An Alternative to the Huge Darn Clinic

This post is quite long.  I haven’t blogged in awhile because I have been busy getting my clinic up and running.  I want to share my experience because it may help someone who is feeling overwhelmed and not quite ready to start their own huge clinic.

Michigan Community Acupuncture is my community acupuncture clinic that opened in May of this year, I have a large treatment room with six chairs/tables, a private space for intakes, a huge beautiful waiting room, and a full staff.  The first month I covered all my expenses with the fees my patients paid, and by the second month I covered most of my start up costs and was paying myself a small salary.  5-6 patients a week cover all of my business expenses, the rest is profit.  I love my clinic, I work 3 days a week and have very little stress. I was able to create this clinic situation by renting space from an established wellness center.

I initially had plans of opening a huge clinic with a partner.  I was quite nervous to be taking such a huge venture, but I wanted a community clinic so I planned to make it work, and I know I would have been sucessful, but it would have taken much longer to start making money, and I would be working long hours.  The partnership ended up falling through, I was devastated and not sure what I was going to do.  Michigan has very few acupuncturists.  I had no other partner options so I decided to go it alone.  While I was looking for space, I happened to come upon an ad that a wellness center had rooms of various sizes to rent including a large gym space.  I didn’t think much of it but I decided to go take a look.  The clinic was beautiful and I was sick of doing nothing so I decided to go ahead and rent the gym space a few days a week.  I didn’t realize this would end up being perfect for me.  A few shoji screens and rice paper lamps transform the gym into my clinic and people tell me it feels very warm and inviting.  I will post pics soon.  My rental agreement includes the services of the staff, and other general office things like the fax machine, copier, and the payment and scheduling sotware.

This is a viable option for practitioners who feel overwhelmed by the idea of starting a business from scratch.  I’m thrilled with it, and I honestly don’t know if I ever want to open a huge clinic of my own, but If I do decide to go in that direction at some point, I will be much better prepared than someone who has never managed a community clinic.  This is my own business, other than paying my rent I have little business interaction with the clinic director who is a chiropractor.  Practitioners in the building occasionally refer to each other, but there are no expectations or pressure to do that.

I have everything I need at a very affordable price, and I have less of the headaches of owning a business.  There are two wonderful receptionists to shedule for me and take payments, but no worries about payroll or hiring, a huge beautiful building I could never afford on my own, and many other benefits.  Like many acupuncturists I never really wanted to start my own business, I knew I had to, but this takes a lot of the pressure off.  Renting space in someone else’s business feels like the best of both worlds to me.  I have the freedom of setting my own hours and for the most part running my work life how I see fit, but someone else handles many of the major business hassles.

The only real downside for me is that I have to take down my clinic if there is an exercise class in the evening.  It only takes about five minutes.  It’s probably less work than people who have to clean and care for their large spaces.  I can’t use lazy boy type recliners, but my patients like the Lafumas so it’s not that big of a deal.  I don’t get to decorate my own place, but the clinic is gorgeous and well cared for.  I share my business office where my desk is with two other people who rent space, I enjoy having co workers, but this might bother someone else who likes more privacy.  I have a small space right outside my clinic door where I do my intakes, so I don’t use my office for that anyway.  I just don’t have many control issues so this works for me.  If  a practitioner needs to be in charge of every detail, this won’t work for them.  I am very fortunate I found such a great clinic, and the owner shares many of my values.  He is very respectful of my business.  Anyone who decides to go this route should be sure of the business owners expectations.  In my case I help with his overhead and keep the space active which benefits the whole clinic.  He doesn’t ask for anything more than that.  I love it, my patients love it, and I’m making money.  That’s all I need.

Linda inDetroit
Author: Linda inDetroit

<p>I graduated from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego with a Masters in Oriental Medicine. I recently moved from California to my hometown of Detroit. I grew up in a working class neighborhood in the city, surrounded by good people. I enjoyed my childhood, and learned to live my life with strong values. The problem was, I didn't know many wealthy people who could afford regular acupuncture treatments. My values wouldn't let me pretend to be something I'm not for the sole purpose of making money. </p><p>"The Remedy" and member forums taught me how to create a successful practice, treating the people who are already in my life. The <a href="/index.php" target="_blank">Community Acupuncture Network</a> has change many of my ideas about how to run an acupuncture business. The regrets over all the money spent on school are gone. My days are currently spent looking for a great location for a new clinic in Detroit, it will be the first one here. </p><p>I'd love to say it's all joy and happiness but my excitement is often tempered by the frustrations and difficulties involved with starting a small business. I will be sharing the details of this process for anyone...

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  1. Great post, Linda!   I

    Great post, Linda!   I have a classmate in Wisconsin who is doing that same thing right now; instead of using Lafuma’s, she just has her patients lying down on the yoga mats.  Very simple tear-down after her sessions.   

    When I was having a hard time finding affordable clinic space last year, I sent letters to all the yoga instructors in the area, asking if they would be open to sharing their large open rooms with me.  The ironic piece is that none of the yoga businesses had space to share, but one of the teachers had a student with a building to lease, but the student hadn’t advertised it anywhere so I’d never seen it: turned out to be the one I now work out of.  You just never know where the perfect space will come from, or how things will unfold… 

     Thanks for sharing!

    “Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” –Rumi

  2. And you are just DOING it!

    Congratulations on deciding that the most important thing for you was to just get up and running.  Believe me, your patients appreciate THAT more than any of the “downsides”…AND you are making $$.  Dang, girl, you’ve pulled it off!  Wishes of continued fun and much luck to you.  It would be great to see pics sometime of what your space looks like before you arrive, and after…

    Thanks for sharing your story.


  3. Here’s to those mid sized clinics!

    I’m delighted you are in a space and enjoying it so much!  I’m also glad to hear of another mid sized clinic that’s doing well.  I think we saw from the survey that clinics 6-11 chairs can be very workable.  And they can be complete in themselves, or a stepping stone to a larger clinic if desired – as you said.  Whoo Hoo, Linda!!

  4. think of it as….

    a stepping stone to the GIGARGANTU-NORMOUS clinic i see in your future, complete with an aviary for when your patients are flying out of the chairs!

    sounds like a sweet deal – hey, if you would, maybe give some specifics about your overhead costs for rent and such, just to illuminate the possibilities for those who are looking to setup and are crunching numbers and trying to keep overhead to a minimum.  Rent is our biggest monthly expense here, we tried to keep it as low as possible for a 2 person clinic.  i wish 5-6 patients per week would cover our costs, that’d be amazing.   earlier today i was in ponder mode about the microlending idea, and this may give me some ideas also on about how much it costs to startup up an operation like yours, versus the HDC.  -k   


  5. Out of respect for the owner

    Out of respect for the owner I don’t want to publicly share exact numbers, but I pay a per treatment day rent that includes everything in the building, I can use the business office anytime to work on charts and other paperwork.  I buy my own clinical supplies, furniture, insurance and miscellaneous business expenses like financial fees, and taxes.

    We all save money because we share much of the overhead.  It costs so much more when you have to pay for everything by yourself.  We have 5-6 health practitioners who rent space on various days.

    It is a great deal, I feel blessed that it worked out so well.  This is the owners dream clinic as well so we are able to help support each others goals.  I enjoy being part of a large clinic where everyone is working toward a similar goal.  One thing I don’t like about acupuncture is practitioners often work alone, that doesn’t suit me.

    I like the aviary idea! I’d have to teach the birds to pull at the proper times.

  6. Pictures

     Michigan Community Acupuncture – Clinic

    I put them on my website.  You can see our huge waiting room during christmas. There is and old picture of the gym, there is actually more equipment now.  It’s hard to convey how the lighting makes the space feel because I had to turn on all the overheads to get a picture, I normally only have a couple of them on so it looks warmer.  Most people do not notice that it is a gym until they really look around.

    I think it works because I didn’t make any effort to try and hide everything.  I put in the screens and lamps to draw the eye.  Even the staff were shocked when they first saw it set up, it really transforms into a comfortable space.  People seem to like it.