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How much money will I need to start or expand VT?
Few things plug people in more than issues surrounding money. And if youíre new to serious VT practice, it can be daunting to think about what youíll need to make it work.
There are always variables according to whether you choose a small town vs setting up shop in a large city. And there is the matter of hiring and training staff. Will you have to pay for all your VT gear or have you acquired some already? Do you want to work with costly computerized units or less expensive equipment?
Furnishing a VT room is a must and we suggest at first using folding tables and other economical furnishings until you know exactly what you want and are settled into a permanent location so you donít have to tear out the furnishings and cabinets because youíre moving to a larger location. Here is a free guide to setting up a VT room to maximize space and prevent spending a fortune.
There are two large expense items you will face if you start or expand VT. First is the cost of hiring, training and educating therapists, Vision Therapy Administrator and other staff.
Plan for at least 6 weeks of training and education before allowing a new therapist to work, with minimum supervision; and then usually only for the easier activities. Most therapists require from 6 months to a year to be able to handle a full course of therapy for a relatively uncomplicated case. Plan to hire and train 2 part timers at a time; that way if one drops out, youíre still covered. Let them know that they will have the opportunity to go full time as the practice grows.
In a properly run practice, the Vision Therapy Administrator plays the key role in making things run smoothly. The VTA escorts the parent or adult patient through the enrollment process, which requires extensive training. Add to that the internal and external marketing and community outreach responsibilities that turn this into a key income producing position. This is not a skill set you find very often so training and development are a must expense. Failing to develop a strong VTA will add a year or more of low income months to the cost of starting or expanding. The skills of a great VTA apply to many other fields, so a higher salary is warranted to keep them working happily for you.
The second expense is less obvious. You will need to learn how to make all this work. We hope you will use our decades of helping VT ODs build strong practices. That would be a consulting cost. Figuring out how to do it yourself is an alternative, but it will greatly slow down your growth and profitability because of the time and trial and error costs involved. You will either reinvent the wheel yourself, or pay for the help that will move you forward very quickly.
Buy or lease? I find that most ODs are probably better off leasing their first office or two because it can take a few years of successful operation before you know how much space you will really need in a permanent location. The happiest VT ODs we know are set up in 5,000 plus square feet, but most started much smaller. The best part of buying is that over time, you will pay far less per month than if you were leasing from someone else Ė You are the landlord and only you can raise your rent.
How best to handle leases? Will you be able to have a landlord do a build out? Often if you sign a longer lease, youíll get a build out in the deal, depending on the market. But if you do, get lots of space because if you do the community outreach and marketing right, youíll soon wish you had more. How much is good to start with depends on how long you plan to spend in that location, because if you market effectively, youíll need about 2,100 to 2,500 square feet within a 18 to 36 months.
Those are just some of the details of expenses that are involved in either a cold start or expanding therapy in a primary care settings. Insurance, utilitites, classes and seminars, internet, marketing and other costs will mount quickly and in many cases, recur every month.
What will it cost? How much should you borrow? We have found that in a typical setting, including the costs above and other expenses, that you should have between $120,000 and $130,000 available. Add 25 percent if youíre starting up in a thriving big city. And a bit more if you want all new equipment with every possible bell and whistle.
If youíre going VT only, you should carry only a small line of high quality children's frames which should be kept out of sight (a closable cabinet for example) if you expect referrals from other ODs.
Bank loans are a common way to fund practice startups, but the two major banks donít want to make loans that small, and have declined loan applications that donít include a dispensary. A local business bank is a better bet for most.
We hope to announce a funding source for new ODs for VT-only startups sometime soon. Weíll let you know if and when it becomes available.
In the mean time, we hope youíll do one of our upcoming courses to get a head start. Hereís the link to our new Essentials for Vision Therapy Success and More Patients Breakthrough Courses.
Why should you consider taking the plunge to get going with vision therapy? Today less than 3 percent of the people who need VT ever get it. The market for VT is vastly underserved in every area of the country, including areas considered low income and small towns. All the myths about having to take insurance, or that you canít make a profit, are based on doing VT the wrong way. We are dedicated to helping VT ODs have successful practices so that more people will get the help that only VT can provide.
But for all that, it still depends on you, and your courage and commitment to taking the plunge. Call Amee at (760) 686-4648 if you want to set up a free and private conversation with us about making that choice.
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