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Opening my own business.

HealthcareArchitect

Registered in different States. Has a stable job for last 15 years though salary sucks. Has solid design and construction experience in healthcare industry. Tired of working for other people. Should I take risk to go for my own firm?

 
Sep 13, 15 12:50 pm
citizen

Who would your target client be, exactly?  Hospitals/ Med Centers?  Tough to imagine a small startup firm breaking in there.  Or would you be consulting to larger HC-oriented firms you've already been working for?   That seems a bit likelier.  Better yet might be going after developers of med office buildings.

Or some other client base?

Sep 13, 15 1:02 pm
quizzical

HealthcareArchitect: what experience, if any, do you have marketing architectural services to the healthcare industry?  

If none, then do you have any close professional colleagues with that sort of experience who might be interested in joining with you to start a new firm?

Sep 13, 15 7:42 pm
Carrera

We did healthcare as a part of our practice, we even did a 250 bed standalone hospital and found it to be one of the toughest markets. Getting to the decision makers is impossible and very expensive…they play with the big-boys and wouldn’t look twice at a start-up. We came up doing small stuff for doctors, developed relationships that grew, but today all the small stuff has been folded into the big stuff and all the doctor practices are corporate.

The best part of the healthcare market is they don’t care what anything cost, but for you the worst part is that same rule applies to hiring architects, they can afford the best and hire the best.

I have friends that peeled off from a big practice, but went into healthcare consulting and hit a home run. My advice is to consider the same or work around the fringes on nursing home facilities, Alzheimer facilities etc. which is still open to smaller practices.

Sep 13, 15 8:51 pm

It actually depends. If you already have a target market in mind, business plan, human resource, competition position then by all means start a business. If not, you may want to evaluate your market first and see if you have competitive advantage over your competitors.

Sep 13, 15 9:16 pm
shellarchitect

had an interview awhile ago with a 3 man arch firm specializing in hospital work.  they did the small stuff that the big guys couldn't do.  The main guy had worked for one of the bigs for a long time so he had existing relationships with the decision makers.  perhaps you could do something similar?

Sep 14, 15 10:19 am
gruen

I had a similar background to you before I started my firm. I'm a one man shop now. I'm not even trying to break into a healthcare market EXCEPT for smaller stuff - doctors offices and outpatient. I haven't done any yet though.

I am doing daycares though. They have similar code requirements but are obviously easier to get and do.

Healthcare is a tough market and yes, they don't want to deal w/small firms. I'll probably work on taking on some of those smaller things moving forward, picking up the little "property maintenance" and "moving a single office" type projects. 

Regardless, you need to know your target market for your firm. I have no problem doing a mix of residential and commercial and slowly growing my firm. 

Sep 14, 15 12:31 pm
HealthcareArchitect

Hospital market is dominated by established big guys and owners do want to take the risk of hiring small guys. Hospital is a highly technical thing and I found small guys most of the time mess around the stuff that creates more problems in the long run. I am pretty confident about assisted livings, nursing homes, hospices, ASC etc. I would be able to manage those design and construction easily as I did a lot of them. So my target is assisted living, nursing homes, medical office buildings etc.  But I have solid experience in Hospital also and want to start in Hospital with remodeling and renovations. I just recently completed one brand new Hospital which opened in last month. As for marketing, I have no experience at all. I am looking for someone (partner, associate) who would be able to take the challenge for marketing and managing workload.

Sep 17, 15 6:18 pm
gruen

Good idea on your target market. Most marketing is just getting to know people - you just have to pound the pavement finding WHO to meet and then meeting w/them. Linked in works a little bit for finding the who to meet. It isn't always that you want to meet the decision maker right away, sometimes you want to meet someone who has their ear. For me, I've found commercial real estate agents to be a good source, contractors too. Not sure who it is for your market. Just keep it low key at the beginning and just try to set up coffee or lunch w/people and chat about their business. Keep regular contact over time and some of them will pan out. Also go after public bid projects if you can. 

Any other ideas? I've been working on the "how to market" thing for a couple of years now and feel that I'm getting better at it. 

If you are not good at public speaking, join a toastmasters group or a local BNI. I did BNI for about 6 months - very time consuming for little reward (real projects) but a good way to practice public speaking and some marketing skills. 

Sep 19, 15 4:29 pm
Carrera

^Good general advice, but the OP’s doctors don’t do coffee & lunch, they are impossible to contact even when you’re having a heart attack. I figured out how to get to them, but it’s very expensive.

Sep 19, 15 10:19 pm
HealthcareArchitect

I am closely watching how the owners hire consultants. I found General Contractors a lot of times influence the owners in making decisions which consultant to hire based on their experience working with the consultants.

Sep 19, 15 10:48 pm

The business of architecture is political.

Sep 19, 15 11:31 pm
Carrera

You can "watch" but may not "see". Healthcare is private, other than the VA, it's like the wild-west in marketing, anything goes. You need a condo in Malibu or a private jet for fishing trips for these guys, it's behind the scenes pay to play.

I'm struggling to think of a single opportunity in my market for a young startup in medical. I know another guy that split off from a big firm to do preliminary site designs to help a big hospital system with evaluating potential sites in their expansion, did little remodeling's, but he had worked with them for decades and they loved him, and he had one hell of a lake cottage, thus the love.

Sep 20, 15 12:22 am
gruen
I'm not saying I know how to break into the healthcare market. I don't, am not even trying. But I like his idea of associated building types.

I like GCs as a resource too.
Sep 20, 15 7:28 am
Carrera

Best way to break into any big market is by joint venturing with big specialty firms, that’s how I escaped mediocrity. The key is to have political influence or a decision maker friend, which can be garnered through networking. Developed a lot of friendships by doing homes and cottages for CEO's.

Sep 20, 15 3:44 pm
gruen
Carrera-can you explain the joint venture better? What does the small and/or local firm offer to the larger firm?
Sep 20, 15 4:14 pm
Carrera

Gruen - The big firm has it all to offer except local connections to get the project. Additionally, most communities look for a way to make things look “local”.

I was one of the first to start this idea in 1979. Our city had an RFP out for a convention center, and I was a 3 person firm with zero chance to get the job, but I was friends with the decision maker (did his house). I called the biggest convention center architect I could find and convinced them I could deliver the job. Then I went to my friend and convinced him that these guys were the best and by having me involved he could make it look like a local pick and that he could control things better through our private friendship. The idea worked, we got the project and I repeated the idea many times until I had a portfolio of big projects. If I chased a library I found a library guy, if I chased a jail I found a jail guy.

If you can deliver the project through connections, it’s gold to the big guys. 

Sep 20, 15 9:24 pm
gruen
Thanks -that's huge. I've heard the advice of partnering plenty of times but never figured out how/why.
Sep 21, 15 3:34 pm
Carrera

Have a long time ago partner that split off and has a staff of about 15 now, he just did a Fortune 500 headquarters with a big east coast firm…he did the CEO’s house…don’t sell residential architecture short.

Sep 21, 15 4:14 pm

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