For about five years, Dr. Linda Hodges contemplated opening a weight loss clinic in Hiawatha, Iowa. As a physician, Linda already had other professional duties, but once she was confident enough to handle new responsibilities, she decided to pursue the idea. The first place she turned to was America’s SBDC Iowa (SBDC).
“Once I decided I could feasibly do this, I contacted the SBDC immediately. The process from contacting SBDC to opening my doors took about five months,” she said.
Being a physician, not a businesswoman, Linda wasn’t certain about some of the technical aspects of opening a business such as if there were any licenses required for the type of business she was opening. That’s where SBDC Regional Director Scott Swenson played a vital role. Scott assisted Linda in building relationships with the people who now handle her accounting and much of the copy work.
“As a physician, business is something we are not taught throughout medical school or training. I am a healer, not a marketer or an entrepreneur. Learning the various aspects of starting and building a business would likely not have happened as efficiently, or as effectively, had it not been for Scott and the SBDC,” Linda said.
When she first opened her clinic, Exceptional Health & Weight Loss Solutions, Linda used various sponsorships and social media sites to advertise the new business. Since then she has gradually switched to relying on patients finding her services through word of mouth or through a direct referral by other clinicians, something she says is one of her biggest triumphs.
Linda has been in business for over a year now and she estimates her patient growth has increased by approximately fifty percent since the clinic opened in September 2015. Given her other responsibilities, Linda believes this is an ideal rate of growth, perfectly suiting her schedule, allowing her to change her work flow after figuring out what does and doesn’t work.
Going forward, Linda plans on growing at a controlled pace. She is not sure if she wants to hire employees yet as she utilizes a specific model tailored for her patients. For now, she wants to be the sole provider for her patients and their weight loss needs. Linda has also added some services to fund projects that she finds important, such as a campaign to impact childhood obesity. She has also sponsored small events and teams within her community.
In describing her overall experience with the SBDC, Linda believes the SBDC was vitally important to the opening of her clinic. As she stated, “I likely would have figured all of it out eventually, but it would have taken significantly longer, more frustration, and likely cost me more to try to find the answers Scott readily had for me. Honestly, I’m not sure if I would even be open by now (over a year later)!”