I made a pretty major move about six years ago, uprooting my decent little practice and moving into an outpatient surgical center to join a buddy and colleague who is an orthopedist. In the beginning everything looked great; I was to handle all the postsurgical rehabilitation for my buddy and the other six orthos he was sharing space with.
It was kind of a dream setup, with the built-in referrals and the prestige of working with all these surgeons in a little "mini hospital." Little did I know the economy as we knew it was about to head south and my "buddy" (plus his referrals) would end up moving to greener pastures.
Even with the economy on the skids, I still thought I would be able to pull some referrals out of the orthos who stayed, which would help my practice grow. But all of the referrals I thought were going to be lined up at my door basically never materialized. On top of that, my existing private patients found the surgical center to be just a little too far for them to keep their consistent visits going. You can guess the rest; my practice was slowly withering away before my eyes.
My previous 14 years (before moving into the surgical center), I saw anywhere from 125 to 150 patient visits per week. Midway through 2011 we were lucky to see 100 patients visits a week. Then one day, I opened my mail to read that my rent would be doubling as soon as my lease was up. The owners of the building might as well have sent me an eviction notice, because there was no way I could or would pay that much for what I was getting in return. Things really didn't look to good for me at that point.
My state of shock (over being forced out) faded away shortly after I started looking through the overabundant inventory of vacant office space in my area. At the end of 2011 there was more money being spent on "For Lease" signs in my neck of the woods (Orange County, Calif.) than being spent on health care. I had my pickings. It was like shopping for my first car all over again, but this time the lot was full, I had good credit and everything was 50 percent off. The timing couldn't have been better. Even though my practice production was down, the surplus of space was so cheap it tilted things in my favor. All I needed to do was find a place to plant my roots.
As many of you know, moving your practice can be just as difficult on your staff as it is on you. I waited a couple of days before I sat down with my office manager of eight years, Marilyn, to break her the news. Marilyn is pretty sharp; it only took her about five seconds (compared to my one week) to realize this was the best news she'd heard since I gave her a raise about five years ago. For you rookies out there, it's always good to hire staff who are smarter than you.
I thought it was good idea to draw out a "battle plan" to help figure out where we might land our new office location, which maybe was going to be my last office location. All change is hard, but there is just something especially frightening about moving your family's main source of income. It completely shakes you up. I'm not too tough to admit I was nervous, but I wasn't so afraid that I was paralyzed. During this entire process, I actually remember being the most alert that I've been in some time. I guess the fear of failure cleared my head.
After I bought my new 48"x48" AAA map, I taped it to the wall outside our office break room so all the staff could see it. I started sticking colored thumbtacks into the map, marking where our staff lived and where my gym was.