Opening your own rehab therapy practice can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. Along with its many benefits—like greater autonomy, a higher earning potential, and increased work-life satisfaction—clinic ownership comes with more risk, more stress, and ultimately, more responsibilities. What’s more, branching out on your own requires a bit of business sense if you want to be successful—and they don’t teach you much about that in PT school.
Although some medical education programs across the country are taking small steps to incorporate business basics into their curriculum, there is still a long way to go.
“Unfortunately, many schools lack the fundamental resources to put together a business curriculum,” said Dr. Sapna Sriram, DC, R.Ac, MBA, CEO and Co-Founder of Integra Health Centre, a full-service health clinic located in downtown Toronto. “On top of that, knowing what it takes to run a business isn’t often a top priority for students. When you’re in school, you’re just focused on being the best clinician you can be—and doing whatever it takes to pass your exams and boards. As a result, we see many clinicians graduate without the basic business acumen required to open their own practice.”
On the bright side, it’s never too late to flex your entrepreneurial muscles. And luckily, Dr. Sriram has laid out the steps clinicians should consider to start, grow, and scale their own practice.
Help is There if You Know Where to Look
Making the jump from physical therapist to practice owner is quite a paradigm shift. However, with a little hard work and proactive planning, it doesn’t need to be complicated. It starts with identifying what will get you—and keep you—on the right track.
1. Consider joint DPT/MBA programs.
A great idea for future PTs with the entrepreneurial bug, joint DPT/MBA programs are specifically designed to cultivate the fundamental financial, management, and organizational skills required to:
- Manage a PT practice;
- Lead an inpatient department within a larger organization; or
- Contribute to the development of rehab therapy policy and advocacy efforts.
Today, there are approximately six joint DPT/MBA degree programs in the U.S. These include:
- Emory University School of Medicine
- Mercer University College of Health Professions
- University of Kansas Medical Center
- St. Francis University
- University of Michigan – Flint
- Rockhurst University
“Joint MBA programs are a great means to gain further advanced business acumen, possibly transition to a corporate career, and even build networks and relationships to help catapult your future business venture to new heights,” Dr. Sriram added.
2. Take advantage of mini-MBA programs.
For those PTs who are already established within their careers—and looking for a significantly less expensive route than going back to school—mini-MBA programs are a great option to consider. In fact, Dr. Sriram has created one such program in conjunction with the Schulich School of Business. The Mini-MBA: Clinical Professional Entrepreneurship Program is the only program of its kind in Canada that’s specifically designed for clinicians “focused on honing their business management skills”—whether that’s by shaping a PT’s business mindset when they’re just starting out or helping clinicians better manage their practices to drive growth and long-term success.
“Not only is this program one-tenth as long as traditional MBA programs, but it also targets a wide range of specialties that have been historically overlooked in the business world—physical therapy included,” said Dr. Sriram. “What’s more, we’ve divided the curriculum so that the time commitment is nominal. We wanted to make this as inclusive a program as possible and offer the flexibility that’s hard to find among other continuing education programs.”
The curriculum spans a six-month period and offers curated virtual course content for clinicians ranging from strategic practice management and marketing to finances and operational efficiencies. The program also includes an entrepreneurial project in which clinicians create a business plan to be judged by industry experts. During this process, clinicians have access to coaches who help ensure their plan’s success, allowing students to execute on the plan as soon as they complete the program.
While there aren’t many (if any) other consolidated business programs that cater specifically to clinical management, there are a few traditional mini-MBA programs offered in the US. This list also includes several Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which are created by some of the nation’s top business schools and cost pennies on the dollar of the price tag for a full MBA program.
3. Seek out mentorship.
Finding a person—or people—to hold you accountable is half the battle of any entrepreneurial pursuit. There will inevitably be setbacks along the way, and having people in your corner who have experienced similar challenges helps ensure you have the guidance and support you need to get going in the right direction again. The trick: Finding mentors who are a fit for you and your goals.
“My biggest piece of advice to people seeking mentorship is to look for people with collective experience far greater than your own,” Dr. Sriram added. “You’ll definitely have to do a little digging to find people who are actual experts in your field of interest—and with proven track records of success. But doing the leg work upfront to find the right mentor will pay off in the long run—literally.”
Dr. Sriram also emphasized that finding a mentor isn’t just a one-and-done quest. As your career evolves and expands, you’ll inevitably require different mentors to guide you through each stage of growth. This ultimately ensures your mentors are consistently playing a few levels above you and thus, well equipped to help you continue trailblazing your own path.
4. Look to the web.
In addition to the opportunities listed above, the World Wide Web is simply teeming with online resources that PTs can—and should—take advantage of if they dream of opening their own practice one day. To help you get a jump start on your enterprising path, here are a few resources to check out:
- PPS’s “Opening a Private Practice” guide;
- Websites of professional PT business coaches like Paul Potter and Jarod Carter;
- MEG Business; and
- WebPT’s own educational content, of course!
At the end of the day, health care is a business. So, whether you’re ready to open up shop or simply looking to make money moves within your organization, it would be in your best interest to learn how that business works—and leverage that knowledge to realize your professional dreams.
Have questions about practice ownership or PT entrepreneurship? Drop them in the comment section below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.