Congratulations on wanting to take the first steps to develop your own ABA agency! This can be a rewarding yet overwhelming endeavor if you do not know where to begin. In this blog I look to offer you some tips on how to develop your agency.
1. COME UP WITH YOUR ABA AGENCY NAME.
Before you get started with your ABA agency, you will want to research and come up with your name. It is possible that someone else might have already picked the name you wanted. The best way to check is through your state's business registry website. You can then find out if someone currently has your business name and adjust it accordingly. Remember to think about what might drive an audience or client to your ABA agency and do not select a name that is either too ambiguous or specific. You also want to think of something that might catchy and easy for someone to remember.
2. DEVELOP A BUSINESS PLAN.
In order for any business to be successful there must be a clear roadmap of where the organization is going. You will want to figure out what is your organization's mission, what services are being offered, what services are being offered, who your competitors will be in the area, etc. The U.S. Small Business Administration has some great resources on business plan development and often have local offices where you can meet with professionals for coaching for developing your business.
3. SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY and accountant.
To begin your agency you will need to complete paperwork to register your business in your state and with the federal government. You can do this on your own, but it is advisable to have an attorney and/or an accountant involved to assist you with this process to ensure that you have done everything correctly. Also, determine all of your insurances that will be needed (e.g., general liability, worker's compensation, professional liability, etc.)
4. GET AN NPI NUMBER.
If you are going to be billing insurance companies for Applied Behavior Analysis services you will want to obtain a group and/or individual NPI number. This will be required for billing. You can obtain an NPI number through the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System.
5. determine funding sources.
When beginning your ABA practice you will need to identify what are your funding sources (preferably as part of the business plan done prior to starting your business). You will want multiple income streams (e.g., private pay, insurance companies, school contracts, hospital contracts, etc.) in order to successfully run your practice, especially since funding may be delayed from insurance companies or state funders. Initially when you begin your practice, it is advised to have at least the first year of income saved in order to cover business expenses so you do not begin your business in the negative.
6. begin insurance credentialing.
If you are looking to go in-network with insurance companies you will want to begin this process early. From my experience, some insurance companies can take over a year to get approved for in-network status. You can tackle this process on your own, but I personally have outsourced this process to trusted professionals, such as Michele Robinson and her team at ABA Billing and Insurance Services. Outsourcing will allow you to focus on more important things as a new business owner, such as marketing and advertising to get clients.
7. develop all of your policies and procedures.
As part of the credentialing process with insurance companies or to be approved by state departments (e.g., education, human services, etc.) you will need to submit policies and procedures for your organization. I offer a great bundle of templates for new ABA business owners that you can customize to your own needs. Strong policies and procedures will guide your business practice and provide structure for your employees.
8. determine your location carefully.
When initially thinking about your ABA practice you will want to think of location. First, are you going to be offering only in-home services or are you wanting do a clinic or center? The answer to this question will determine how you might get started. For example, if you are going to only do in-home services you might be able to get away with starting with a virtual office program where you can get a business address and have access to an office at an hourly or daily rate, as needed. However, if you are looking to do a clinic or center then you will need a physical, brick and mortar space of your own, which will require additional capital to cover overhead expenses. Also, be mindful of the physical location of the space. Are you potentially putting yourself in an area that is already oversaturated with competing ABA companies? Is the location an up and coming area that might have great local businesses, doctor's office, hospitals, or other organizations you could establish relationships with? These are all important to keep in mind when determining how and where you are going to start out your ABA practice.
9. BEGIN MARKETING AND DEVELOP YOUR BRAND.
Once you have everything established, you will want to design your logo and website. I personally have had a great experience working with Christopher Estep and his team at TheChatterBox Guys for website development, search engine optimization, and other design needs. Additionally, you will want to come up with your marketing plan and strategies for branding. Begin marketing through places where you can get referrals, such as doctor's offices, hospitals, schools, daycares, etc. Offering free workshops initially to organizations and parent support groups for children with special needs is a great way to get your name out there.
10. obtain behavior health center of excellence accreditation.
I recommend ABA practices go through the accreditation process to become a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. This organization does a great job of auditing and reviewing the practices of ABA agencies to ensure quality of ABA services. When I ran my ABA agency I went through the audit and received accreditation for our organization. I found the process to be invaluable and gave great insight into what we were doing well and where we could improve as an agency. To learn more about the process and benefits of becoming a Behavioral Health Center of Excellence click here.
Overall, there is a great deal of work that goes into becoming an ABA practice owner. In the end, if done correctly, it can be rewarding and benefit many individuals who need quality ABA services. My tips and recommendations above is not an exhaustive list as there is a lot that goes into developing and running a successful ABA practice. These are merely tips to get you started thinking about what you will need for developing your own practice. I recommend also surrounding yourself with good professionals who have done this work. One way to do that is to join the Facebook group, ABA Business Builders that is a supportive community of ABA business owners.
*Please note that the businesses mentioned above are colleagues that I know and have personally used. I do not receive compensation from these businesses for referring them. The only compensation received is from purchases of my own products that I sell on my website mentioned above.