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Patients love urgent care. This dynamic industry is driven by a new breed of healthcare consumer that wants quality medical care served with a side of convenience that fits snugly into their on-demand lifestyles. Long waits to see a traditional doctor, the lack of after-hours care, and cost-effective healthcare services are fueling this business. According to a study by Accenture, visits to urgent care centers increased 19 percent from 2010 to 2015.
It’s also not surprising that many doctors, private equity firms, and even legacy medical providers such as hospitals and primary care physicians are thinking about opening urgent care clinics. You may be one of them.
If you think urgent care may be the right business opportunity for you, remember that success requires more than money and a healthcare provider. A business plan is essential.
The following are the top six reasons you must have a comprehensive business plan before you launch your urgent care clinic.
Unless you plan on financing the entire operation yourself, you need investors. To get the attention and support of banks, potential partners, and private investment firms, you need to prove that you and your startup are a good investment and worth the risk. And while your business plan should include projected startup costs, assets, budgets, cash flow requirements, pro forma, and a breakeven analysis, prospective lenders or investors want to see more than the numbers. They want to know how you think, whether you have a success strategy, have done your homework, and your long-term goals.
According to Robin Studniski, AVP at Stearns Bank, N.A., a prolific urgent care startup lender and Nationwide Preferred Small Business Lender, “When starting up a new business, the business plan ties all the details together. What are YOU going to do to ensure your business stands out and ultimately succeeds? Financials, resumes, projections, demographics, site analysis, etc. Each piece is tied together with your business plan. It’s your story.”
Be sure you include an overview of your company and its leadership—highlighting your strengths and demonstrating your deep understanding of the market, your competitors, and your strategy for capitalizing on opportunities. Prove you are aware of possible challenges and have solutions to overcome them. In the end, your business plan helps you prove you possess the business acuity to succeed in the competitive healthcare market.
2. Preparing for Legal Transactions
A business plan will get you organized to deal with all the legal and financial issues involved in owning and operating your urgent care. A complete business play lays the groundwork to help you secure local, state, or federal licenses and permits. Not only will you understand the legalities and regulations that affect your business, but you’ll be organized and prepared to address these situations as they arise.
3. Gathering Your Thoughts
Look at creating your business plan as an opportunity to think through every aspect of opening an urgent care—and to decide if you’re all in.
As you research the market to flesh out your plan, you can organize your thoughts, assess your strategies, formulate your goals, and decide if entering the marketplace is the right decision for you. Throughout the business plan process, you may find that your original ideas just won’t work. Maybe the local market doesn’t have the best demographic or population to support another urgent care clinic. You may learn that a hospital in the area is planning to open a number of retail clinics that will compete with you for the same customers. Or learn that your estimate of the initial investment is much higher than the amount of money you earmarked to launch your clinic.
While you write your plan, do some soul searching to zero in on your motivation, define the characteristics of your ideal staff, and think about the culture you want to establish in your clinic. What is your unique selling proposition and what will you stand for?
4. Strategic Planning
Writing a business plan also offers you an opportunity to firm up your mission, goals, and strategies—then create a roadmap and timeline to put them in place. Ideas and- goals are a great place to start, but without a strategic plan and realistic timeline, they won’t take you anywhere.
As you create your plan, start with high-level benchmarks, and fill in the smaller details and time horizons. If you work this out in the business planning phase, your business plan will be a useful tool throughout the life of your urgent care. And while it’s important to fine-tune this document before seeking financial support, once you launch your business you can deviate from original timelines and benchmarks as the market evolves.
5. Legitimize Your Business
Think about the number of people you know who talk about how great it would be to have a business of their own. If starting a business required nothing more than a dream, more people would do it.
A solid business plan gives your ideas legitimacy. As you formulate your plan and talk to friends and colleagues, they may offer ideas and help you make connections with other professionals that can provide services you might need as you move closer to launch.
6. Keeping Your Business on Track
A solid business plan is essential for starting your urgent care, but its value lasts long after contracts are signed and your doors are finally open. It’s your go-to resource moving forward. You can refer to your plan to stay on strategy and revisit your roadmap. It continually tells you your next best step for growth, staffing, marketing, and sales.
When it’s time to evaluate your progress, you can look back at projected milestones and see where you’ve accomplished your goals and where you missed the mark. With that information, it’s much easier to change course if necessary and clearly define next steps to get where you want to go.
Not only should your business plan help you plan for success, it should provide realistic criteria for determining if or when business conditions and financial factors indicate it’s time to shut down. A practical exit strategy will help to replace emotions with objectivity if you decide to close your urgent care business.
We’ve outlined six high-level reasons to put together a strong business plan before launching your urgent care, but with a little research, you’ll realize that your plan will enable your success in more ways than you can imagine.