June 23, 2020

2nd Anniversary Special: Nathan Shields and Will Humphrey’s Ownership Journey

PTO 104 | Ownership Journey


It's been two years since the start of the Physical Therapy Owners Club! Hard to believe the podcast has been around over two years and 100 plus episodes. The PTO Club has generated some great content for and from PT's across the globe and is a dream come true. In this episode, Nathan Shields and Will Humphreys, Nathan's business partner, spend some time reflecting on the beginnings of their ownership journey and some of the faults, triumphs, and relationships along the way. Follow along in this special conversation, reminding you of how your journey may not be that lonely after all.


Listen to the podcast here:

2nd Anniversary Special: Nathan Shields and Will Humphrey’s Ownership Journey

I've got a frequent flyer guest. One of my good friends, Will Humphreys, is in the house. Will, thanks for coming on.

Thank you. I appreciate it. I love being in the house.

Thanks for joining me. I had you on before and we're still surviving through the pandemic. PT owners are starting to ramp up a little bit. Some places might still be closed. I don't know if they're getting the 50%, 60%, 70% range in productivity and whatnot. Last time we talked about what people can do while things are shut down or slowed significantly. We're going to talk about a number of different things. We're going to go back in history a little bit. First of, what have you been doing since we last spoke?

It's interesting because as I went to Europe for six months with my family. I came back to Empower Physical Therapy, our company that we love and cherish. Gratefully, they were at a point where things were going pretty well. I started having some ideas of how I could better serve the industry. They've been incredibly supportive over there helping me go out and do other things. What I've done in the last few months are a couple of things I'm excited about. One of them is like a dream. Something I've been wanting to do for many years and I'm actually doing it. One of them is that I started an insurance billing company. It's called In The Black.

You were getting things going at that point.

It's been crazy because I came back with a different proposition than what's out there for billing companies. There are a couple of good companies out there that I love that are PT-owned, but none of them address all of the different influences that impact our profits and finances. We're a full RCM business, which means that we don't just do billing and collecting. We also do insurance verification. We do provider credentialing. I also provide training to front office and back office as part of that. There's no additional fee to that. It's been fun because we look at all the items, including P&Ls and what shape of company. When I was a PT, I used to think that an outsourced PT comp billing company was the worst way to go.

We had some bad experiences. You know how they do it wrong.

The biggest thing is when I did end up having what you and I created, it was your hire that led to this in-house solution that was massive. It was unreal and ultimately, it was the biggest reason why when we came together and merged, our company did so well. I wanted to share that message because I believe profitability unlocks possibility. You and I didn't know how freedom felt until we were able to get the profits to help generate that. When I did that, that's when we looked at Alaska and that's when we looked at all these things. In The Black, the website is coming out. We stopped taking new customers for the next two months because we had such high demand when we've opened. We're satisfying our first twenty locations. They're loving it, which makes me happy. We try and keep close relationships, which is different. It's been going great. We will be taking new customers for any potential audience in a few months.

For those who are reading, your website should be around August 1, 2020. You'll be taking more customers at that point. I don't want to disparage outsource billing, but because of our experiences, you know what people should truly experience from their billing company, whether it is in-house or outsourced. I talk with my coaching clients all the time about the statistics they need to be looking for and the reports they should be receiving from their biller because many of them are like, “I don't even know how to judge if they're good.” That's where we were many times until our biller showed us proper reports and statistics, we didn't know if they were good either. As we got that experience, we started seeing how billing should be managed. Coming from that point of view, you can provide a service that lacks out there in the PT industry.

I appreciate that and I do want to acknowledge, there are a couple of companies that are doing it well. I'm a big fan of MEG. I love those guys. I think they're great. Bob's company, billing solutions. There's another company that's fantastic. We were all offering a little something different, but we're all PT-owned. That's the thing is that as PT-owned billing companies, we offer so much more of that relatable advice, experience, and knowledge. That’s been going great and the thing I’m super excited about as well is I have launched a YouTube channel. You know better than anyone how I need attention. I don't know if my parents didn't pay attention to me growing up, but something feels whole when I'm filming a video.

The cool thing is your YouTube channel isn't specific to PT owners but also PT students, which is cool because there's no one out there speaking to PT students. It is pretty interesting that you would take that tag. You share some awesome input and have some great content for PT owners as well. I love the stuff that you're doing right now in regard to C-players and how to find them and handle them. That's great.

It means a lot to me. You were such an inspiration to even do it with this show. It's one thing to have the time and desire to want to put yourself out there in that way, especially when you've been through hell and back 4 or 5 times. You want to share those experiences with your colleagues and ultimately like you, this show, my YouTube channel is a love letter to my industry. It's given me everything that I have. I'm still this incredibly passionate PT who thinks there's no better job in the world. Everything that you and I invested in with coaches and clients and all these things that we've done over the years. I'm getting that information on Tuesdays. At this point, it might shift but Tuesday is centered towards leaders and owners, Thursdays is for students and new grads. It's things like, how do you stand out in job interviews? How do you find a job in the COVID environment? The seven mistakes in most interviews for PT owners is all talking about all the stuff that we've been through and learn from. It's been a lot of fun. We've had a lot of initial success out of the gate. That's a perfect way to say that guys like you paved the way. When you launched your show, there was a handful of shows.

When I first started, there were maybe 2 or 3 that stood out. The reason I wanted to do the show was simply because there was no one speaking to the business aspect. I liked Paul Gough's stuff. He focuses a little bit more on marketing and he has some great insight. His first two episodes, I was like, “This is amazing.” I know there were a couple of them out there. The PT Insiders, but a lot of them were either about marketing or about patient care. I was like, “I want more help as a leader, as an owner.” You and I had developed this amazing network of PT owners and I'm like, “We’ve got so much information out of just picking their brains.” We'd go to these conferences and you might learn something from a presenter here and there, but it was the in-between sessions and the dinners where you sit down with successful PT owners like Coury and Buehler in California or John and Chad out in San Antonio or Blaine up in Montana. I was like, “Why can't there be a platform for those guys to share those successful actions?” I thought this show is a great way to do that and it's been so cool. We were on our 100th-plus episode as of this one.

I'm proud of the content that Physical Therapy Owners Club has generated over the past two years and hope it's a resource for many PT owners going forward. – Nathan Shields Click To Tweet

You're stealing the wind out of myself. I want to announce to the world that this is your second-year anniversary and you've broken 100 shows. It’s amazing. It's another thing to even stay with it for two years. I love that you mentioned some of those. It’s a big thing I want to acknowledge and I hope all the audiences at home or in their car are grateful for guys like you who are standing out, who are building upon the efforts of others to find additional ways to create value. No one is doing it the way that you're doing it and definitely with this kind of consistency, that builds trust. I love how you mentioned the heroes of our networks before and you mentioned some of them by name. When you said those names, I felt chills. I remember what it was as freshmen in high school and there were the seniors. It was like, “These guys are so cool.” Who else would you say are some of your PT heroes?

Who's not a fan of Vinod? He was one of my first episodes. Here's a guy who's got a killer business in New York City but lives full-time in Florida. Who doesn't want to live that dream? I knew Blaine was super successful in Montana, but then I went to Whitefish, Montana, I was like, “This is a cool place and this is where I would love to live.” Blaine was amazing. Those guys are great. I love hanging out with them, and then Bill out in Detroit with HQPT. He's unassuming and then he tells you he's got 15, 16, 18 clinics. He's just walking around in shorts and a tee-shirt.

I’m sure he has a six-pack. He's got zero body fat and if I ever get to the point where I can see my abs, you will not be talking to me with my shirt on.

I loved these guys and they're so willing to talk to you. We were nervous talking to these guys and we feel like the underlings, but they're totally open. They're like, “This is what we do and this is what we'll share and they do presentations,” and you're like, “You guys are killing it. I wish I could be like you.” I still feel that way. They still have so much to offer and that's why I think I'll continue with the show. There have been a number of times over the last few years where I turned to my wife. I'm like, “I need to pay for more production of my episodes.” I don't do all the editing and whatnot myself. “I have to pay some more upfront. Should I do it? I don't know. Maybe it's run its course.” Every so often, I'd get this jolt and I had an amazing interview with somebody that I think is full of awesome content and I'm like, “The PT world needs to hear more of this.” I guess I'll keep going.

I want to challenge everyone reading to comment if you're able to get on iTunes and give some love because what you've done for the industry has been massive. It’s great because we met these guys through a group called Measurable Solutions, which still exists and still has amazing powerful PTs, Mike Bills. The main thing that they presented besides wonderful information was each other and that's what you're doing. You're connecting our industry. As a guy or girl is reading, they're feeling like they're a part of something so much bigger than themselves, which is why we got into this whole career in the first place. Not a single PT I've met in all of the years of talking to PTs has ever had a boring story. Even when they think it's boring, there's this huge emotional draw. As a two-year anniversary highlight, I'd like to ask a few questions about things I don't even know. You mentioned that you did it because you felt like you wanted to create more value. Emotionally, what was some of the first experiences you had? What were some of the challenges? What were some of the initial wins that you had?

With the show or with PT ownership specifically?

The show, let's go into that. I'm sure your audiences would love to hear about some of those experiences in the company as well.

I remember my first episode and I was interviewing Sean Miller, our good friend and partner. I knew he had a great story and so I wanted to share his story. I remember walking through my house an hour beforehand and nervous telling my wife, “forty-five more minutes and I’ve got to do my interview.” I’ve got to sit down and just shoot the bull with Sean. He's still one of the most listened to episode. It was awesome and I came away with that energized more than anything else I'd done before. Physical therapy is very fulfilling. I rarely came away from a treatment session where I was like, “That was amazing. That was fun.” Even if I did that, there was some crappy patient right after that would spoil my day. I'm sure you experienced that. By the end of the day, you'd seen enough patients that you're drained mentally. After doing my interviews, that carries over to my coaching stuff. After doing my coaching client stuff, I can sit on the phone with owners for an hour and a half, two hours and be like, “That was cool.” My wife tells me all the time when I came out of the interviews or I come out of my coaching client calls, I'm like, “What's up? What's happening? The sky is blue and the birds are chirping. Did you guys notice?”

It's cool because number one, I'm curious. I want to know what's making people tick. Number two, I can come out of those interviews and be like, “There was some cool content out there that if the people out there listened and pulled away 1 or 2 things that could help their business.” Number three, helping people simply feel connected so that they're not alone. That's where I felt so much when I started my clinic. You probably as well since you're out in the boonies of Florence. You feel like you're on an island. You're on your own. Who else knows that I'm even out here besides my “competition” within a few miles of me. It wasn't until I started networking and getting consulting that I recognized I'm not alone. There's a whole bunch of people that have already been there, done that and they're willing to help. That's what I wanted to provide owners. There are people out there and you can reach out to them. Almost every episode, they share their contact information. You can reach out to them. It’s hardly anyone takes them up on it, but they can. They can pick these people's brains and they're open. It's so funny to have Dimi on and he'll share his personal cell number. It’s cool and I love sharing with people. It gets me energized.

It’s neat to see you in this space. I've known you for a long time now. It's been many years. I met you in 2003 at Fat Camp. You were my sponsor. Do you remember where we met?

If I'm not mistaken, I met you at church in the hallway or something like that.

I remember meeting Whitny before meeting you. I remember she came out to me and said, “You need to work for my husband.”

She came home and said, “I found the guy that needs to work for you. I found our next PT.”

PTO 104 | Ownership Journey
Ownership Journey: Having a coach improves you not only as a business owner and leader but also as an individual and a father.


We are here because of Whitny Shields. Shout-out to the amazing mother of seven, your wife. She moves to Alaska to start electrodiagnostic company. She's an unsung hero. Tell me, what was it like for you when you were thinking about those early years? Do you have any memories? This is where I'm trying to serve your audience is trying to get them to understand a little bit more about you and what I know, and maybe what I don't know about your background. Can you think of any experiences that you had that were pivotal to your growth? You've mentioned Measurable Solutions and that wonderful network of people, which we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight Beth and Lisa out at Magnolia, Louisiana. Some of the most powerful leaders of all time. Do you have any other moments like that that you think of as pivotal in terms of, “When that happened, things changed?”

Taking the first step was huge. I still have to attribute that to Whitny because I was working full-time for a physician PT clinic for about a year and a half. I remember after work one time, I was like, “I was looking at this area in that area to maybe open up a clinic someday.” I saw a for lease sign of a new construction built down in South Chandler. I gave Whitny the phone number and she was going to call him the next morning when I went to work. She's like, “The rates there are amazing. It's a brand-new build. We've got to open up a clinic.” I was like, “We do? Is this happening?” She was like “Yeah, put in your two-week notice. Let's go.” You know me and change, we don't jive. That's why I married my wife. She's like, “Change is great.” I’m like, “Change sucks.” Finally, we opened that up. The referring physicians down there were gracious and helpful, especially Dr. Paul Evan reached out to me out of the blue and that was great.

All that was pivotal, but you had to learn so much. Back then, I was doing the billing myself. I didn't even know how to do that. I was doing the credentialing myself. I was marketing by myself. I didn't have any support staff. Occasionally, I'd ask my mom to come in and help, be attack or something like that. That was all crazy but outside of the initial beginnings. That was in 2002, pivotal parts were like you and I opening up the Maricopa clinic. That was a huge change and we thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was.

If I look back on it and I'm going to ask the question to you, what I would have done differently. What I would tell myself as a young owner, knowing what I know now, is to get some coaching or consulting in day one. Hire the people to do the work and trust the experienced and professional people to do their jobs. It will get you so much further so much faster. If I could have seen that. I didn't even know that was an option on the table. I'm running by the seat of our pants and doing what we can and saving money here and there. I thought that's what you're supposed to do, instead of investing in the company to help it grow. That's what I would have done differently and it's when I started making those investments that things significantly changed. Unfortunately, it took me close to a decade or more before we did that.

I remember the day we signed up with Measurable Solutions. We went up there for a two-day course that I paid for because I was desperate for help. I paid for 1,000 courses. Last minute, I'm like, “Do you want to come to Seattle with me?” It’s good for two people. You and I hadn't merged our companies yet. There was some separation in our business model, even though we shared Maricopa. When we went up there, it was mind-blowing. We met Steve Rodriguez who is now family to us. I don't even know how many years it was. At the end of it, they're like, “Here's how you get to freedom and here's how much it costs.” Your jaw draws open. You say you don't handle change but you were the one who was like, “I think we need to do this.”

At that point, I distinctly remember we have to do something different. I don't know what it was. It could have been like a webinar packaged for $500 and this was significantly more than that. I would have done anything to make a difference. I wasn't experiencing a life that I wanted to continue living. I told people all the time that, “I loved treating patients, but I hated the business aspect of it. If I have to continue at this pace for another ten years, I'm going to be done. I'm going to be checked out. I don't know what else I'm going to do, but I'll find a different career.” I think that happens a lot with PTs. That's a topic for another discussion. What's funny is since I got the consulting and coaching and networked with entrepreneur’s organization, I don't get the joy out of treating patients as much anymore. I love treating more patients through other people and creating a bigger impact within the community or even within my small clinic to affect the community, to make it a better experience for not just the patients, but also the team members and grow and improve that way. Now I get so much more fulfillment out of being a leader and an owner and giving back.

I don't think that's everyone's journey. The reason that was true is because you were meant to do what you're doing now. The problem with a lot of us in our industry as owners is that we get into that mindset of like, "I did this to treat and that becomes an excuse to not learn what we don't understand about business. Both of our cases, I had a pivotal moment in my life. When it occurred to me, I was driving home in the dark at the end of a horrible day. My beeper's going off because my charts weigh as much as a human being in the seat next to me. I am so burned and it occurs to me in that moment of clarity that it doesn't matter how much I know about patients and patient care and making that process go well. It would never make up for what I didn't understand about business. That's why coaches are so valuable.

I think you are meant to suffer that way because now you're supporting this mastermind, which I got a chance to be with those guys. It's like seeing all those wonderful people in our old group at our earlier stage. These powerful men who were committed to doing something better. Once they get free of the demands of what they don't know in the business end, you can always opt and choose to go back and treat electively, but not because the business requires them. That’s the difference. In your case, you got free and it was like, “I want to share this message with the world.”

What would you tell yourself as a younger owner?

I can't reiterate enough what you said about finding a coach as quickly as seemingly possible. When I came back from Europe and I'm consulting. I'm still working with Empower, but they were like, “Go ahead and have some space to do some other things.” As soon as I heard there was space, I hired a coach as quickly as I could get my hands on. My beautiful patient wife, she saw how much I put down on that. She was like, “I get it.” That's what it is. Freedom comes at a cost and it comes at a price. We probably paid multiples of our PT degree to ultimately achieve financial freedom.

It was hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That was over years but it was a small investment into what ended up creating impact, income and freedom.

My wife is the same way. I might go a few months without a coach and find one that that's aligned for my purpose and what I'm doing now. I'll tell her, “It’s many thousands of dollars,” and she's like, “Okay,” whereas that wasn't the case a decade ago. What she's recognized in me, and I know your wife’s recognized that in you, is that you having a coach improves you as a business owner and leader, but also improves you as an individual and a father. When you're talking about creating freedom and living the life you want to live, a lot of that is not necessarily about you. It's about your relationships with your significant others, your partners, your children, your friends, and whatnot. When you can improve your business to the point where it gives you the freedom, the space, the energy to share with other people, that's when your life changes.

Profitability unlocks possibility. Click To Tweet

What do you think are some of the things that showed up in your personal life that are a result of you having owned a business? How are you different as a father and a husband because you had the courage to go out and start a company?

I have a better take on what it takes to lead and that leadership is not limited to the business and professional aspects. There's some leadership as a father that are necessary to lead a family and so that's important. What's helped me a lot, and maybe you can speak to this as well, is the ability to have those one-on-one conversations with my wife and children. Come at a place of objectivity out of curiosity, from a point of understanding and not from a place of judgment and learning more about myself as I go through these experiences. It makes me better as a leader. Some of those things that are related to that also include, what's my purpose? What's my individual purpose? I talked about purposes for your family here on the episode or purposes for your clinic here on the episode, but what's your individual purpose? What's your purpose for your family? What are some of the goals, just like you have goals for your company? Do you have some goals for your individual self as well?

Relating so much of that, we'd like to think that’s professional life and this is personal life, but how do you draw the line? People say, “Don't bring your personal life into the workplace.” How do you do that? Because it happens and there's no way you can flip the switch and go home and all the stresses that you felt at work, aren't going to somehow affect how you're treating your family at home. When my wife recognizes that I'm not up at 4:00 AM and coming home at 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM because I'm seeing patients and doing charts and running the business, but rather have more freedom in my schedule and more time for them. I can go on vacation without getting emergency calls every other day, wherever we're at. She's like, “Whatever coach or consultant you need, go ahead.” We'll spend a few thousand dollars to make your life a little less hairy and have our kids have a picture of you as a father.

This isn't just for physical therapists. I think PT owners probably experienced this in large amounts at least early on, but how often do we give the leftovers to the people at home after a long day at work? The hardest hitting thought is for how many years I would come home with a moderately successful clinic that was me dependent. I’m holding onto that from a place of insecurity because who am I when I'm not that? Coming home and faking it through, playing with my kids and stuff. The generations of owners now are hopefully not where I was in that regard but when you talked about that, that resonated with me is how there is no separation between these different environments. We are who we are. We are better or more successful in our environments because we're sacrificing something of ourselves at the other. My favorite analogy when you described is the idea that we're all juggling different balls in life.

There's a ball called work and a ball called church and a ball called home and family, and they're all made of different materials. The only one that's made out of glass is family. Work is as important as it is. It's a bigger ball that we're juggling but it's made out of rubber. It will drop and as painful as it's been to hear my journey but listening to you talk about those moments. What I sense is that overall, understanding of what matters most and when you learn from dropping the ball here, it's so that you don't have to drop the ball of the family, which is the most important one. Thanks for sharing. That's powerful to hear how that shaped you as a person. Do you have any memories of fun time? I don't want to paint this picture that ownership sucks. What were some of the best times professionally that you have. What are some of those moments?

A lot of it was surrounded around the patients. Sometimes you get a certain patient mix and you look forward to those afternoons because you’re all kicking it and chilling and once, I got a TV in the office. I was watching the Olympics or the Major League Baseball playoffs or something would come up on TV that would spark a conversation. Those days were awesome. Getting your first checks from insurance companies back in the day, I was like, “They paid me to do some work that I'm not even sure I know how to do well.” Worrying that they're going to figure you out someday and the auditor's going to come and say, “You're not a good therapist. Give us our money back.” Making something successful like that. We had some awesome fun company parties with people.

Acknowledgment to Stacy Sullivan. She was with me for a long time. It was sad to see her pass, but my memory still revolves around her coming in every day. She’s like, “Good morning sunshine.” My wife said that to me the other day in the morning and I was like, “That's what Stacy used to say.” It’s individual people and individual experiences that I remember more that gives me happy memories about it. It's something prideful to go back and say, “Here's something that started back in 2002 and it's been an amazing journey and changed a number of people's lives. Not only the people that I've treated, but people that I've worked with and team members that we've had through the years.” It's been a cool experience to look back on that. I can't say all that without saying, “Some of the business trips that we had were some of the coolest times ever.”

That's what comes to mind when I was thinking about this interview. We have times and some of the ones that you and I have are epic.

That was probably worth the price of admission for all the money that we spent on the consulting was to simply go to some of the conferences whether to Florida or Seattle. I feel like I know Seattle with the back of my hand.

I calculated it. We spent six weeks back-to-back there after two years.

It's Seattle all the time with the place. We go to Montana or New York City and all these cool places together. We kick it. It was so much fun. Those experiences in that time were what makes it a lot of fun to look back and say, “That was super cool.” To have the opportunity then to share those experiences with my family and now to take some of my kids to New York City or tell them, "Someday I'm going to take you to Whitefish and you're going to experience how amazing Whitefish is,” or “I’ll take my wife to Clearwater once in a while for a seminar and see the amazing white sand beaches.” That stuff was super cool.

It’s that investment is what forced us to open up to what it could look like if we weren't committed full-time to treating and running the aspects of our business that we weren't meant to. I remember multiple times, you and I would make the comment. Who'd have ever thought when we started this tiny little clinic in Florence, Arizona, that we'd be in New York on 9/11 at ground zero, or we would be in Florida on the white sand beaches, or we'd be in Seattle at the Farmer's Market or the Pike Place there? All the different things that we did. Ultimately, we were able to take some trips. We bring our spouses and, in those things, they weren't the reason why. They were these little perks that occurred to help counter some of those dark times. I feel like every difficult time at least that I experienced in that journey being with you came with comfort. It was a conversation I needed to have that I didn't know how to have.

It was usually a relationship that was out of alignment and I didn't know how to address it. I feel what you're saying around that. I want to quickly highlight for the audience that you are an amazing technician. Your skillset of physical therapy is one of the best that I've ever come across. I'm not complimenting that. Nathan and I were looking at setting up this business in Alaska and you were able to grasp the electrodiagnostic understanding, which is a totally different belt. It's not a different tool in the belt. It’s a totally different belt. You pass that exam, which is a whole other board-plus some. To prove a point, I passed a kidney stone, thanks to you. A real short story. My urologist has told me since it's the biggest kidney stone he's ever seen pass from the kidney through the ureter. It was an 8x8 kidney stone and I didn't know I had a kidney stone. I thought I hurt my back and Nathan and I would be in our business meetings and he'd be treating me. I know for a fact, that's what did it. You manipulate that kidney stone out of me.

PTO 104 | Ownership Journey
Ownership Journey: When you can improve your business to the point where it gives you the freedom, space, and energy to share with other people, that's when your life changes.


I milked that kidney stone through your ureter.

It was an intimate moment. Your skillset is phenomenal. When I hear you talk and you're like, “I don't know what I was doing,” I want to make sure people knew that you were a master at your craft.

I had this vision initially set up that I was going to open up my own clinic, but because of the work I had done in Casa Grande, you guys don't have to know the geography of Arizona, but I was working in Casa Grande. I started a clinic in Chandler. I always knew that I wanted to open up a clinic in Florence. That was at the back of my head always and I don't know why I was thinking, "I’ve got to go to Florence.” I opened up a clinic in Florence, bought the equipment, and found the space. I didn't have a single provider in hand. We met you and Whitny is like, “This guy’s got to work for us.” I'm like, “Who's going to want to work in Florence?” You remember the space that we worked in. I showed you the equipment that I had in my garage. I was like, “I'm taking this down to Florence on Tuesday. Do you want to come with me?” Somehow we set up a way to get down to Florence. I was nervous that you were going to see Florence, Arizona and be like, “Why am I working here?” It was the complete opposite. You have to share with us your experience.

It was fun because you've got more years ahead of me than I do and so in terms of experience in PT. It didn't matter that you were only two years of piano lessons ahead of me. To me, you were a grand piano master. We're driving out there and it's 45 minutes from our house and it's getting close to an hour or whatever. We pull into this tiny little town and all you see on the outskirts are jails and prisons. I think the actual number is eighteen. They have eighteen different facilities ranging from high security, maximum, whatever and you pulled me up at this building that was probably 100 years old. It was 600 or 800 square-feet total. It was musky and infested with lizards.

I remember we had termite tunnels hanging from the ceiling.

I'll never forget, you walked me around and there's a big safe, because it used to be a bank back in the ‘40s or ‘50s. We got to the car and you're like, “What do you think? Do you want to work for me?” I'm like, “We haven't talked money.” You showed me this decrypted building but I was like, “I'm optimistic.” Growing up in El Paso, Texas, it gave me this point of reference of community feel. It felt like when it ended up becoming this unbelievable experience being out with some of the most kindhearted family-oriented human beings I've ever known. They were still, to this day, the one population that I believe for more than any other is the people in Florence. They are as kind and generous as they are and anything else, but it doesn't look like that when you're driving through it. When you're driving through it, you're like, “What was that?” I remember thinking like, “He's new at this, I think.”

“He doesn't know what he's doing.” You're dead on.

You're great to work with. You're always easy going you. The reason we were able to succeed all these years was because we laughed at things. Our relationship would have caught in a different direction if we didn't have so much in common over stand-up comedy. He introduced me to Dane Cook when he was okay to listen to. I’m like, “Who is this guy?” He introduced me to Arrested Development. That was a big thing. Tell everybody what the name of our company is that we created. The one LLC. There are two actually. The Hermano Holdings and we have banana stand. That’s one business that failed.

There's always money in the banana stand and Hermano still exists.

I want to highlight some statistics that I wish I'd done right out of the gate. For two years in, you're over 100 episodes in. You are at 35,000 listens that blows my mind. As you look forward for the show, your coaching and your masterminds, what do you see for yourself?

It's hard for me to see that. I'm not necessarily visionary in that regard. My vision is limited a little bit forward so I can see some steps and moving that direction. If I like it, then I'll continue going down that path. The mastermind has been cool and fulfilling. We've had one meeting, but I love these guys and it's exciting to see the banter and the collaboration between them. The coaching, I’ll continue to do that. I enjoy that. Sometime, maybe it will run its course, but I'm enjoying it a lot right now. The show, I'll continue doing it. Sometimes, it's hard to find guests. I come back to guys who I know are solid like you. I interviewed Eric Miller. I'll have some featured guests every so often that are the same dudes, but they do great stuff, and have a ton to share. I'll keep doing the show because I find it fulfilling. At the end of the day, if I did stop, I'd be comfortable with it because we've put some awesome content out there and it's out there in perpetuity. My kids, grandkids, great grandkids can always hear my voice. I think that's cool and I'm able to share some of the things that I believe were successful, not just about business ownership but about life. Where does this all go? I don't know. We're loving Alaska right now and enjoying it. I look forward to doing more and serving more, and helping PT owners out there. That's where my head is now.

I have something I'd like to ask for you to do as a final thing if you're cool with it. It's a little bit different. If it aligns for you, do it. If you want to wrap it up, that would be great. It all comes back to family, that glass ball. You mentioned at the very beginning of this episode that’s the real reason why we're doing all this as we help patients and as we have the courage to fail over and over again as business owners. It ultimately shapes us as leaders in our home to help us make an impact where it matters most with those little children who are growing up. What would you like to say knowing that 100 years from now, your great grandkids are listening to this? What would you like to tell them about what matters to Nathan Shields?

That's where I tend to get spiritual. I believe in God, Jesus Christ is my savior. A lot of it has to do with faith. I go throughout the day constantly thinking and in my mind praying, maybe not on my knees, but I’m praying like, “What do I do next?” I’ve got a list of to-do things here. What's the highest priority. Am I missing something? I'm going to start at the thing that's easiest for me that I think is the highest priority. Inevitably a thought comes to my mind, “You need to consider your wife.” I hadn't thought about that. When the kid is having some issues. What do I need to say to him? It's either an inspiration to like, "Go talk to him now," or “He's going to be okay. Spend a little bit more time with him this week.” That's where I have to be grateful for the influence of our kind Heavenly Father to give me those inspirations to lead my family. That's where I can look back many times where I see His hand in my life that I'd be remiss to not be grateful that that's there.

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I've spoken to you about it when we've talked about business decisions that simply either I feel good about it or I don't based on the prayers that I've had and the answers that I feel I've received. My wife and I talked about it all the time, “How great is this? How cool is this?” This isn't a conversation that we have now that we've reached the pinnacle type of conversation. It's been like that throughout our lives. “How cool is it that we witnessed this happen over the past 6 to 12 months? What would have happened if we hadn't been inspired to do that? How well did that turn out for us?” We're talking about things that you otherwise maybe don't pray about. I had an inspiration to sell our house in Chandler and it was not at buyer's market or a seller's market. I talked to my wife about it. She felt good about it and got the house ready in seven days. We put it on the market and got a full price offer in 24 hours. It’s not in a sellers’ market. The realtor was like, “This doesn't happen right now in this market.”

That's a witness to me that number one, He exists and number two, that His hands works in mysterious ways. A lot of it's about faith. A lot of it is Whitny, my wife, the huge support that she is. I think a lot of owners are like that. There's somebody in their life, whether it's a spouse, a parent, family friend or a mentor of some kind that they have to lean on and that helps a ton. You have that someone who's in your corner no matter what. Giving you the push and the inspiration to live outside of your box and make you a little uncomfortable and force you to sacrifice things and things that you otherwise wouldn't sacrifice. A lot of it goes to Whitny and maintaining that relationship and it's those relationships. You would agree with me. The relationships that we've developed over this time are powerful, emotional, fulfilling, bringing not just happiness, but joy.

The people that we've been able to work together with. My relationship with you is super powerful, loving, caring and supportive. You're my biggest cheerleader outside of my wife and family. Even down to Stacy Sullivan, Michelle, Erica and Katie. These people and these relationships that we have with people are so fulfilling and amazing. Even the people who came in and out of our lives, past employees that no longer work for us or whatnot. I still love and I enjoy them and it's those relationships. I think about patients. The physical therapy profession is such a cool experience that affect many people's lives positively and develop relationships in short amounts of time.

It’s a cool opportunity. You get that with your patients. You get the same thing with your team members, especially your leadership team who buys into your vision and has faith in you. You're like, “Why do you have faith in me?” I remember asking Stacy that all the time, “Why do you still work for me? I know you hate what I do.” They have faith and they captured a vision that was probably granted than our own, which is weird. I then develop relationship with you and then we talked about our network, those relationships. If those guys reach out to me, like Vinod texted me, I felt a teenage fangirl. It’s like, “Vinod texted me. Mom, Vinod wants to talk.” That kind of stuff and to meet Dimi and Shaun Kirk, and the benefits of the show.

I've had opportunity to talk to Heidi Jannenga and some of the huge leaders in our industry that have been around for years and years. Randy Roesch and, Greg Todd, and Jerry Henderson from Clinicient and all these cool people that I never would have been able to meet before. I've had an opportunity to develop some awesome relationships, but it all comes back to I feel like I'm living right. I've got my ethics in order. I rely on my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ to guide me on a daily basis and try to do what's right and it's that simple. That's what I hope my kids would remember. I hope my kids remember that it's not that hard. Your life's going to suck at times. We went through the experiences, but we came away with wisdom and knowledge, an ability to empathize with other people who go through the same thing and say, “You have bent there? Do you want to know what you can do about it?”

Help them in that regard and not just PT owners but with our kids, with our spouses, you can have the same empathy when you go through crap like that. We're not at a point yet where our kids are married. Heaven forbid our kids get married and now have to deal with spouses of their own. They're going to be like, “I had that argument ten times over with my wife.” There we go. They then have kids of their own. They're like, “Dad, what are we going to do?” It's because we went through some of those crappy trials along the way that helped us learn and gain wisdom and humility. That's some of the stuff that I'll always be grateful for. It has been a cool experience in that regard.

Thanks for that answer. On behalf of everyone reading, thank you for being who you are, for creating the show. I love and adore you. It's a treat to be in your life and I'm grateful for the example you said. Not just in the show, but who you were beforehand and your continual application to be a better human is inspiring. I wish people in the audience could know you the way that I do and ultimately, they get teary a little bit. Thank goodness for the PT Owners Podcast.

Thanks for joining me. It was great to sit and shoot the ball with you and reminisce. I was nervous about how this would go because I've always been the one to highlight the guest and I rarely liked to take the spotlight. I didn't know how that was going to go. It's been awesome to think about it.

It’s my favorite show so far for me.

That's cool because you're the one that wants attention. What you didn't say is how do people get in touch with you. When you're ready to take on more clients because you guys are killing it, how do people get in touch with you?

What we'll do for anybody who's interested is if you're not sure about your existing billing solution in the last couple of months, one of the reasons we've been successful is I don't have to grow this thing. I want it to be a major influence in the industry, but I don't have to grow this billing company out of a need to. What we ultimately care about is making sure you get what you need. I've told people that they should stay with their in-house solution. I've told multiple people that. I told other people that they should outsource, but I'm not their solution. I'm not everything to everyone, but who I can serve, I can go deep with. Who I'm serving are people who want to grow. I want people who are anywhere between 1 and 5 locations. I'll consider bigger companies but if you are between 1 and 5 locations and you have a desire to be free of your company, that's who I want to serve. My email is Will@TheProfitablePT.com and my billing company is called In The Black. We have a separate email for that, but I'm going to keep it simple for people. It's the same as my YouTube brand. You can call me. I don't know if I should give my cell out because I'm worried for the people that I will spend too much time on the phone with them. The email is fine.

Imagine this is after August 1, 2020. What's your website going to be?

My website is going to be InTheBlackBilling.com. We're super excited. We do have a vision of taking on another ten clients. We’re going deep with them and helping them blow their minds. It's such a fun industry to get into it because there's nothing sexy about it. We're bringing the sexy back in a way it's never been. I'm doing normal things you do in other businesses like appreciation and keep relationships strong. I love it. It's so much fun. I still feel like I'm treating is what it feels like. That's how you get ahold of me.

PTO 104 | Ownership Journey
Ownership Journey: A true consultant is someone who recognizes the needs of the person that's calling and not necessarily the need to acquire another client.


I don't know where this comes from in us because I've done the same thing with coaching clients. I've had people call me and be like, “I don't know if I'm the best fit for you,” or I said, “I don't want you to sign up with me unless you talk to two other people.” I've done that a few times and I'm trying not to say that because we're charitable human beings, but what I'm talking about and the way you presented is that's a true consultant and someone who recognizes the needs of the person that's calling and not necessarily your need to acquire another client. If people who are coming to get a consultation with you, maybe they're going to come away with a couple of nuggets. I do the same thing when people call me about coaching clients, whether they come with me or not, I try to give them a couple of words of wisdom and I share my experience. It’s the same thing for you. You're going to say, “You might want to look at changing your EMR or stay with your current EMR or stay with your current in-house billing person,” but add a couple of statistics or reports that would make them more efficient and hold them more accountable. That's what a true consultant would do.

What we offer is a free profitability breakthrough audit and I've done this a number of times where people will give me their data. We sign an NDA. I completely show them where there's money. There hasn't been a single time. I've done twenty of these at this point. I've never found less than $10,000 sitting in absolute profit in their business right now that we can’t go and get.

That's bottom line in their pockets if they simply made a call or two.

When I show them that, they don't move forward with us because they only needed some tweaking with their existing solution. What you said, I've heard it said differently and I love this, which is, "We can help everyone but we can serve only a select few.” Who we serve, instead of going a mile wide, we're going to go a mile deep. It's a little selfish for us to be helpful for everyone because that's the only way we can find those who we can go deep with. That's where you and I have learned from people like the coaches you've mentioned. They go so deep. You think of them as family, like a father. You can’t separate that. I'm so excited because I know that's what's happening on your end with your clients. I'm grateful that you're doing it. I see you being a master coach in this industry. You already are, but this is your first group. I’m putting it out there in terms of intention that Nathan Shields will have that name of a major influence in the coaching world of our industry.

As long as it gets me out the door and on the leg by 2:00 PM, that's fine. Thanks for your time. Much love. It's always great talking to you.

Thanks again for having me.

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About Will Humphreys

PTO 104 | Ownership JourneyWill Humphreys, the Profitable PT, is the CLO and co-founder of In The Black Billing compnay and has been a PT for 20 years. He owned a multi-locational outpatient practice for 12 years before starting his new venture with Katie Archibald. He is a father of 4 boys, married for 20 years, and a part-time comedian. He is passionate about physical therapy, entrepreneurship, and the freedom that is created through profitability.


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