Mistake #25 — Starting a Second Urgent Care Too Soon

Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.
— William Shakespeare

Planning to expand your urgent care center before even starting a first clinic? If the business plan for the first clinic includes a second and maybe even a third clinic within the first twelve months of operation, the entrepreneur may need to take a step back. These entrepreneurs see other successful urgent care businesses operating three to 10 centers, and seek to emulate that success. There is nothing wrong with having a big vision, but you must develop a solid foundation before building a multi-site urgent care business.

Make sure you have a solid, working prototype before you multiply the number of operating clinics. With any prototype, there are always problems to be worked out. You must make certain you first work out the flaws and problems before you open a second clinic. If not, your second clinic will double the mistakes in your model. Fixing problems will be even more difficult while you are trying to operate two centers. Your second clinic will double your problems, double your staff issues, and double your financial losses.

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On the first month your new urgent care center turns a profit, you are ready to start thinking about a new urgent care center. Too many people see other multi-center urgent care businesses and think the key to success is opening several centers. The truth, however, is that opening a second urgent care center prematurely can drain your focus, energy, and checkbook when you need to be single-mindedly working and investing in your new urgent care center. When your first center is profitable, you have a working prototype that can help fund a second center, and you know how much personal and financial sacrifice it takes to get an urgent care center off the ground.

Practice Velocity was once visited by a founder/owner of a well-known national fast food chain. He was investigating whether his vast experience in multisite restaurant chains might help him succeed in developing a chain of urgent care centers. He told us that when his team opened the first restaurant, designed to be a prototype for a new chain, they made so many mistakes they closed down the restaurant. Then they immediately opened the first three wildly-successful restaurants in the new chain. When I asked, “Why three?” He answered, “We had learned what not to do.” Since he had hundreds-of-millions of dollars, he could afford this brashness. Since a millionaire with decades of experience can fail miserably in setting up a prototype, how much more important is a prototype urgent care for someone just entering the business?

Make big plans, dream big dreams, and work hard on perfecting your model. Don’t be afraid to think about operating a multi-site urgent care and serving your entire community. But wait until your first center is a success before buying land, writing a business plan or spending time investigating other sites for an urgent care center.