Getting help and advice for setting up and running your practice need not be expensive. In fact, there are plenty of free resources online:
Small Business Administration
The SBA offers free information on how to set up your business for legal and tax purposes, plus links to various forms, licenses, and regulations. You can also learn the difference between a sole proprietorship and various types of corporations, how to apply for federal contracts and grants, and more.
Internal Revenue Service
Most U.S. tax forms can be downloaded at the IRS website. They also have fact sheets and videos to help simplify the process of compliance with tax regulations.
If you're in Canada, check out the Canada Revenue Agency.
Elected and other government representatives
Your elected federal and state officials have field offices to help constituents cut through red tape in dealing with government agencies. Links to federal, state, and local elected officials in the USA are here.
For problems in getting clean claims paid in a timely manner by insurance companies, contact the Insurance Commissioner of your state.
In addition to physical and digital books, most public libraries offer online access to databases that you cannot find elsewhere. Check your local branch's website for business publications and forms, along with information about accounting and other procedures.
For personal assistance in searching, call or visit the library, and speak to a librarian - an information specialist. Your library's website may also have live chat function.
If your local library does not have what you're looking for, try the Internet Public Library, representing a consortium of colleges and universities and hosted at Drexel University.
Your national, state and provincial associations are the go-to sources for the latest information on, ethics, professional advocacy, laws and compliance issues related to professional practice. You can also find some business and marketing tips at professional association websites.
As non-profit entities, the primary focus of these associations is the benefit to the public or the profession (depending on their tax-related setup). While they cannot negotiate fees with insurance companies or act on complaints that you have in dealing with insurance, they often do advocate on behalf of the public who may be harmed by insurance company policies and actions.
In addition, organizations like the American Psychological Association Practice Organization (APAPO) and many state professional associations are set up as non-profit business leagues that promote the the profession. Thus, they can engage in political lobbying on your behalf, and challenge regulations that impede your ability to use your skills and credentials.
When to seek personal help and guidance
When running a small business you can probably figure out most of what you need to know through reading and consulting the above sources. However, for certain things it's best to consult with a professional. For example:
- Before signing a lease that could cost you a hundred thousand dollars or more, it would be prudent to have a real estate attorney look it over. Of course, you'll pay a fee. But the attorney could end up saving you money that exceeds the fee you paid, not to mention the peace of mind you have from knowing that the deal was done right.
- You can probably do most of your bookkeeping and even tax form preparation. But have an accountant look over your work before you submit it. The accountant may find an error or identify additional deductions that you had not thought of.
- You don't need professional consultation for the small decisions in your practice. If you buy a printer or a chair that doesn't work out, you can replace it. At worst you're out a few hundred dollars. However, some of the bigger decisions, such as relocating, developing a niche or specialty, figuring out a marketing strategy or making a business plan, have far-reaching implications.
Trial and error can cost you a great deal of frustration, money and lost opportunity. To minimize these, it pays to get professional guidance from a practice consultant, such as The Practice Institute. For more information on how we can help click here.