What Equipment, Furniture And Supplies Does Your Practice Need?
Patricia Bishop runs a thriving hypnotherapy and healing practice in London. This is a thorough handbook to the complete business of setting up a complementary health practice.
What equipment, furniture and supplies does your practice need?
You will need to review your requirements against the following:
- specialist equipment and furniture
- general equipment and furniture
- computer and telephone equipment
- business stationery
- office supplies
- business environment purchases.
What specialist equipment will you need?
The specialist equipment you require will vary according to the particular therapy or therapies that you are engaged in. Most ‘talking’ therapies, such as counselling or psychotherapy, will not require any special equipment, just comfortable armchairs. However, anyone engaged in massage work or healing will also need to invest in a massage couch or treatment table. Other therapies may require items such as exercise mats or sound equipment.
Take a long, hard look at the minimum you require in order to run your practice and then invest in the best you can afford. You should not be expecting to replace any specialist equipment for at least three years (five years is the optimum) so choose wisely. How flexible, or adaptable, is the equipment you need? For example, if you are thinking of purchasing a massage couch, can you vary the height of the working surface to suit both your needs and those of anyone you may be sharing this equipment with? If you’re travelling to your clients you will need to find out how much the massage couch weighs. Can you carry the couch out to your car easily? How easy is it to fold?
Don’t forget your clients’ needs
As well as considering how the equipment suits your needs, don’t forget to consider your clients’ needs. For example, is your massage couch wide enough for most clients to rest on without their arms flopping over the sides? How will a less able person be able to use your equipment? Will you need to provide a set of steps, or a hand rail? Remember what you have learnt during your training about disability and access issues and put these ideas into action.
When you have decided on the specialist equipment you need, jot it down. You might find it helpful to keep a running total of your equipment needs and costs in the table on page 30 (Figure 1). Please note the items listed are just a prompt to get you thinking about what you might need, your therapy may require additional equipment so adjust the table to reflect your requirements.
What general equipment do you need?
Generally the minimum amount of equipment for most therapies will be:
- three chairs
- a small table
- a small, lockable filing cabinet
- somewhere for your client to hang their coat.
Three armchairs are the ideal minimum, as this allows one chair for the therapist, one for the client and one for any person (partner, family member or friend) the client may bring with them. If possible, you may also want to invest in an extra chair which is solidly constructed, has a more upright position with a higher seat and without arms. This sort of seat will be more accessible for anyone who finds a low seat difficult to get in or out of, it will also prevent any potentially embarrassing situations if your client is too large to be able to fit into your usual armchairs.
A small table is ideal for holding cups or tissues. You can also use it to rest your notes on, or as a surface for your client to write or draw on. If you are going for an initial minimal approach to your equipment purchasing, a table can be used to break up the starkness of the environment and you can soften the effect by placing a vase of flowers on the table.
It is a requirement under the Data Protection Act 1998 that client records are kept securely. If you are sharing a room with other therapists you will need to make sure that your clients records are held safely and the best way of ensuring this is to get a metal lockable filing cabinet. You can also use the cabinet for storing any of your business stationery, CDs and tapes, or small office supplies which you don’t want cluttering the room.
Phone several suppliers to get prices for the equipment you need, in order to make sure you are getting a good deal for your money. Once you have decided on your requirements, fill in the table below (Figure 2) so that you have a record of your potential expenditure on general equipment and furniture.
If you don’t already have a computer and printer, these could be one of your best investments. Not only will you be able to create and print your own business stationery, if you so choose, but if you add on a modem or have a computer with an integral modem, then for the price of a phone call you can access the internet and send and receive emails.
If you don’t know much about computers then get a knowledgeable friend or family member to help you make your choice, or at least help you to decide on the kind of package that will work best for you as you set up your business. Buying computer equipment is expensive, but there are some very good packages on offer which include a computer of a good specification, usually with an integral modem, CD writer and with appropriate business applications preloaded. Such packages usually include a basic printer and scanner and are therefore more than adequate to meet your initial set up needs.
You can, of course, buy secondhand computer equipment, but you will need to ensure that this is coming from a reputable source. Make sure you investigate whether there are any guarantees available, so that if the equipment breaks down soon after purchase you are not left with a sizeable bill for repairs.
As well as your computer hardware you will need to invest in a computer desk and a suitable chair – unless of course you decide to go for a laptop rather than a stand alone computer. Make sure that whatever desk you buy you have sufficient room both for your computer and your papers and notes, as well as space for any printer or scanner (buying a combined model will help to save space). You may also need to get a footrest or a desk lamp in order to make working at the computer a more comfortable experience. There are guidelines for the correct siting of computer equipment and for the correct seating principles to adopt. For further information, see Chapter 11.
Whether you keep all this equipment in your practice room will depend on how and where you work. If there is insufficient room within your practice you will need to allocate some space in your home. You need to consider this carefully as it will mean that you won’t be able to complete all your work at your practice – do you want to be bringing some of it home to do? If not, it might be better to invest in a laptop so that you can get most of your work done wherever you are.
Buying a laptop
If you are working with clients in their own homes, or if you regularly work at different locations, it would be advisable to get a laptop rather than a stand alone computer as your main computer. Once you’ve bought your laptop you can then shop around for a mobile phone which can link to your laptop either by means of bluetooth wireless technology or via a USB cable and port. This will allow you to dial in to download your emails. If you then work off-line compiling your replies and only dial in again to send your responses, you will be keeping your costs to a minimum. Once you get home you can simply plug your laptop into your landline or broadband connection in order to access the internet in the most cost-effective way.
If you’ve bought a laptop then it could be worth your while to take out insurance on it. You are going to be carrying it around with you so it is much more likely to have to withstand some knocks and harsh treatment. If you are trying to keep your costs within a manageable budget, having insurance to cover the cost of repairs to your laptop could help considerably.
Buying for the future
Make sure that whatever computer equipment you purchase is going to meet your needs for the next three years at least. Think hard before you buy about exactly what you are going to use it for. For example, will it just be for writing up notes and correspondence, researching and downloading files from the internet, or will you be thinking of creating and printing your own business stationery, designing your website or recording your own CDs? If you are thinking of the former as being your main use for this equipment, then you simply need to invest in a good PC with a reasonably fast modem or broadband connection, and a printer. However, if you are thinking in terms of using your equipment for creative or design purposes, then you may want to extend your equipment requirements to include a scanner, digital camera, microphone, good quality colour printer and some appropriate design-based software. If you think you are going to be spending a large amount of your time on the computer everyday, make sure you get a model which can deal with the workload.
Also think about the future and how you may want to use this equipment in a few years’ time. For example, if you are a life coach and are thinking about more flexible ways of working, you might want to put a webcam down on your wish-list as a means of speeding up your responses and yet keeping your contact with your client as personal as possible. Whatever equipment you choose always go for the best specification that you can afford. Things change fast in the computer world – having a good specification machine should prevent you from frequently having to upgrade your equipment.
Modem versus broadband connections
If you are going to use the internet a lot, or transfer very large files on a regular basis, you may want to consider having broadband access installed in your home or practice. Although it is more expensive, you will save a lot of your time and therefore will be saving money indirectly. Choose carefully where your broadband connection is going to be sited. Unless you have a designated work area, such as a study, for the connection to be installed in, make sure that the connection is installed in an area where you can work fairly quietly without interruptions, and also where it will not disturb others.
Once you’ve decided on your computer requirements, list them in the table on page 35 (Figure 3).
Working from home
If you are running your practice from home you may find that your home phone and landline is all that you need, although this will depend on how many others in your household use the house phone on a regular basis, as you don’t want any potential clients having problems contacting you. If this is the option you decide on you should be aware that some phone service providers do not allow you to advertise what is essentially a home phone number in trade directories such as Yellow Pages – so check this out first.
A cordless phone can work very well if you are working from home and do not have a room set aside as your designated practice room. This means that you can take the phone with you into whichever room you are working from; ensures that you can answer any calls in a professional manner, and also means that when you are working the phone can be left outside your room so that your clients are not disturbed and you don’t have to worry about unplugging the phone and potentially losing any calls.
Installing a second line
If the telephone traffic in your household is high, you might find it more beneficial to install a second line. As previously mentioned, some phone service providers allow you to have a second phone number and handset operating on the same line but which rings in a distinctive way in order to distinguish business any calls from your usual landline number. The charge for this service is cheaper than installing and renting a second line.
If you are installing a second line at home, or getting a landline installed in your practice room you may want to investigate making this a freephone number. This works as a positive inducement for callers – if they do no have to pay to make an enquiry about your services, a caller may ring you in preference to another complementary health practice which does not have a freephone number.
Siting your business connections
If you are thinking of installing a second telephone line for your business, setting up a fax or installing broadband for your internet access, make sure that you locate these connections where they can be used effectively – ideally in a designated work area, or a quiet space where any work will be uninterrupted. If you plan on changing the layout of your rooms in order to make space for your practice, decide on your working space as soon as possible and determine how long you are going to be able to use this space for your work – it will cost you extra each time you need to move these connections, so it’s better to get it right first time.
Using an answerphone
Whatever telephone equipment you have, you need to make sure your business calls are still being answered when you’re not able to. If you are working from home, it is better that you deal with any business calls direct rather than have a family member answer the phone. If you don’t already have one you should be considering investing in a separate answerphone; a telephone with a built in answerphone, or paying your phone service provider to provide an answerphone service. Some service providers offer a free answerphone service, but normally you will not be able to retrieve your messages when you are away from home or out of the office unless you pay a small fee (generally about £1 a month) for an enhanced version of the service – the enhanced version will also allow you to record your own personalised message for callers.
Most telephones with built in answerphones will allow you to filter incoming calls as you can hear who is calling via the loudspeaker as soon as they begin to leave a message. Again, this can be useful if you are working from home and want to avoid callers at certain times, but don’t want to miss any members of your family who may be calling.
Using call divert and call waiting
Wherever you work, you may find it useful to subscribe to the call divert and call waiting services from your phone service provider. Call divert will automatically divert your calls to another designated number, so you could, for example, divert all your business calls from one location to the phone at your next workplace – or alternatively all your business calls could be diverted to your home number. You decide which numbers and when to divert. This will ensure that any calls come through to you direct. You should be aware that you are likely to be charged for the diverted part of the call, so if you are constantly diverting calls to your mobile phone number this can prove to be rather expensive.
Call waiting is another useful service. Whether you are working from your home phone or business phone this allows you to keep a caller on hold whilst you answer another incoming call. It also allows you to move freely between all the callers. This can be particularly useful if you are dealing with a personal call when another call comes in, as it allows you to check the call and deal with it direct if it is a business enquiry.
Even if you don’t have a mobile phone for your personal use, you might want to consider getting one for your business use especially if you work away from home, or spend time travelling to different work locations or to and from your clients’ homes.
Your mobile phone can also be your sole business number, and the only one which you advertise. This can work for you in a number of ways – it gets around any problems you might have with your home phone service provider if you advertise your ‘home’ landline as your business number; it also saves you having to total up your business calls versus your personal calls each month for accounting purposes (this might seem a minor point but you should be aware that it can take an hour or more to add up all the calls each month, and that’s an hour’s unpaid overtime), and of course, you can be contacted wherever you go without missing calls or paying for diverted calls.
Some mobile phone companies offer good value business packages which may include preferential call rates, free insurance and/or a free replacement handset each year.
Check out the deals on offer. You will need to prove that you are a bona fide business, so you may need to show details of your business bank account. If you are going to use a mobile phone as your main business number it is rarely worthwhile to use a ‘pay as you go’ option, especially if you are intending to use your mobile phone to access the internet, as the cost per call is usually much higher than calls made on a monthly contract rate.
Check which particular benefits your mobile handset has before you purchase. For example:
- How long does the battery last on standby and whilst making calls?
- What sort of details can you store on the phone and how many?
- Can you use your mobile phone with your laptop?
If you use your phone a lot it will make good sense to purchase a model which can last for as many hours as possible between charges – especially if you are frequently on the move. You don’t want to have to charge up your phone more than once in a day. Also, if you need to contact your clients while you are on the move, it may make sense to include their details in the address book on your phone. If you have a good number of clients you will need to choose a phone which has a large capacity for storage. And if mobile communications are a must for you, then make sure your phone can be connected to your laptop whether by using the appropriate wireless technology, or a cable and USB port.
If you are always on the move but either don’t have, or don’t want to carry, a laptop with you all the time, you can arrange to set up your mobile phone so that you can access your emails. However, unless you are always sent very short emails you could find that your account fills up very quickly. It is still a useful option though – so check out how it could work for you.
Even if you don’t take out insurance for other items, it is generally a good idea to take out insurance on a mobile phone. It is a sad fact, but mobile phone theft is on the increase, so if you are trying to keep your costs under control it may make sense to include the cost of insurance rather than risk having to meet the costs for a replacement handset.
It’s a good idea to think about replacing your mobile phone every one to two years. This will enable you to take advantage of any new technological changes and help you to avoid any problems regarding the replacement of batteries. Remember, you do not have to change your number, although some phone service providers effect a small charge for swapping numbers over. You should also be able to get any details that you have stored on your sim card transferred to the new handset, so there should be no need to re-enter any names and numbers you have stored in the address book. If you are more familiar with, or find it easier to use, a particular make of phone, then go for an upgrade of the same make.
A fax machine is not an essential buy when you starting up your practice. But you will find it helpful to invest in one as your business grows. A fax machine will help you to extend the ways in which people can communicate with you, for example, you wouldn’t necessarily want to invest in a textphone, but a fax might mean that any clients who are hearing impaired could get in contact with you by fax if they, or you, were unable to send an email. It can also be useful for dealing with other companies, either for placing orders or confirming arrangements or training course details.
If you do decide to purchase a fax machine, you might want to consider the following:
- getting a plain paper fax rather than thermal roll
- multi-purpose machines.
A plain paper fax machine can also be used as a copier for single sheet copying. Also, unlike thermal roll imaging, a plain paper machine means that the image will keep its sharpness and detail, whereas thermal imaging tends to fade with exposure to light which can be a problem if you need to keep any records for a length of time for legal purposes. It is generally cheaper to load a machine with plain paper rather than buy thermal rolls, although you may want to check this out before you buy.
If you don’t already have a phone for your practice you might want to consider buying a combined fax/telephone/answerphone machine in order to keep your costs down. Check that the machine is able to switch between fax (data) and phone (voice) calls automatically and that you can vary the options according to your specific work needs, for example, you will want to be able to switch the machine over to automatically take fax and phone messages when you are working with a client. Make sure that you can pick up any answerphone messages remotely. Some machines also allow you to pick up fax messages remotely but you are unlikely to find this of much use unless you are a serious user.
List your telephone equipment requirements in Figure 4 below.