Should You Start A Business Now?

Don’t start a business because you want freedom. Start a business because you want to run a business.”   – Seth Godin


Have you ever watched an America’s Got Talent contestant’s shock when he or she is told that they are not moving on to the next round?

Even when the lack of talent is evident to everyone in the room, he or she is devastated or freaks out, convinced that the judges had made a colossal mistake. When in reality it was the other way around.

Sometimes a talented contestant, like our hometown schoolteacher Hannah Huston, makes it all the way to the final round of America Idol. What a great story.

However, she soon discovered that her initial success didn’t magically qualify her to turn her overnight stardom into a successful career.

There are tons more to the business side of a being a successful performer than just being a good singer. The majority of which have nothing directly to do with singing.

Hannah struggled with whether she wanted trade her calling to transform children’s lives for once in a lifetime shot at a singing career.

Likewise, there’s a lot more to being a successful business owner than being an excellent therapist and spending quality time with patients.


The American Dream


There are many of you thinking about starting a business. Others are trying to take their practices to the next level.

In either case, there are enough obstacles in your path that you don’t want to become one yourself.

Frequently when I’m trying to step out of my comfort zone, it’s my negative attitudes and limiting beliefs that get in the way.

Maybe you find yourself dreaming about escaping your day job to start your own business, or you hear yourself saying, “If only” a lot.

“If only I had more patients.” 

“If only I made this amount of money.”

“Or if only I had someone to share the load.”

If this is your internal dialogue, then it’s time for honest self-reflection.

There is a gigantic difference in dreaming about being “the boss” and making a sustainable living from your knowledge and skill.


The Lure of Entrepreneurship


I’ve seen an uptick in the interest of therapists willing to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. The upsurge in cash practices and e-commerce sites started by therapists reflects the urge of rehab professionals wanting to “do their own thing.”

Recent grads are seeking other sources of income to make ends meet and pay off massive student debts. The stories of instant Internet millionaires tempt money-strapped therapists to experiment with side hustles to improve their cash flows.

Most soon discover that running your own business is not as easy as the eBook or course promises. It seems that the only people making money on the Internet are people promising to help people make money on the Internet.

I get it. I’d be sitting duck to the empty promises of passive income if I were facing 20 years of monthly payments to pay off $70,000 to $100,000 or more of school loans.


Not Everyone Is Cut Out to Be An Entrepreneur


Despite wanting to escape the suffocating high patient volumes and the regulations of traditional medicine, not everyone is cut out to be a business owner. Being a successful business owner requires initially investing your own hard earned cash, boatloads of time and energy with little or no profit in return.

Even if you are successful in bootstrapping your startup and scaling it to a million dollars that doesn’t necessarily mean life gets more comfortable. In reality, sometimes it’s harder than ever. I’ve heard a business coach put it this way,

First, you’ll need to work harder than you’ve ever worked before for the first ten years. For the next ten years, you’re going to have to act more like a CEO and less like a therapist. It’s not going to be easy, you’re probably going to hate it, but in the end, you’ll be able to sell your practice and do what you really want.”

Is that what you really want?

So before you take the plunge into starting your own business here are three quick checks to evaluate your “business smarts.”


1. Are you remarkably good at what you do?


To make a consistent living from what you do, it has to be remarkable. You can’t offer bland, run-of-the-mill therapy like everyone else and expect people to talk about you. It takes a unique blend of professional expertise, emotional intelligence, and business acumen to sustain a thriving practice.

Be brutally honest with yourself. Do people get remarkably better from their experience with you? You won’t be able to generate word of mouth referrals if people aren’t impressed with your work.

Unfortunately, providing exceptional care isn’t enough if you want to leave corporate therapy behind to go out on your own.


2. Are you good with money?


With my coaching clients, I’ve found that money is an area that most therapists have difficulty “coming clean.” They tend to avoid dealing with their current financial situation and their attitudes about money.

For some, the concept of service is in direct conflict with making a profit. Service is pure and good. Making a profit from someone’s pain is evil. But if a service business is your livelihood you are setting yourself up for an internal conflict that might take years to reconcile.

In the meantime, you’ll be a starving artist trying to make a living by selflessly serving your patients. You’ll need to resolve the money struggle if you want to succeed in business.

It takes money to start, grow, and give you something to live on while your business gets off the ground. If you’re having trouble paying your bills now, it will most likely follow you into a business. Or if you’re tightfisted when it comes to taking the risk by investing in your business, you’ll never grow.

Being a wise money manager is a must when it comes to working for yourself. Here’s a Forbes article on 6 Easy Ways To Tell If You Are Good With Money to see if you’re on solid footing to start a business.

Being at peace with profit and knowing how much is enough, are two character qualities of people who know how to run a business the right way.


3.  Do you want to run a business?


Let’s be honest. As therapists, we have chosen one of the hardest jobs around. We put ourselves out there, hour after hour, for people who are suffering or have experienced a loss. We go to continuing education courses and conferences to refine our skills far beyond what most professionals feel is required.

Our workday doesn’t end when the clinic lights are shut off. We find ourselves finishing up notes or researching for a solution on our own time.

Therapists adhere to strict codes of conduct to maintain our licensure and professional ethics. We put up with doing our job in one of the most regulated professions in healthcare.

You’ll want to think long a hard about adding the stress and strain of running a business on top of being a healthcare professional.

Many therapists dream of having their own business so they can practice the way they want. There’s entirely nothing wrong with wanting to do what you’ve been trained for and being paid fairly for it.

But that’s not why you should go into business. You should go into business because you want to run a business.


Born for Business?


Are you born for business? My father implanted the drive within me to be my own CEO. He showed me how a small business owner could positively impact a community. I watched the long hours he worked and the personal sacrifices he made for his family and neighbors.

It’s part of my DNA to be creative, work hard and to be unshackled from bureaucracy. I wouldn’t trade my decision to run my own business for anything. At the same time, it has been one of the most challenging parts of my life for nearly forty years.

I share the love the business of physical therapy with many of you. There are others of you who might share the same passion but won’t know it until you give it a try.

It’s easy to free ready much earlier than you actually are, and it’s equally easy to let fear hold you back long after you should have taken the plunge.

Think you might have what it takes to start your own business? Are you unsure?  Take this simple quiz I put together to see how ready you are to start a therapy business.

4 responses to “Should You Start A Business Now?

  1. Phil Gainan says:

    I am self employed, and can tell you there are pros and cons to both. We have all heard that 50% of all business go belly up within the first 3 years; this is something to consider if contemplating opening ones own practice.

  2. Paul Potter says:

    Thanks for the comment, Phil. I’ve wondered what the recent stats are on therapy or chiropractic startups. Any references? Paul

  3. Jerry Greenspan says:

    I want to congratulate you on an outstanding article. Wanting to run a cash-based independent physical therapy clinic and having the skills to operate a cash-based independent practice are very different animals.

    The only point that I would add is that at the same university that individuals are earning their doctorate degrees in physical therap, other people are earning masters degrees in business administration, i.e. MBA. As a matter of fact, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and Columbia offer MBA programs. Business is a profession just like physical therapy and an individual needs the appropriate business training and skills to run a successful business of any kind.

    Furthermore, one also needs excellent sales skills to run a cash-based, independent physical therapy clinic. One of my physical therapists once described my sales skills as, “the ability to sell ketchup Popsicles to women wearing white gloves.” Sales is a critical part of any cash-based business.

    Lastly, a person has to be comfortable with risk. If you crave security, don’t open a cash-based physical therapy clinic. There is no insurance safety net so you better have supreme confidence that your rehabilitation skills are exponentially superior to the skills of a traditional physical therapist.

    The upside of running a business is you only have to work half a day. You just pick which fourteen hours of each day you want to work. This is my twenty-fourth year running my company and that rule still applies.

    1. Paul Potter says:

      Jerry, thanks for jumping into the conversation. I’d appreciate your thoughts on the “lean start-up” methodology as applied to a independent private practice. It runs counter to the MBA mindset and selling approaches you mention.

      It’s being emphasized at Standford business school. See Steve Blank’s article I look forward to hearing from you. Paul

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