Growing your private practice: Here’s how to build a strong foundation
Whether you are a new lactation consultant (LC) just getting started, an LC transitioning into private practice, or an established LC looking to increase revenue — almost every LC will go through seasons where they focus on growth and attracting more business. In this series, we’ll identify key aspects of growing your private practice, and we’ll end each article in the series with a business plan of care, or action items you can take away and implement.
Here at The Lactation Network, we see you. We established this network to connect and support you, and we spend each day cultivating the resources you need to provide care to more families. If you’re a part of TLN, you know that we believe in allowing every IBCLC that partners with us to serve families in the ways that work for them because you’re the expert.
If you’re considering creating a private practice, that makes perfect sense — years of study and clinical experience made you the go-to professional for breastfeeding support and lactation knowledge. But being a small business owner also requires you to become an expert in business planning, marketing, finances, and networking.
LC peers can be an excellent resource for information, but asking peers for business advice may feel uncomfortable for several reasons. We also know that many LCs are sole practitioners, which can bring on loneliness while navigating the business side of a practice. We’re here to provide actionable advice and strategies to guide this season of growth.
Like all good plans, before you launch the building phase of your private practice, let’s ensure you’re starting with a solid foundation.
Create a separate business calendar. Life gets busy, and balancing your personal calendar with your private practice calendar is likely already challenging. But as a small business owner, you’ll also need to carve out time for your business. Consider creating a separate calendar for business growth and tasks. If you’re just getting your private practice off the ground, this is where most of your time should be invested. As you grow your practice, you may find that a few hours a week for “maintenance” keeps your growth on track. In future articles, we’ll look at specific steps you can take to establish your business and increase revenue.
Re-assess your quarterly and annual goals, and consider your current financial objectives, career growth, and professional opportunities. When you first established your business, you most likely created a business plan and promptly filed it away. If you still need to create a plan, this is an important place to start! Business plans usually contain a company description, market research and pricing, marketing strategy, and financials. In the time since you created the plan, what has changed with your business?
Create a budget that reflects your business goals. A thoughtful budget allows you to analyze the results of your efforts, and reallocating resources will enable you to feel financially secure and grow intentionally. If creating a detailed business budget wasn’t part of your business plan, this is another resource to review regularly. You may ask yourself: Am I allocating enough money to marketing? Should I be investing in more equipment? Is this the right time to move into an office?
Consider changes to your company structure. Is this the time to form a group practice? Work in a collective? Work in another provider’s office? Expand your group practice to other communities? Are you considering building a private practice independently, or will you need additional personnel? In future articles, we’ll look at several options for your private practice.
Evaluate the types of consultations you’d like to offer. The decision to offer in-home, office, and/or virtual consultations is often driven by market demand and the profile of the community you work in. There are advantages to each modality for both the patient and the LC. Experimenting with how you offer consultations may yield financial benefits. For example, virtual consultations (when appropriate) may be convenient for your patient and save you money in travel time. If providing consultations via telehealth is new to you, check out this helpful resource to get started.
TOOLS AND RESOURCES
Review expenditures regularly. IBCLCs require tools and resources to run their practice, including equipment, supplies, software, subscriptions, and services. Make sure you review these items regularly. Are you subscribing to an online fax service that’s redundant? Can you save on supplies by ordering with a group? Are you paying annually for services you don’t use, like expanded website offerings? The money you can save in these areas adds to your profitability.
Your job requires that you take care of others every day. Consider the idea that your business requires the same care, dedication, and planning. Below is a short list of practical suggestions you can implement immediately. We’ll build on this plan each month and give you more valuable tips for increasing your business.
BUSINESS PLAN ACTION STEPS:
- Schedule one hour a week to focus on business growth
- Create and review your business plan and budget
- Assess your current company structure and visit modalities
Next issue: Using social media, websites, and advertising to grow your private practice
Are you new to building a private practice and looking for a step-by-step guide to establishing one? Log into the myTLN portal to access the “Starting Your Practice Playbook.”
Not yet a TLN IBCLC? It’s free to join. Go here to schedule a call and learn how TLN can help you grow your practice.