole’ lawyer desk
07:37 – The basic setup: A blueprint to follow
08:48 – Big, bigger ideas
09:46 – Computer programmers, attorneys, acupuncturists and a speech clinic
10:52 – One big square + 2 little squares
11:10 – School House Rock
11:39 – Lessons Learned: Speech Clinic + Acupuncture & Massage = #$%^&
12:00 – The truth about clinic bathrooms
12:40 – How to exit correctly
13:00 – Free standing clinic number one
13:14 – Waiting room
13:35 – Dermatology office turned speech clinic
13:50 – Free standing clinic number two
14:56 – When you need to do what you need to do, you just do it
15:10 – It doesn’t have to be perfect
15:30 – When is too much too much
16:00 – Patients can move with you, too
17:04 – Do you need help and assistance for your own private practice?
Transcription of Episode Five:
Well, hello everyone! You’re listening to the speech therapy private practice start up podcast. This is episode number 5. My name is Kyle Meades and I’ll be your host for today’s show and I’m a speech and language pathologist since 1993. And after a hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans, you know, I’ve moved to sunny, dry Tucson Arizona and I was just really bummed out. I was really sad about the whole hurricane and I had to pick up and start all over from scratch. So I decided to start my own speech therapy private practice and at that time when I did start it, I looked online and I remember searching for just anything (and if you listened to my other podcast, you’ll hear the same story where I searched for a mentors, I searched for help from the small business association, I searched and searched and searched and I just couldn’t find any information design for a speech therapists and speech language pathologist out there who wanted to start their own private practice). So that’s what I’m doing in this private practice start up podcast – showing other speech pathologist how to do this correctly.
And when I say how to start a private practice, I’m not really talking about just working on the side and seeing one or two patients and making a few bucks here or there. I’m talking about a business that will support you and your family for years to come. I’m talking about employees, paying taxes, paying rent, all those things that a normal brick and mortar business would do. So that’s what this podcast is designed to do and in today’s episode, I wanted to share with you the way I started my own brick and mortar business and how I transitioned from seeing people in the community to seeing people in my first office. So, that’s what I wanna to talk about in today’s podcast – how to get that first office.
It’s just a really kinda of a humorous story; For those of you who know me about my first office, it’s pretty funny. So, I just wanted to share this whole scenario with you guys and this is my story, so, it will kind of give you a little bit of an idea on how to ease into that brick and mortar thing. When I first started, again, if you to my other podcast, podcast 1 and 2, you’ll hear about how I started seeing people in the community. There was a time when I just couldn’t physically drive to all the consumers homes. So, I really got tired of doing that and gas was expensive at that time and I just didn’t have all of that time available. So, what I did was I got online, I think it was craigslist.org and I searched office buildings. There was a picture of this pretty pretty building, and a picture of that pretty pretty building, and a picture of this not so pretty building and a picture of that not so pretty building. I was thinking, what part of the town could I start in? You know, I wanted to be, professional and have a nice comfortable office so when people would bring their kids or their mom after their stroke or whomever. When they come to the office, I wanted them to be comfortable and have a nice professional experience. So, you know in Tucson, we’ve got this nice part of a town called the Foothills and in the Central part of town we’ve got the University and the Medical Center and then you’ve got the south part of the town going towards in Green Valley. I wanted to stick close to where I was living because that time I was living in a two bedroom apartment and I wanted to stay close to the middle of the town. I wanted to stay around the University of Arizona, the professionalism of the university – I wanted to stay central because I felt that if i can stay Central, I could hit everyone. So, I started looking for business space in the middle of the town. And I remember calling a nice beautiful location, it was called La Paloma, it’s a nice resort here in Tucson. There was an office center there I specifically said “Hey do you mind if I come see some office spaces and then they said, what do you do? I said, I’m a speech pathologist, I work with kids and adults. She said “This may not be the place for you”. Because at that time, it bummed me out and I’m thinking “Why wouldn’t my business fit in your corporate center?” And when I really started looking at the other tenants in that area, you know, you had accountants and lawyers and everything else but speech therapist.
So with my kids (I don’t know about your kids you see in your clinic) but sometimes we get a little bit rowdy. We see children with autism, language delay, speech delay, voice problems, fluency problems, and sometimes kids get rowdy. They get a little bit loud. So, I got the feeling that this lady didn’t want a bunch of kids running around in their courtyards. So, she gave me the number to a wonderful person who really helped us out. She’s a local attorney here in town, she rented us an office suite and her complex and it was just really nice. It was a nice, beautiful little office and there was a courtyard kind of inside with trees and sky lights and then the back, she built as a playground and it was just a really nice. It was nice parking in the back. I had one big office and in that one office I remember she was so nice and let me borrow furniture. Now she’s a lawyer and the furniture that I got from her to borrow was law furniture, I had this big huge desk. I remember putting my feet up one day and (I even took a picture of this, I’ll see if I can find it and put it on this post) I remember putting my blue converse sneakers up on the desk and I’m like “man I have finally made it. I’ve got my first office and I had my printer over there on the right. My little Vonage box on the right and my router on the flickering lights on the right. You know, mind you, these kids love this flashing lights so the kid came in wanted to grab my router. It’s so like “uh! It’s high dead thing.” But anyway, I had my first big office. This was my place. You know, when people came in, there wasn’t somebody to greet them. But they would walk through the door and then they come in into this atrium area with these beautiful skylights and trees and they sat down. And they waited their turn and then I would greet them in the lobby and say “hey good to see you today! Let’s get the treatment going and let’s keep everything go in so we can see your child and come on in for the evaluation. Did you get the paperwork that I emailed you and I bring them in the office? And again, it’s just one big room and I had the desk there, I do the interview and I had the kids on the ground there and they were playing with their toys while I was talking to their families and you know, it’s just got the job done. Well, about three or four months later, that one room I just kept growing, you know, the referrals just kept coming in because if you listen to other podcast, I’m sure you had a get those referrals and market your services in your community and talk to pediatricians and put the referrals just kept coming in. And I was given a lot of referrals from the website and again, if you go to the other podcast, you’ll learn how I did that. But you know, we just kept growing and then I remember talking, her name was Joanie, she’s an attorney here in town and I said you know “Jonie, I’ve got one office, I think I could probably hire my first employee now. I don’t like to have a, do you have any rooms available with maybe two rooms?” She said, “let me see what I could do”. You know so and so down the hall, they’re retiring” so maybe you could have their office and we had a wonderful child psychologist in our office, his name is Dr Jerry Day, really super cool guy. He had an office and when he retire he had that one big room like I was telling you about. But it was a small little waiting room attached to the side. Well, my big head said “well, look I could take that waiting room and put an assistant in that room and then I could be in the other room doing treatments and at the same time my SLPA, my speech language pathologist assistant was doing treatment in that room. So, that was my idea.
And when Dr. Day retired, I took their office. I remember my first office was 500 bucks in month for rent. My second office Jonie gave me a deal and she said “what about 800 bucks?” So, you know, maybe in the cautious money guy. I said, I think I can make that happen. So, paid Jonie 800 bucks a month and I had two rooms. Well, I hired Nikki, who’s one of the speech therapy assistants in our clinic, she’s still there today, one of the first people ever to hanging in there with me and she’s awesome. She was seeing people in one little room and I was seeing people in the other room and we just made it happened. It was really cool. We had not one but two families coming through the door, they walk in and they go to the atrium and then there was this nice big Ficus trees and the kids are out there and mind you there’s other person in the office space too. We had programmers who make video games. We had one guy who’s an attorney and Jonie the attorney, she’s got her corner office. You know she’s top dog so she’s got her spotted. We had a hanky pancreas. And one of the rooms and so, you know we had all these people around and here we are with our speech kids coming in and sometimes these kids would yell and scream and they want to play with toys and sometimes I would ask them to go outside and you know, when it wasn’t too hot, because in Tucson, it’s a 100 and gazillion degrees outside. So sometimes the kids could go out to the play area. Sometimes when it’s too hot or very cold the kids would have to stay inside. So it kinda a little bit loud in that waiting room and I always felt kinda nervous when the kids would yell and scream and you know, we just kept growing then I hire another speech and language pathologist assistant. And her name is Amanda and she’s still with us and she’s awesome and does a great job by the way. So, here’s Nikki and Amanda, we had to get our third room and I remember Jonie gave me, you know, rent of a thousand bucks. So now, we’ve got three big rooms. I’ve got my one big square then two little squares and I’m in the one big room and then Amanda and Nikki were in the other two rooms. And you know, we’re just all work in and seeing kids and it is just got crazy. I don’t know if you guys, some of you may remember school house rock which was a television show on Saturday mornings and you would see the school house pumping out you know, sound and energy. But that was us we were just constantly busy and then of course, with the busyness, you had screaming and yelling kids. So before you know it, I knew what will happen we started kinda make a little too much noise and you know, kinda taken people off. It’s not a good idea to have a speech clinic next door to a hanky pancreas and massage therapist because it just doesn’t work. You know, you’ve got speech kids running around, your autistic kids running around and your center integration kids running around and we’ve got family with. You know one kid’s coming to speech and you’ve got a four, five kids whether and they’re all screaming and yelling and going on to the bathroom.
That’s another thing. Bathroom. People will tear up your clinic bathroom, they’ll take your toilet paper, and they’ll throw it everywhere. They’ll take your Febreze, all that stuff. It’s just crazy. And I remember finally Jonie came to me and she said you know, I just don’t think this is working out. And I’m like uggh! I knew it was coming. But you know, when you work with kids, it’s just part of the job. You know, it gets loud, crazy, screaming, yelling, you know, we just started to take off a lot of people the hanky pancreas, the lawyer, you know, it’s the programmers, I’m out of the programmer’s care they’re always just “rapping sound” on their keyboard. So, they always working at night till 3 am anyway. But you know, we just really outgrew that space so. You know we worked from those 3 rooms and I told Jonie “Thank you, I cleaned the carpets just make sure that everything was perfectly clean when I left when I got another office right across from TMC, Tucson Medical Center in Tucson area there is this Medical park. And I remember negotiating, I would walk bottom rent. So it was my large company here in town and we got our first free standing clinic. And it was so cool because we had our own waiting room where kids could scream, yell, you know tear up my Ficus trees you know, throw books, rip books, take toys, whatever, I mean you know how it is. I mean, it just happened. It’s kids. And it’s great to have those kids around. And we had our own waiting room, we had six offices and I remember, Wow, we had six treatment rooms that used to be and old irenology practice. And we were able to take that practice and turn it into a speech clinic. We’ve got the dollar store and hand cool decorations from the CL Lynx, so it’s just really really nice. So you know, that lasted you know, for a while and we were able to see kids in that office but the time finally came when we outgrew our office. So we needed more space. Because the need was so great and the Tucson area that we just have to move again. And this was only, I had a three year negotiate. A three year lease and this is only after a year and not even a year and a half. So, we had to move to another office in the same area. So I talk to the management company I said, hey we’re simply just growing do you have any more space? Or this is where Im pretty good with business but I don’t have to deal anything. I’ll just stay here until my lease terms and then I’ll just go somewhere else. Now, Kyle I think we can find something. The management company, you know, route us around in the medical part in the 3 buildings to complete dumps. The third was perfect, it’s just a huge gym area and I just saw a gym area and I saw the same amount of a treatment room. Seven treatment rooms but just more space and I said, you know what, this will work.
The hospitals are so nice, TMZ is such a wonderful people to work with. And it really helped us. They helped us getting into this largest space and I just didn’t want to pay the money but I had to. You know, when you need to do what you need to do, you just do it. So I took that money and put it into this new office and that’s where we are now, Rosemount in grant road right across from TMZ but that’s the progression that our business took to get where we are today. And why am I telling you all this because you need to know out there that when you start your private practice you don’t need to go out and buy or rent all the space because let’s be honest, what if you don’t get that patient flow when you want it. You’re lap holding the bank, and if you boring all that money from the bank, you could have to keep making those payments and you’re gonna be straps so you wanna grow slowly. You wanna grow very systematically and there’s nothing wrong with moving a little bit. And I don’t know of you guys remember podcast 1 or 2 when I’m talking about you know, you have your phone with Vonage, your internet, you can take all that with you. So your phone number won’t change. It will grow with you. So I wanted to share the natural progression of our business so those of you out there who would thinking about starting your own speech therapy private practice can see it. And it’s okay. Patients can move with you to different locations and they’re really, they’ll be excited for you. They’ll be “Oh Kyle, look! You’re growing again. It’s so nice. This is a nice office. I like this one compare to the other one and remember when you were working at the attorney’s offices, it’s so much better. Our kids can yell and scream and not get “shhhh” by everybody in the office.”
Exactly, so, that’s a natural progression of our business. Hey, if you want, why won’t you post some comments at the bottom? Let me know how your businesses doing? Let me know what kind of space you have for your private practice? I would love to see how you guys, you know what kind of buildings you have? What kind of places you lease? What kind of place you rent? I’d love to see it. Share us some information down there on the comments and always, if you have any questions about speech therapy private practice, please go to privateslp.com. You can contact me there. I’ve got a SpeakPipe application there you can leave me a message for the podcast. And I’ll answer them in the podcast so also if you have any questions about private practice start up or if you would like me to work with you, shoot me an email I be more than happy to get back to you and again, thank you for listening to the podcast, and I would really appreciate some five star ratings from you all and thank you for listening.