I’m finishing the year in warm sunny Adelaide, Australia … visiting my family down here. What a year this has been! Certainly my biggest year financially since I raised my rates from $120 to $150/session, and my schedule didn’t slow down.
This was also a year of physical transition for me. No, not physical changes in my body… physical location changes. I sold my condo, bought a house, renovated it, moved into my girlfriend’s condo during all this, and then we finally moved into the new house. While all that was going on, I was forced early in the year to quickly find and move my clinic into a new location in Austin, find a massage therapist to rent some extra space, and get the place looking like a nice manual therapy clinic.
So here are some lessons I learned in 2013 with all this activity. Depending on your current and future situations, this may or may not apply to you, but hopefully everyone will get something valuable to help them avoid mistakes and maximize office space searches and lease details/negotiations.
Are You Protected When Circumstances Change?
My former office was at the end of a very long hall, and the closest bathroom was at the beginning of the hall. Luckily, the “break room” for my floor was directly across the hall from my office and it had a sink where I could quickly wash my hands between patients (my office space was very nice but relatively small: a waiting room and nice little treatment room … all that I needed). My lease renewal was less than two months away, and I had every intention of staying until the building owner decided to convert the break room into a rentable suite. At that point, I had to literally jog down the long hall in order to wash my hands between patients, and staying on schedule became impossible without increasing the times between scheduled patients. Adding five minutes between each patient to account for this issue would have meant being at the clinic 30-40 minutes each day with zero increase in earnings or productivity. That may not seem like much to some, but I wasn’t having it. The building owner wouldn’t bend on any build-out solutions, so I had to quickly find a new location. I got lucky in that I didn’t have another year on my lease, because even though I never would have chosen that space without the break room and sink being so close, there was nothing in the lease that would have allowed me to break it without penalty.
Lesson Learned: If there are components outside of your actual clinic space that are key to your business operations, make sure that those things will not change in a negative way; or that you will at least have some recourse if they do.
How else might this lesson apply to your current/future clinic locations? Could parking scenarios change in a way that your patients either don’t have enough space or it becomes more difficult for them to get to your office. Could long-term road construction make it difficult or dangerous to turn in or out of your office-building parking lot? Could signage change, making your location less noticeable? Could a convenient bathroom disappear? Could a nice quiet neighbor move away and be replaced by a very loud one? Or be replaced by one that says you and your patients are too loud?
These are the types of questions to ask during your search and certainly before signing a lease. Make sure your building owner will have the legal responsibility to make things right, or allow you to move without penalty if you they cannot remedy any negatively changing scenarios.
Loud Neighbors Are Not Loud ALL the Time
Check the noise levels of your prospective neighbors thoroughly. Take time to visit a prospective clinic space at 3-4 different times during the day. I have a group of attorneys next door, who are pretty quiet for most of each day. However, here and there, one particular lawyer likes to yell and even cuss at people over the phone. It is seriously offensive and embarrassing when this happens during a treatment or when a patient is in the waiting room. And here’s an interesting point: this almost always occurs between 3-6pm … a time frame in which I never visited the space during my office search.
I had to fight to get the new office manager to spend the money on some sound proofing that made the noise issue acceptable. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better. I’ve been lucky that the building manager and owner are good guys and willing to work with me, but the lease doesn’t demand that they do. That’s my fault.
This may sound pretty obvious, but since I was so accustomed to an office space with thermostat control, I assumed the new space had a thermostat as well. In the rush of finding a new location, and everything else on my mind regarding the office search and negotiations, it just wasn’t a detail I thought to look for. The temperature for multiple units is regionally controlled by one unit. Pretty big oversight, and though I may sound kinda stupid to many reading this, I bring it up so no one else makes the same mistake.
Once again, I have lucked out and it hasn’t ended up being a terribly big deal. The office manager found a way for me to moderate air flow and the “regional control” system keeps it pretty comfortable most of the time.
The list of things I learned this year is certainly much longer than what I’ve written above, but I wanted to focus on this office space theme in this post.
I’m very excited about 2014 and all that I’ll be able to get done now that I won’t be spending all my extra time on moving home and office! My referral base is broad enough that I no longer have to spend much time on marketing and networking, which is very nice. I have some cool things in the works that I’ll be announcing in the next month or two, so stay tuned.
I wish you all the best in 2014 and hope that you are able to make big strides towards your ideal practice. If you have big plans for 2014, please share them with us in the comments below. Happy New Year!