The Road to Private Practice Ownership

Author: Alicia D.D. Spoor, Au.D.

The Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) has partnered with Alicia D.D. Spoor, Au.D. on a new initiative to follow her process of opening a private practice. Dr. Spoor is the Audiologist and President of Designer Audiology, LLC in Highland, Maryland and has agreed to document her process of opening a private practice, from the start. Alicia has recorded short (usually less than 15 minutes) videos and webcasts about her progress and she will also have articles in Audiology Practices about topics related to her experience starting a business. You can watch the videos on ADA’s website; click here to view.

“No one will ever ask you for that.” This was common and classic advice that came from a colleague when I was in the initial stages of thinking about starting my private practice. But when the time came to seek funding for this new adventure, one of the very first questions that my bankers asked me was if I had a copy of my business plan for them.

During graduate school, my private practice course required a business plan to complete the class. We worked on it in small groups and turned in the final project just before graduating and leaving campus for the last time. It was just another assignment, but in hindsight we all should have kept a copy of this toy business plan for our records. Since no one wanted or planned to enter private practice, the final project was given to the instructor without a second though.

Business plans are first and foremost for helping the owner(s) concentrate and focus on the business. Business plans aren’t fun. They aren’t sexy. They take a lot of time, thought, revisions, and constant updates. Business plans do one thing well: they force the owner to think about every aspect of a business. Entrepreneur magazine recommends the business plan be updated monthly, weekly, daily, always. The plan is intended to help the owner evaluate whether s/he is staying true to the original plan and to measure progress.

When I was first considering the idea of starting a private practice, the business plan was the first place I started. Unfortunately, I had long discarded my template from graduate school to use as a guideline. [To be fair, it probably wasn’t nearly as good as my first-attempt this time around.] After looking for resources online, a trusted mentor recommended the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

It took about eight months to come up with Designer Audiology’s initial business plan. The process of developing a business plan forced me (and my business partner/husband) to think about every aspect of my new, potential business, from mission statements to legal structures to marketing to growth strategies. Being forced to write down each topic and make it into one cohesive plan was helpful, but it was more beneficial to think about the practice from the viewpoint of an outsider- a patient, the bank, service suppliers (e.g. marketing firms).

My business plan is organized in the following manner:
  1. Executive Summary.
    This section briefly describes the products, target customers, and unique attributes of the company.

  2. Company Description.
    This section includes a mission statement and the company’s legal structure.

  3. Market Research.
    This section describes the target market, customers, competition, and competitive advantage of the company.

  4. Products and Services.
    This section describes the products and services, pricing structure, and intellectual property.

  5. Marketing and Sales.
    This section is about the company growth strategy, communication, and projected prospects.

  6. Financial Projections.
    This is a 3-year anticipated profit and loss statement, break-even analysis, and financial assumptions.

Each business plan is unique in some ways. The owner, the purpose, and the effort will vary for each entrepreneur. Designer Audiology’s ‘final’ business plan was 35 pages in length, was divided into 37 sub-sections under the above-mentioned six categories, and included a significant amount of appendices. The most challenging and time-consuming part of the plan for me was the financial projections, having never started a business before.

Among the things I learned during the business plan development process were:
  • Everyone has an opinion about the purpose and content of the business plan. There is no single right way to do it. Create the business plan to help the business.
  • Investors (i.e. the bank) want to see a list of initial expenses. Make sure you include operating expenses for the months until you project to break even.
  • Many possible investors will judge you from the business plan. A good business plan will provide a positive first impression.
  • Get as much advice as you can. Use the positive comments and leave behind the ones that aren’t helpful.
  • There are lots of (free) resources available when you aren’t an expert in an area. The SBA’s Business Plan website is available at https://www.sba.gov/starting-business/write-your-business-plan.    
    Alicia D.D. Spoor, Au.D. is the Audiologist and President of Designer Audiology, LLC, located in Highland, MD. Previously, she was part of the cochlear implant and hearing aid teams at the Mayo Clinic Arizona. Dr. Spoor earned her Doctor of Audiology degree from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University in Audiology and Speech Sciences. While at Gallaudet University, Dr. Spoor taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is currently the Treasurer for the Academy of Doctors of Audiology and Legislative Chair of the Maryland Academy of Audiology.