If there’s one thing every small business owner knows it’s that obtaining financing is a crucial element for starting or maintaining your business. You must make some tough decisions and sacrifices to achieve your goals. But where do you start? How will you know if one option will work or not? CUE had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Johnson to get a better understanding of the steps he took to finance and subsequently achieve financial stability for his private medical practice, and the lessons he can pass on to future business owners.

Dr. Johnny Johnson Jr. M.D. and Western OBGYN & Associates have provided exceptional, personalized women’s healthcare in Denver, Colorado for over 30 years of combined experience in clinical practice, teaching, mentoring and practice management in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Johnson was born in Glen Rogers, West Virginia to a coal mining family. He attended Marshall University and received his medical degrees from University of Cincinnati, Meharry Medical School, St. Louis University and the University of Denver.

Since 1981, Dr. Johnny Johnson Jr. has become a revered figure in the medical community. He is a former President of the Denver Medical Society and founder of the Mile High Medical Society, board member of Colorado and National Medical Society, a clinical speaker who discusses women’s health across the United States, as well as a clinical professor of OBGYN at the University of Colorado Health Science Center.

CUE: How were things when you first started out?

Dr. Johnson: “I originally started my practice at 3405 Downing St, which was an underdeveloped neighborhood at the time. It was nerve-racking starting a practice and not knowing anybody. I could’ve practiced medicine in St. Louis, or anywhere else, but I saw that there was a need for more African American doctors in Denver, so that was a real challenge for me.

My practice was not that busy at first — I didn’t have a lot of money or resources at that time; I had $5000 in my bank account. I worked part-time at Denver Health in the Park Hill clinic until my income was built up. $11K was my first salary for the whole year that was everything I collected after I had paid all my other expenses, for example, payroll and taxes.”

CUE: What steps did you take to create a financial plan for your business?

Dr. Johnson: “I sat down with a financial planner and told him my goals. Once I had a financial plan, I found an advisor at a physician-friendly bank that gave loans to doctors starting out. The bank told me to take out an SBA loan $100K line of credit; working for a health clinic gave me money to help, but the costs of sustaining a private practice went up. As time went on, I was making $11k building up to $50K and $100k. What really helped me was buying my own medical building instead of renting/leasing a space from the hospital.

I borrowed loans, worked part-time & found opportunities at the hospital to make extra money. I wanted to make sure my family was secure with education, retirement and the like. I always had a financial planner to assist with insurance, disability, malpractice, life insurance. If you can’t work, you don’t get money; I made smart investments with a planner like stocks, diversify a financial portfolio, and always thought about saving for tomorrow. After 10 years in practice, I was finally able to put a million dollars into the books on my practice. I had to be patient and stay on the plan. In order to grow my business, I got more exposure through word of mouth, speaking at events, face to face meetings with other doctors in the community.

Things have changed since then. Now insurance companies give you what you make. With the Affordable Care Act, I get paid 52% on a dollar now instead of 80%. I had to accept these major paradigm shifts in medicine, but I also started lecturing, teaching, and became president of Mile High Medical Society.”

CUE: If you would do it again, what would you do differently? Do you have any regrets?

Dr. Johnson: “I still would have gone into solo medical practice. I always feel I could teach more, mentor more, and do more geographical practice on the side. In retrospect, I wish I’d been more investment-savvy, more willing to take financial risks and maybe make more aggressive investments. Perhaps I could’ve been a better listener to patients, in order to be more inclusive.

The lessons I’d offer to anyone who’s managing their business is: when there’s a financial opportunity — take it! Don’t get ahead of yourself and start spending beyond means — live like a resident, and by that, I mean live like you don’t have money. In the end, the money will always come if you do a good job. Those who are more successful must work harder, find more innovative ways to stay financially secure.

A lot has changed since 1981, especially in medicine. Regardless of which market or industry, business owners will have to find their own ways of financing their business.”

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