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Mistake #5 — Selecting a Site Where Adequate Urgent Care Access Already Exists

If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.
— James Goldsmith

Every community needs urgent care clinics. If your community already has successful urgent care or critical care clinics, that means there are already urgent care professionals who have the experience and savvy to be successful in starting an urgent care clinic. They have made and learned from many of the mistakes you have yet to make. They have relationships with local companies to do their occupational medicine. You will be able to market to the unsatisfied companies, but how many of these exist and how likely are you to be able to find them? The established urgent care clinics will not be glad to see another urgent care clinic competing for their patients, and they are likely to fight you tooth and nail. They may be willing to provide medical services at a loss for a year or two just to make sure that you fail.

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Other urgent care clinics may try to hold up your local hospital privileges, which you may need for certain managed care contracts. They may start false rumors about you, your startup urgent care clinic, your staff, or the standards of care in the urgent care clinic you are starting. They may spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a public relations campaign for their established urgent care clinics. The news of you are starting an urgent care clinic may be drowned out by their constant radio, television and newspaper advertisements. Starting your city’s fifth urgent care clinic is hardly news; but starting the first urgent care clinic in a small city is BIG NEWS.

Delivering outstanding medical care is a great goal. But being America’s best urgent care clinic in a saturated market may still lead to a great failure in starting an urgent care clinic. Wal-Mart didn’t start out competing with K-Mart, Sears or any other nationally established chain. Instead, Wal-Mart started in rural Arkansas towns with populations around 10,000. No one else expected this strategy to work. But because Wal-Mart was the only game in town and it had a simple idea (i.e., deliver the lowest prices on the most goods possible), they were able to attract large numbers of customers and rapidly grew to the largest retailer in the world. For the first ten years of developing its model, Wal-Mart was starting stores in rural America. While K-Mart slept, Wal-Mart was working hard to develop its business model—with great profits and essentially no competition. Having lots of competition is never the secret to success in any business. Why not find an under-served city (or small town) and, without any serious competition, start your urgent care center, develop your model, and prepare your urgent care staff and systems for great success?