As young podiatrists move through their residency training, somewhere around year 2 they usually start to contemplate what type of environment they see themselves practicing in. Will they join an already established podiatry group or maybe a multi-specialty group? Do they want to simply be employed and have someone else in charge of the business aspect of the practice? We are trained as physicians nonetheless; most of us don’t have a strong business background. But according to Podiatry Management’s 2016 Annual Survey there are still 49% of podiatrists who are solo practitioners. For those young podiatrists whose goal is to be both physician and owner of a small business, there is not much formal guidance on the topic of starting a podiatry office.
In 2012, as I sat halfway through my residency training, I knew I wanted to do it all! As my husband and kids would tell you, I wanted to be the boss! I wanted to own my own practice and run the show. I wanted to call the shots! Fortunately for me, I come from a family background of entrepreneurs and small business owners; I had the foundation (and possibly genetics), but no formal educational training on business management. What I did have was a supportive, knowledgeable group of experienced podiatrists willing to answer ALL of my questions! I can’t under-value or over-emphasize the support I received from my mentors. They had been there and done that, but I felt like my then 2-year old, I had a million questions with answers that sometimes did not satisfy me! Questions from incorporation, to accounting, to insurance plans, cost analysis, to the dreaded thought of “will I survive” after I ran some numbers? I spent numerous hours researching everything! It became my second job, on top of being a busy 2nd and then 3rd year surgical resident.
Today, I am two years into running a private practice. I’d like to think I know it all, but I know I don’t. (TIP: know both your strengths and weaknesses!!) Even though I can now do my own taxes, run my own payroll, hire and fire staff, I am still getting the hang of the business world!
Recently, two young residents, approached me for advice. Private practice or group employed? They had this fear that a start-up, from nothing, means more loans, possibly no income for a period of time, and simply the fear of the unknown. But being employed had some disadvantages to them as well. After a few short hours of Q&A and pros & cons at my kitchen counter, running a realistic business plan model, and identifying the where to start and where to go next steps, these two left my house, excited to start planning their future office. I try to let my experience guide and inspire the possibilities that podiatry can offer.
There are two things that have vastly given me courage and an advantage with starting a practice. 1) I got involved! Before I finished residency, I was involved with our local OPMA component. I had a room full of experienced resources at least once a month! And 2) I attended a Young Practitioners Seminar before I opened my office doors. I again had a weekend full of eager physicians willing to help me set up office protocols, teach billing and coding, answer DME protocol questions, etc.
Gina M. Tomsho, DPM, AACFAS
Barberton Podiatry, Inc