From Model to Medical Practice
Solid financial planning turns unique vision into thriving middle Georgia practice.
After several years of working in other practices, Dr. Jeff Langford, a specialist in allergy and immunology, wanted to drive quality control himself. He also knew much of Middle Georgia’s population lacked easy access to his specialty. So he developed a new practices model that would send himself and a traveling team of nurses and mid-level providers to patients in several towns a week.
“Access to allergy care is not what it could or should be in lots of small towns,” says Dr. Langford. “I wanted to take world-class allergy care ‘to the woods’ where I grew up. That’s our new practice model.”
Eager to start his practice quickly, he knew he would need money and contacts. He approached a bank for financing, and they sent him to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center in Macon.
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Area Director Josh Walton assisted Dr. Langford with a financial plan and projections that helped him obtain an initial start-up loan of $125,000.
“Josh was amazing. He gave me confidence,” says Dr. Langford. “When we started putting numbers to my crazy scheme, it started making sense as a legitimate plan. I went from a ‘Let’s see how this goes’ attitude to ‘Let’s do this’!”
He attended the SBDC’s GrowSmart® program and then began working with consultant Lisa Rackley, an expert in human resources, to find the right staff.
“Finding the right person to run his practice was very important,” says Rackley. “He needed a strong manager and, of course, nurses in different levels at each location. Some would be traveling with him from location to location.”
In February 2014, Langford Allergy opened in Warner Robins with Dr. Langford and a team of six staff members, most of whom traveled to Forsyth weekly. By that December, his sales had grown to a robust six figures, his staff had grown to ten, and he was looking for other markets to serve. By February 2016, he had opened in Macon.
In November 2016, he was approached by a physician in Milledgeville who was ready to sell his building and even turn over his phone number to a doctor who would serve his patients.
“Lisa helped me take my vision, by then a proven model, and explain it so we could get the capital to acquire the new market,” says Dr. Langford. “She and Josh helped me put together another pro forma to extrapolate that model.” Just a couple of weeks later, he received a loan of $353,000. His newest office opened in December 2016.
The Milledgeville practice has exceeded expectations, he reports. Opened just two days a week at first, it has since doubled capacity to four days a week with a full-time staff, some of whom travel to Gray on Fridays to provide care. At the suggestion of the SBDC, Dr. Langford also hired an outside medical biller to keep his payments in order.
“Josh was concerned early on with how I’d ride around to three offices and rotate with one team of staff in tow. He helped me make the decision to outsource our billing, which can be an administration nightmare for a small practice. He helped that fit my model,” he says.
Langford Allergy now provides care equivalent to 14 clinic days a week at 5 locations in Middle Georgia. In less than 3 years, employment has grown to 20 full-time and 3 part-time employees, and revenues have nearly tripled. “Our growth is a testament to my team,” he says.
“Dr. Langford knows his practice and his numbers inside out,” says Rackley. “He saw a good opportunity and capitalized on it very quickly. He is very good at what he does, and he knows how to make things happen.”
Dr. Langford admits that the UGA SBDC has taught him to “know his numbers.”
“I’m a crazy scheme visionary who can be very guilty of making seat-of-the-pants decisions,” he said. “The SBDC reminded me that banks love passion, but passion is hard to put a number to. It helped me think in terms of value, worth, revenue cycle – those things I’m not trained in.”
“I do doctoring and let the pros do their work. The pros at the UGA SBDC kept me out of trouble early on. They have been a great resource.”