Choosing an Office Location
Dermatologists who choose to open their own practice have a lot of decisions to make, from selecting a city to choosing the type of office space. With a lease that runs 5 years, 10 years or even longer, these decisions can have long-term implications.
I surveyed three dermatologists who have opened their own practices for their top tips on choosing an office location.
Choose where you want to live – first
“Placing the office in an area you want to live was the best advice I received and the best advice I can give,” said Matthew Elias, DO, who practices in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Aanand Geria, MD, of Rutherford, N.J., had a similar experience. “The best piece of advice I received was to plan your office location around your life and where you want to live, rather than planning your life around your office location.”
Do your research
Sheila Farhang, MD, relied on research when planning her dermatology and Mohs surgery practice. “I decided to open in a location where I had never lived or practiced or even visited,” she said. Her husband’s job was the motivation behind her decision to open her practice in the Tucson, Ariz., area. Research that showed a need for a dermatology practice like the one she envisioned gave her the confidence she needed to start her business.
Dr. Geria said U.S. Census data can help dermatologists in choosing an area in which to practice. Data points include an area’s diversity, median household income and education level, among other measures.
Dr. Elias suggested plotting locations of dermatologists in a given area on a map and calling offices to determine wait times. “More than likely there will always be room for another dermatologist,” he said.
Consider location, location, location
Dr. Elias recommended looking for a location with high visibility, easy access and lots of parking. “You want your patients to want to come and see you,” he said. “Make it easy for them to want to come and see you.”
Dr. Geria chose an office location close to public transportation. “There’s a train station two blocks away from my office so we have a lot of patients who come for early morning appointments and then hop on the train to New York City to get to work.”
Determine your ideal office type
While Dr. Elias and Dr. Geria each sought a location in a medical office building, Dr. Farhang took a different approach: She sought retail space to create her boutique-style practice. Dr. Geria said he avoided very large corporate office buildings because he was concerned they would be hard for patients to navigate.
Consider hiring an expert
Dr. Farhang hired a national real estate broker who specializes in contracts for medical buildings. “Looking back, I would have also used someone who does local commercial real estate since I was not familiar with the area,” she said. She did find a practice consultant helpful in setting a budget and determining how much square footage she needed.
Don’t be afraid to cold call
While Dr. Farhang and Dr. Elias sought available properties on LoopNet, a commercial real estate website, Dr. Farhang also drove around her area to look for “For Lease” signs. She found her dream office space by cold calling listing agents.
Keep an open mind
Dr. Farhang’s office location was originally planned for a restaurant, but she was able to negotiate a lease for half the space. One bonus: The 26-foot ceilings allowed her to build a loft, which was free lease space.
Plan for future growth
“If you plan to expand, look for an area that can support your plans,” Dr. Elias suggested. “We outgrew our space very fast, so I would advise if you can to try to get a little bit bigger space than smaller space to start.” Since opening his practice, he has also expanded to additional locations.
While choosing an office location is a big decision, Dr. Farhang encouraged dermatologists to remember that it’s a not a “forever” decision, and that they can only choose what’s available at that given time.
Anxious about signing an office lease? Stay tuned for part 2: What to know before signing an office lease.
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