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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

Exploring New Paths: Starting Your Own Business

By Perry Isenberg

So, you want to start your own business and be your own boss? There are quite a few considerations to keep in mind as you branch out on your own. Location; expenses/overhead; insurance; payroll; taxes; business licenses; depreciation on equipment; cost of supplies; etc., all influence how much money you need to start.

The major reason smaller businesses fail is an insufficient amount of money (start-up capital). You need a budget, which should include your salary. An accountant can help you handle things smoothly.

Where you set up your new practice depends, among other things, on how much money you have to rent a decent office. Maybe you want a small office in your home, or just want to see clients in their homes (sort of a mobile therapist). You need to research how close your existing clients will be to the office, and if there are any high-traffic areas that may complicate their visits. No one wants to drive 20 miles to the therapist's office; decide how far you think your clients are willing to travel, since they are going to be the staple of your business in the beginning. Also check the zoning laws, and don't forget the business licenses and insurance! Find out how much insurance you need to carry; this varies depending on the state in which you are starting your business. You will need a fair amount of equipment, including massage tables; linens and towels; a washer and dryer; phones and phone lines; computers; desks and chairs; etc. Depending on how big you want to be, you may also need waiting-room furniture and decorations, office supplies, a copier, fax machine... the list goes on and on. Shop around for these items, so you get the best deals and spend the least money (without sacrificing quality). The plan is to research, budget, implement and market.

OK, so you've determined your approximate office costs... are you going to have any staff? With employees come payroll, federal and state tax, unemployment tax and workers' compensation obligations. Are you going to offer any benefits for long-term employees? Think about it first! If you have a few bad months financially, you'll still have to pay these benefits! Good therapists are hard to find, and you get what you pay for. You also need to be careful about the people you hire. You should do a background screening, and definitely check references. If you accept insurance from clients, you will need to have staff that knows insurance coding, medical billing, etc. Paperwork takes up too much time. It is worth hiring someone with this expertise (maybe part-time at first) to help free up your time to see more clients. Also, are you going to sell any products? Retail sales are vital for the financial health of the practice, and to expand client services. This may generate extra income for you... but don't forget the bookkeeping!

How do you get the money to start your practice? Some of the start-up money may be yours, a family member may help, or perhaps a friend has a little extra cash... of start-ups take the Small Business Administration (SBA) loan route. If you choose this option, you will need a good business plan in writing (a three-year projection is usually required) to be considered for one of these loans. The Small Business Administration has a fabulous website that can answer many of your questions, including how to apply, who to contact, what the business plan entails, and why you need one. You can visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov. There are numerous small business seminars you can attend (some at local community colleges). Usually a seminar is only two days long, and it's worth the time invested. A good seminar will provide such information as where you can apply for loans, and how to design your business and marketing plan.

Having your own practice has its upside and downside, but if you plan, research and prepare yourself to work hard for yourself, you will be successful.

Until next time, be healthy, be good, and stay focused and motivated.


Click here for previous articles by Perry Isenberg.

 

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