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should you start a business out of school on updoc media
should you start a business out of school on updoc media

Should they or shouldnt they, a very popular question indeed. No, not your favorite sitcom characters hooking up. The question relates to post-grad, in this case physical therapy students, opening up a business immediately after graduating. The topic is interesting in that who are we to tell anyone to open or not open anything? Everyone that graduates from a rigorous program such as physical therapy, should be capable of making a decision such as to open a business or not. Right? If asked, we can provide guidance, advice, and best practice solutions from our experience. But, what about a perspective from an individual from the group that is in the middle of the discussion. In comes Ryan, a DPT student with his perspective. Take it away Ryan…

There has been a great deal of discussion revolving around DPT students starting a private practice or business right after graduation. Let’s all agree to the fact that we are even having these discussions because:

  1.     Direct access has made it viable for physical therapists to be independent and autonomous in development of their own business or private practice. It has also provided the opportunity for physical therapists to be the face of health care in their communities.
  2.     Physical therapists are starting to develop an understanding that business and customer service skills are absolutely necessary for success.
  3.     The full transition to a doctorate level program allows society to view us as their potential first stop for health care needs. (This is happening slower than most would hope but @GetPT1st is a good example of this forward trend)

The physical therapy profession, our profession, is headed in the right direction in terms of the part we can play in health care reform. I can’t stress this enough. The health care landscape is changing. We have the tools to be pioneers in how health care is shaped in the future. No generation of physical therapists before us has had the autonomy, both in a treatment and legal sense, to deliver healthcare for the communities. 

As the focus shifts from WHY this discussion is beneficial to HOW it can be beneficial, opinions begin to get mixed in. Is it appropriate to promote students to start their own private practices right out of graduation? As Aaron Lebauer (@LeBauerPT) so eloquently put it in the Blab on this topic… “Yes!” (The link is a great place to start to understand the pros and cons of this topic) Arguments have been made against this type of promotion and for sufficient reasoning:

1. Majority of DPT students don’t receive enough business education to understand the ins and outs of running a business from school. (This is a entirely different discussion for another day…)

2. There are only few (known) instances of successful physical therapists accomplishing this feat of opening up their own private practice right out of school.

3. New graduates lack the experience and confidence to treat everything they might encounter on their own.

4. Mentorship and guidance are essential post-graduation, going out on your own may not allow for that type of guidance.

5. Failing in this regard means possible bankruptcy.

I can’t argue with any of these points of concern. The majority of experienced physical therapists are wary of setting up the future clinicians for failure by recommending they to go into private practice immediately following graduation. Students understand this and value current PT’s concern for the future of the profession. It is easy for us students to get wrapped up in the allure of owning our own private practice, the benefits seem to jump off the page as though to tell us ‘this is how you can change the world!’ These clashing of ideals is exactly what IS needed to create a next generation of successful physical therapists. Experience voices their opinion and grounds our aspirations, but at the same time the inexperienced open up a whole new world of possibilities that experience deemed not possible.

From here a medium is created.  Current physical therapists have the ability to display the pros and cons of business to students or recents graduates. The provided guidance is essential for students wanting to open up a business right out of school.  That guidance is essential as it is one of the main arguments against students doing so.

“Ultimately comes down to understanding the inherent risks, having strategy then deciding if it’s worth it.” –Gene Shirokobrod (@therapyinsiders)

So students… find these individuals that are willing to guide you and show you the pros and cons of opening up your own practice after graduation.  Actively seek them out. It is essential. However, it is not the only thing that is needed. Many students say they want to be entrepreneurs but they do not understand that entrepreneurship is a mindset.  It is an understanding that you will have to make sacrifices and have to get extremely comfortable with being uncomfortable. That mindset is often the first critical piece of starting a business. Without it, starting a business is useless because you as a person will not be ready for what it truly entails.

A plan is next. A business does not just arise out of thin air right upon graduation. Strategic planning needs to be established months if not years in advance…I’m talking about understanding where you want to practice, what population you want to practice with, your own unique value proposition and a myriad of other details (a good place to start may be Karen Litzy’s (@karenlitzyNYC) #strictlybizPT series). Most importantly it is building relationships within the community where you want to open up your business. These components of getting started to open up a business right out of school may seem very non-specific but they are essential. Mindset, strategic planning, relationships, mentorship. Develop these and a foundation for a business is set.

Last I want to throw out some practical reasons for students to develop a business right out of school.

1. A six month grace period following graduation allows you for a little wiggle room financially before the piled up debt needs to begin being repaid.

2. A business does not mean you need to have your own building! Leasing from clinics, strength/conditioning buildings and others are viable options for starting off before building a large enough clientele to open up in your own building. This not only keeps your overhead low but allows you to work with those other businesses for referral source opportunities.

3. A business begins with a brand.  Establishing your brand as a physical therapist while you are still a student through social media or other avenues allows you to create an image that is identifiable upon graduation.

4. Not all businesses need to be stand alone. Get a job and have a business on the side, this reduces inherent risk but allows you to continue to develop your entrepreneurial mindset and business.

Closing thoughts. It’s encouraging that this discussion is even happening. Current physical therapists are primed to be guidances for a younger generation of physical therapists. The next generation of PT’s have the autonomy needed to bring physical therapy to the forefront of health care as a viable option with direct access. Being an entrepreneur right out of school does not mean having your own brick and mortar practice necessarily but it does mean that you need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. If a student truly decides they want to open their own business right out of school then they need to know it is possible but not not easy.  Often times they need to have an essential understanding of who they are before they can begin understand what it takes to run a business.

If any students have questions regarding this process I am more than happy to answer, as I am currently going through it myself! As for all the current physical therapists out there, I can’t tell you how appreciative I am for your guidance in my own journey.

Contact me at: @RyanSmith_ATC