a sonographer's guide to entrepreneurship

Talking tech

Episode 13: How do I know when I’m ready to start my mobile ultrasound business?

So often we have a goal or dream and we wonder if we’re actually ready. In this episode, I’m chatting about the fact that with big life decisions we never really feel completely ready (think marriage and kids!) We always have those butterflies and “what if’s” in our mind. But, having some initial foundations laid will help you start moving, because progress is progress no matter how small!


Jen (00:01):
Hey there, and welcome to the Talking Tech Podcast, a sonographer’s guide to entrepreneurship. I am your host, Jennifer Lindsey, and today I am asking how I know if I’m ready to start a business. We’ll also chat about creating those foundations for our business. And I have a free guide to help you get there. I’ll give you the website later on in the podcast. But the question is, are we ever really ready to start a business? I honestly think it’s like taking the plunge and getting married or deciding to start a family. Those big life decisions that we roll around in our head so much, are we ever ready to start a business, or do we just have to have that drive to do more, that drive to be more, to have more freedom and be able to do things on our own terms and run with it.

Okay, so I am sure most of you that are listening who are parents understand that nothing in the world compares to your kiddos. But bear with me for a second because I think this analogy holds so true. So I decided to wait to have kids until we were done, kind of building the main course of our business. Until I felt comfortable knowing that when I decided to have a child, I would be able to do it on my own terms. As a mom, I didn’t think I wanted to stay home. Business is such a big part of my life, and that part I didn’t want to lose, but I didn’t know what it was going to look like after I had kids. And so my goal was to build our business until I was at a point where I felt super comfortable making whatever decisions I wanted to in that capacity.

At the time, the business was my baby. And like I said, I just wanted to be able to have that freedom to kind of be a mom in whatever capacity that was going to look like. So in my early thirties. I was ready; I was ready to start thinking about having a family, and then, unfortunately, I found out that I had a lot of issues preventing me from being able to get pregnant. I won’t go into all those details because that has nothing to do with this podcast. But multiple years later and multiple surgeries later, I found out I was pregnant with my son, and I was so ecstatic. And to me, honestly, this correlates so much with the path I took to business ownership. I was scared and super nervous to take the plunge into business ownership, but when I finally did, there was roadblock after roadblock.

We didn’t have anybody we could ask questions to. Mobile ultrasound at the time was brand spanking new. It cost us probably $10,000 or $12,000 to have our contracts written up by our healthcare attorneys. And then, we had to hope that our ideas for marketing, implementing, and providing services were up to par. And some were, and some weren’t. More time passed. But man, when we finally got down to a real true proprietary system, our business blossomed and was kind of birthed into a major reality, if you will, into what it is today. So honestly, I think that correlates so much with what I was saying about parenthood. It’s you decide it’s something you want to do, you don’t realize sometimes there are going to be roadblocks and you have to figure out how to get through those roadblocks to get where you want to go.

One of the problems with starting a business is that you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s honestly why franchises work so well. They have an A to Z blueprint of exactly what to do, exactly what to say, exactly how marketing works, a specific, you know, business plan to walk through. And that’s honestly what I love about our ultrasound business academy. If I can chat about that here for a second because we literally take our students on that A to Z path from starting from scratch to a business owner ready to go. And we do it at a fraction of what we paid for our initial contracts. And we don’t own any part of their business or have any ongoing fees like a franchise does because that’s not what we do. We are business coaches. So I love that because it resonates with me so much being that new business owner.

Sixteen years ago, when we didn’t know what we were doing and we didn’t have a tried and true plan. We didn’t have someone to ask those questions to when I didn’t know what to do in the beginning; when I was trying to have a family start a family, I went to an expert and had someone help walk me through what my roadblocks were and what I needed to do to get past those. So to me, it’s so similar to what we do with our students. And I absolutely love that. Now, to go back to having my kid analogy, once you do have that kid, man, you are faced with many things you didn’t know you’d be faced with. No one can prepare you for what it’s actually like to have a child until you have one, right?

Some days are great, some days you feel like you’re treading water. Other days you wonder what you got yourself into. And business ownership is really so similar. This is something that you really can’t understand until you get into it. You can read all the books and think about all the things, but there are going to be things you just don’t know and don’t realize and haven’t thought of until you actually get in, jump in, and are a business owner yourself. There are going to be highs and lows, but man, at the end of the day, when I look into my son’s eyes, it is all worth it. And that is so true with business ownership. Obviously, it does not compare to my love for my child. But in the sense that we can look at our business and say, wow, I built this, put my head down, and got through those tough times.

Through those tough things, and I’ve got something that’s mine that I can mold and craft into something that gets better and better with age. It is so worth it. You know what I hear from students all the time to not have to take calls anymore to be able to make their own hours and work with the physicians they want to work with. These things are so worth it. Now I’ve taken you down this analogy road. Let’s chat briefly about what you need to think about before you start your business. So kind of to go back and, and pull everything together here, building that business, starting that business, and jumping in is like some of these major life decisions. We think we might be ready, but I don’t think we ever are going to be, you know, feel like this is a thousand percent.

Yes, I can do it without having those butterflies. That’s just the way it’s going to be. But if we put some foundations together ahead of time, we can start small and start building a foundation, those foundational principles of our business, to make us feel more confident in pursuing that next step. So first things first, when you’re looking at these foundations, you obviously want to know the general cost to start your business and the general revenue you can bring in. Now, I’ve gone over these as an overview in a few different podcasts if you need to reference back, and of course, we go over these very specifically with our students as well. But once you know that you need to know how you’re going to fund your business, every business is going to cost money to start up the end. There’s no way around that.

You’re not going to start it for 50 bucks, okay? You have to have an idea of how, how you’re going to have the money to fund the business. The average small business startup cost in the United States, you can Google this, it’s all over the place is about $30,000. That’s an average. Now, I have to add a side note here because I’m speaking in general terms right now; our students will pay a fraction of that because we include nearly all the things they’d have to pay for from other vendors, like contracts that I said mentioned earlier cost us around $10,000. These numbers will not be as high for our Ultrasound Business Academy students, but I want to do this for the general public who’s considering starting their own mobile ultrasound business. Anybody who wants more information on our students’ information, please message me so I can get you details on that. Because our whole point of having that business academy is so that our students save money, we want them to save money on the startup costs and have someone they can chat with as they go through everything. So let’s chat a bit about funding because I have people ask questions about that regularly. There are a few ways to go about that. A lot of people starting to look at creating their business will look at a couple of different types of loans, including HELOC loans.

So taking money out of your equity in your home and borrowing from their bank as a standard loan. Some of our students simply do a credit card because they can pay that way over time. And since it is such a drastically lower cost for them to do that, that makes sense. It’s definitely one of those things you’ll first want to take a look at because once you know you want to start the business, you need to know how you’ll fund that. Now, once you’ve got an idea of, you know, the general cost to start, the revenue you can generate, and how you’re going to fund the business, this is when the fun part begins. So let’s talk now about creating kind of those foundations that you need for your business.

So in most businesses, the next thing after you’ve decided, all right, I want to start the business; I know how much it costs and how much revenue I can potentially make. I know how I’m going to fund it. What is the specific service that I’m going to provide, and how is that going to work? Well, I have great news for you. You don’t have to do that as an ultrasound tech. The service is you; it’s you providing exceptional care for ultrasound imaging into physician’s offices. The hard part is already done. And spoiler alert for you, you’re great at it, right? I guarantee there’s not a person listening to this podcast that’s considered starting their own ultrasound business that doesn’t think I’m good at what I do. This is your area of expertise, okay? Now you’re going to take that and build upon it.

So let’s chat about these foundations. The next step in building those business foundations is to determine your business values. Now this is huge because this is what you can fall back on to remind yourself why you’re starting this business and the type of benefit that you can provide to others. Now, I mentioned I’m creating a free guide for you on how to put these foundations together. You can go grab this guide at aci-ultrasound.com/foundations, and I’m going to go through what this looks like, and then you can take that guide and really be able to pull all of these things out, sit down, start thinking about them, and craft this for your specific business. So we’re talking about first core business values. Here are some things that you’ll want to come up with. Here you’re breaking down what your business stands for and believes in.

This is absolutely essential because when things come up later, or doctors want to do things a certain way or want to treat patients a certain way, this is where you come back, or here’s another thing that I usually do when things start getting tough. I look back at my why, my mission, my mission statement, what makes our service unique, what benefits we are providing to our patients. And you know, when you’re up against something that’s stressful or crazy, and inevitably it’s going to happen, I mean, it happens every day in life, no matter whether we’re business owners or not, right? You can come back to this and remind yourself of the good you’re doing. So you want to have a mission statement. You want to list out what makes you and your service unique. Yes, it’s mobile ultrasound, but what makes you unique? What benefit are you bringing to the table that someone else might not be able to?

You’ll want to list out your strengths and your weaknesses. These are very important because as you look at, you start looking at your strengths, you can realize the things that you’re really good at and those are the things you’ll hone in on as far as your weaknesses. Perhaps one of your weaknesses is being a little nervous to go out and do some marketing for your business. That’s not your area of expertise. You may consider that a weakness. Well, these are the things I really need to focus on to make myself better or feel more comfortable doing these things. And until you write all of that down, you won’t understand it, and it won’t be at the forefront of your mind. You also want to have your core values laid out, your core values for what you are providing and what you are doing for your community.

And then I always think it’s fun to have a tagline. Our tagline for our mobile ultrasound business is “ultrasound redefined.” I love that because ultrasound’s been around forever and ever and ever. But we are redefining it by bringing it inside the office, creating a scenario where doctors can make revenue streams, patients can save money. We are really an extension of that physician’s practice. Now the next step in building your business foundation is to have an idea of your brand and aesthetic. To me, you guys, this is the most fun, this is the best part. This is looking at other medical or service websites, handouts, those types of things. You can obviously just Google all this stuff, start going down a rabbit hole on the web, and look at different people’s logos. Pay attention to that because you’ve likely not paid attention to this before, right? So look at how their logo is laid out, what they have in their logo. Do you like it with a lot of text? Do you like it very simple? What colors do you like? You want to have a brand aesthetic because everything around your brand you want to be cohesive. So the things that you want to pay attention to here are color palettes. You want to have some idea of the main keywords that you will want to incorporate into any handouts you have, perhaps into your logo, perhaps into your tagline.

Color palette’s going to be something that’s super important too. I would pick a main color and then a couple of accent colors to kind of pull everything together. And then typography is something that’s important as well. What types of fonts do you like? Do you like thin in all caps? Do you like thicker and all lowercase? Those types of things will be something you can correlate and kind of put into that brand anesthetic. And again, I’ve got a whole sheet on that in the free guide that I have for you to help put these foundations together. That’s honestly one of my favorite ones. And when we have new students that we do their logo and website and all of that with our graphics people, it is the most fun because the first time the business comes to life for them is when they see their ideas put on paper into a logo.

It’s so exciting. When they get their first business card, these are the fun things you guys do. And so this is something you’ll want to have together ahead of time, I think, because it gets you excited about those next steps, getting that business started. So once you have your core values set and an idea of what you want your brand and aesthetic to look like, you’ll want to start looking at an overview of some goals. Now, you know how often you’ll be able to work the business when you first start, so obviously, you’ll need at least one weekday available to work your business. I did a podcast on this; it’s probably been a month ago at this point, as I’m recording this right now. But I talked a little bit about how to start your business as a side hustle.

If you haven’t listened to that one, I would highly suggest doing that because you can’t work this business on the weekends. Doctor’s offices usually aren’t open the majority of them. So you have to at least have one weekday to work the business. And so, go listen to that podcast if you haven’t yet because I have quite a few ideas of how some of our students set that up in the beginning. If you have more than one weekday available, that’s great. Obviously, you’ll be able to work more and grow your business faster than if you only have one day to work. But once you determine this and know how often you’ll be able to work, this will help you create your goals. So once you determine this, use the industry average. We know that gross revenue back to your mobile ultrasound business for providing services in the physician’s office is about $500 for a half day.

So, you may go into a smaller practice where you know it makes sense to come for a half day as opposed to a full day. You don’t want to schedule a full day out at a doctor’s office when they only are seeing a half day’s worth of patients. That doesn’t make sense. So a half-day is about $500 gross revenue back to your practice. A full day is about a thousand dollars gross revenue back to you as the mobile provider. And so you can use that industry average to determine your goals. And we go through for our students kind of how to figure out exactly what to charge. But that’s going to be a good average amount for you to go by as you’re putting these goals together. The other thing I want you guys to know is that we see it takes our students about 90 days from when they first dig in and get all the backend work done.

So when they first partner with us to utilize our coaching, there’s backend work to do when you start a business. You can’t just get out there and market the next day. You have to incorporate the business; you’ve got to get your branding materials, logo, and website. They have had to go through all our training. So it takes about 90 days from when they first start digging into when they can get out, market their service, and close that first account as an average of about 90 days. Some do it quicker, and some take longer, but that’s a great average. Now those of you doing this on your own, I would say it’s likely going to be about six months or more from when you start because you are going to be creating all this on your own and not have a set plan to follow.

So just understand that part. So those numbers are a good average that you’re going to be able to make as far as revenue, and that timeline is a good timeline for you to be able to start setting those monthly goals for the next 12 months. And then, I would set yearly goals for growth over the next couple of years. So having that strong foundation is going to be crucial. And I want you to go over and grab that free checklist and guide over there at aic-ultrasound.com/foundations. Pull that down, and start working on this stuff. I’m so excited for you guys to dig into that because having that strong foundation for your business and knowing what to do next is crucial. And just like I said the other, just like the other big decisions in life, this is likely one you’re going to have to jump into before you feel ready. But if you’ve got all this foundational work done, it’s going to make that plunge so much easier—all right guys, until next week.

your strategy-obsessed ultrasound business coach.

I'm Jennifer -

Welcome to the Talking Tech podcast, where we answer your questions about legal, marketing, admin, sales, and so much more. After nearly 20 years in the industry running our own mobile ultrasound business and helping techs across the country do the same, I'm so excited to bring you industry insight, mindset, productivity, business tips, and inspiration to help you design the business of your dreams.

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