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Keeping the Business Running

May 13th, 2011 Finances

I have a very short break between terms. I am trying to use this break to update all the to do items that have been piling up for my business.  It’s true, I’ve been neglecting my business.  Part of me is sad to watch the website and books stagnate – I have put so much work into them and I have so much information I would LOVE to add now. But I need to be realistic about my life, my family and my health.  I cannot do it all.

So for the last 24 hours I have been trying to catch up on finances.  I would have been done already, except I decided to switch financial software earlier this year since mine had become obsolete. So what would have taken me just a few hours seems as if it will take just a few days.  I feel like I am starting from scratch, creating new product lists and accounts.  I have to relearn how to enter sales and advertising because this new program treats things a little differently.  I think I have the hang of it, but what a pain to go through.

It just got me thinking, I don’t know many birth professionals with a head for business.  It’s true.  The nurturing, care giving talents of most birth professionals do not usually come with accountant understanding of keeping books. Maybe it is not a big deal, but I cannot help but think it puts us in a dangerous situation.

You see, even a birth business needs to have adequate income to cover the bills.  If a business is not run in a way that at least pays for itself, it will be forced to close – there is only so long a family can support such a consuming hobby. In addition to all the skills needed to serve women in pregnancy, labor and postpartum, birth professionals need to understand how to keep a business running.

It gets even trickier when you move from a small business to a birth center. We desperately need more birth centers. But a birth center needs adequate funding, which means it must begin with a business plan and investors for the million or more dollars needed for start up funds. A birth center is an ambulatory care facility, and as such must meet the local and state health codes for ambulatory care centers. This will mean an expensive conversion of a building or an expensive new building project.  Then you need to staff the facility – unless you will be the sole employee.  You might want a fellow midwife, maybe a nurse/receptionist to take calls and do your filing. Who does the billing and negotiates with insurance? Will you be renting out space to your local LLL and childbirth educators?

Maybe a birth center seems a bit too much to tackle right now? Maybe you will be satisfied with home births a little longer? You will still need to deal with many business issues and make decisions about how your business is run.  You still need to keep up with billing.  You still need to understand how to compare costs of time and supplies to the income you make.

Perhaps we need a few more midwives with MBAs to help ensure our midwifery practices can stay in business.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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