Private Practice vs. Franchising: 5 Things You May Not Know

By Michele M. Fusco

Posted: May 15th, 2012

Category: Editorial

For many health care professionals, private practice is often the ultimate goal. Autonomy, success, being a respected member of the community -- these things are all achievable over the long-term with private practice. The problem is that it takes time, effort, and a lot of money to get there.

Private Practice vs. Franchising: 5 Things You May Not Know

The franchise model offers a different way to be in private practice. When applied to the health care industry, the franchise model can bring new practices to market quickly. It can even revive struggling private practices by streamlining the logistics of business (marketing, operations, etc.) while creating greater local awareness. All of this can be achieved without losing any of the long-term goals that health care professionals have spent their entire careers pursuing.

To address the concerns you may have when considering a franchise, here are five things you may not know regarding franchises in the health care industry:

1) The franchise model is known for associated fees, which may create the misleading notion that start-up costs are high. However, in many cases, the cumulative expenses of private practice can match or exceed franchise fees thanks to the long list of costly logistics: property, decor, furniture, equipment, IT systems, software and much more. The key differentiator is that franchises offer corporate support services (anything from marketing to operations to displays). In addition, many franchises offer financing options to ease the burden of getting started.

2) The franchise model can lead to a stronger bottom line. There's no doubt that franchise fees are an expense that factor into budgeting and accounting, but they come with major benefits. Most franchisees receive a wide range of corporate support from their parent company, including proven marketing programs. Some benefits include time-tested IT and operational systems that expedite logistics and free up valuable time. All of this creates a better business outlook in nearly all areas, and for many franchisees, this ultimately builds a much stronger bottom line.

3) Franchises can get to market faster than private practice. While private practice owners may enjoy complete control over every detail of their business, this can also quickly become an overwhelming obstacle. Facilities, displays, office furniture, operational systems, signage, advertising, all of these things and more create an infinite to-do list in an attempt to just get the doors open -- and that doesn't even factor in the process of winning over new patients. The franchise model is designed to get new locations open quickly and efficiently, all with consistent branding and appropriate launch marketing. Corporate support provides guidance on everything from finding a location to appointment/billing systems, allowing franchise owners peace of mind as they focus on their new patients.

4) Franchises can be individuals. The franchise model is often associated with fast food, where every location offers a significant level of consistency. That type of brand consistency does apply to the health care industry, though individual practices often enjoy flexibility to cater to their market. While branding and recognition flow down from the parent company, individual practices can generally be run to best fit the needs of the community. Local marketing, partnerships, and networking all allow franchise owners to express their individuality while maintaining the strong identity of the franchise name.

5) Franchises leave a lasting impression. The health care industry is built on referrals and reputation, and in today's tough economy, that's even more critical. A private practice can start up with a new location in a strip mall or business park, but what recognition does the new audiologist's name carry to a passerby? On the other hand, franchises bring a national reputation for service and quality, one that has been honed through years of service and strong brand awareness. For the regular customer on the street, it's easier to remember the opening of an established franchise rather than an unfamiliar doctor's office. And since location rights are usually part of the franchise agreement, the owner of the local franchise represents the brand to the community.