Associating to Owning a Practice with Dr. Emily Gerson Part 2

Interview with chiropractor Dr. Emily Gerson

4 minutes

When Emily Gerson, DC, graduated from chiropractic school, she decided to become an associate in an existing practice. Fast forward to today, and she is the owner of a thriving practice in Denver, Colorado. She shares her insights below on starting her own practice, tackling the business side, hiring her own associates and more.

What were you the most nervous about when you were going out on your own?

“Will anyone come see me? Will they follow me? And, establishing prices. That was definitely a nerve-wracking thing. I kind of mimicked the business model from where I was an associate. I didn’t need to reinvent everything.” 

Was the business side of things stressful?

“Parts of it were, and still are, stressful. Deciding on pricing was stressful. I am out-of-network and do not participate with insurance. Thankfully, I think that decision alleviated a lot of stress.   Getting the business established was stressful, but also exciting and fun. Coming up with the biz name, logo, etc., was all fun. Doing the paperwork side of things was not as much fun. I didn’t know what I needed to know at that time. NCMIC was super helpful, and I was lucky to have a lot of good help from other small business owners along the way, as well. I was not afraid to ask questions and to ask people for help. 

I went to friends who are chiropractors and asked to see their paperwork. Coming up with all of that – the intakes, SOAPS, consents, etc., was a definite stressor. Creating the website when I was first starting out was super stressful, too, because I didn’t know what to say and what to put out there. Now that I’ve established myself a bit, those things are not as overwhelming because I have a better sense of the look and feel of the business.” 

How did you find your group to work with – your accountant, bank, etc.?

“I was Facebook before Facebook even existed in terms of networking and being in touch with people. I’m not afraid to ask people about what they do and to make connections. I think just being in one place (geographically) for a long period of time also helps. You get established, and get to know the community. That helps. 

One of the most useful things is to know who you can go to for help and how to delegate. I think, ‘this is not my strength, this is not my wheelhouse. Who does this?’ I tapped into my personal bank for a small business loan. I talked to NCMIC a lot. I knew chiropractors who had been in practice for 40 or 50 years, so I reached out to them. When I first moved to Colorado, I joined the Colorado Women’s Chiropractic Association and that’s been a super supportive group of women who are all business owners or associates. They are still a super valuable resource.

I like doing business with people that I like, and I happen to really like my patients and my neighborhood, so it’s been a pretty natural growth. It feels really good to surround yourself with others who believe in what you do and want to see and help you succeed.” 

Was there anything you didn’t think would be an issue that was?

“Yes. Medicare. Every student should know that in order to treat anyone who has Medicare, you have to be enrolled in Medicare. You can be enrolled as a nonparticipating provider, but you have to be enrolled in some shape or form. There are also very strict (and confusing) rules when it comes to treating a Medicare patient. We did not learn anything about Medicare in school and it has been a complex thing for me to figure out. Staying up to date and understanding the compliance and HIPAA rules and regulations, coming up with manuals and handbooks etc., is also something I wish I had received more guidance on.” 

What is it like having your own associate?

“I have been super lucky to have had two awesome associates. I think I’ve made two very good hires! I knew what I was looking for. I wanted to make sure that philosophically and technique-wise, we were aligned. Not identical, but aligned. It is exciting and stressful to bring someone else on. They fully represent you and your brand, so you really have to trust them, both as a clinician and as a person. It is sometimes hard to get your existing patients to work with them because they are so loyal to you!

Once they realize that your associate is awesome, though, it is nice for them to have more treatment options and flexibility. It is sometimes difficult to know when you have enough volume/demand for an associate, and a bit difficult to know what their growth trajectory should be. I think if you have open lines of communication and expectations, and work toward growth together, it is an awesome thing. Seeing your associate grow and develop their own niche and client base is a great feeling.”

If you decide to start your career path as an associate or independent contractor, give careful consideration to questions for potential employers. For tips, check out Negotiating Your Employment Contract. If you missed Part 1 of Dr. Gerson’s comments about her experience, read it now.

Posted in Chiropractor Entrepreneurs

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