How to Start an ABA Therapy Practice
The ABA world is an exceedingly rewarding, albeit challenging, field. As a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) you may be interested in striking out on your own, whether it’s because of a desire to work more autonomously or because of any other number of reasons, we’re here to help you start your own ABA therapy business.
Creating your own practice will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting experiences in life, but if you aren’t fully prepared, the stress and uncertainty can have a negative effect on your success.
The reality is developing your own ABA practice isn’t always a walk in the park, but the better prepared you are for the road ahead, the higher the likelihood you will get your business to where you want it to be.
WebABA can be a wonderful partner for startups. From our ability to get you credentialed with insurances, which means more clients, to our medical billing and WebABA Practice management software that can support your practice from client intake to payroll and everything in between, Amvik Solutions can help to make sure your new ABA practice is off to a great start.
We also like to support our clients with valuable information that can help them continue to grow and succeed in the ABA world. If you’re thinking about taking the big leap to clinic ownership, consider the following preparation tips to give yourself a boost of confidence and a higher probability of success.
1. Research and don’t underestimate the time it will take to get the ball rolling.
Undoubtedly, you have the gumption and energy to venture out and start your very own private practice today. But failing to carefully calculate your decisions and not laying out an effective plan is only going to lead you down the wrong path. According to Bloomberg, a whopping 80% of business ventures fail in their first 18 months!
You’ll need to go through the process of obtaining the proper paperwork and developing your business entity, which means you’ll need support from lawyers, accountants, and even possibly real estate agents if you want to work out of an office. You’ll also want to study your competitors, as well as brush up on your business knowledge, before blindly jumping into ownership. All this research and preparation will take time, so keep that in consideration as you move from clinician to owner.
2. Decide what type of entity your practice will be.
Assuming you have all the proper professional licensing you need to start an ABA practice, the first step will be to decide how your business will be set up. You can develop your business as a sole proprietorship, which makes you liable for any lawsuits and debt, or you can establish an LLC or corporation. You should discuss the pros and cons of each type with an account to determine the best option for you. Check out this interesting piece by BSCI21.org on the benefits of developing your ABA practice as a sole proprietorship.
3. Obtain the right business permits for your city and state.
Make sure to apply for the necessary licenses and permits in your city. Consider your dba and how it might affect your future business opportunities. Your “doing business as” name will play a vital role in your marketing scheme, so make sure to put extra thought into its creation.
4. Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
These initial steps are crucial to running a legitimate business and obtaining your EIN is necessary for tax purposes. Your Employer Identification Number can be easily obtained through the IRS website.
5. Make sure your initial funding is in order.
If you have an independent funding source that will help you stay afloat for the first few years, perfect. But if you’re starting your own practice without that luxury, you’ll likely need some capital from outside investments.
Make sure to keep in mind the types of services your will offer, your ABA rates, and potential funding sources. Will you be able to accept insurance? Or only private pay?
If you are initially establishing your business as in-home care, then make sure to have a cash fund that can cover your expenses for up to 6 months. If you decide you want to open up a center, then you’ll need to take into account insurances, utility bills, equipment costs, potential employee salaries, and all those other business related expenses.
Don’t overlook the benefits of a practice management system like WebABA. While you might be wary these additional costs in your early stages of business startup, it’s important to recognize that you won’t have a lot of free time to deal with billing, client scheduling, and general management issues. Plus, with the advent of the Internet, many companies and federal agencies have moved from paper files to electronic data collection, which means it is in your best interest to learn and take advantage of this growing technology.
6. Set your wage.
It’s vital to separate your personal expenses and bank accounts from your business’. One of the means by which to set a standard is to determine an hourly wage for yourself. During the startup phase of your business, you’ll want to limit overhead and provide your business with as much capital as needed to ensure its success.
Of course, you’ll want to balance what you need to get by with how much your business needs to be sustainable. Depending on your living requirements, provide yourself enough to cover the essentials (bills, food, gas, etc.). But this also means you’ll need to cut out discretionary items. Shopping sprees and frequent vacations are not going to help your business’ financial life.
7. Understand your contracts.
Funding sources and contracts will always be the lifeline of your business; without an effective cash flow, your business is going to stumble. In order to avoid issues with billing and funding, familiarize yourself with your contracts and their billing requirements.
Most insurers and funding sources have set time limits on your ability to bill for services, so memorize those claim date limits (you’ll likely see requirements that range from 30 to 90 days). Also, because payments won’t necessarily be received overnight, you need to ensure that your business has the proper capital to last through the initial wait.
Make sure to track your payments, and if necessary, follow up with any claims denials. A billing service like WebABA can help to your business running while you focus on the therapy side.
8. Create forms and policies.
Running a successful business means having the right forms, policies, and procedures set in place. Some of the paperwork that you need includes (but is not limited to):
- Fee schedule
- Billing policy
- Employee guidelines
- Cancellation policy
- Privacy policies
- Insurance claim forms
- Treatment notes
- Case history
- Scheduling forms between staff and client
- Evaluation forms.
Procedures for staff conduct with clients should be set by day one. Consistency is the key to having families and your clinic all on the same page.
9. Don’t forget about marketing and anticipate growth.
While you don’t have set off a million dollar marketing agenda, you’ll want to have some bare minimums set in place. Business cards with your contact info are a necessity. A brochure of your services can also help to aid your growth. And don’t forget to attend networking events whenever possible.
Giving back to the community you’re working in can prove to be a valuable action as well. Education talks at schools or for local social organizations can get your name out there.
One of the best and most cost-effective marketing tools is social media. LinkedIn and Facebook can, at the very least, increase consumer awareness and help you to start making valuable connections.
If possible, you should also have a website. Softwareadvice.com conducted a survey on a sample of 1,438 patients in the United States and found that 77% of respondents utilized online reviews as a first step in seeking a medical provider, meaning more and more people are referring to the Internet to the find the services they need. Why miss out on a valuable opportunity that your competition is likely using.
Also, don’t be caught off guard if marketing and general word-of-mouth quickly attracts new clients. Exceptional growth in a short amount of time is highly laudable, but if you don’t have a solid system set in place to interview and hire quality personnel for your business, growing pains can ultimately cause more damage than good. Anticipate what positions and roles you will need to fill in first to stay ahead of the game, so when the clients start flooding in, you can make a quick and effective business decision.
10. Scheduling is a key component of a successful business.
Scheduling affects the types of services you can provide and your ability to get paid for those services. Contracts and funding sources will have specifics about the type of ABA services you can provide, the time frame you can provide those services within, the amount of allotted time you can provide services weekly or monthly, and other requirements for the service. Scheduling and developing an effective work system to meet these standards that vary by client and insurer can be challenging, but it is essential to run your ABA business (check out how WebABA can help you with this).
11. Remember that you are running a business.
You likely striked out on your own because you believe that you could provide undeniably top quality ABA care for your patients. This type of motivation is perfect for taking those initial steps towards clinic ownership, but remember that you are running a business, and you will have to make your decisions based on sound business logic. Passion is a wonderful asset to have, but if you aren’t keeping up with the business side of your therapy practice, you might face some steep challenges.
Love what you do and love your business too.
12. Network and seek out guidance.
Starting and running a successful ABA therapy practice is going to be exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time. But whatever you may go through, remember it’s perfectly ok to seek out guidance and support.
Networking with other clinic owners and healthcare experts can provide you business insights you might not receive otherwise. Join professional organizations that can offer you learning opportunities and sound business advice. Don’t be timid about limited knowledge. That’s what experience and growth is all about. You’ll be surprised by how many well-wishers you will come across and how many people will be more than happy to offer you some guidance. For example, check out this informational guest post by Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC about some common issues he faced when starting his private practice and what he learned.
WebABA can support you starting day one.
At Amvik Solutions, we understand the effort that it takes to run a successful ABA practice. We also recognize how vital insurance credentialing, medical billing, and practice management software can be. That’s why we offer a bevy of services that can help you to increase your patient-load, receive payment for your claims, and do what you do best – provide meaningful, quality ABA therapy services.
Request a Demo today to learn about our services and how we can help you transform your ABA startup into the clinic of your dreams.