In the world of tasks and to-dos, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as completing a checklist (amirite?). I certainly believe this is true—which means, I can check “being right” off of my list of to-dos for today. Cha-ching! But, enough about me. If you’re starting a physical therapy clinic, you’ve probably got enough tasks floating around in your mind to make a list a mile long—and that list has to cover all of your bases. Feeling overwhelmed? I totally understand. And to help ease some of that stress, I whipped up a little housewarming—er, clinicwarming?—gift for you: a checklist of everything you need to accomplish before you open your clinic’s doors. (Fair warning: You may end up with some serious hand cramps from checking all these boxes.)

Speaking of fair warnings: Please note that this is general information only, and we do not intend for you to use any of it as legal advice or guidance—nor do we intend for you to use it in lieu of seeking appropriate legal counsel. In fact, if you want to be sure all of your ducks are in a row—or if you’re not a fan of checklists—you can hire an attorney who specializes in business formation to handle a lot of these tasks on your behalf.

Physical Therapy Billing Open Forum - Regular BannerPhysical Therapy Billing Open Forum - Small Banner

□ Create a Business Plan

To start, let’s assume you’ve done your research and decided it’s feasible to open a clinic in your area. The next step in the process is to create a business plan. What’s a business plan, you ask? Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, explains that “a business plan is a formal document that contains every detail about your business—including market assumptions; operations, sales, financing, and hiring plans; and your values and goals. This document will serve as the foundation for your business as well as the driver. It will act as a baseline for monitoring your growth.” Thus, this is a step you can’t skip. Every business owner needs to craft a plan before he or she moves forward—especially if the business has more than one founder (e.g., a partnership).

□ Finance Your Business

If you want to open a new physical therapy practice, you’re gonna need some cash money. And if you don’t have enough money in savings—which is understandable—you’re likely going to need to take out a small business loan to fund your dream. (For a comprehensive guide on how to secure a small business loan—as well as reviews of several popular lenders—check out this resource.) In this Forbes article, the author explains the perks of going this financial route: “If you need a significant amount of capital to fund your business, a small business loan can provide hundreds of thousands of dollars at a relatively low interest rate.” To get the best rates, this same article suggests looking to a local lender, rather than a larger corporate bank.

□ Determine a Location

When realtors tout “location, location, location” as the most important factor in property value, they aren’t kidding. And that’s certainly true in the private practice world, because where you decide to set up shop can make or break your business. To figure out where you should put down your PT roots, ask yourself the following questions (as adapted from this guide):

  • What will you do to set yourself apart from competitors in your area?
  • How many potential patients are in your ideal location?
  • What are the tax implications and fees for your area (state, city, and county)?
  • Will you receive frequent referrals from providers in that area?
  • What’s the demographic of the population in that area?

And finally, as you’re looking at potential spaces, make sure you consider how much square footage you’ll actually need for treatment. If you can make do in a smaller space—or if you have the option of subletting a space from another health professional—you may be better off doing so.

□ Claim a Business Name

Picking a name for your business is one of the most exciting parts of starting a new endeavor. But, before you go to Kinkos and print yourself 1,000 business cards, you really should do some research (womp, womp). That’s because picking a name that reflects your identity—and ensuring that name is properly registered and protected—is crucial for your business. And this process may take some time. Don’t forget: you also have to consider the online availability for your business’s name, too. So, how do you go about selecting a business name the right way? Here’s what you need to do:

  • Think about how you want your name to look and sound—and what emotion you want to convey with your brand.
  • Search the Internet to see if your awesome naming idea has already been claimed.
  • Use this tool to verify whether your chosen name is already trademarked.  
  • See if your ideal website name is available using this resource; then, claim your domain.
  • Create your social media handles, and set up identities for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
  • If applicable, register your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name with your county clerk’s office or state government. (To learn more about when it’s appropriate to file a DBA—and when it’s not—check out your local government website.)

It might sound like a lot of work, but putting in your due diligence before you commit to a name is beneficial in the long run: you’ll avoid getting lost in the shuffle, making multiple name changes, and paying any costly fines for trademark infringement.

□ Review Your Lease

Before you jump into signing a lease, you’ll want to thoroughly review the associated documents. Even if you consider yourself a legalese wiz, the APTA explains that “it is still advisable to consult a real estate attorney when negotiating and before signing a lease.” In addition to identifying potential legal concerns, you make sure you nail down details like:

  • lease length,
  • prior building renovations,
  • building accessibility,
  • proximity to competitors, and
  • zoning.

Essentially, before you sign anything, make sure you understand every word—and seek out appropriate professional advice—to avoid any potential complications.

□ Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)

According to the IRS, obtaining an EIN is the first order of business for a new business (get it?). Unlike most things you have to do through the IRS, though, applying for an EIN isn’t as complicated as you might think. In fact, you can “apply for an EIN in various ways,” including online. It’s free—and you’ll receive your EIN immediately. However, keep in mind that obtaining an EIN is just the first step toward ensuring your business is operating legally. Each state has additional requirements for starting and operating a business, which you can find on your state's website.

□ Select a Tax Year

When it comes to paying taxes, you can either pay based on:

  • Calendar year: the period of 12 consecutive months from January 1–December 31, or
  • Fiscal year: the period of 12 consecutive months ending on the last day of any month other than December.

Not sure which option to select? This Inc. article explains that “most U.S. businesses report their taxable income on a calendar year. But in some instances, they might find it preferable to report on a fiscal year, a 12-month period that ends sometime other than December 31.” Regardless of your decision, once you’ve adopted your tax year, you can’t change it without IRS approval. To review the entire process, check out the IRS website.

□ Choose Your Equipment

Purchasing equipment doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune. For example, in this WebPT article, Jack Sparacio, MSPT, COMT, CFMT, explains how he started a practice for under $8,000. One of his main pieces of advice: Make smart decisions. For example, he says, “Why spend $3,500 on a high-end Ultrasound-Electric Stimulation Combo Machine when you can buy separate portable ultrasound and electrical stimulation units for about $100 each? You will have a lot of choices to make. Just make the more efficient choice.” Regardless of what equipment you decide to purchase, be sure to shop around for the best prices. Remember, if you're a WebPT Member, you can find everything you need to furnish a new practice at up to 35% off retail in the WebPT Marketplace.

□ Make a Hiring Decision

Many small practice owners choose not to hire any employees—at least to start—and that’s totally fine. Now, if you do decide to hire help, make sure you are aware of, and adhere to, all applicable hiring laws. To hire employees, The US Small Business Administration (SBA) explains that you must:

  • Verify employee eligibility to work in the US.
  • Report newly hired and rehired employees to the state.
  • Get workers’ comp insurance.
  • Display the required posters that explain employee rights and labor laws.
  • File your taxes according to federal and local regulations.
  • Stay informed and get organized.

Now, this advice is just the tip of the hiring iceberg. You can review each of these steps more in depth on the SBA website.

Opening your own physical therapy private practice is exciting. And now that you’re armed with this handy checklist, you can do something even more thrilling: mark the box next to each tackled to-do (just kidding). In all seriousness though, this list should help you stay organized, so you can focus on the most important task at hand: getting up and running quickly.

  • Where Is My Money Going? 6 Surprising Hidden Costs of Running a Private Practice Image

    articleJun 9, 2016 | 7 min. read

    Where Is My Money Going? 6 Surprising Hidden Costs of Running a Private Practice

    You have to spend money to make money. This tenet of business is as true now as it was when my dad gave me a loan to cover the start-up costs for my lemonade stand back in third grade. And like many small business owners, I had a tough time forfeiting nearly half of my revenue to cover the cost of the lemons and sugar (it was a slow day on the cul-de-sac, and despite my best …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    downloadJun 28, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    To see results from our most recent industry survey, check out the 2019 State of Rehab Therapy Report. To say that the healthcare industry is complex would be an understatement. While the advent of technology has made care more precise, efficient, and collaborative than ever before, it has also put greater pressure on providers to deliver high-value care at scale. After all, big data makes it possible to not only develop the most effective, evidence-based best practices …

  • Everything I Wish I’d Known Before Opening My PT Practice Image

    articleJul 30, 2018 | 18 min. read

    Everything I Wish I’d Known Before Opening My PT Practice

    A little more than three years ago, Kaci Monroe realized her dream of opening her own physical therapy private practice (to learn more about Kaci’s entrepreneurial journey, check out this blog post ). Since then, she’s grown her small, Bigfork, Montana-based clinic into a very successful—and very busy—operation. So busy, in fact, that she decided to open a second location this past year. Oh, and she also remodeled a house, had a baby, and sped her way …

  • 8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017 Image

    articleJun 15, 2017 | 5 min. read

    8 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2017

      Great news! Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the third-annual event hit Fort Worth, Texas, for two incredibly educational (and incredibly fun) days. This year—September 29 and 30, to be exact—Ascend is heading to our nation’s capital. As we all know, DC is full of movers, shakers, and changemakers, and Ascend will keep that tradition alive—minus the political drama. This two-day conference is a can’t-miss affair. Here’s why: 1.) You’ll …

  • 3 Things You’ve Gotta Know About Running a PT Practice Image

    articleApr 7, 2016 | 8 min. read

    3 Things You’ve Gotta Know About Running a PT Practice

    As physical therapists, we’re observant. We closely examine movements, attentively listen to patient complaints, and expertly read between the lines. Unfortunately, though, we don’t always give that level of attention to the non-clinical stuff. Because while we’re expert empathizers, we’re not the strongest scrutinizers. And when it comes to business, you need to scrupulously scrutinize. I worked as a physical therapist for more than 15 years, and I spent a good portion of that time as a …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 Image

    downloadJun 17, 2019

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019

    Each year, we survey thousands of rehab therapy professionals on the metrics, strategies, and complicating factors that influence success in the current healthcare market. In 2019, we received more than 6,000 responses from individuals in a variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions—and we’ve compiled all that data into the single most comprehensive annual report on the state of the rehab therapy industry.  This report features insights on everything from demographics and financial metrics to regulatory challenges …

  • PT and IP: 4 Intellectual Property To-Dos for Your New Physical Therapy Practice Image

    articleJun 23, 2015 | 6 min. read

    PT and IP: 4 Intellectual Property To-Dos for Your New Physical Therapy Practice

    This weekend, my husband and I visited a new brewery in our neighborhood. We were so stoked about its opening that we started investigating merchandise before even trying a single sip of its craft brews. Our online window shopping was cut short, though, by an odd announcement: The brewery—which already had social media pages, a website, and a huge sign erected in front of its physical location—had to change its name. Why? Because when the owners went …

  • 5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015 Image

    articleApr 28, 2015 | 4 min. read

    5 Reasons You Should Attend Ascend 2015

    Have you heard? Ascend— the ultimate business summit for rehab therapists —is back. Last year, the inaugural event took Dallas—or at least, Dallas physical therapists and private practice owners—by storm for one jam-packed day . This year, Ascend is upping the ante—big time. For starters, our 2015 event will run for two days instead of one—and trust us, you don’t want to miss it. Here are five reasons you should attend Ascend 2015: 1. You’ll earn CEUs. …

  • 29 Ways to Remedy Rehab Therapy Burnout Image

    articleJun 30, 2015 | 4 min. read

    29 Ways to Remedy Rehab Therapy Burnout

    As a therapist, you care about your patients (thank you, captain obvious ). But it’s this helpful nature that’s often responsible for stress, frustration, and even career burnout. When things get rough, you might find yourself internalizing patient progress—or lack thereof. Additionally, you might feel like you have to constantly fill the “therapist” role, even when you’re not in the clinic. Plus, you’re under pressure to answer tons of questions thrown your way on a daily basis …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.