Restauranteurs will often repeat the mantra, “Location, location, location!” as the essential factor in establishing a successful food service establishment. Foot traffic, access to the population you want to feed, competition in the area, cost of rent, etc. play a large role in finding the right location. We as clinicians can learn a few things from restaurant owners. Weighing up various factors to choose the right place for your practice is a necessity. Due diligence is called for. Afterall, finding a physical space for your practice is a big step in making a business idea a business reality.
Leasing or buying office space is a commitment of both time and finances. Therefore, looking at all the considerations and variables can help you feel confident in your choice. Choosing a location should be done early in the process of establishing your practice, as other steps such as marketing cannot be done without it. That by no means implies you should rush the decision. You should be prudent and look at multiple listings, looking for locations which could suit your individual needs.
For many clients, seeking counselling help can be intimidating or even anxiety provoking (especially the first time around). Clients frequently want to know the ease with which they can access your services, and that involves your physical location. When thinking about where you want to set up shop, you need to keep in mind whom you plan to serve and what might be convenient for that demographic. For instance, if you are working in an urban setting with college age individuals, it may be paramount that your practice is located by public transportation or nearby a college community. On the other hand, if you are working with geriatric clients, it may be important to find a location with accessibility ramps. In most places around the country, with the exception of some big cities, plentiful parking spaces are a must.
If you are interested in helping the disenfranchised, you will want to have your office in their neighborhoods or at least some place easily accessible. If you long to work with teens, you may want to be near high schools. If you focus on drug addicts, a location near a drug rehabilitation center would serve you and your clients well. For a family counseling practice, you may want to choose a family-oriented residential area. Never underestimate the importance of convenience and ease of accessibility for clients when they are choosing a mental health provider.
When finding an office-space, you need to not only look at the space itself, but also what surrounds it. A consideration may be the number of other services that are similar to what you provide. For instance, depending on where you are looking to set up shop, there may be a lot of competition, or you may be the only provider of this service in the area. An abundance of competitive services or lack thereof come with unique benefits and challenges.
Generally, in places where health care providers are plentiful, there are more auxiliary services for your clients to utilize, such as, pharmacies, emergency rooms, and specialists. This can make the area a one-stop-shop type experience for potential clients. The challenge is, of course, added competition with providers who may be more established. If you are looking at a place which has medical services similar to what you provide, it can be useful to highlight in your advertising what sets you apart.
Inverse issues occur if you are planning to work in an area with significantly fewer medical services. You will have less competition, but also fewer auxiliary services available to refer clients to. This location may not be the first place potential clients think of when seeking services, which may decrease traffic flow. That being said, being the only practitioner in an underserved community means you’ll have the market to yourself.
Profitability and Expansion
Clinical spaces come in all shapes and forms with different price tags. For those who are just starting and want to minimize the cost of office space, it may be worthwhile to look at sublets or group practices who have office space for rent. While those who are wanting to expand and have multiple employees, they may want to focus their search on suite-type facilities with multiple offices and a reception room. Speaking with a realtor about your current goals and future vision for your business can be useful in your search.
The saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” does not necessarily apply to a counseling office. The aesthetics of the space speaks volumes to your clients. When looking at potential office spaces, keep in mind what image you hope to project. Some practitioners prefer a casual and warm feel, while others prefer it look more like a traditional medical office. Don’t forget, the biggest question you need to consider is what aesthetic will make your population of interest feel most confident and comfortable with your practice.
Finding the Space and Lease Negotiations
Once you have figured what kind of neighborhood you would like to work in, keep your eyes open for rental signs or go to a real estate office in the area to see what’s currently available. Determine how much you are willing to spend. Knowing your financial range and space requirements gives your realtor the necessary information they will need to direct you.
Once you have found a space that would meet all your needs, working out your lease may be quite challenging unless you have a real estate background. While it may not be impossible for you to do yourself, finding a tenant representation broker can be of great assistance. While this can be pricey, it does save you time and energy, and it can reduce the risk of making a financial mistake that can cripple your business in the future.
How you secure your new office space will be a decision only you can make. Whichever route you take, your office ultimately reflects on you as a professional. Don’t rush just to simply cross this task of your list. Remember whom you want to serve and why, and move forward with those parameters in mind.