Business Plan Basics:
Acupuncture is a "service-based" business as opposed to a retail or wholesale based business. You are providing a service as a health care provider. And even though you may also sell herbs and other retail products, your primary source of income is from services rendered.
1. A formally written business plan is required if you plan to borrow money to start or expand your acupuncture business.
If you are investigating securing grants for business development or a loan from a bank, writing a professional business plan is a must.
If you do not need to take out a business loan or apply for a grant, then technically you do not need a formally written business plan. But you should write (at least an informal) one anyway. Keep reading.
This includes your mission, philosophy, and goals. Unlike other businesses, as an acupuncturist, YOU ARE YOUR BUSINESS.
Although you are "selling" acupuncture as a service, what makes your business unique is YOU. Any basic book on business will tell you that in order to be successful, you must know your product. What this means is, you must know yourself.
You must be able to communicate to your "customers" why YOU are the best acupuncturist for them. If all you do is try to "sell" acupuncture (and other Chinese Medicine techniques) as the service you provide, you are missing out on the biggest part of your practice. YOU!
Assessing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing your inner motivations, and understanding your fears and goals will make you a better practitioner and a more successful business owner.
3. Your patients are your customers.
A business plan helps you identify your "target" customer. Who is the most likely person to seek out and use acupuncture? What is their gender, age, education level, or income? Answering these questions helps you to:
The fancy word for all of this information is "customer demographics". In order to be successful, you must be sure there is a significant population of likely customers where you set up your acupuncture practice, and they can access you easily (by foot, bicycle, car, or bus).
Now that you know your customer demographics and you have a large population of likely people to walk through your door, how exactly will you let them know you exist?
On the other hand, if you are a dynamic speaker and enjoy talking to groups about Chinese Medicine, go for it! Other forms of marketing materials suitable for most anyone include a Yellow Pages listing, business cards, acupuncture brochures, and newsletters.
One of the most underutilized sources of marketing (and income!) by acupuncturists is having a website. I strongly believe that a well-researched and optimized website for your acupuncture practice can not only provide 99% of your marketing needs, but also generate new avenues of revenue.
I am so certain that this is a powerful area that acupuncturists are missing out on that I devoted an entire section, with website resources and cost analysis, to help acupuncturists get up to speed. (See, The Web-site That Has A Very Busy Weaver, by Lisa Hanfileti, LAc, MAcOM, ©Copyright 2007.)
5. A business plan lists all your business "needs".
This refers to employees, advertising materials, herbal products, and equipment, like treatment tables, acupuncture needles, herbal dispensary materials, chairs, pictures for the walls, signage, computers, clip boards, paper, pens and anything else that is necessary for you to run your business.
Knowing your specific business needs is important to help you with the next, and probably the most difficult, part of your entire business plan; The Budget.
If you are planning on applying for a business loan then you must have a well planned and articulated budget.
You must buy the necessary equipment to get your business set up. It is relatively easy to come up with cost estimates for hard goods like computers and treatment tables. You should end up with an accurate number for these fixed costs.
There will always be unforeseen items that arise, but for the most part you will be able to come up with a realistic budget for everything you need.
Your budget needs to take into account the fact that your business "income" will need to go to business expenses initially.
Therefore, you either need a significant savings or a business loan to make certain you can pay for living essentials like food, your rent or mortgage, insurances, car payments, school loans, credit card bills, utilities, gasoline, and all the other expenses that don't have anything to do with the business directly.
This is where understanding the meaning of Pay Yourself First is very important. ("Pay Yourself First" and other financial strategies will be covered in more depth in Financial Management.)
I had been in practice a little over a year and was just starting to feel like a successful business owner gaining momentum when September 11th happened. It affected the economy everywhere.
FREE Business Plan Writing Resources
Writing your business plan does not have to be costly or boring.
There are many FREE Business Plan Writing Resources available to you help you through this important planning process.
These include free online courses, tutorials, and downloads from a variety of private, government and local sources. My favorites are: "My Own Business, Inc.", the Small Business Administration, and the United States Internal Revenue Service.
You can also use business plan writing software to help you through the specific steps and produce a professional report.
Another FUN option is to "write" a business plan by mapping it out using a non-linear format called a Mind Map. If you have never tried this, look at my Acupuncture Clinic's Marketing Plan using a FREE Mind Map I downloaded from the internet. Try it yourself. It's FUN!
If it is FREE expert information about Business Plans and business strategies then read anything that Tim Berry has to say.
He is the author of Business Plan Pro and the president of Palo Alto Software (located in Eugene, Oregon). His hippie roots, curiosity, writing talents, and incredible brilliance has made him a legend in the business community.
**NEW!!** CLICK HERE to learn how you can get a copy of my free Acupuncture Business Plan