Early Planning is the Key to a Successful Practice
Setting up your own practice can be an overwhelming process due to the unknown factors that need to be considered, apart from the obvious practice development. The success of your practice setup and long term feasibility is based on ticking the right boxes from the start. Making sure you have the correct permits from the initial phase as well as selecting the property to suit your requirements, are important key factors to minimise risk in the future.
Early planning is the key, as it will save you money down the track but also assist you to avoid very costly mistakes that may lead you to an unusable property for your practice, for instance a practice in a residential zoning may not get approved for a commercial venture.
Key factors to consider are:
Get early advice
Getting the right professionals involved at a very early stage is priceless. Even if you think that you are too early to start discussing your project, getting upfront advice is essential.
Selecting the right property is a combination of many factors such as compliance with permits, customer traffic and exposure, building conditions, disabled access, minimum amount of car spaces, zoning and provision of base building services and among many other conditions. It is recommended to get professional advice before you start looking for a property.
The professional’s you may want to approach at the initial planning stage include:
Leasing agent’s vs tenant representative’s
Leasing agents work with property owners to find suitable tenants for their buildings. As they act on behalf of landlords they will show you the properties that are currently available and may favour the property owner’s preferences over the tenant’s. You need to ensure you look for a leasing agent that can find the right property for you.
Tenant representatives act as your intermediary and structure a lease that works specifically for you. They offer neutral advice and will try to look for the best property for you without favouring a particular agency. The representatives are consistently active in the property markets and may know information that isn’t available in the market yet. They will also make all negotiations with the landlord on your behalf and ensure you receive the property in good working condition.
A town planner and some specialised design and fitout companies, will offer advice on the feasibility of the short listed properties you propose. A town planner will also provide clarity before you commit to buy or sign a lease with a small fee. It is a worthwhile investment considering the repercussions you may have by selecting the wrong property or signing a lease on an unusable site.
The town planner will provide visibility on the legal use of the property, potential to develop the site, probable issues with neighbours and car parking compliance. They can also advise on alternative ways to achieve permits with heritage listed sites, accessibility issues or shortage of car spaces.
Designers and fitout developers
Once you have three of four shortlisted properties it is advisable to get your designer to provide a preliminary test fit plan (space plan) to see if the site is feasible for your requirements. It is important your contracted design and fitout company conducts site visits with you to determine the conditions of the site. Only a few design and fitout companies provide early advice before you commit to your lease. Getting them to offer various options will provide you with the necessary tools to make the right decision.
You need to consider:
- The best fit for your space
Getting a preliminary test fit plan completed will illustrate the best functionality on the spaces and your preferred layout within the property. Spaces with too many columns, a low ceiling height or restrictions on the building development, could dramatically affect your usage of the space. By getting a comparison between the different properties you will be able to select the most suitable site that provides you with the best use of space.
- Base building services
Some properties demand a big investment to be approved as a healthcare clinic. The building should be able to provide the minimum services to accommodate your practice. Getting advice on how to get your hydraulic services fitted such as adequate plumbing for all your sinks, equipment and staff rooms is very important as this can drastically impact on your budget.
Mechanical services (air conditioning) as well as fire services (sprinklers) are factors that may be required to be upgraded to suit your new design, which can make a massive difference in costs. Remember that the budget is largely made up of the base building services more than the fitout itself.
Compliance with the disability code is a very important factor to consider. Your clinic needs to provide disabled access to your patients and staff; and if you are acquiring a new property is very likely you will need to upgrade services to comply with the code. When selecting the site, it is important to check that the property is already compliant, or that it will not take a big part of your budget to ensure it complies to the current standards for disability access.
- Preliminary budget
An early indication of your budget is based on your preferred layout and design properties that will provide you with the right visibility to decide clearly on selecting the property. It will also give you the basis to organise your funding. Some of the specialised design and fitout companies, will be able to organise the preliminary budget for you with close accuracy to the final budget.
A preliminary design and construction program can provide a close indication of timing for design, permits, fitout development and equipment installation. With this in mind, you can start planning in advance the marketing material, procurement of equipment, staff recruitment, closure periods (if required) and all necessary factors to get your practice up and running. By receiving this program early, you can use time to make sure you get all other aspects of your practice set up and on time.
By using a design and fitout company you will be able to receive early advice by qualified professionals that have experience in your industry and the capability to deliver the projects from beginning to completion. They have their own network of consultants that will offer a turnkey solution to guarantee a smooth process and also ensure your risks are diminished from an early stage. Few companies provide advice on the compliance of the property, make the early investigation for you and deliver the project on your behalf.
Take advantage of the industry you are in and get early planning before you commit to your property. There are many factors to consider, make sure you take the time to do your research and involve the experts from day one.