Tough Economy Is No Hurdle for Othotics Start-up

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By Rachel Kelley

Not many people have the courage, motivation, and single-minded vision to launch a business at all, let alone in one of the worst economic times in global history. It takes a person with a true love for their profession, a practical head for business, and the knowledge that he or she can fill a specific niche where other similar businesses are lacking.

Lynne Snyder, CO, watches Grace Fender as she tests some adjustments to her braces. Photograph courtesy of the University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group.

Such is the case of Lynne Snyder, CO, owner of Snyder Brace Inc., a small specialty orthotics clinic located in Columbia, Missouri, that targets pediatric patients from birth to age 21 who have a variety of diagnoses. With the assistance of Virgil Woolridge, a business development specialist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Snyder completed a business plan, closed on her loans, and opened her 1,500-square-foot facility in June 2009.

From Clinician to Business Owner

"I was not afraid of the economy and did not view it as my biggest hurdle," Snyder says. "Not coming from a business background was definitely more of a challenge."

Despite the sharp learning curve of transitioning from a practitioner to a business owner, Snyder quickly grasped the fundamentals of business ownership. She learned to negotiate with insurance companies, set up accounts with suppliers, and purchase items from appropriate vendors while simultaneously turning a profit and providing outstanding patient care.

Because Snyder was a practice manager at a previous job, she knew about profit margins and what she could charge. "That was a big advantage," Woolridge says. Snyder had an excellent grasp of the business concept she wanted to implement and the numbers she needed to increase her likelihood of success, he adds.

According to Snyder, the timing was opportune in other ways as well. President Obama had passed the stimulus bill in 2009, which deposited funding into the Small Business Administration (SBA), allowing new owners like Snyder to obtain low-interest loans and secure assistance with closing costs.

"Her timing was also good because the economy was just going into the slump and it had not bottomed out yet," Woolridge says. "Banks were still loaning money, and she was a perfect candidate in terms of pre-qualifying for a loan."

Dream of Owning a Business

Snyder has been a clinician for nine years, previously working for a large orthotics company. She was well aware of how other businesses operated and knew that the only way to see a business run the way she envisioned was to start her own.

"I have always had a heart for children and what the families go through," she says. "In the back of my mind, I wanted to run a business that I knew would be of utmost benefit to my patients."

Treating children is Snyder's greatest passion. Seeing the smiles on their faces when they gain mobility and reach their goals is indescribably rewarding, she says. She also has gotten a lot of excellent feedback from parents.

"It has been overwhelmingly positive," she says. "Many of the parents have known me over the years, so I already had long-standing relationships with them."

Family has also been a tremendous support for Snyder. "My family has been behind me 110 percent," she says. "I would not have done it without the support of my two children and husband. They gave me the strength and encouragement to realize my dream."

Goals

Due to referrals from therapists and physicians, as well as having insurance contracts in place, business for Snyder is picking up relatively quickly, even without any kind of direct marketing. Once she had Medicare and Medicaid in place, the business started to grow significantly, she says.

Snyder employs two people—a full-time office manager and a part-time orthotic technician. "We are small, but we are mighty," she laughs.

She would eventually like to grow the business by bringing the part-time technician on as a full-time employee and possibly expanding into pediatric prosthetics. "I want to continue to provide the highest quality of care to kids throughout mid-Missouri. Increasing the revenue would allow us to add additional staff and expand our services," she says.

Advice to Other Start-Ups

Snyder loves sharing information and helping other small-business owners. "I have been able to tap in and find resources I would never have any idea were there before I started this process," she says. "I would encourage other people who are thinking of going out on their own to leave no stone unturned and make sure they take advantage of the help that is available."

Rachel Kelley has been a medical writer for more than ten years. She has extensive experience reporting on a variety of disciplines including orthotics and prosthetics. She also has a clinical background in nursing and psychology.