Business-Minded: What They Don’t Tell You About Starting a Private Practice

Being a speech language pathologist is one thing, but being a business owner is quite another. On the most recent episode of The Missing Link for SLPs podcast, Michele Linares talked about the business end of opening her private practice, The Learning Grove. And one thing she emphasized is putting in the work to ensure your business runs smoothly, covering everything from finances and paperwork to fostering employee relationships. Although it can be tempting to dive in without a plan or professional consultation, a better long-term strategy is to approach opening your practice with care. Here are some things to consider when first starting out.

Not a Lemonade Stand

One critical thing to remember when going into private practice is that this is a business. With that comes the responsibilities of maintaining clinical paperwork and paying taxes. Linares emphasized that starting a private practice isn’t the same as opening a “lemonade stand,” and she wished another SLP would have told her that sooner.

Although you certainly can start out as a sole proprietor with a tiny business account, Linares recommends speaking to an attorney or a CPA to make sure you don’t wind up wasting money later on. Although starting small can save you money early in your business, decisions like having a cash accounting system can actually cost you when your practice grows larger. SLPs going into private practice also want to ensure they’re following proper legal protocols, maintaining HIPAA standards and paying taxes correctly. Mistakes can cost an arm and a leg, and that’s not something you want to deal with — especially if you’re just starting out.

It Takes a Village

If you’re planning on hiring employees, that’s another area of opening a private practice that deserves care and attention. Not only is it important to ensure you’re bringing the “right” people onboard, but it’s also critical to foster relationships with the employees you hire — at least, if you plan on keeping them around.

When it comes to the hiring process, Linares recommends focusing on the qualities you can’t train. Employees with less experience can learn how to become better SLPs, but having integrity when it comes to working with clients is rarely something one can be taught. Search for integrity and other important qualities during the interview process. This is how you’ll find the right people to help run your practice.

It’s equally important to have integrity when working with your employees, and Linares highlighted the value of prioritizing their health and wellness when working in a care profession. While bosses do need to keep their bottom line in mind, supporting employees when they’re struggling is how private practice owners build trust. And that trust is likely to make your employees more productive and willing to take on challenges.

Invest in You

If you’re planning on going into private practice, either now or somewhere down the line, investing in yourself is the right thing to do. Building the skills and gaining the certifications to improve your craft is something you’ll thank yourself for, even if it costs money to do these things now. Luckily, there are plenty of employers who will pay for you to attend trainings and take classes. As Linares puts it, the betterment of your talents is the betterment of the practice as well. But even if your current position doesn’t invest in your education, it’s crucial that you do. The knowledge you’ll gain will pay for itself in the long run.

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