Physical therapy (PT) clinic owners are masters at creating stability and freedom for clients, but not for themselves. Sure, there’s financial stability – but when it comes to personal freedom, not much. In the pilot episode of the Physical Therapy Owners Club podcast. Nathan Shields shares advice for PT clinic owners on how to achieve true business stability and freedom.
Nathan owns a PT clinic in Chandler, Arizona, and decided to open a satellite clinic after his patient list grew from 3 to 7 to 11 per week. He enjoys the social aspects of physical therapy itself, along with its immediate improvements for patients. But there was something missing: a business network tailored specifically for PT clinic owners. More often than not, PT owners saw each other as competitors. Now with the Physical Therapy Owners Club, Nathan hopes to galvanize his fellow PT owners into joining a discussion for stability and freedom. So sit back, relax. The Club is now open!
Listen to the podcast here:
The Club Is Open: Introduction To The Physical Therapy Owners Club
Welcome to the Physical Therapy Owners’ Club podcast. I am Nathan Shields. This is the introductory episode where I want to talk to you a little bit about why I’m doing this, how I got to where I am, and the purpose behind the podcast itself and what brought me to do it. What I’m really trying to talk to and create is a podcast that helps individual PT clinic owners grow as well as build a network. Become more successful, figure out how to do things better, and be a resource that you can use to improve your clinic and especially improve your professional and personal lives in the meantime. It all comes from the belief that I have that physical therapy clinic owners are masters at creating stability and freedom for their patients, yet they rarely experience that themselves. The first steps to creating that stability and freedom in their lives starts with simply reaching out.
My personal story starts as a child growing up in a middle-class neighborhood, a loving family. We had some financial instability and my father didn’t have a lot of freedom to do the things that he wanted to do personally and with our family. As a young child, I recognized I wanted more stability in my life. I also wanted the freedom to do the things that I wanted to do. As I looked around me, the other men around me in my life, my uncles in particular, were men that were in the healthcare field. They were doctors, dentists, and surgeons. I look to them and thought, “I’m going to go into the healthcare space.”
As I made that my general plan, I got into college and came across a couple of physical therapy clinic owners and thought, “Here are some guys who had some stability in their life. They had some freedom. They were known in the community for what they did.” I took advantage of the opportunity of volunteering at their clinics and thought, “This is the profession for me.” I love the social aspect of the physical therapy treatments that were provided. I loved seeing the immediate improvements that they were able to create in patients, positive feedback that was given, and the entire atmosphere around the physical therapy clinic. I thought, “This is a great meld. I can do something that I enjoy and also obtain the stability and freedom that these PT clinic owners had.”
Fast forward, I went through physical therapy school and treated for a few years. After doing so, I decided, with the encouragement of my amazing wife, Whitney, to pursue my dream and open up my first physical therapy clinic in Chandler, Arizona. I started off relatively modestly. I saw three, seven, eleven, fifteen patients a week and gradually grew and grew and enjoyed a measure of success to the point where I eventually opened up another clinic, a satellite clinic in another location. I recognized that as I was growing in numbers of clinics and numbers of visits in my practice, I was creating more and more stability and freedom for the patients that we were affecting, yet in my personal life and in my professional life, I was creating less and less the ability and freedom for myself and my business.
What I mean by that is I had some financial stability, things were going well, yet from a business standpoint, I wasn’t stable. I was the lone source for all the answers and I didn’t have the business acumen needed to run a business of that size. Personally, I wasn’t enjoying much freedom. I would go days without seeing my children or do the things that I wanted to do. The business was solely dependent upon me so I had to put in a lot of hours to make it work. That’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs. However, that’s not why I got into physical therapy clinic ownership. I assumed everything would be great simply by opening up the clinic and business would grow and improve from there.
I decided I had to reach out and get some support and find some resources that could help me become a better business owner and ultimately lead to that freedom that I was looking for as well. I reached out to my CPA and figured out, “What was my cashflow? What were my gross revenues and my net profit margins? How do I read a P&L? With the help of my business partner, Will Humphreys, he introduced me to Entrepreneurs’ Organization which put me in contact with other small business owners where we shared and solved each other’s business problems and recognizing that I wasn’t alone. I also started reading business books to gain greater business acumen, Good to Great by Jim Collins or The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber.
Between the professionals, the network and the books that I was reading, I started obtaining some business knowledge especially by implementing those practices, gaining some more business stability. Yet I still wasn’t quite there when it came to the amount of freedom that I was looking for a in my life. I was still putting in a lot of hours per week. That wasn’t why I got into clinic ownership in the first place. I recognized, in order to grow, in order to lead and actually run the business, I had to get out of the way. I recognize that if I was going to affect more people and provide some more stability and have some freedom to make the clinic grow and improve, I had to stop treating and work on the business and not in the business.
That was a hard decision because that’s not what I got into physical therapy for in the first place. Yet I recognized that’s what the business needed and that I could affect more people by doing so. By stepping out of the clinic and stepping out of treating full time, I continued to recognize more stability in the business itself and started to gain some semblance of personal freedom to enjoy with my family. In the meantime, I also developed a network of PT clinic owners through the organizations that I was part of. These were people who had experienced some of the same issues that I was dealing with and they had already overcome those issues. I was able to gain off of their knowledge and expertise and find solutions to the issues and problems that I was having at the time. I recognized as I reached out, as I stepped out, and as I networked, I then started to experience the stability and freedom that I was looking for in the first place.
It took me some time but over the course of a number of years, I went from being the single practitioner in his own clinic to now co-owning four clinics with my partner Will Humphreys, with multiple practitioners, and affecting more people than I ever could have imagined by just treating patients one on one. Now, thanks to the support of Will, my business partner, and my family and I have moved to Alaska to go off on an adventure and start another new business and decided to actually start this podcast. It’s been in the dream stages of mine for a number of months, but I’ve finally been able to put it together. I’m excited to bring it to the world, especially those physical therapy clinic owners who are looking for support, who are hoping to get a little bit of guidance and advice from people who have been through a lot of the issues that they’re experiencing themselves. What I recognized as I look back on it and as I look at the current landscape, there seems to be a lack of business-specific networks for physical therapy owners where they come together and focus on the issues unique to physical therapy, not necessarily in physical therapy treatment, that can be handled by other podcasts and other networks, but specific to physical therapy business ownership.
As owners, we frequently see ourselves as competitors and not necessarily associates who have a lot to learn from each other. We haven’t galvanized to create a network where we can affect positive change. The whole purpose behind the podcast is to expand my network, create this club, the Physical Therapy Owners’ Club, where we can learn from other successful physical therapy business owners, even business leaders and other entrepreneurs, and ultimately work to elevate ourselves and our profession. In order to do that, I’m going to interview at least one successful physical therapy business owner per week and ask them to share their insights and experience to help others learn and grow, to help you learn, grow, and succeed in your business venture.
My call to action for you at this time is wherever you are on your path to or on or in physical therapy clinic ownership, I want you to look for ways in which you can reach out, step out, and network in order to gain stability and freedom for your business and for yourself. As we do that together, we can affect our clinics, ourselves, and our profession for good. Together we can succeed in doing more.
This is the beginning of the PT Owners’ Club. I look forward to meeting with you every week, sharing the experiences of others and helping you learn, grow and succeed as physical therapy owners. Subscribe to the podcast and I’ll meet with you here every week. I invite you to join and hope to see you soon.
This is the beginning of the PT Owner’s Club podcast. I invite you to join so together we can succeed, grow and change independent physical therapy ownership for good.
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- Will Humphreys
- Good to Great
- The E-Myth Revisited
- Physical Therapy Owners’ Club