When Lara May first came to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC), she had recently left her corporate therapy job to start May Behavioral Services and was running the business out of her home.
May, a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), specializes in therapy resources for children on the autism spectrum. Using applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, she guides her patients to develop social, emotional, academic and community skills.
“Autism is looked at as a very scary thing, but when it is approached with these evidence-based interventions, it is amazing to watch how the clients progress to live more independently. And I love providing that,” said May.
A phone call from a stressed-out May to the UGA SBDC in Rome resulted in weekly meetings with SBDC business consultants Dan Hudgins and Matt Pearce being added to her calendar. She kept a close eye on her numbers and realized there was a cashflow issue. After hiring two employees to keep up with growing demand, her books would show a dip in cash while she was waiting for payments from insurance companies to arrive.
“I used to call them my fairy godfathers,” said May. “We had those meetings every week for the first several months. The first thing we did was triage, and we assessed the situation. We talked about all the things that were right and all the things that were wrong and I learned how to fix them.”
Hudgins and Pearce guided May on how to become an in-network provider with insurance companies, and she quickly tackled the challenge. Once insurance payments were flowing in and her cashflow issues were resolved, May and her UGA SBDC consultants turned their focus to finding a space outside of May’s home to accommodate the growing business.
In a few weeks, May had identified a 2,000-square-foot property in an ideal location. In the meantime, a second property owner approached her with a 4,500-square-foot option.
“The UGA SBDC guided me through a lot of the questions I needed to ask when deciding on a space,” said May. “I didn’t know I needed a fire safety check for the building, the codes [to meet], the licenses I had to get. In my spare time, I started checking things off my list.”
May ultimately selected the larger space. The UGA SBDC consultants helped her look through every detail of the lease and continued to assist her with all aspects of the business.
“When I signed on with UGA SBDC, I felt like that’s when my master’s degree in business began,” said May. “They helped me understand accounts receivables, helped me run reports on my money, helped me set up routines to look at my numbers each morning, which is something I still do today. As I hired more people, they walked me through the onboarding process. The concept of having a manual—an employee handbook. A time clock.”
Since opening in 2021, May Behavioral Services has grown from a staff of three to 13. The business also added another 1,500 square feet to its location for more office space and now can serve up to 12 patients at a time.
Going forward, May wants to focus on refining business processes to stay on track as the firm grows.
“I’ve got this idea in my head of growing, and then maintaining, and then growing,” said May. “The strongest trees are the slowest growing ones, and I don’t want to grow too fast.”
Several of May’s staffers are working to become certified therapists and she looks forward to hiring additional support staff to serve more clients as they become certified.
May finds comfort knowing that the UGA SBDC is there as a resource when she needs them.
“I’ve had to wear a lot of hats, like a lot of new business owners do,” said May. “I’ve gone from wearing the analyst hat and doing clinical things to also doing the management and finance side of things. If I ever run into anything I don’t know, I love knowing the UGA SBDC is there.”
“When I feel drained in the business side of things, I go back to doing what I love, which is working with the kids directly,” said May. “It reenergizes me.”
For More Information: University of Georgia SBDC | (706) 542-2762