Sean Miller believes that we all have the ability to essentially win in life, if we just understand the abilities and processes to be able to win in life. He says that there are successful formulas and things that we can do to be able to win. Growing up as a kid, Sean liked to take things apart to understand how they work. As he got older, he got into sports which drew his natural inclination on understanding how the body works, which started his journey into physical therapy and helped him develop physical therapy processes to get people better faster.
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Flying by the Seat of Your Pants Won’t Work with Sean Miller
I’ve got Sean Miller of Kinect Physical Therapy in Arizona. Sean owns five clinics in the metropolitan Phoenix area. A couple of reasons why I wanted to bring Sean on to the podcast is number one, he’s been a great success. Sean typifies the model of the PT clinic owner that a lot of us want to become or might even already be there. Nonetheless, he’s an example of what it means to be a PT clinic owner and grow and become stable and have the freedom that he wants to do. Number two, I also thought it’d be interesting to have him on because one of Sean’s five clinics is close to one of my clinics, within a few miles of each other. I would say until about the last two or three years, we saw each other as competition. We didn’t have much of a relationship at all. After me and my partner, Will Humphreys, have gotten to know Sean, we developed a great respect for him to the point where I don’t feel like we have a lot of competition between each other because there is quite a bit of work out there honestly. After we’ve gotten over that hump and developed a relationship, I don’t see it that way. Do you feel the same, Sean?
I definitely feel exactly the same way. Just like you, I used to think every guy around me was my competition and now I look at it completely differently.
Sean and I were in the same workshop, The Campfire Effect with Chris Smith. After being with him and working with him a couple of days, I gained an even greater amount of respect for him. After hearing his story and getting to know him a little bit deeper, I thought this guy would be perfect to have on my podcast. I’m excited to have him as one of my first guests. Sean, why don’t you take a couple of minutes and share your background and share your story a little bit? Tell us where you come from, what got you into physical therapy, why you’re a clinic owner, that type of stuff.
Thanks, Nathan. I appreciate you having me on and I appreciate the accolades you’ve given me in the beginning. Sometimes the hardest thing as an owner is no one always appreciates everything you go through. To hear someone talk about me the way you did at the beginning, I was like, “That’s pretty cool. That guy’s pretty awesome. Wait, he’s talking about me.” I appreciate it. Thank you.
You deserve it.
I believe that we all have the ability to essentially win in life if we just understand the abilities and processes to be able to win in life. I believe that there are successful formulas and things that we can do to be able to do that. It’s something I’ve always known growing up as a kid but didn’t realize until more recently in my life. Just a background and you know this, Nathan, from my story that I taught at The Campfire Effect. When I was growing up as a kid, I was that kid that constantly was taking things apart to figure out how it worked. My mom would buy me a new bicycle and I wouldn’t go ride the new bike. I would actually take it apart and then put it back together again so I knew how it worked. I’ve just always been curious in that aspect of it, but what that ended up doing is as I got older, I was into being an athlete. I love sports and I realized that was the same thing. You can win in sports if you have the right systems and processes or if you understand how it works essentially.
Can I ask you what sports you did?
Football was my biggest thing. I was pretty good in football. I played in high school and played one year in college. After that, I realized I wasn’t as big as I should have been or could have been. As I got into sports, that drew my own natural inclination on just understanding the human body and my own understanding of how the human body work. I couldn’t take that apart. It’s a surgeon’s duty. As a kid in high school and stuff, it was always fascinating to me. I had a couple of buddies that got hurt playing sports and they needed me to take them to their physical therapy appointments. I started going with them to their physical therapy appointments and I thought, “This is really cool. These guys know how the body works and how to put it back together again essentially and get you back on the football field or a sports field, whatever it may be in life.” That’s what drew me to physical therapy initially. It was going that route.
I went to college in Brigham Young University for my undergrad. I went on to Texas Women’s University in Dallas. I’m a proud Lady Pioneer graduate. My patients still give me a hard time for that one, but I’m a proud Lady pioneer. It was a great school. They do a good job there. When I got out of it, after that then I got into PT and just started the same thing, like how does the body work? As I got into PT, it was the same mindset of, “There has to be a successful way to treat a patient, to get them back to where they want to be.” That same thing when I was a kid figuring how the bike work, it was the same thing for me. It just came natural for me to develop processes to get people better faster. That was my journey into physical therapy and how I ended up in the physical therapy aspect of stuff.
How long were you a physical therapist before you decided to jump into ownership or partnership, in your case?
When I got out of school I had a goal that I wanted to own my own clinic within five years. I felt like I needed to become a good therapist first and then give myself five years. I did it in three and a half, four years basically though. That’s when I started being my own clinic owner.
You initially went into a partnership, is that right?
Yeah, I was approached by another physical therapist. He had a clinic and he was like, “Why don’t you come join with me and when we can open up clinics and do our own thing?” I thought that sounded great. Going into business always sounds great, but it was so unknown and actually quite scary at first. I felt comfortable knowing I was joining somebody who had already been doing it.
Joining something that was a little established so you didn’t have to start from the ground floor, develop all the systems and processes, and getting it on a partnership level. It can be a good situation for some people. What happened from there?
He and I joined forces. The guy had a lot of confidence which I fed off of, which helped build my confidence. Joining together, we went from one office and ended up opening six offices within a two-year time span across the Phoenix area essentially.
What did you think about that? Was that a pretty hectic time or did you feel like you guys were prepared for that?
What I know now, I’d say definitely we weren’t prepared. I’ve always been a doer, like, “Let’s just go do it,” so that’s what we did. It was fun and exciting. We took off super-fast. It seemed like every time we’ve opened a business, another opportunity would come our direction. Things just kept happening for us and we’re like, “This is awesome,” and just kept opening type of thing. It was exciting times in the beginning for sure.
You said in the beginning. You took us down the path. I know your story but keep it going.
After a few years, probably about three years of doing it, what I soon realized is that I was working 60 plus hours a week. We were having a hard time making payroll sometimes. There were times our power got turned off and in some of our clinics our phones got turned off. It was only a couple of hours or half a day or something like that, but it was just pure chaos because we were just running open clinics and this will work out. When I started realizing, I was like, “We’re doing something wrong.” It started to get where it was more of a drag and I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I’m thinking, “Why do people own their own business? This is turning into misery.” I realized I’ve gotten away from who I was and that I was just doing. I wasn’t stopping and analyzing what are the things that make a real business work and how do I make it work? I felt like I need to figure out what that is. At that time, I decided I was going to break off from my current business partner and go out on my own and figure it out essentially.
What was the tipping point? Was there a certain event or a certain time where you made the realization that, “This isn’t right, this isn’t working. I need to change things?” What was your tipping point?
A few things. One was the fact that we would have a hard time making payroll. The other one was every year I’d get a bill from my accountant saying I owed the government money. I’m like, “How do I owe you money when I didn’t even have any money?”
That’s a little bit of a wakeup call. You need to be prepared for Uncle Sam.
I was like, “I can’t believe just how businesses run. We’ve got to change something here.” That’s how it started off.
At that point, did you approach your partner and say, “We need to do things different,” or did you just feel like, “We need to part ways?”
I approached first trying to do things different. I felt his hesitancy and not wanting to shift as much. I could be wrong. Maybe I’m reading that wrong now but I just felt like that was the time for me to make a move as well and go off on my own.
Maybe you don’t recall, but do you remember sitting and stewing about that for a couple of weeks before you approached him to take some of the clinics off his hands, or is that something you guys talked about a lot? What was that time frame?
I stewed about it for probably a good eight months to ten months before I finally got the guts up. It took me a while. I don’t like to disappoint people. It’s one of my weaknesses and strengths on the same breadth. I sometimes will hang on to things longer than I should. It was an uncomfortable conversation. I look back at it now, you learn through the struggles and trials. That was definitely a huge learning time for me for sure.
If you were to go back and do it again, it wouldn’t have taken eight to ten months, I assume.
No, it definitely wouldn’t have taken eight to ten months.
You would have acted on that really quick, I’m sure. Hindsight 20/20 is nice to have. You became an independent clinic owner, didn’t have a partner, didn’t need to filter anything through him and whatnot. What was one or two of your biggest challenges since that time?
Once I separated off, I ended up taking two of the original six offices that we had together. One of them I got because my brother was the clinic director at that clinic. That was almost a default. Right away, I was getting organized, getting a new name, but I realized that I needed help. Most PT clinic owners will tell you that the thing they think they need more than anything is, “I need more new patients.” I was then at the same boat, “I need more new patients.” I remember getting a flyer in the mail from a consulting company. At the time, they were called Measurable Solutions. They’ve changed to Fortis Business Solutions now, which you and I have worked with. I got the thing in the mail and their postcard was, “We’ll show you how to help you get new patients.” I thought, “That’s what I want.” That started me on my course and my trek of a consulting with people.
Your first step was to get some consulting coaching. I’m sure that essentially set you on your path to where you are now, would you say so?
For sure. It was huge. I definitely recommend if you’re trying to open a business in PT and you’ve never done it and you don’t have any business background, you need help. They offered that which was awesome. What I soon found out was it wasn’t patients that I needed, but I needed systems, I needed processes, I needed to know how to run a business. That’s basically what they actually taught me.
It’s just something that we didn’t get in PT School, right?
No one does.
We learn how to be good physical therapists, but that doesn’t mean we can run a business. Having that consultant, that coach, some system no matter what it is, to give us some guidance on how to establish the organization of the company. You used a consultant, you used a coach that honestly developed one of your networks, I’m assuming. Did you join any other networks at all besides the Measurable Solutions group?
I didn’t join any other group at that time. I do find I’m constantly reading. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m constantly reading business books and I’m always trying to learn from people who have been there before me. That’s been the huge part.
Any books in particular that were inspiring to you or really helpful in gaining some business acumen?
In the beginning, the few books that were really key to me was the first book I ever read called Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. That book was instrumental in helping me gain the confidence and just go with it. In that book they have you write down your biggest dreams, like how much money do you want? Be real specific in writing a number. I remember doing this back when I was in my 30s, like 30, 31 years old. I wrote down how much money I wanted to have by the time I was 45. I wanted to have the ability to retire if I wanted to, not that I want to retire, but I wanted the ability to by the time I was 45, just to have that freedom. Financial freedom and personal freedom are the two things I wanted. The craziest thing is I turned 45 this year and I’m right on the eve of all of that actually happening for me, which is just awesome. I’m a big believer of the book.
You better be if it makes your wildest dreams come true. It’s like a Disney movie.
It is. Anyone who hasn’t read it, go read that book and follow what it says. It’s pretty awesome. It works.
It’s got some timeless truths in it and that’s why it’s been around for so long. You also mentioned another one that was important to me as well. That was The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber. He lays out simply the importance of what you talked about in creating systems and creating processes. Of course, that’s not just the issue of a physical therapy clinic owner. That’s the issue with any small business.
I would agree. That book is massive in my opinion as well.
A small book with massive influence if you apply its principles, right?
Yeah. If you’re going to open a business, if all you do is you read E-Myth and follow that, you’re going to have some pretty good success in my opinion. You’re still going to have your trials and difficulties, but that book will help immensely.
Maybe you can speak to your own experience, but what was helpful in getting you out of treating full time and working on the business? I don’t think a lot of us get into PT clinic ownership thinking that we’re not going to treat full time anymore because we typically love what we do. For me and I’m assuming for you, a lot of your business hinges on you not treating full time. What was helpful in helping you make that step and stepping out?
You definitely need someone working on your business if you want it to grow. That was one thing that Measurable Solutions helped me see and understand. It was really hard to step away from doing that. I kept thinking if I step away from treating, the clinic’s going to crash because patients want to come see Sean.
It’s like you’ve got the big Superman suit underneath your business suit.
Now I have more business than I’ve ever done and I don’t treat a single hour at all. I’ve been treated for almost three years now. You got to get it out of your head that you’re the reason why the clinic is successful. It’s really not. It’s part of the reason why for sure but getting out of that mindset and shifting to a completely “I’m going to work on the business” mindset was probably the hardest part for me to get out. One concept I’ve learned, which I believe in is doing things on a gradient, which means when you start doing something, don’t just stop treating and go fully working on business. Start with just like five hours a week that you don’t treat and you just work on your business. As you start doing that, pretty soon you start seeing your business do better and better, and then pretty soon you find you need more time. I went from five hours to twenty hours. I did that for about a six-month period. Then I realized I got to get someone in here treating patients for me so I can work on the business more.
You recognize that it’s a little bit counter-intuitive that I can treat more people if I’m not treating. I can affect more people for good if I’m not the one doing all the treatment all the time. What you really need to be is the captain of the ship looking forward at the vista ahead and guiding the ship. People are coming to you asking all the questions and making you the source of all the answers, which can be an issue in and of itself, but you need to get out of treating in order to work on the business.
You bring up a good point there. One thing that drove me to get out more was I have a belief in how I treat patients and that I spend the time with them. Unfortunately, sometimes as therapists we get stuck working for companies where they want you to see as many people as possible and we can’t spend the time with our patients the way we’d like to. A big piece for me was I didn’t want my business to be that way. I want it to be known for we spend time with their patients, quality time and we get them better. What I soon realized is what you’re bringing up there, and that was I can only see so many patients in a week, but if I can expand and grow my business, then I can get ten, fifteen, twenty therapists treating the way I like to treat as far as high-quality care, I’m now helping way more people than I could by myself. That was definitely a big motivator to get out and to create this thing on a bigger picture than what I could do on my own.
It’s a matter of going from success to significance. You’d gained a measure of success and now you’re moving on to creating more significance in the world. You’re a perfect example of that.
It’s important that people have a purpose when they do this stuff too. If you’re just doing it to make money, you’re in trouble. You have to have a purpose. Our big purpose is to help as many people as we can and providing that level of care. That drives our decisions in what we do, and that’s been a huge part as well.
That shows up in your story. Your initial purpose was to grow as fast as you could with your partner and get six clinics in two years. Would you attest that maybe your purpose wasn’t on target?
100% agree. I was just out doing. I didn’t have a purpose, I didn’t have a plan. We were just opening clinics and putting people in them.
You were taking advantage of great opportunities, but I’m sure now you would attack that differently.
I totally would. Somebody was saying, it was in the conference you and I ran, they were saying, “Life is never short of opportunities,” and that’s so true. There are opportunities everywhere. It’s more important for you to establish yourself based upon what you believe and your purpose, and then the opportunities will be there.
You can align those opportunities with what works for you. Not every opportunity it needs to be addressed. If you do address them all, then you’re going to spread yourself too thin. It’s important to filter those out by determining, “What is my purpose? What’s truth for me that I’m going to stick to? What’s my filter going to be when these opportunities present themselves?” I’m going to ask you just a couple of housecleaning items that I’m sure a lot of other clinic owners want to know, and that is what EMR are you using at this time?
We use Clinicient, a software based out of Portland. They’re one of the bigger ones. The main reason I use them is two things, flexibility and creating our own documentation-type platforms or templates. More importantly, one thing I learned more than anything is the importance as an owner to track statistics and data. Clinicient is by far the best one that has given me almost too much information sometimes. They have a lot of good information in there to run your business off of.
You use their billing. You don’t do your billing in-house?
I outsourced to them about a year and a half, two years ago because without money coming in consistently can ruin you. The nice thing about when I outsource to them, I felt like they’re are bigger company, they’ve got money behind them, they’re not going to let my billing fall apart. They’ve done a phenomenal job. They’ve done a really good job. We’re collecting about 98% to 99% of what we bill, which is pretty good.
We use Clinicient as well but we do our own in-house billing. Each one has their pros and cons. You just decide what’s best for you.
I agree. You guys have done a phenomenal job from what I know. That’s awesome.
Katie is the bomb. It’s all about Katie.
That goes back to a huge successful point in business. To me it’s two things. You have to establish the right systems and processes which is what E-Myth teaches you. The next thing is you have to have the right people, which Good to Great the book, Jim Collins talks about having the right people on the bus and in the right seats. If there’s any advice I give anybody, that is I tend to take too long to let people go and bring good people in. The thing I learned too was when I first started all this process, I would say, “My staff, they’re all eights, nines and tens on a zero to ten scale.” Then I started learning how to hire people. What I realized pretty soon as I was hiring people who were better than who I had and people that used to be an eight or a nine in my book all of a sudden looked like fives and sixes because I had people who were tens. Pretty soon, you begin realizing, “I need to get better people and the right people and so much better.”
They need to start top grading. I know exactly what you’re talking about. That’s where we’ve hit a home run with our bill. Katie, not only is she the right person, but she’s established those systems, procedures and policies to make sure that her department not only run smoothly but would run smoothly even if she wasn’t there. That’s a testament to how she set up and why we’re so successful with our own billing department. You talked about new patients. What were some of your successful actions in gaining new patients and growing your clientele?
Understanding marketing was definitely a big piece. All we did before was consulting stuff. I’d go visit doctors’ offices on a consistent basis and beg for business. We started doing YPRs which is called Your Patient result form. Basically it’s the patient handwriting a testimonial for you. We started gathering those. We were taught that by our consultant. We started sending that to all the doctors’ offices. Pretty soon we had doctors saying, “I’ve got your patient’s success stories. That’s awesome.” It was a way to show physicians that we get people better and we do a good job. That was successful.
It’s not your testimony, it’s the patient’s testimony that provides the evidence for them. It’s awesome.
Then we started doing a monthly newsletter to our patients. We send something out to them on a monthly basis. In the beginning, you just think this isn’t going to work. I send out a piece of paper to patients and they’re going to start sending you more business. Lo and behold, we started getting more and more. Back when we started, return patients was like our number fifteen top referral source as far as coming back to us and stuff. Now, our return patients and patient referrals is our number two referral source now as a company. It wasn’t that we weren’t doing a good job. What I realized was that if you think about Coca-Cola as a product, they are in your face all the time. Everywhere you go, there’s Coke stuff everywhere. The reason is that they’re communicating to you. They’re reaching out and they’re communicating to you. What I realized was if I stopped talking to my wife and I don’t talk to her anymore, there’s a good chance we’re probably going to be divorced within six months to a year.
I learned you need constant communication to maintain relationships. Even though it was just a piece of paper with my logo on it with some information about us, it was a constant communication which maintained our relationship. I’ll never forget this. I had a patient who just absolutely loved us and thought we were the best in the world. I saw her for her back or something like that. She got better, she left. Three years later, she came back for her neck and I noticed she had a new scar on her knee that she didn’t have before, which means she had a knee replacement. I was like, “When did you get your knee replaced?” She’s like, “Last year.” I’m like, “Why didn’t you come here for therapy?” “I didn’t know I could come back here. My doctor sent me someplace else.” I was just like, “No.” That was a huge eye-opener to me. This is before I was doing newsletters. As soon as I started sending the newsletters, people are like, “No, I got a therapist. Their name’s Kinect.” They forget your name after a while.
They might remember your name, but they don’t remember the clinic’s name. They don’t know that they have the power to say, “I’m going to go to this place no matter what my doctor says.”
Constant communication is what I learned. You have to be constantly communicating with who you’re trying to get as a patient, past patients, current patients and physicians. That was the biggest marketing piece. If you’re not communicating with them, they don’t know who you are.
Looking back, after you broke off from your partner or maybe even before you joined with your partner, what would you tell your younger self about clinic ownership? What advice would you give?
We talked about a lot of different stuff that I wish I would’ve known at the beginning. Definitely, if I would’ve known it with my first business partner, we could have been successful because he and I got along really well. I have two things I always tell people and that is establish systems and processes. What I mean by that is it’s down to the T of like how do you answer the phone, how do you collect the co-pay, all these different things you need to be written down and have a system in place that suits you and your purpose. Then know and learn how to hire the right people. If you do those two things, you’re going to be extremely successful. Another piece of advice would be to be patient. You don’t build Rome in a day. It takes time. There’s always a way around an obstacle or a challenge. The other thing too is don’t be afraid of challenges. Just be patient, figure out solutions, and work around them and you’re going to get where you want to be. The other things I’d probably say is you need help. Reach out. You need consultants. You got to know people who’ve been there before you and learn from them. Always be learning.
You don’t have to act on your own. We’d like to think that our challenges are unique to ourselves. Maybe we’re not thinking this specifically, but we have this feeling like no one’s felt like this before, no one’s gone through this. Every entrepreneur, whether it’s physical therapy or not, has been through a lot of the same issues and concerns. It’s just a matter of us reaching out and sharing those issues, taking the time to pay for a consultant coach to guide us through them. We’re not necessarily all that unique even though we like to think we are.
You bring up a good point. I will never forget this. When I was going with the consulting group, when they gave me that first bill of what it was going to cost for them to consult with me, I was like, “Are you kidding me? I can’t afford that. I look back at it now and I go, “You can’t afford not to do that.” I made my money back and doubled it within a year. It’s a huge investment piece. The other thing I was surprised about was how many groups there are out there that you can join and be part of to help you. I know you guys belong to EO and different groups like that. Even just back in the beginning, you and I are literally like two to three miles away from each other. We talk all the time now about stuff. You can learn from all of the PTs in our industry, whether they’re a mile away or twenty miles away. The more we as a profession could come together and share ideas, the better off our profession would be.
Honestly, one of my purposes behind the podcast is to develop that network. That’s on my plan for the future of world domination and physical therapy.
If we don’t come together, our profession, the insurance companies are going to continue to dominate and control us. If we can come together, we can change it.
Even though I feel like outpatient physical therapy, independent physical therapy ownership, is the backbone of the PT industry worldwide, I don’t think it’s seen that way by the profession itself and the associations. Hopefully, we can tip that on its ear a little bit and make a dent in the universe. Last question, what’s your end game? What does Sean Miller do next in his next life?
I’m still trying to build this into a bigger platform that helps people. An opportunity that’s actually sitting before me right now that I’m working on, I’m working on an opportunity to really make this a bigger deal. What I love about it is it’s going to maintain the core of high quality patient care. Another big piece for us that’s in our company is a great work environment for therapists as well. It’s not just a job to them but they can be part of something bigger. We’re working on that right now. Beyond that, I love helping people. I love helping other business owners. Anything like that, I’m definitely down for.
If someone wanted to reach out to you, if you’re open to it, can you share your contact information, whether it’s email or social media account?
If anybody wants to email me if they’ve got questions or they’d like to know more about us and stuff like that and they’d like reach out to me, my email is always the best way. That’s Sean@KinectPT.net. I’d be more than happy to reach back out anytime.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, Sean. It was great having you. I love talking to you and you’re always an inspiration. I love learning from you even from our simple conversations. I appreciate you taking the time especially to be a one of my first interviews for the podcast.
Honestly, it’s an honor to be part of it. I’m excited for you and what you’re trying to do with it. Anytime you want me on, I’m definitely willing to. I can’t wait to hear from other people as well.
Thanks. I appreciate it.
About Sean Miller
Growing up Sean always felt the desire to make an impact in others life. It was in high school when a friend got hurt playing sports that Sean was introduced to the power of physical therapy and the impact it has on people’s lives. From that experience Sean has set a course in his life to be a Physical Therapist and change lives. Receiving his Bachelors of Science from Brigham Young University in 1999, Sean then pursued his dream of getting his education in Physical Therapy. In 2001 Sean graduated from Texas Woman’s University in Dallas, Texas. Moving to Arizona in 2002 working for others Sean became very proficient as a Physical Therapist. He now specializes in treating vertigo, balance, and orthopedic cases involving the shoulders, cervical (neck), and knees. After years of treating patients full time Sean realized that he was just 1 Physical Therapist and only had the ability to treat so many patients at one time; It was this realization that sparked the dream of owning his own practice. “What if we had multiple therapist all with the same skill and passion? The impact would be even bigger than just 1 therapist”. From this Sean along with his brothers opened Kinect Physical Therapy in 2012. “Opening Kinect Physical Therapy has been one of my greatest challenges, but to see the larger impact we have on the communities and in our patients is why I do this.”
Sean when not making an impact on others life’s enjoys spending his time with his wife and their 4 children. He is often found on the sporting fields coaching his boys teams, at the lake wake surfing or headed to the beach to enjoy the waves and surfing. His favorite quote that he lives by is: “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence therefore is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle.