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The increased dependence on man-made chemicals and pills to control diseases has pushed people to find more natural forms of healing. Alternative health centers often focus on just one type of healing, such as acupuncture or herbal remedies.
Who is this business right for?
This business is excellent for people who want to treat people without the use of conventional medications. Practitioners should be excellent at explaining how and why patients should trust in their methods in order to build a client base.
What happens during a typical day at an alternative health care center?
An owner’s day will vary widely, depending on the services they offer. However, everyone can generally expect the following activities to be on their agenda.
- Patient intake/scheduling/interviewing
- Employee interviewing/hiring
- Enforcing cleanliness standards
- Maintaining supplies and equipment
- Administering healthcare services
- Researching updates and breakthroughs in their field
What is the target market?
Preferred clients include anyone who wants to live a healthier life. While you'll most likely market to those who already practice alternative health, that doesn't mean you can't branch out. Many owners will build their client base through internal referrals, which can include even those who are skeptical of their services. Ideally, you'll want a client who can walk the line between traditional and alternative medicine. Unfortunately, there are certain diseases that will require harmful medical treatments such as radiation.
How does an alternative health care center make money?
Centers make money by charging a flat fee for their services, or by administering services that will eventually be reimbursed by medical insurance. It will be extremely important to verify insurance before actually conducting treatment. Alternative health centers may not be accepted by different insurance companies, or they may be outside of the network of preferred providers. In this case, you'll need to make it clear to the client how much they can expect to pay upfront.
What is the growth potential for an alternative health care center?
Big Pharma has unfortunately turned many people away from traditional medicines. The more doctors rely on pills with a wide range of side effects, the more people will seek out other remedies that rely on the body's own defenses. As long as you’re responsible about administering services and serious about getting good results, there is major room for growth regardless of where you live.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful alternative health care center?
Typically, you’ll want to have some advanced training before starting a business. Acupuncturists and chiropractors should attend an accredited school before opening up their own practice. Anyone recommending dietary supplements should have received formal training on what's safe and effective on the market. Those who want to conduct meditation classes should have studied under someone with official status in the community.
One (often overlooked) skill is the ability to listen to patients' concerns. Traditional doctors are often rushed through appointments, which means they're likely to miss something important. Listening and explaining can end up setting you apart amidst a crowded marketplace.
What are the costs involved in opening an alternative health care center?
This is heavily dependent on what type of business you run, and the neighborhood you’re in. However, it’s likely less than you think. If you run a meditation center, you’ll generally just need to secure a studio and a business license. To open up an LLC, it's only about $50 in most states. For the extreme cost-cutters, you can start an acupuncture clinic for less than $2,000. If your services require malpractice insurance, a small practice will only pay about $1,500 a year for the first year.
You can also consider running your practice out of your home to save money, but this may make you seem less professional to potential clients. However, if you already have interest in your services, this could be an excellent way to get everything started until you can afford your own facilities.
What are the steps to start an alternative health care center?
Once you're ready to start your alternative health care center, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your alternative health care center is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your alternative health care center keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers. Save 15% when you create a business website with Weebly.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting an alternative health care center?
Those who have opened their own successful offices caution not to aim too high at the beginning. By starting with the basics, you can grow your client base and save money at the same time. The more you make, the more you can invest back into the practice.
It's also necessary to be as upfront as possible with all of your clients about the inherent risks of treatment. Just like surgeons need to spell out the potential problems to cover their own liability, those in alternative health care need to know how to direct people to different methods of treatment when necessary.
How to promote & market an alternative health care center
There are a lot of options out there when it comes to alternative health, and many of them aren't regulated in any way. There's little surprise that many people are understandably overwhelmed when it comes to navigating the landscape. You can gain more customers when you promote your practice as a way to cut through the noise and focus on helping them feel better.
This can be done primarily through your website, or by networking your services during alternative health conferences and events. You can also try traditional print advertising as well, depending on the type of service you offer. For example, print flyers for meditation on a bulletin board of an exercise center may be particularly effective.
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How to keep customers coming back
Helping customers feels better is the best way to attract and retain customers. In addition, you should be using your education and experience to help convince skeptical people that alternative medicine is not simply a placebo effect.
How and when to build a team
You should be building a team if you need to bring additional skills to your facility. This is typically only done when you have a loyal base of clients with regular, standing appointments.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an alternative health center. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
Certificate of Occupancy
An alternative health center is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to an alternative health center.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your alternative health center will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Health Insurance Eligibility
Some alternative health centers chose to market their services with more of a therapeutic emphasis. You will probably come across consumers seeking to reimburse you for your services using their health plans. If this is the case, it is essential to make sure their health insurance covers alternative health center services. If they are indeed covered by insurance, you must fill out a health insurance claim form to receive payment.
How much can you charge customers?
Americans spend $34 billion or so on alternative medicine a year, so it’s clear that you can set your prices high enough to cover expenses and then some. One acupuncture or chiropractor session typically costs about $60. People pay up to $1,000 to take a full course on transcendental meditation. Those who are knowledgeable in supplements may charge up to $150 for the first consultation.
What are the ongoing expenses for an alternative health care center?
Owners will have to pay for the following expenses during the time they have their practice
- Rent/lease costs
- Equipment costs
- Insurance payments
- Employee insurance
- Ongoing classes and training
How much profit can an alternative health care center make?
Profit is highly dependent on the offices you keep and the types of services you provide. An acupuncturist with 4 appointments a day at $60 an hour will make about $60,000 in a year. If you’re working at a 90% profit margin, that’s about $54,000 in profit.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Typically, alternative centers should focus on one type of service only, so expansion can be difficult. The more experience you gain though, the more you can consider teaching or public speaking about how others can adopt the techniques that have been most helpful for you.