* Today we have Donna J Thomas appearing on our blog once again - this time she is offering some fantastic budget advice for business owners in a 2-part article here on our blog. Part 2 will be published on August 18th.
-- Tips To Stretch Your Business Budget --
One of the main obstacles many healthcare entrepreneurs have in growing their practice is a belief they have to first rent an upscale office, have a bells-and-whistles website, write a blog and other costly investments before they can be successful.
It's not the trappings of business that make prospective clients take us seriously. It's our ability to inspire clients to know, like and trust us, based on the service and value we provide. I started small and eventually opened a multi-therapist office that I and my clients love, but even so, it's not big, fancy or high-end. In fact, it is completely outfitted in a charming and comfortable style - with thrift store décor! To this day, after nearly 40 years in private practice, I choose to spend my money on trainings and travel, rather than fancy office furniture. This is why I want to share a few simple tips to stretch your start-up dollars and attract high-quality clients, without breaking the budget.
Tip #1. Focus On Getting Clients Before Investing in a Website
While a website is eventually necessary for bigger growth, when you're first starting out as a healthcare entrepreneur, you can skip this expense, or start with a free do-it-yourself site. Focus your limited resources on getting your first few clients, then use your increased cash flow for a sophisticated website.
Use networking, community service and word-of-mouth to meet potential new clients. Visit every networking group in your area to get a feel for one or two that best suit your purposes. Invite people to a free or low-fee consult or intro session. Offer services or information at community events. Prospects appreciate the high value they get from this format. You don't need a website for this client-attraction strategy.
Tip #2. Skip Expensive Office Space
Clients generally do not choose to work with you because they like the look of your office. In fact, most people decide to try your work after meeting you in person, before they ever lay eyes on your place of business. The impression you make when they first meet you motivates them to schedule their first appointment. And the result they get from that first session determines whether they will return - not the appearance or location of your workplace.
While building your biz, consider sharing an office until you are more established. Paying for office space if you're seeing only a few clients per week is a waste of money. Check the newspaper or online classifieds for office sharing. Ask family and friends if they know of potential space for sharing. Let clients and colleagues know that you would like to share an office.
If your heart is set on an upscale location, ask building managers or receptionists which businesses might be open to sharing. If there's no on-site person to ask, go door-to-door and ask the other tenants if they, or anyone they know, might be interested in sharing. Write a letter or create a professional-looking flyer explaining your service and your need. Maybe there's a building bulletin board where you can post a request for shared office space. Many businesses have unused space that is expensive for them to maintain, especially in a challenging economy, so they may welcome an opportunity to reduce their costs by sharing.
If your practice involves only meeting with clients, such as consulting or counseling, and you don't do exams, treatments or need special equipment, check out local hotels. Many hotels have special rooms or suites that they rent out by the day for meetings. There is a growing trend for office space rental by the day.
Consider a hotel room or meeting area. After doing some research to determine the average fee in your area, prepare a proposal for a lesser amount and present it to hotel management. Keep the upper hand in negotiating the fee and be prepared to walk away if they won't accept your terms. Often they would rather accept a lower fee than not rent the space at all. Make sure the fee includes use of the restroom and negotiate for use of the hotel business area for internet and printer, if you need these services. A hotel space is also a great option if you're presenting a talk, class or workshop, but be prepared to pay a higher fee if you want catering services, such as an area for coffee, tea and water.
Also consider the option of a home office, if this is something that could work for you, your practice, your home, your clients and your family. This could be an interim arrangement until you have enough income for a separate office. I have used a home office at times in my career and was able to build a solid client base in the home setting.
* Part 2 will be published on August 18th.
Award-winning authors Dave and Lillian Brummet: