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Many who are considering a startup ask “how to open an urgent care center,” but the better question might be “when should I open a new urgent care?”

Timing is very important to the viability of the startup because of the seasonality of the urgent care business. Many aim for a January opening, trying to align with the new fiscal and tax year.

Here are reasons why that could be a significant—and expensive—mistake for the entrepreneur.flu season

Because of the seasonal ebb and flow in urgent care needs, the market dips during the late spring and summer months when the flu season tapers off. The volume rises again in the fall and throughout winter (since flu season typically runs from November to March or April).

Opening your doors on January 1 is akin to a retail store trying to open for the first time on Black Friday. It’s a busy time of year in the urgent care business, but if your center is new in the market and people don’t know about it you aren’t likely to draw much of a patient base. Consumers have already established their health care routines for the season by January. As an operator, you could miss out on the majority of your first year’s worth of revenue.

So, when is the best time to open an urgent care center?

grand openingIt’s best to open a new urgent care center is during summer or early fall. That gives the business a couple months to build momentum in the market before the busy flu season is in full swing (usually between January and March or April).

You’re much more likely to gain traction in your marketing with a splashy late summer or early fall Grand Opening. Many consumers turn to urgent care for back-to-school checkups, fall sports physicals, and for flu or flu-like illnesses. Drawing patients into your center for those seasonal needs early on can help you build a loyal patient base.

What to do if you’re not ready to open this fall?

Sometimes construction issues or contracting delays change the project’s timeline and it’s out of your control. There are some steps you can take to more quickly move your urgent care center toward profitability if the opening date lands outside of this peak season.

[box] Consider some marketing efforts before your opening date to create buzz. Both paid advertising and grassroots efforts should be used to reach the widest audience.

You can also hold an open house or team up with the local Chamber of Commerce to do a ribbon cutting to draw local press attention to the business launch.

You may also consider cutting costs at the start by using a skeleton crew. Limiting front office and medical assistant staffing until volume rises at your center can help keep expenses down. Plus, you’re less likely to see employees turning over at your center because they are bored or dissatisfied by the low patient volume.  [/box]

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