PTO 75 | Private Practice Owner Coach

 

Reaching out for help from coaches helps us gain the needed insights for the development of our practice. In this episode, we are following up on the owner of Druid Hills Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Avi Zinn, PT, DPT, OCS, about how he has developed his business. Although he has been successful in the development of his practice to this point, Avi reaches out because he recognizes that he needs to gain more business knowledge as the CEO of the business. He shares the importance of the stuff they did not teach in PT schools, such as tracking KPIs, leadership development, culture creation, and more. Learn how he is managing as a PT business owner and get a real-life look into what a business coach can do for you and your practice.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Reality Podcast Ep. 1 - Avi Zinn, PT Reaches Out For A Coach

This is the first episode that I have with an individual PT owner in which I'm going to follow along with him as he receives coaching and implement some of the coaching programs into his independent PT practice. Avi Zinn is a Physical Therapist out of Atlanta. He reached out to me to get some coaching and see if maybe we could work together to help him achieve his goals. Full disclosure, he didn't end up going with me as we talked a little bit about what I could provide and if that might fit for him. I actually offered him a couple of friends that he could call and talk to about getting coaching and consulting services with them and he decided to go with a friend of mine, which I'm excited about. Avi’s ready to grow and he needs to take the next step. I wanted to bring Avi in order to not only follow his path but also because Avi is pretty unique. He hasn't followed the typical entrepreneurial path. He didn't go through the burnout, the crash and burn stages that many of us may have gone through before. He did something different. I want to share his story with you.

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I've got Avi Zinn, Owner of Druid Hills PT in Atlanta. I'm excited to bring on Avi because he reached out to me in regards to getting some coaching and we've talked a number of times about his needs and how I could help him out, but things changed a little bit. He is looking for some coaching and consulting help and I want to follow his progress essentially and see what the coach or consultant has done for him to forward his clinic and to achieve his goals. This is the first introduction of that series of interviews because I imagine that down the road I'm going to do some follow-up interviews with Avi. I'm going to show you what it's like and what you can expect out of coaches and consultants and how they can help you as an owner. Let's get to know Avi a little bit and some of his influences and what got him to the point where he was reaching out. First off, thanks for coming on, Avi. I appreciate it.

Thanks a lot, Nathan. I’m happy to be here.

Tell us a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit about your professional path. How long have you been a physical therapist? How long you've been an owner? All that stuff so we can bring everybody up to speed on.

I went to PT school in New York. I finished in 2009. Shortly after finishing school, my wife and I moved to California and we went to the Bay Area. We were in Berkeley. I started my PT journey there. I’m looking for places to work, trying to see what was there. I found a cool PT practice based off their website. They’re more independent. The pictures of the clinic looked personal. They had a good vibe. I reached out to them and they hired me on, which was cool. Starting there was a good experience for me in a lot of ways, which ultimately led me opening up my own clinic.

Did you always have aspirations of having your own clinic?

No, not really at all. When I first started there, they had just done some coaching and consulting. They were in the process of transitioning their whole business model. I soon found out that when I started on, there was a huge turnover right before I came. I didn't realize that at first, but after being there for a few months, the remaining people that were still there were starting to talk about the old days or how things were different and not necessarily bad, but I think the change of the business structure led to other people just didn't agree with what they wanted. From following your show and all the people you've had on, it seems like that's a pretty common thing. You guys talk about your culture and your team. If you're changing your business structure and you're changing your team, then you’ve got to make sure that people are in line with that. I would assume if they're not, then they're going to leave or they're going to get told to leave. That led me to start my own clinic because it was an independent clinic. It wasn't a chain and it was two owners and they had a few locations at the time. I started seeing what it was like from the owner's side of things because they were at the clinic all the time.

You have to take risks in order to have something you desire to create. Click To Tweet

Whereas later on when I started working for chains or hospital systems, you don't see the owners at those clinics. You just see clinic directors or whatever. Being there, I saw that the community and the PT practice had a great reputation. People knew about it but at the same time, the employees, the staff, the PTs weren't saying the same things that the people in the community were saying about the PT practice. It was interesting to see how there could be a different perception that the patients are loving it, but the PTs aren't. That probably happened because of the change in the business structure and however that played out. I started realizing that there could be different ways of going about this business. Clearly, we're providing good service because people were talking about it and people knew about it but the staff wasn't happy. That was interesting to see. That's what really started me thinking about like, "Maybe I could do this." Everyone thinks, "I could do this." I thought, "If I am going to do this, maybe I'd make it so people are happy at their job."

There are a couple of different reasons why people open up their own PT clinics. Either they have an entrepreneurial spirit and they want to own the job and that's something that they have a burning desire to do. I'm sure there are many other reasons, but the two that come to mind are the second one being, "Maybe I can do this better or maybe I can create something that I can fill a need or I can create some value that I don't see in my current position. I can treat the way I want to and expand on that.” There are a number of different reasons in your situation, in particular, you're thinking, "The owners are doing great. They've got a great connection with the community, but the internal structure and culture could be improved. Maybe I could do that myself and create my own thing." Is that about right?

Yes, that's right, Nathan. You have to remember, I was in the Bay Area, that's a hotbed for startups and entrepreneurs. I do think that was a part of it. I remember a good friend at one point. I was talking about a startup and entrepreneurs. He even said something to me that I could be an entrepreneur if I started my own PT clinic. At that time, I didn't know what that meant to be an entrepreneur. I didn't realize that starting a PT clinic would be the same thing. Getting that entrepreneur bug, that's what I'm sure we'll end up talking about pretty soon in The E-Myth what Michael Gerber talks about. I think doing it better though and realizing that maybe I can do this in a way that would provide that service and also have the people that work there happy as well. What I was seeing at that clinic that combined with getting that entrepreneur bug, those two started the process of me thinking about at one point starting my own clinic.

You eventually went to Atlanta and decided to do that?

My wife is from Georgia. She grew up in Savannah and I'm from St. Louis. We were in California and we didn't know totally, but we started thinking that we would want to be closer to family. Atlanta seemed like a pretty good city. My wife did an internship in Atlanta and that was when I stopped that job. We went to for the summer to Atlanta to do the internship, but also see if Atlanta would be a city we'd want to move to. We liked it and when we went back to the Bay Area, we knew we were going to move there. I knew I wanted to open up my own thing or start my own clinic, but also knew we were going to move at some point. I never really wanted to do it in California. At that point, I started doing other jobs and experiencing different types of PT. I did work comp for two years. I started doing home health, which was interesting. I did that for a bunch of years.

Eventually, we did move to Atlanta and started doing home health when we got here to learn the city also. It was a good opportunity that I learned the city, but I was driving around for home health. I was trying to get a sense of where I would want to start a practice. It all happened at a time where I was ready to do it. This location opened up right in my neighborhood. Literally, a four-minute walk from my house. It's on the main street. It's across the street from this big shopping center on this road where they say 50,000 people drive by every day. It was perfect. Everything worked out. That's when I started to get things going because we found this place and I had been thinking about this all these years. It was time when this place opened up.

How long ago was that?

That was the end of 2017.

During this time, had you been reading any books about business ownership or accessing any resources?

When I was doing home health, I was driving all the time and I stumbled upon Paul Gough's podcast. That was really the first one that I started listening to. That was talking about owning a business and how to run it. I don't know if this is exactly what he said, but this stuck. He said, "You don't have to have the best PTs, you just have to have good PTs. You can hire the good PTs and you have to be the one who's working on the business.” The truth is I could be combining that with some of the other, like Michael Gerber, your show, but I believe he did say that stuff and it started making me think about how I was going to set up a practice and what that meant.

The cool thing is that it set up a mindset for you, knowing where you are. You don't have to be the best physical therapist. Soft skills are more important than hard skills. You already had an idea that you were going to bring on some other physical therapists anyways. It wasn't going to be the obvious in a physical therapy clinic and a one-man show. You had aspirations for more right off the bat. You've opened up your clinic and how did you start working in it? How did you start developing it, so that it wasn't obvious in physical therapy clinic? 

PTO 75 | Private Practice Owner Coach
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It

When I was trying to figure out what to call it, I was really against calling it my last name, Zinn. A little back story. My father-in-law has his professional experience. He opens a lot of businesses. He was able to guide me through a lot of this in the beginning. Helped me set up the LLC. When I was looking at this place to rent and lease it out, he guided me through with creating a pro forma and talking to the landlords about having my financials in order, even though we didn't have the financials in order. Getting that set up and he was set on calling it Zinn PT. He wanted me to do that and I was like, "I don't want to call it Zinn PT. I don't want it to be about me." Maybe because of listening to the podcast and knowing Paul Gough’s podcasts, knowing that I wanted to bring people on and I didn't want it to be about me because maybe had a little foresight knowing that I would have to do the business stuff at some point and not always having people wanting to go to Zinn but to the PT practice.

What did you start doing initially to make it so that it was not Zinn? You ended up developing Druid Hills Physical Therapy, you were the initial physical therapist. How did you start the progress? This is an important part of the introduction of you. You did things a little bit differently and I'll highlight that as we go through the story.

First of all, I was still doing home health, which was a huge help because home health is super flexible and I was able to bring in some income while setting up the practice as a group. There was no other way to do it. I took out a loan. I could've taken out a loan three times the size and lived off of that for a while. That would have been a little overwhelming. Setting it up, I started getting things in order. I don't know if it was from the podcasts or not. I wanted to experience every part of the business at first to know what it was like so that I could start putting people in those places. When I started, I did everything. I was a PT but I was also running back and forth to the front desk to answer phones and schedule. Instead of a front desk person, I had an answering service, which was helpful and they would email and text anytime someone called. I had a doorbell. That was my front desk person. If someone came into the office, I knew someone was there and I could run back and forth to the front to greet them. I started getting things in place. Aside from the business things, I had to start getting patients.

I tried doing all that I thought would have been the normal way to do it, which was called doctors but that didn't work. It started with that. I was lucky that a third-party work comp insurance called me and they were like, "We want to give you a contract and send some people to you.” I was like, "I need people to send patients," which was also cool because work comp authorizes a certain amount of visits, they pay the rate, whatever it's going to be. You don't have to fight with the insurances. They're not going to like deny certain code, which was a great way to start. Because I got those patients, I knew those visitors were coming in and I knew they were going to pay whatever they paid. That was also a little bit of a hard part, to begin with, was the money part. How you charge people. All of it was hard. I didn't know how to do anything.

How long did you go like that before you took on your first hire and eventually before you got your next physical therapist?

I started at the end of 2017. We had our third kid in March of 2018. It was a great idea to start a business and have a kid the same year. Right after that is when I hired on the first PT. The business was growing slowly. Knowing that we were going to do this, I started looking back at the schedule and tracking what was happening. The schedule was pretty light. Looking back, I don't know how I was confident enough to even hire someone on.

That's the question I have for you. How many visits were you at per week before you hired that physical therapist because you went against the grain?

I don't know. At that point, I was doing three days a week at the office and still doing two days a week home health.

You brought on your PT at that point. This is why I wanted to bring you on is that you hired a physical therapist, what most people would consider is too soon. Based on my training experience and if you were to ask me, "When do I bring on my next physical therapist?" I'm going to tell you, you bring on the next physical therapist when you're meeting at least 90% of your slots that are scheduled out in a given week on average. That's the time when you know, I'm working hard or my other PTs are working hard. It's time to bring on someone else where these people are going to get overwhelmed. Maybe you even have a waitlist, but you went against the grain and you don't necessarily know why. You brought on a physical therapist because this is the thing, the typical entrepreneur story is we don't do anything until we get overwhelmed. Sometimes there's a crash and burn element to it. If you read to some of my previous shows and the successful entrepreneurs but you didn't get to that point, so you brought on the next physical therapist. You must've had some faith that things were going to go in the proper direction or maybe you had some real intent out there in the universe that things were going to grow?

It was a little bit of both, Nathan. I was thinking about starting a business, in general, is a huge risk and I've maybe realized that you have to take risks in order to have a business. That was the same move. I saw the trajectory and patients, it was growing slow but it was steady growth. It looked like things were going in that direction. It was time to hire someone on and keep it going.

During this time, were there some resources that you fell back on that might have stoke that faith or inspired you to bring on someone else so that it wasn't on you? Did you also maybe see that there were some aspects of the business that you needed to work on so the PT would take the treatment side of things off of you so you can focus on those things? Was there a combination of some of those?

Because of how busy things got, I realized that I had to do more of the business stuff. That was what it was. It was the beginning of 2019 or it must have been earlier when I started following your show. I remember in January of 2019 is when I started reading The E-Myth. I don't remember exactly when I found your show or how that happened exactly. Even before that, I realized that I had to be able to step away to do from treating, there were only so many hours in the day. I didn't want to be working all day long and then going home and working all night long. I realize that the only way to do it was to step back a little bit. It wasn't a lot, but it was by hiring another PT that I was able to step away and do a little bit more of the business side of things.

You have to take risks in order to have a business. Click To Tweet

The common fear when someone makes that first step is to bring on another PT. The biggest fear is, how am I going to justify that salary? I'm going to be paying somebody $70,000, $80,000. What if they don't work out and they don't produce? Somehow you overcame that fear. How did you do that?

After that first job in California and when we came to Atlanta, I did a traveling PT job. When we went back to California, I started doing PRN. When I learned about what PRN meant, that is ultimately when I hired my first PT, I didn't hire her on full-time. I hired her on PRN and it just happened that I found someone who wanted to do it. She was in a different job and she wanted to switch it up a little bit. She started doing two days a week with me. That is why I was able to not be so overwhelmed because essentially instead of making it five days a week for me, since I was only doing three days a week in the office, I made it a five-day PT but split between two people. I was able to have the patients coming in on all day, every day and then still have two days a week where I wasn't treating and doing some of the business stuff.

You were still running the front desk and taking all the calls and some of that stuff?

I was still doing that stuff and the billing, the front desk. Shortly after that, I got someone two days a week at the front desk. Gradually we started getting more patients, so that part-time PT ultimately wanted to switch all for hours over to this place. It worked out well because I didn't need to look for another person. She was already there. We were organically growing and filling those hours on the schedule without having to hire on a new PT and then have to be scared that you're not filling up their schedule for three months because we did it gradually anyways when she first started by two days and then added on more days.

She started taking on more hours. You started treating less it sounds like and you're working on the business during this time.

I don't think I really started treating less because for the most part, I was still treating the same amount, but it had blocked off certain times from the beginning to do billing, networking, calling people and driving around.

That's a huge part right there and I don't want to overlook that. You blocked off time on your schedule. As I'm talking to PT owners that are treating full-time, that's probably one of the biggest hurdles is to get them to commit to blocking off chunks of time, whether it's four days or 4, 5-hour blocks to work on the business. That is to look over your financials. That is to put together a pro forma like you're talking about. Consider what the future might look like. Do some networking. Even start developing some policy and procedures and hiring the right people to fill the spots that you either have open or are going to have open in the very near future. What you started doing maybe someone told you to or maybe you inherently knew you needed to do was to keep that time sacred for admin work.

Around the beginning of 2019 is when I read The E-Myth. That was transformative. I've heard people say it on your show a million times, working on the business and not working in the business. I think he came up with that. It made so much sense and you can't do it any other way. There's only so much growth you can have if you're working in the business. When I read the part about what a lot of people do is they create a job for themselves. That part was like, “I’m not trying to create a job. I'm sure I didn't try to create a business." I did somehow realized that I needed to keep that time separate to work on the business. Once I read that, it was when I started realizing I need to do more of this and if I want to grow, I need to not just hire more people. It would actually start taking more time to work on the business because once you start getting busier with more and more things going on, you need to have more time to figure out all the things that you had mentioned, which I still have not done yet.

We have to give it proper credit. The book that we're alluding to and referencing is The E- Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. He does layout a lot of this stuff. When we say you working on the business, what are some of those things that you're doing? I have even some owners say, "If I'm not treating and I'm not catching up on my notes and I'm not paying bills, what am I doing?" What do you do in those admin times?

First of all, I still do the billing. That's part of it.

That's going to change soon. What are you going to do when the billings off your plate?

PTO 75 | Private Practice Owner Coach
Private Practice Owner Coach: The only way to implement your systems is if you take time away from treating and work on the business.

 

We'll find out soon. You did mention about policies and procedures. That's what I started doing was creating systems, which is what The E-Myth is all about. I created an organizational chart, which is another thing that they talk about in the book. Even though every single job in the organizational chart was me, I still was breaking up what created the business, all the different parts and all the different jobs that make up the business. I started writing out what happens under those positions, what one does for that job. Basically, I use Google Drive and Google Docs and I have a nice organized folders system of docs for every one of those job positions. Every time something happened that day that I had to troubleshoot or figure it out, I would put it in that doc and then I would try to create a system to make sure it didn't happen again or t try to delegate some tasks to the front desk person or the PT so that they can do it so that we wouldn't have to keep on going through the same mistake every time. We would know what to do every time. 

You wouldn't have to learn the same lesson twice.

Yes, we don't have to learn the same lesson twice. Also, we wouldn't have to be where someone had to knock on my door and asked me what to do for it.

This is why I love having you on. You're at a place in your ownership that I would say a majority of PT owners are not. I'm including the guys that have been out there for 10 to 20 years. They haven't taken the time to write up their policies and procedures. I can say I was in that boat 10, 12 years after opening up my first clinic. Didn't take the time to write down policy and procedures. I didn't have an organizational chart. It doesn't matter if you are in each position. At least know what the structure of your company is and what it should be and what it will look like when other people start filling those positions is huge. That comes as naturally to some people more so than others, but you're organized enough with your Google Docs to have everything written up underneath each job with a job description, the responsibilities and the tasks that are given to each position. That's huge and that is the reason why you are where you are is because you've done some of those things. How many therapists do you have?

We have three therapists besides me. They're all about 30 hours or so. Part-time but full schedules. One is actually reducing hours the same original one who wanted to take on more but also step out of her first position and try something different. She's going to try something different and reduce her hours, which is fine. Everyone wants to do different things. There's nothing wrong with it. We're about to hire another person and she's going to be my first full-time. We'll have one full-time, two pretty full-times, one part-time and then me.

Being less than a few years into your ownership. That would be unfathomable for some people. I'm talking to some owners who are one-man shows and they're overwhelmed and they're three years into it and they don't see a way out because they're treating 50 hours a week and not working on their business. Whereas you've set yourself up such that you have multiple providers and you're already experiencing some freedom that most PT owners don't have.

Nathan, you probably would agree with this, but for the people that are working crazy hours, I made sure I did this in the beginning, I worked at the office. I did some stuff at night, but for the most part, I was in the office 9:00 to 5:00, and that was it. I made it a point to stop at the end of the day. Of course, you do some stuff at night, you answer emails or you work on the website.

You had some intention behind putting an end to the day.

I think that's what it is. That has allowed me to keep going. It prevented me from burning out and I didn't get so overwhelmed because I was like, “This is the end of the day. We're going to stop, we'll pick it up the next day.” If I work an extra five hours, it's not going to be any different. You need to put a brake on it every once in a while.

There's some power to that. Number one, the time that you do have is limited. There's going to be an urgency to get things done. If you don't have that end stop, you're like, "I can work until 7:00 and I'll take my time getting things done.” Inevitably there’s something called Parkinson's Law that, "The amount of things to do will end up taking up the time that has allotted to do them." If you're available to work until 7:00, you'll have plenty of tasks to keep you busy. If you put that hard stop at 5:00, you've done two things. Number one, you've set a deadline, but also, you were concentrating your efforts on doing the admin work. You can get more done for the benefit of your company by focusing that time on your business than trying to get tasks done. Instead of trying to get payroll down or pay bills. I'm sure you were focusing on what some people call the MIT, the Most Important Thing of the day and that is developed policy and procedures. Get my organizational structure in place. You're doing the billing, but that's a separate chunk of time. The fact that you spent that time on the policy and procedures and the organization of the structure of the company means you've developed solid integrity around that and you've accelerated your growth as an owner and as a business to the point where you are.

There's only so much you know how to do. You need to reach out and ask people for help. Click To Tweet

To be clear, I still have a lot more work to do on the policy procedures and all that stuff. That's ultimately what we're getting at with coaching and consulting. In March of 2019, I hired on the second PT and then that's when I drastically reduced treating time down to twenty hours a week of treating.

Was that a scary transition or something that you're, "I need to do this?"

It wasn't scary at all. It was, "I need to do this." Partially because at that point I had read enough of your blogs and also had probably read to The E-Myth again for the second time or maybe even third time that I realized that it doesn't even matter if it's scary. That's what you have to do. There's no other way around it.

You recognize the need of the company was to go in that direction, right?

Yes and it was my business. If I'm treating, who else is going to work on the business? I have to be working on the business. There's no other way. 

You talked to me about doing some coaching and consulting. What led you to that point?

Where I've gotten myself have been a lot of working on the systems and policies, but at the same time, there's only so much I know. As the business grows and when we're getting more patients in one of the main things that I've noticed is there are cancellations and why are we having 30 new patients in a month. We had eighteen new patients in one week and that was awesome. That was the most we had. The following week the schedule was half empty and it was like, "How is that happening?" I started running analytics, WebPT. I called them up asking, "How do I find out how many times each patient is coming in?" I’m trying to see what their plan of care and how many visits per week? I find that a lot of patients are only coming once a week or they schedule two visits and then they're gone and no one was tracking that. I run this lost patient report from WebPT and then all of a sudden, I look and there are 50 to 100 people on this report of people that came in and we never got them back on the schedule. That was a huge thing.

You recognize that you need to start monitoring your metrics and if you haven't taken the time to do that, then the metrics will control you and sink you.

On the analytics and WebPT, they have their main KPIs. There are six KPIs on there and that was cool. I realized I don't know. I feel like I've done a lot to get myself here, but there are people who know a lot more to take those numbers to who've already gone through this, who can tell you how to use those KPIs, those metrics and what to do with them. How to affect them and also, one of the biggest things through all this realizing that I am not just the owner, but a CEO of the company. I need to learn how to do that. I need to know how to manage my employees, train them and set up different structures and have certain people responsible for different parts of the business. I realized that there's only so much I know how to do. That's when I was time to reach out and ask people to help me along that.

You realize that you are the final word. People are going to come to you because you need to have the answers for the company. I don't think a lot of physical therapy owners who are relatively new don't put on that hat per se. They think that the ownership somehow is not as separate from them. They know that they're the owner, but they don't act like the owner and that they should be monitoring all the metrics and the financials. They should have some idea of what to do when a statistic goes bad and how to look and investigate issues in the clinic. It sounds like you had that realization that you need to take on that hat.

Nathan, that part is hard. I went to PT school, I learned how to become a PT. I didn't go to business school. I don't even know if you learn how to do that in business school either. I don't know how to run a company. 

We're all in the same boat.

To answer your question, that's what it was. I realized that I needed to be the CEO essentially and I needed to learn what that means and how to do it.

You reached out to me and we had a conversation. I actually gave Avi some recommendations of other coaches to also consider outside of me and he has decided on another consulting company and I'm excited because he's going to do amazingly well. You can see that he's already set up the foundation. I want to follow you along this journey. How will you know if you've been successful with a coach or consultant? How will you know that they've met your goals? Is there a statistic that you want to see? Maybe gross revenues and net profits or is it more freedom for you? Is it growth?

PTO 75 | Private Practice Owner Coach
Private Practice Owner Coach: If you're changing your business structure and you're changing your team, then you got to make sure that people are in line with that.

 

I'm starting to understand financials and understanding gross revenue. I'm at the point where I can look at a P&L and understand it and gross revenue, of course. Let's get that up.

You need a return on your investment to the coach. You expect a multiple of your investment on the coach.

Having the patient drop-off, go away or at least get better. Maximize the utilization, which is something you were saying. If there's so many hours that the PT is treating, they should be treating patients that whole time or at least let's say 85% of it and figuring out how we can make sure that happens. Training the front desk also is the best way to take part in the patient's experience. Also, making sure that they're following through with their plan of care when the PT comes and brings them up to schedule. Making sure that they schedule it and making sure that they understand what it means and the cancellations are detrimental not to their progress but to the whole business. Probably a million other things at the front desk can do but hopefully, they'll help me out with all of that.

Are there some particular goals that you have then over the course of the next year or two? I'm sure the coaches will help you along with this, but what are some of your goals that you have?

As far as freedom goes, I don't need to be not in the office 200 days a year, which is great. Maybe one day. I like being in the office. I like working, but I don't want to work all day, every day. First, producing the treatment hours, that was key. I've done that myself, which is talking to you and talking to other coaches. That's what ultimately is going to set me up for success quickly with these coaches is because I've already done what a lot of people have to do initially once they start with the coaches is to back out of the treating.

You're a step ahead already.

That ultimately is going to allow me to focus on some of the goals a lot quicker. In 2020 who knows? Maybe this will happen in two months. If we have twelve hours of the day in the office, 7:00 to 7:00 and we have five PTs, I want to be able to fill up that schedule, which is ultimately going to bring in more revenue.

You're going to have to expand.

Yes, hopefully. These could be long-term goals. I remember early on Paul Gough that he’s talking about how he owns some of his own real estate and some of the practices. That could be a cool goal. I don't know so much about that on the numbers side. I imagine at some point it's beneficial, but maybe it's not always. That could be five years from now. I want to grow this space location that I have to maximize it. If I have to work twenty hours a week still treating patients, that's fine. I like treating, but I also recognize that I have to do other things. If I need to not and I can get someone else to do it, great. Maybe later on, in a few years, I can start treating again. Wherever the business needs, that's what I'm going to do. 

That your decision matrix has to be exactly that. Whatever the business needs. If you're not wanting to set aside time to work on the business and want to treat full-time, then go work for somebody and work full-time. Don't spend the stress and energy to own the business on top of it. If you're going to commit to owning a business, you need to put the business first. That comes first. What a lot of PT owners don't recognize is the clinic needs them to treat less, needs them out of treatment because it's a distraction to treat patients as an owner. You need to set aside times to work on the business and eventually what happens is they work themselves out of treatment because the needs of the business become greater because they were expanding and growing. I'm excited for you and what you're looking. From my perspective, looking at where you're at, you're looking to gain more knowledge so you can confidently and securely wear that CEO hat and become more efficient. You're recognizing that there is a lack of efficiency maybe in your company and you don't necessarily know how to affect it.

That's what I think when I pulled up that last patient report that one time and I realized, that's why our schedule is not full, even though we're getting all these new patients. We need to figure out how to make sure that doesn't happen. 

Work on the business and not work in the business. Click To Tweet

That's a dagger to the heart when you find stuff like that.

That was hard. 

It goes through a couple of things. That is a whole few pages, maybe one or two pages full of lost revenue. More than that, if you're looking at from a higher level, these are patients that didn't get the full complement of care. These are the types of patients that go back and say, "Physical therapy didn't work for me. I've been to Druid Hills Physical Therapy and it didn't help." You don't want that. That can happen unless you're focused on getting them to complete their plan of care. I said this in an interview that I did. I found out about it a couple of years ago when I interviewed Heidi Jannenga of WebPT, and they did their annual survey that most small businesses lose on average $150,000 a year because patients like those on that lost patient report don't complete their full plans of care. That's a detriment to you as a business owner. It's a detriment to them as patients because they're not getting better and the chance of recidivism or the chance that they didn't even get better is significantly higher.

It is a detriment to the profession as well.

We'd become a commodity. They say, “Physical therapy didn't work for me.” They don't say, "I'm going to try a different physical therapist." Like anybody would maybe with a dentist, they say, "Physical therapy didn't work, so I'm going to try something else." It's unfortunate. I'm excited for you and I want to follow along with you and see what you learn along the way and so we can share with the audience essentially the benefits of coaching. I wanted to share your story number one, because it's amazing that you haven't gone through the typical cycle of an entrepreneur that's even spelled out in The E-Myth Revisited. It's not in the physical therapy space, but I think she was a baker of pies and she had that burn out and she's like, "I can't do this anymore. I'm not seeing my family and I hate my job." You never experienced that because you looked ahead and started planning and started acting forward in faith that things were going to continue to grow and it's worked out well for you. You're going to continue to grow that you develop that foundation.

I want to say one funny thing that happened. We're in the process of moving houses. We're going through a bunch of things and I find a box of all my notes from PT school and I open up a folder from my business admin class, the one day that we spent on and pull out the handouts. There was right on the top was The E-Myth Revisited. I don't remember the professor ever talking about that back in the day. If anything, they were doing a good job teaching about business because they talked about The E-Myth. I'm sure there are other ways to look at it, but following that way of setting up systems and organizing the business and working on the business. That is what has allowed me to get to where I am.

What's different about you Avi compared to a lot of entrepreneurs, whether it's physical therapy owners or not, you've had it on the one book and I'm sure you've read other books, but this one's been influential for you. There are people out there that have read the book and I've read hundreds of others and aren't in the position where you are. The differences that you've actually taken action on what you learned. I read The E-Myth Revisited 6, 7, 8 years ago, but I didn't implement it to the level that you did it either. I would submit that people who are reading the business books, if they read The E-Myth Revisited, don't read it as a nice, good story, but to actually implement what he recommends. 

The only way to implement it is if you take time away from treating and work on the business.

You've actually put those principles into practice and that's what I separated you from somebody who is simply read the book. I'm excited to see your growth here as you get some greater insight and knowledge on how to improve your stats and become more efficient. We'll follow up with you and do another interview and see what you've learned and what's been influential for you. Maybe there are some pitfalls, maybe there are some things that happened along the way, who knows? You might experience for yourself what your initial outpatient company did in San Francisco. Maybe not everybody's aligned. That or everything is going to go in a great direction because you have your ducks in a row already. I'm excited to see what happens. Is there anything else that you want to share, Avi?

For anyone, if they are reading for the first time, reading your blog has been helpful also. I talked a lot about The E-Myth, especially because I've set aside some time to work on things. I'll read your blog whatever interview person you have on and then try to implement those things that day or that week. It's been also helpful to know other people's stories.

That makes me feel good. Not only a resource but an inspiration to you. Thank you for that. We will stay in touch and we'll come back around to the story that is Avi’s in Druid Hills PT.

I'm looking forward to it. 

Thanks.

Take care.

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About Avi Zinn

PTO 75 | Private Practice Owner CoachDr. Avi Zinn, PT, DPT, OCS is the owner of Druid Hills Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia. He opened his practice at the end of 2017 and has slowly built it up—transitioning from a staff of one (himself) to a team of administrative staff and treating therapists. He continues to grow the practice gradually. Avi’s main mission for Druid Hills PT is to provide high-quality, personalized care to each and every one of his patients.

Avi has his doctorate in physical therapy from Touro College, and is a Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. He lives with his wife and three children in Atlanta.

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PTO 74 | Internal Marketing Programs

 

Although Mike Bills, PT had plenty of managerial experience for a large hospital network, it did not prepare him for owning his own PT clinic. He quickly learned that owning and managing are two different ball games. Mike reached out and got some consulting support five plus years ago, stepped out of treating full-time, and has networked with other PT owners for the past five years. Now, his one-person clinic has turned to a 6,000-sf facility with thirteen providers, and they're continuing to grow in spite of the POPTs and hospital networks that have sprung up around them. What are they doing differently to thrive and survive? Today, Mike shares the formula to ownership success as well as their successful actions of obtaining new patients through their internal referral programs and social media/internet efforts.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Successful Internal Marketing Programs With Mike Bills, PT

I've got a friend of mine. I've known Mike Bills for a few years. We're both clients at Measurable Solutions. He's the President of Measurable Solutions for those of you that have been through any of their programs. Knowing Mike and the successes that he's had at his clinic, I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with him. He shared with me how much they're growing and how well they're doing. I thought, “I need to bring him on because there's one aspect in particular during our conversation that stood out.” One of his most successful marketing actions is a robust internal marketing program to the point where a great percentage of their patients come from internal referrals from current physical therapy patients. They're not dipping their foot in the water here. They've been doing this for a number of years.

It flabbergasted me when I was doing the interviews. They do 30 minutes of drilling, training, and roleplaying with all of their 30 to 40 team members every week on how to get referrals from current physical therapy patients, not just providers. The entire team is responsible for this to the point where it's affecting their referral sources significantly in terms of internal referrals. Another example is that they've focused on internet and social media referrals. That's where they get the majority of their patients at this point. We go through that. He shares the powers and the numbers. They simply get a minor percentage of their patients from physician referrals. I want to share that with you because it's powerful what you can do with internal referral programs and the usage of social media and online marketing to the extent that I have seen from other physicians or physical therapy owners during the course of my show. I'm excited to share this insight with you. Let's get to the episode.

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I have Mike Bills, CEO and owner of Loudoun Sports Therapy from Sterling, Virginia. He is also the President of Measurable Solutions. For those of you that might've been through Measurable Solutions at one time or another over the past couple of decades, Mike is now the face of Measurable Solutions. Thank you for coming on, Mike. I appreciate you doing so.

Thank you for having me. I'm excited.

You've got a great expanding clinic in Virginia. In talking with you in the past, you've had some successful exit actions in terms of your marketing strategies and whatnot. I want to get to that, but I wanted to learn a little bit about you and your professional path. What got you to where you are now? Would you mind sharing it?

I started out as a physical therapist many years ago. I was a therapist for quite a long time, but I got started in therapy probably a lot as everybody else did. I wanted to help people. I had some injuries myself in high school and in college and it led me down that path. I was trying to decide between being an athletic trainer or a physical therapist. I had some physical therapy issues and I fell in love with it. I'll be honest, I never truly had any inspirations to be a business owner when I started out. I talked to a lot of guys and they come out of school knowing they want to own their own practice by the time they’ve been out for a couple of years. I never had that interest on my part. Physical therapy was a lot different then. I went to work for a company that I had been to the place where I had been a patient. I knew a couple of the therapists that were there. I had a good relationship with them. They helped me to grow skill-wise early on in my career. We got bought by a large hospital system, and I ended up somehow in management and not a hospital system. Maybe I got tricked into it.

I was the Outpatient Regional Head of about 37 different outpatient therapy centers up and down the different parts of the East Coast hospital system. I don't know how I get into that because it wasn't the direction I wanted to go. In the several years that I did that, I will honestly tell you that I never learned a single thing about running a business. I was responsible for all these places, who got hired and who worked when, but nobody ever taught me how to run a business. One day I said, “I am not happy with what I'm doing. I'm not happy working for this big conglomerate. I feel like I'm being told how to do everything.” I pretty much said, “The first opportunity that comes up, I want to get out.”

I mentioned that to my boss at the time. I said, “Anytime any one of these physical therapy centers in this area where I live here in Virginia is up for sale, let me know because I want to buy it.” Lo and behold, a few months later, Jane called me up. She said, “We're going to need to close a couple of places. Are you interested in any of them?” I said, “I sure am.” It fell into my lap so it's on my lap. I knew nothing about running a practice. There I was. All of a sudden I owned a practice. That was in 2005. A few days later, my wife and I bought a new house. A few months later, my daughter was born. A lot of things happened in a short period of time.

Here I am, I'm doing well. It was me at the time. I started to realize that I didn't want to be small. I wanted to help as many people as I could. I was in an area that was growing a lot. New doctors are coming in and things like that. I started to figure, “I got this. I can do this. I've run all these other places.” I started almost grasping at straws and pulling things out of the sky. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Healthcare was a lot different back then. We got reimbursed a lot better and there weren't all of the authorization and restrictions that there are now. As those things started to creep in, I wasn't sure anymore what to do. I was starting to have some struggles. You mentioned Measurable Solutions. I was a client of them as well, that's where I found them. I started to learn how to run a business and that's what's become successful for me to the point where I've grown my business significantly.

What led you to reach out to Measurable Solutions in the first place or decide to get some help? What's intriguing is that you had all these years of management experience, yet you didn't learn how to run a business and you would assume that it'd be an easy transition for you to be successful in an outpatient clinic, which is a story itself. What led you? Was there a turning point where you're like, “I need to get on top of this. I need to find something else?” Is there a backstory behind that?

People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it because they perceive how dedicated you are to what you do. Click To Tweet

Definitely, there is. Around 2011 to 2012, at least in my area, it's where a lot of physicians were starting to open their own PT practices. There were a couple of big companies that came into the area at the time, HealthSouth Physiotherapy came into the area. They started to open or buy a lot of clinics. I've run these outpatient centers, but I ran them underneath the guys in the management of this hospital system that I was part of. Here I am, I'm on my own. I don't know how to compete against HealthSouth Physiotherapy or PTs that are opening their own practice. I felt like I needed some help to help me to survive that period of time. That's when I reached out. That's what's been the impetus for me growing and being successful over the course of the last several years. We've expanded over 600% in terms of size and volume. It started from 2011 to 2012, where I was scared of what might happen if I didn't have a better plan in place to compete against these big guys that were coming in.

I don't know if the environment is all that different nowadays for new practice owners. Whether it's physicians that are taking their therapy services in-house if they haven't already done so or hospital networks buying up or larger nationally-run private equity firms or publicly-traded physical therapy companies that are coming and buying some of the smaller clinics. It's happening all over the place. Even though it's a little bit different than your situation, I'm sure there is a similar environment now where there are owners who aren't sure what their future looks like, reimbursements are going to go down, authorizations are going to be a lot harder, all that kind of stuff. There are plenty of questions out there. That's my mantra. You’ve got to reach out and get some help. Reach out, step out, and network. You’ve got to reach out and find somebody to give you some of that business training.

That's why I love your show because it exposes people to many other opportunities. Many other people had been through the same things. I was at PPS, I was talking to a lot of new guys that are coming out. They've been out for a couple of years and they're experiencing the same things. Here in my area, I forget about the fact that there is not even a primary care physician in my area anymore that doesn't own his or her own PT practice. I forget about that because I've got assistance ingrained. It works so well. As I was talking to some guys, it's happening all over the place pretty much no matter where you are from Alaska to Florida. It's the same situation.

It was you as a physical therapist when you initially got started. Where are you at now? How many providers do you have on staff? How many locations do you have?

I always like to look back on that. It truly was just me. I didn't have any office staff. I didn't have a tech. I didn't have anything. It was me. I answered the phone. I collected payments. I sent the claims to the insurance company. I treated the patients. I cleaned the tables. I always like to look back on that. Here's where we're at now. We had our fourteenth clinician PT that started. In PT/PTA, we have five athletic trainers that work for us as well. I wouldn't be doing it fair if I gave you a number, but we have a large number of the front office staff that includes billing and things like that. We'd probably have 8 or 9 people. We have a total of 38 or 39 employees now. We're all in one location. I would say I have six clinics. They're all in one building.

Every time we've needed or wanted to expand, we've been able to take on additional space in the building that we're in. It’s one of the things that I learned when I moved to this building back in 2007. We're in this direct center of the county and you have to drive through us to get to anywhere you go in our area. Rather than opening another place over here and another one over there, it's always worked economies of scale for us to take on another 2,000 square feet and turn it into that. We took on 2,000 square feet. We haven't knocked down the wall yet. We don't need the space yet, but it puts us at over 16,000 square feet. That's why I say I have six clinics, but they're all in one. Every time we do so, we've got to hire new office staff, new clinical staff and that's how we've grown.

I've always been envious of that. It's nice to say that I've got 4, 6, 10, 12 locations, but I've always been envious of you because you've got one location and a bunch of providers knocking it out. It’s economies of scale. You got immediate visual oversight of what's going on in the clinic and everyone is in connection with each other. It's easy to develop your culture and a lot of that goes on well. Your story is awesome but I want to talk about what ramped up your numbers. What were some of the successful actions? There's one particular program that I want to delve in with you about. What do you think some of the successful actions had been for you in terms of expanding your numbers?

I would say there are two pieces. One is getting more new patients in the door. I would sum that up as saying like marketing and promoting. Both internal and external things and how we look at and how we address a patient from the time they start to the time they finish, getting them to what I would call a successful discharge. Those are the two pieces where every year we'd rather bring in more new patients. We've expanded that way and/or we've tightened down our systems and made a much better process. We improved the process to make sure that we're keeping patients all the way to a successful discharge. Those two things have been the biggest driving factors in our expansion, especially over the last several years.

PTO 74 | Internal Marketing Programs
Internal Marketing Programs: We should address a patient from the time they start all the way to a successful discharge.

 

I love what you said there that you added tightening up the processes because many times, I find that many clinics if they're going through some tough times don't necessarily need a lot of new patients. What you find is that they have holes in the bucket, holes in the ship, however you want to analogize that, but they don't have the structural integrity to maintain the patients to get them through their full plan of care to a successful discharge. If you can shore up those holes and maintain the integrity of your system so there are people getting through to discharge successfully. You don't meet a lot of new patients, but when you do start getting new patients, you start seeing tremendous growth. That's what you see that you shored up your systems. I do have to put a plugin here. Your wife has been on the show before, her name is Dee Bills. She owns Front Office GURU. I recommend you go back and read her episode and when she recognized that she spent more than a year in fortifying the front office systems in your clinic to do exactly what we're talking about.

I am glad you mentioned that. I was going to say that in the year 2014, we had five fewer new patients came in the door in 2014 but it’s when we implemented and instilled all of the processes that she now teaches people out in Front Office GURU. We grew 31% in the year of 2014 both in collections and patient visits because we shored up all those holes. That's a great point to the fact that you don't need more new patients all of the time, you need to be sometimes look at improving your systems. We had fewer new patients over the course of fourteen from the previous year thirteen. We grew considerably because we shored up and plugged all those holes with all of the things that she now goes off and teaches other people. I'm lucky enough to be able to have learned that along the way with her. We continue to put it into play now.

I can't imagine how much money, how well that hit your bottom line, your net profits in that regard because your expenses were probably about the same. I did a show with Heidi Jannenga and they do their annual WebPT State of Rehab Survey Report. They found that the average small clinic loses about $150,000 per year in gross revenue. They haven't shored up their systems in there and patients essentially aren't completing their plans of care successful.

Think about it, you need to get a patient that finishes two visits, finishes themselves, two visits before they should have. You multiply that by however many patients there are. That's a ton of visits. It's a ton of money that we're losing as business owners.

What I want to talk to you is you've focused on and all of us are out there, “I need to get physician relationships, visits and referrals.” Those are super important. It's important to have those relationships with the doctors in the community, but you've been successful with your internal referral programs. Do you mind sharing with the audience a little bit about that and what you do?

We have done a good job in my opinion. We've done a good job of building relationships with patients that are current and how we get them to refer patients. You can call it a patient referral program, but anybody can give out a card that says, “Refer a patient or I'll give you a gift card to target if you refer me a patient.” I live hard on this philosophy of people who don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They perceive how dedicated you are to what you do. You talked about the culture before. You're creating a culture where patients want to share that with their friends and their families. It goes a lot into educating the patient. In Virginia, we have some loose direct access laws, which do help us. I would tell you, I'm working with a client in Texas that has some restrictive direct access laws. This is working gangbusters for them.

If you educate your patients on when they can come to you, how they can refer their family, friends, and you teach your staff how to have the right conversations, that program comes into play. I'll give you an example. If I'm working with a patient and I am talking to him about, “What do you do for work?” “I work around the corner at Oracle.” “Tell me something about the guys that you work with.” “We all sit around in these cubicles all day. We're all on our computers all day.” Let's say this guy is here for his knee because he hurt it running, but I will start to ask questions like, “Anybody at work ever complaining about their arms hurting them, their elbows hurting them, their necks hurting them?”

He was like, “We were having this conversation. We've got to figure out some way because at the end of the day, on Friday, our necks are always stiff and sore.” There's a light bulb for me. I'm going to educate him on what he should be saying to those five guys that he sits in a cubicle with. Before you know it, 2 or 3 of them have become patients in a short period of time while that guy that I was treating is still here. It's a matter of how do I educate him to go back to the office and educate those people so that the internal referral is walking in the door before that guy has ever been discharged. He's replaced himself 2 or 3 times over. That cycle keeps ongoing.

Train, drill, and practice. Click To Tweet

I love it because that takes it to another level. I love it because you're basing it upon your higher purpose. Whereas our internal referral program in the past, it was a little bit more like, “Who else do you know that's in pain?” Inevitably you might know somebody that has some issues with this, that or the other. It was surprising to me how many patients would sit there as we're working on their knees and they'd ask us, “Do you guys work with low back pain?” That's 75% of my patient load. Patients still don't know what we do essentially. We have to educate them on how we can provide value to them. For those patients who are coming with their knees, you ask them, “Are they having issues with their backs? Tell us about your family or whatnot.” You look for opportunities where you can instruct not only them but also instruct them on how they can help or guide their friends and family over to you by the value you provide.

I realized that it's a matter of I had to change my mindset that it was okay for me to tell them what type of patient to send me and when to send me that. If I'm having a conversation with a parent and they're like, “What'd you do this weekend?” “I was with my kids. My kid had this soccer tournament.” “Does anybody ever get hurt on the field?” “All the time.” “Here's what I want you to do.” I had to change my mindset. “The next time somebody gets hurt, I want you to give them this card. We're going to write your name on it because I want you to get credit for it. Once you give them this card, I want you to tell them about the experience that you're having in therapy. What do you like about therapy right now?” “I liked the fact that every time I come in, you guys remember my name and you remember what we did last time. You always want to know things. You're progressing me.” “I want you to share that with that child's parents.”

It helps that process of I'm educating that patient on what to do because they don't know that we treat backs because they're here for their knee. They don't know that somebody else can walk in off the street because they came to us from a referral from a physician. All of those points where we can educate them on, it might come into play when they're in therapy. It might come into play a few weeks from now, but we all are going to come in contact with somebody that's in some level of discomfort. I want them to be able to go, “I had a great experience. You should go see those guys.” For us, that was a big part of it.

That's a great example of how you're not handing over the card saying, “If you know anybody, you can get a free movie ticket if you pass them along to us.” I love how you give them the words, the verbiage to use when they're in that situation so that they do feel comfortable. Maybe they don't use the exact words, but they know the feeling that you're trying to portray it. Through them, they can express that feeling in those words to someone who needs physical therapy, honestly. What have been some of the benefits of that? Have you seen a significant amount of growth simply by pushing the internal referral program?

Yes, we've tracked a lot of different statistics. The ones that we track is how many of our new patients on a weekly basis are coming from what we call patient referrals, which would be that internal referral program. On an annual basis up through the end of the third quarter, after the end of September 2019, about 38% of our new patients had come from referrals from other people, which is only second to new patients coming to us off of the internet, social media. It's three times the amount of referrals that we get from physicians, we're getting patients referring family, friends. It's been successful. When you look at it if I used to get three new patients from that, let's say 27 is what we had. If I get 27 new patients from patient referrals, then let's think about how much that's going to help things to expand. It takes us back to the previous topic we were talking about.

If I referred you to someplace, you're going to go with you're already sold. I don't have to sell you on your plan of care. You're going to want to stay because your wife said it was a great place. You're going to do what I tell you because your wife said that. It helps that process much easier. I always tell my staff, “Wouldn't you rather treat the friends of the patients that you liked, then roll the dice on that guy that walks in off the street and you don't know anything about him? You already know that patient because they work with Joe at Oracle. You already know things about them. You already have things in common.” It's much easier to treat that patient. Put that energy into educating them on how to refer somebody.

You use the words well and I'm sure you established a great referral program. How do you get the other providers on your team to do the same thing, to have the same words, to use the same energy? It's one thing to do it as the owner because you own that program and process, but how do you get that to extrapolate into the rest of the team, even the front desk?

This is the message that when you ask me, what is the one thing that's been most successful for you across all aspects of your business? It would be what I call drilling or training. We drill and we train all the time. I'll use it as an analogy. The World Series is finished. Washington Nationals, I'm not a Nationals fan even though I live right here in Washington DC. Let's say I was, I'm a Yankees fan, but nonetheless those guys train year-round. They'll take a couple of weeks off, but even on a day where there's a game, they're in the batting cage before the game. Why? They're going to get 27 pitches or so over the course of the game, but yet they're still practicing that. I take the same philosophy with my clinicians, with my front office staff.

PTO 74 | Internal Marketing Programs
Internal Marketing Programs: You don't need more new patients all of the time. Sometimes you need to look at improving your systems.

 

We need to practice. I have to recognize that I didn't get good at having a patient referral program in the first few years I was a clinician. I probably was horrible at it back then. As the business owner, I've perfected that skill, which is what helped me to be successful as a business owner. As to help my staff, all of them, you have to be as successful as that. It comes to training. We train, drill and practice. How would you ask me for a referral? I wouldn't say, “Do you know anybody I know?” I would train them, drill with them, and practice with them how to have that conversation so that it flows They want to get those referrals. They don't know how to go about the process. They'll be like, “Have this referral card and bring it.” They'll get back to whatever they were doing because the conversation doesn't flow naturally. It's practice.

To get into the weeds a little bit, are you doing this one on one? Are you doing it as a group? I mistakenly immediately went and said that you're training this with the providers, but you're dealing with your whole staff. The entire staff should be on board with this internal referral program because they know the value that Loudoun Sports Therapy provides to the community. You shouldn't be holding that back. How often are you doing these drilling or training sessions?

I'll try to break it down for you this way. If we're talking about the referral program, it starts on day one. If you are a new employee, you're training and drilling on the referral program every single day. Whether you work at the front desk, you’re a tech, you’re a PT. There's some semblance of drilling on that every single day, five days a week as part of from day one of starting. Even my people that had been here from 5 to 8 years, they're still drilling a minimum of one time a week for 30 minutes on that one aspect.

We do drills on a lot of different things, but that is the key thing that everybody does. No matter what you do, everybody's drilling on that a minimum of 30 minutes a week, at least one time a week. There may be other things that you're drilling on. Every staff member for us drills a minimum total of 60 minutes a week. That's the inside of their 40 hours a week. It's not an addition. If you're newer, more of your 40 hour week is going to be on drilling. If you're older, you've been here longer, it's still that minimum of an hour and 30 minutes of that hour is always on the referral program.

Do you do that over the course of a year? You guys have become experts then at getting referrals from patients.

Yes, it’s the same thing. Think about the baseball players. They're still in the batting cage all the time. It's funny, we're having this conversation. My youngest daughter who's sixteen, who still is in high school, she's the only one that we have left at home. She is interviewing for a job here. She's going through the same process. She's worked there since she was eight, but she's still interviewing for a job. It'd be a position at the front desk. She came home, she had the interview process. She's like, “I won't say their name, but I might want to drill with Sally a little bit more because she wasn't as good at talking about the referral program as I think she should be.” There's always been a joke. My daughter has always said that she's the Deputy CEO of Loudoun Sports Therapy. It was interesting to see how somebody who's grown-up seeing that and to be able to see. She’s somebody who's been here for a couple of weeks and that's a new employee that she was talking about. She’s somebody that flows well but still has room for improvement on that.

You guys will not only train on the internal referral programming. Essentially, the goal with the training then is to get the referrals from the patient or to pass along the card simply. What is the goal of each training session?

The goal of the training session would be that they have an increased level of confidence in being able to help the patients to have a realization of somebody that's out there that maybe we could help. We're not looking for them to give us their name and their phone number. That's not the process we're following. If that's what somebody is doing, that's perfectly fine. What we're looking for is for them to have the realization. I dragged my trashcan down to the street and I was talking to my neighbor. He's like, “My knee has been bothering me.” What I want is for that patient to realize that's somebody that they could refer to us.” It's drilling with the staff member to have that conversation, help the patient to have that realization, and come to the conclusion of, “I don't have to send them here, shouldn't I? Do you guys do these?” “Yes, we do.” “Do you have something I could give them?” “I have this card. You could give them the card” We have a card that says referral card on it. We'll write the patient's name on it so they get credit for it. We'll send them a thank you, but we don't do anything else.

The goal of the training session is to have an increased level of confidence in being able to help the patients. Click To Tweet

You say you're getting 38% of your patients from this internal referral program. I'm assuming that with all the physicians on physical therapy clinics in your area, you don't get a lot of physician referrals. What's your percentage there?

It is 11%.

Where are you getting a majority of your patients from at this time?

If we look at beyond the patient referral program, what I would classify to be like social media, the internet. It's social media, internet, and the patient referral program tied together. We have an expectation that every patient who successfully completes therapy is going to give us a success story. Do an online review for us. We average about 13 to 14 online reviews a week between Facebook and Google. That's hard. It's an extension of that internal review or referral program. They give us that review.

The discharge patients give us that review so that somebody out in the community sees that, has that reality with it and reaches out. The majority of our patients, we've been successful in building the use of that direct access through that patient referral program. Patients come to us off the street, they'll see something that we put up on Facebook or an email that we send out or something that we mail out. It’s a whole own separate entity. That's the number one driving force. The number two driving force for new patients is the patient referral program.

Physician referrals have declined over the course of a number of years. The study, a couple of years ago, it declined 50% between 2010 and 2018. It's dependent on us to change our marketing strategy. Don't forsake your physician relationships, those are valuable. You always want to be able to the physicians that these patients are saying, but you’ve got to consider direct to consumer marketing is the way you need to go. If you're outside of the internal, the patients are already there. I'm assuming you've got emails or newsletters that are going out to past patients and you're constantly mining that group because that's an ever-expanding group. You've got the internal referral program that gets you some immediate patients based on the patients that are in the clinic. When it comes to social media, are you doing some Facebook ads? Are you simply having those patients post on social media?

We're doing both. For example, that patient that is discharged now, they'll do an online review for us. They'll put their success story up. We'll share that. We'll like that. They'll share that and like that with their friends with that piece. We are doing a whole semblance of things online. We do run ads on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Most of what we're doing is unpaid. Most of what we're doing is I would term to be organic. It's not following the organic definition of Facebook. We post five things a day on Facebook about different problems. It falls back to the notion of if I educate people that there is a problem, how the problem is affecting them, that there's a solution for it, they're going to be much more likely to take action because they understand what it will do for them to take action.

It goes back to that mantra of people don't buy what you're doing. They buy why you're doing it. I'm constantly putting out content that helps people to see that it's not normal at the age of 45 to have knee pain, despite where we might think in society. In society, we think, “It's okay because I'm getting older.” It shouldn't be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. “Here are some things you might be having problems with going up and downstairs, sitting to watch a movie. There's a solution to it.” After they see that a certain number of times, they will start to take action. We'll tie that success story into it. “Here's Joe who had knee problems. He came to us and here are his results.” That's part of that whole process.

PTO 74 | Internal Marketing Programs
internal Marketing Programs: When the discharged patients give us that review, somebody out in the community who sees that will be reaching out.

 

The majority of what we're doing when it comes to getting new patients off of social media, internet, isn't down that paid avenue as much as it's down the continue to educate them and give them good content and information. They will make that decision to take action in a relatively short period of time. I hadn't changed my mindset. I used to think, “One post a week was enough.” Now, I said, “We do a minimum of five a day and a minimum of two emails a day.” That's a minimum. If we just hired a new clinician and we're trying to fill their schedule, then it's 7 to 8 things a day and 4 to 5 emails a day. I had to change my mindset, but following that same philosophy.

Who's creating all that content?

We have all of our clinical staff create all of that content. We do all of our own social media stuff in-house. It's a requirement. It's an expectation. If you're a clinician that works for us, you're going to produce one blog every three weeks and one vlog every five weeks. We're constantly creating that content internally. I have full-time promotions, people that work for us as part of our staff. They're employed here, but that's her job as she does social media stuff. She's taking those blogs that she's getting, she's turning them into content, throwing a picture with it, putting it up online, deciding what to do with it. It's getting that stuff out, but all our clinicians are producing all of that.

Do you find you're getting a lot of patients that say, “I found you guys on Facebook?” Are you getting some of that?

When we look at it if I were to turn around here. If I'm looking at my referrals that came from online, 63% of our new patients came to us of some form of online, internet, social media.

I haven't talked to a lot of successful PT owners that have had as much success as you have when it comes to the internet and social media work. Do you attribute that sheer volume on the consistency of your posting?

It comes down to three things. One is the volume. It is the quantity of things that we're putting out. Number two, it's the quality of what we're putting out. We're not putting out, “Come to Loudoun Sports Therapy.” We're putting out, “Here's a problem. Here's how therapy can help. By the way, at Loudoun Sports therapy, we treat that.” We're telling a story to the patients that they come to have a realization that there's a problem. There's a solution to it. The third thing that I'd say that helped us to drive that as that I've spent a lot of time. The benefit of me being able to truly be an owner and not have to worry about being a physical therapist is I've been able to dedicate my time and hire staff who have the same desire to learn a lot about that avenue of marketing and promoting and using social media.

I've become a pseudo expert in marketing and promotion. That's one of the things that I do with Measurable Solutions is helping to pass that information on to other practice owners so that they can have the same results. It is something that's been successful for us. I talked to a lot of practice owners who tried it but it didn't work. I'll say it's because they didn't put their full attention and energy on it. They were paying somebody that's also marketing for the restaurant down the street, writing a blog for them about something. It's always driven towards, “Come to Loudoun Sports Therapy.” That’s a no-no. “Go to physical therapy. By the way, Loudoun Sports Therapy does the things that we're talking about.”

People need to see something an average of twelve or more times before they take action on it. Click To Tweet

That's one thing I know about myself is that I'm not the creative type, content creation is like nails on a chalkboard. Inevitably you probably have somebody on your team that would probably love to have that responsibility to do that. You have shown by the fact that your providers are doing content creation, have created a culture, and a group of people that are willing, wanting and anxious to provide that.

I'd say it's a lot later. Back to the drilling on teaching a patient how they can refer to others. A lot of times, we'd get very all worked up about a blog has to be this big fancy thing with a lot of stats and a lot of stuff. It's making it simple for that staff member, “If you were standing in line at the grocery store and the person in front of you kept rubbing their neck, what would you talk to that person about for 2.5 minutes? Go write that down. That's a blog. Making it something that's much simpler because that's the type of relationship we should have with our potential patients. Don't be all fancy and super-duper hyper stuff. Be simple and basic.”

They will have that realization if they see it enough. You've got to have stuff out there and enough content. The same thing with the patient on the patient referrals side, the internal referrals, you can't mention it one time. You've got to be like, “When you went back to work, did you talk to any of those guys that were complaining about their neck pain?” “No, I didn't.” You're like, “You have to keep coming back to that point.” It's the same thing. It's everything in quantity will give you what you're looking for later on.

I love how you brought that back around full circle to the internal referral program. The one-time conversation isn't sufficient. There need to be followups, there needs to be, “As you walked around, have you noticed other people with a similar condition? What are your friends and family like?

I might've been talking to you about the guys you sit at work with you had lunch with, but then you're telling me about the soccer game. You're talking about raking leaves with your neighbors. All of those things are opportunities where I keep ingraining in you. I keep having this relatively same conversation, but I keep ingraining in you how you can refer to other people. I don't just have it one time. It's like a shoulder that's frozen. I don't mobilize it one time and it's all better. I've got to mobilize it twelve times and it starts getting better. It's the same thing with getting somebody to refer, getting those referrals in. A lot of times we get wrapped into, “I tried that. We tried it three times over the course of three months.” You have that conversation twice with a patient on day five. On day fifteen, they didn't do what you needed him to do.

I read a study that said, “On this day and age of social media, we need to see something an average of twelve or more times before we'll take action on it.” It changed my mindset. If I'm putting out a blog a week, a couple of weeks from now, maybe somebody will go, “I should do that.” The reality is if they're only seeing it once a week, they forgot about it by the time they see it next week. The same is true for patients. If I had a conversation with you about referring your wife, but I don't ask the next time, “How's your wife doing?” You forgot that we had a conversation. I’ve got to have that conversation with you multiple times for you to go, “I'm going to have the conversation with her and get her off my back at a minimum.” You’ve got to hear and see something twelve times before you take action on it.

That changes my mindset hearing you say that. It's understandable because, in the past, my refrain growing up was that someone's got to hear it three times for it to sink in. If you consider the decreased attention span of people nowadays and how easily distracted they are. You tell me once and I'm going to forget that by the time I scroll up to the next thing on LinkedIn or Facebook. If I see it a number of times and especially, more than three times over the course of even a couple of days, then it starts sinking in. I can see where twelve is coming from.

If you watch football games, if you watch an NFL game in a span of 3.5 hours, how many times do you see the exact same commercial? Not the commercial for Bud Light or for Ford trucks. It's the exact same commercial. It's the same philosophy. You've got to see it many times before you're like, “I need that truck.” That's the society we live in.

PTO 74 | Internal Marketing Programs
Internal Marketing Programs: When you educate people that there is a problem, how the problem is affecting them, and that there's a solution for it, they are much more likely to take action.

 

Thanks for sharing so much about some of the successful actions that you're doing with your clinic. It's evident in the numbers that you have now and the growth that you guys have seen. If someone wanted to reach out to you to pick your brain, ask about Measurable Solutions, even get in touch with Dee, how would they get in touch with you?

That's the point I love about where I am in my career now is that I get a chance to help other practice owners. I am so much about helping the private practice owner to survive in this day and age of big corporations. Anybody that wants to reach out to me, I would love to sit down, chat and help in any way I can. The best way to get in touch with me is to send me a text, shoot me an email, or leave me a voicemail. I'll give you my cell phone number. It's (703) 470-5995. One of the great things about me, having built this business to my clinic is I've been able to give back to Measurable Solutions that was helpful for me.

They taught me a ton of the basics of these things that I've applied and talked about. I've been able to join their team. I'm the President of Measurable Solutions now. The best email to reach me at is my email for them. That would be Mike@FortisBusinessSolutions.com. Send me an email. I'm happy to figure out a time that we could talk or anything like that. I am always about being able to help people because I want private practices to survive. I do not want us to get eaten up by physicians and corporations. I'd love to help anybody that's out there that wants more information.

Thank you for your time. I appreciate it, Mike. It was great. There's a ton of value. Thank you.

You're welcome. Thank you.

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About Mike Bills, PT

PTO 74 | Internal Marketing ProgramsMike Bills is the Owner and CEO of Loudoun Sports Therapy Center in Sterling VA. He started his practice in 2005 and did everything: answered the phone, treated patients, billed the insurance, etc. Since that time he has grown his practice by over 10 times. He now has a staff of well over 20 people, including 14 clinicians and a facility size of over 10,000 square feet. It was always Mike’s goal to have the time and ability to manage his business and not work in it and he has fulfilled that goal as he is the true CEO and no longer treats patients. Another goal Mike had was to be able to help other PT’s have the Freedom they deserved from their practice.

Mike was a client of Measurable Solutions where he learned how to truly manage a private practice and where he learned how to truly be the CEO. This is where he learned the basis for all of the systems that he uses in his practice that have helped him to be so successful. Recently Mike was named the President of Measurable Solutions and is now able to fulfill that goal of helping other private practice PT’s have the same success as him. If it weren’t for the perseverance and drive over the years to build a successful business this never would have been a reality for him. Marketing is one of the most important pillars of a private practice and I have worked hard to develop systems that continuously help my practice to grow and thrive despite the time of year or whatever else is happening in my community. I am happy to be invited onto the podcast to share just a fraction of what has helped us be so successful.

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PTO 73 | Secured Financial Freedom

 

There is nothing more comforting than knowing that you are financially secure for the future. Bringing in a trusted expert from Econologics Financial Advisors, Eric Miller gets into the mindset, attitude, and strategic plans you need in place to secure your wealth for the future and for your household. Eric and Econologics have been working as financial advisors to hundreds of private practice owners over the past decade. Thus, they know some of the pitfalls that we share when it comes to our finances and what it takes for owners to become financially free. Eric goes beyond the investments and portfolios and sets you up with the right mindset and financial purpose and goals that are in line with your retirement plans. Secure your household and make your clinic the vehicle by which you achieve your financial goals in this episode.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Navigating The Path To Financial Freedom With Eric Miller Of Econologics

I get to talk about money, one of my favorite topics. One of the reasons why I got into business was to have more freedom and security for my future. I decided to bring on Eric Miller of Econologics. If you remember, we had Christopher Music of Econologics on. I've been working with them for a little over a year. I do have to have full disclosure that I have an interest in their performance. I've also been a happy client. The reason why I like Econologics is not only do I like their perspective on financial planning but also the amount of communication they provide. If you follow my episode with Frank Cawley, we talked about important financial indicators like KPIs, reports and developing a financial team. Those things are all important. What I get into with Eric is more the mindset, attitude and strategic plans that you need to have in place in order to secure your wealth for the future and for your household. Important items to consider, this is all about securing the household and making our clinics the vehicle by which we achieve our financial goals. Let's get to the episode.

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I've got Eric Miller, Chief Financial Advisor of Econologics joining me to talk about one of my favorite topics, money. Thanks for coming on, Eric. I appreciate it.

My pleasure, Nate.

Can you share with us a little bit about your experience as a financial advisor and your practice or work with private practice owners? What's got you to this point?

Long story short, I am a financial advisor and I've been in the financial industry for about twenty years. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1990. The funny thing is I get so jealous of practice owners because a lot of you knew what you were going to do when you're 8 to 10 years old. I was 29 years old before I knew what I wanted to do. I always had an interest in money. For some reason, it was an area that always attracted me. I didn't study the subject when I went to college. When I got out of college, I worked for a mutual fund company selling 401(k)s and managed accounts.

I started to get introduced to what financial advisors did. By and large, what I found out was although they were benevolent and they wanted to do a good job, it was mostly an accumulation of assets. That's what they did. They didn't focus on, “How do we change someone's financial condition?” It was, “How much money can we manage?” I met a friend that said, “I'm going to start a financial planning company down in Florida. Do you want to join me?” At that point, I had a house, a dog and a girlfriend. I knew that was my purpose at that point in time. Like many people, I was like, “If I'm going to do it, I better do it right now,” and I jumped. I drove down there and got rid of that life. This was in 2008. Do you remember what was happening in 2008?

Bad timing.

Your practice is what drives your personal wealth. It is the main money artery that most private practice owners have. Click To Tweet

It was a global meltdown. The stock market was down 50% and banks overlent to everyone. It was chaos. It was the worst time you could think of to start a financial planning company. We were thinking to ourselves, “We have to do something differently. We can't rely upon all these financial institutions for people to get financially independent.” We had to come up with a system where the business owner himself could be put back into control of his financial destiny. That's what we worked on. We started working with private practice physical therapists. It was the first type of clientele that we worked with. We developed our system of showing a business owner how he can be in charge of his financial future as opposed to putting it in somebody else's hands. How does he do that? How does he use the business as the engine to do that? We focused a lot of our efforts on that. We started working with veterinarians and other private practitioners, but our core is working with private practice physical therapists.

It’s cool that you niched down like that. You've had so much experience over the past decade focused mainly on physical therapists, so you'll know some of the ins and outs of our dilemmas, issues and whatnot.

That's the fun part about it. Your practice is what drives your personal wealth, for most of you. You don't always want to be in that financial condition. That's where most of the money comes from. That's the main money artery that most private practice owners have. If you're advising someone, you better know something about their business that you're going to help them with their money. We do spend a lot of time on that.

You've been working for over twenty years. For the past decade of working specifically with physical therapists, what are some of the things that you would recommend they consider as they're trying to establish a better financial picture or financial condition? We have plenty of display vehicles out there whether that's the traditional 401(k)s, IRAs and stuff. What is your advice to some of the physical therapists out there?

The main thing that we try to get across is number one, you have to treat your household like a business. What I mean by that is that a lot of physical therapists get trapped in the practice. They're there to serve the practice as opposed to the practice being there to serve them. The first thing that we try to teach private practice owners is that you are not there to serve this practice. It's there to serve your household. When you start doing financial planning, it starts with the household. What are the goals and purposes of the household? How can the practice benefit that? What we do is to teach them your point of where you're controlling things. If you look like a company like Facebook. Facebook is the parent company. It owns 80 companies underneath it. Those companies are there to serve Facebook, not the other way around. Our households are no different. Your household, the Nathan Shields’ household, all your kids and your beautiful wife, that's the parent company. That's where everything flows to for the benefit of that.

It's a paradigm shift. Many owners need to make it because they get trapped inside of the company. I espouse that all the time. That's why I want people to reach out and step out of the business so they can work on the business. It's the same thing when you're talking about financials. It's a mindset shift instead of, “What do I need to do inside this business to keep it afloat?” No, you're saying step out and look at it from the household perspective and say, “What does my household need to survive, sustain and prepare for the future? What can the company do for me in order to achieve my household goals?”

PTO 73 | Secured Financial Freedom
Secured Financial Freedom: A good owner tries to build the practice to the highest value that it possibly can provide for the household.

 

When you have that mindset shift right there, it's amazing what happens. You start to put the correct systems in the business that allow you to extract out of it so you can operate from the household level as opposed to being stuck in the business. When you have a plan, you start to know your identity. When you're in the business, you have certain roles that you have to play. You have your owner role, executive role and practitioner role. Not a lot of people are wearing that owner role like they should. That's where we teach people how to do that.

They conflate executive or administrative work with ownership work. Those are two different things. They maybe can hire an office manager to take over some of those administrative/executive functions and responsibilities. That doesn't absolve you from still being an owner, setting up your company appropriately, strategizing and making sure that it funds the household. This is on top of funding itself, so it can sustain your household.

You hit it right on the head. You can pick two of those roles. You can be an owner/executive or you can be an owner/practitioner, but you're always going to be an owner. You have to make sure that you have that mindset of what an owner does. What does an owner do? They make sure that the practice is creating maximum value for themselves and the household. They're trying to build the practice to the highest value that it possibly can provide for the household. That's what a good owner does.

When you sit in the ownership seat, you also never lose the Chief Financial Officer seat at our size. You're still the CFO. You can't delegate that and you shouldn't. You need to be on top of your cashflow.

You absolutely do. The biggest mistake that I see a lot of practice owners do is they stop paying attention to their money. For whatever reason, that's the one thing that you can never do. Money loves attention. It's like a two-year-old at the mall. If you take your attention off a two-year-old at the mall, you have no idea where they're going to end up. Things get lost and your money is no different. When you take your attention off of your money lines, even for a split second, it's amazing how the money will disperse everywhere. Being a good CFO doesn't mean that you have to know how to do spreadsheets and all those technical things. It means that you have to be a good controller of money. It means that you have to be responsible with money. You have to know the basics of money. It isn't that complex at all. It takes some training that you didn't get in PT school.

I can say that my financial situation improved when I started holding my CPA responsible for teaching me what a P&L was about, what a balance sheet looks like, and cashflow reports. I said, “I need to meet with you monthly so you can show me all these things.” I got my own education about finances. On top of that, I started meeting regularly with my biller, which I didn't do before. I was reviewing some of the billing reports and asking them to tell me, “What does this mean? What does this say? What should I know about this, that or the other?” That's when my ship started tightening up or when I started plugging some holes in that bucket. I could see the difference in finances.

When you have a plan, you start to know your identity. Click To Tweet

All you were doing is putting your attention in an area that maybe you didn't confront for a while. One of the things that happen to a lot of practice owners is there's a lot of financial terminology that people don't understand and I totally get that. It's an easy area to say, “I don't want to confront this.” You need to dig into it and have some key metrics. A big thing, especially from the household perspective, is making sure that you have measurements or statistics to track your overall financial condition. It's not that hard to do. That's an obstacle that I see as well. A lot of people don't have correct financial statistics that they use to measure the kind of progress that they're supposed to be making.

A lot of people like looking at account statements. You look at your 401(k) statement and see how your mutual funds are doing. “I see that my bank account is a little bit bigger than it was from the week before and that's okay.” These are some of the things that I've asked people, “What do you use to measure your financial progress?” It's crazy some of the answers that I get. You have to look at that and have a list of metrics that can gauge the condition of the household if you're going to run it like a business. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to do it professionally.

As people are trying to walk that path towards financial freedom or simply improving their financial situation, what are some highlights or actions that they can take in order to do that?

One of the biggest things is that you have to have a target. The first thing would be like, “What's the financial target that I want to achieve?” I created this chart called the Seven Zones of Financial Freedom. I wanted to make sure that people realize, “What financial condition am I in? What does that mean from a statistical point of view? What financial condition am I trying to get to?” That's defined by how much income I’m making, what my overall net worth is, how much ratio of my good debt versus my bad debt, how many income streams does my household have? These are things that you can look at and you can measure. The first thing would be like, “What financial zone do I want to get into?”

Regardless of what it is, personally, for a practice owner that is in control of your financial destiny, that can create as much value as you want to in your marketplace. If you want to be in a condition where you don't have to have concerns about money, your overall financial target has to be at least $7 million to $10 million of total assets. That to me would be a fairly safe financial condition to get into. It doesn't mean you have to save $7 million. When you look at the value of your business, maybe your real estate or other endeavors that you get into, that's the target you should be shooting for. That's a big thing because we haven't been taught to have that point of view. It's been like, “Let's accumulate a couple of million dollars in a 401(k) plan and let's hope that we don't run out of money.” That's not financial freedom.

As we get started at a young age, we think that retirement goal is so far off that it's not feasible to consider that down the road. The more attention you pay to it, maybe you get a little accelerant and you can get closer to that goal faster than you think. It doesn’t have to be all in your clinic. It could be on other vehicles but there's no reason why you can't accumulate those kinds of assets.

PTO 73 | Secured Financial Freedom
Secured Financial Freedom: There are so many opportunities out there to create a practice that you want to that there's no reason that you should restrict yourself at all.

 

The wealth accumulation is almost like a hockey stick graph or a grind. When you’re trying to create an owner independent practice, you're trying to put these things in and you're not seeing these huge results, then all of a sudden over a two or three-year period, you see these massive results. Wealth building is the same way. You're doing the same repetitive and boring things that you would do and you're like, “I don't know if I'm making a lot of progress.” It accelerates towards the end. The other thing would be the time frame to get into a financially independent state. It doesn't need to take 25 to 30 years to do that. You should be able to do that within 7 to 10 years if you're concentrating on your main money source, which is your practice and building that up.

Are there some things out there that you hear financial advisors recommend that you'd say, “That’s probably not the way you should go?”

To me, it's more of a mindset than the recommendations because I found that every investment vehicle has its place. It's the utilization of it and how you're applying it to your situation. There's not a bad investment, aside from someone trying to rip you off. There's some workability to retirement plans, managed accounts, life insurance or annuities. It would be like, “What's your strategy first?” That would be the first thing I would start with, “What’s your overall strategy?” I'll give you an example of what our strategy is for most of our clients. I have an acronym for it. I call it PREP. It stands for Produce income and be profitable in your business. That's the first target. Second, make sure that you are setting up an automatic and systematic way that you're retaining cashflow from the business to the household. Eradicate all bad waste like interest, cost and debt. Protect your assets from any kind of loss including taxes and lawsuits. PREP, that's a strategy right there. If you focus on those four things, you're going to have a mountain of success.

Anything else that falls below that would be tactics. “Do I buy this policy or that policy?” “Do I put money in this investment or that investment?” It's all part of an overall strategy. A lot of practice owners get caught up in tactics as opposed to strategy. This money market accounts yielding 0.5. Should I put my money on this one or should I put this one that's dealing 1.2? They put their attention on things that aren't going to move the needle on their financial condition. We spent a lot of time thinking about what's the strategy first and then tactics. It was Sun Tzu who had a great quote that he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” I thought that was important. I know when someone's about ready to lose financially when all they want to do is talk about investment products and performance of something. They’re all about tactics, they're not about the overall strategy. It's interesting.

Do you see a typical pattern when it comes to physical therapy owners? Are they focused on tactics more so? Is there something about physical therapy owners that's unique and that you have to fix even if it's mindset or strategy?

For the most part, physical therapy owners are healthcare professionals. They love to help people. A lot of them are trying to push themselves out of the practitioner role in trying to be better executives and owners. I see that in more so in the physical therapy field than I do in veterinary or dentist. People that are veterinarians or dentists, they love being practitioners. Not that physical therapists don't like being practitioners, but they seem to have the business acumen. They can see what could happen if I get a lot of physical therapists here working under me and I grow this business and I scale it. I can create something that has a mountain of value to it. From a mindset standpoint, I still see a bit of scarcity and some of the decisions that practitioners make. Money is scarce and it’s either this or that. It's never both. A lot of what we're trying to do is trying to make sure that they look at it from that perspective, “I don't have to do this or that I can do both.” How much money does the practice need to produce in order to do that and making sure that I keep my profitability level at a certain amount so I can do that?

Money loves attention like a two-year-old at the mall. If you take your attention off them, you have no idea where they're going to end up. Click To Tweet

That's true for most physical therapy owners. There's a scarcity mindset. There's a lot of fear involved in what we do. They also tend to be a significant amount of burnout from what I can tell, so that's why maybe there's that transition out of patient care more so. You don't see a lot of older physical therapists in the profession.

That's funny that you should say that because a lot of the burnout comes from an industry where you're relying upon insurance reimburses. A lot of the reimbursements are going down and the profit is being eroded away. The burnout comes from the fact that there's a lack of exchange there. You're putting all this work and you’re putting all this effort in. You're seeing 10% or 7% profit margins and that would tax me. You can go buy a Puerto Rican bond for 6% and not have the headache of employees and regulators coming in there and saying, “You overbuilt here.” “You didn't code this correctly.” I can see where it taxes and makes a practice owner burnout. Once you solve that profitability issue adding additional services that maybe you didn't before and you get that backup, that's where you see people live it up a little bit.

As you've worked with private practice owners and you've seen them in all kinds of different financial conditions, what are some of the successful actions that they're taking? We talked about the mindset and we talked about strategy. We talked a little bit about tactics. Anything else that you recognize what helps that struggling maybe not struggling? How do those physical therapists improve their financial condition on top of those things?

A lot of it starts with their own personal training. When I say personal training, personal financial education training. Know what some of the basics are of money. Let's not be scared about it. Profit and loss statement is not something that is difficult to understand. That's not even that important to know. You should know about it but knowing some of the basics of money. You need to seek advice from people that are qualified to give it. That's a basic of money. Staying out of bad debt and that would be another basic principle. Things that they probably inherently know but are having a tough time applying. To me, it always starts with making sure that you have your attention on your main money artery.

I call it the main money artery, which is your practice. There's this idea that you have to go out and create all these different income streams that are true for the most part. You definitely want to have multiple income streams flowing into your household. You want to make sure that you have one that's flowing like the Mississippi first. If you can get that one going and setup system, the money then flows to the household to create other income streams. That's probably the most successful action that I've seen. There are some of the most successful owners that I've seen have gotten their practice to a point where it's cashflowing. They set up the system where they take a portion of their business cashflow and automatically every single week set it aside in the household to help create other income streams in the household. That's been the most successful action that we've done with practice owners. If I can get someone to do that, it's game over. They start to feel like, “This practice is starting to serve me as opposed to the other way around.”

PTO 73 | Secured Financial Freedom
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

I had Christopher Music on and he talked about setting aside 10% of your revenue every month, maybe weekly, but at least monthly. That blew my mind. That's the first time I'd heard that concept and I thought, “If I had set aside 10% of my gross revenues every month for the past sixteen years or whatever I own my clinic, I'd be in a much different situation.” It was cool how he laid it out if you set aside that like it's an expense. Christopher mentions this, you guys mention it. I've read it in Profit First, a popular financial advisory book by Mike Michalowicz. You set aside the Profit First that becomes like an expense line. Inevitably your business grows to meet it.

You have to. We operate with the concept that I know that a business is going to try to spend every flipping dollar that it makes and then some. You know that going in and you see that when you look at practice owners over and over again. I see that pattern. I know business is going to try to spend every dollar that makes. I also know that it will make the exact amount of money it thinks it needs to make to survive. Know those two things, so when you incorporate that 10% as an actual expense and you put it in, you have to do it on a gradient though. If you try to do it too fast, it could cause some problems but if you do it on a gradient, it’s amazing what happens. Things change overnight because you've incorporated that expense. The business thinks it's an expense, but it's simply the accumulation of a reserve pool for the household. If I could tell your whole audience if they did that one thing, they would never regret that ever.

It will change their financials entirely, especially if you look down the road. It's going to be a completely different condition.

Most of the practice owners that are doing $1 million of revenue a year, they're like, “We’ll do the math on that 10%.” “$100,000 a year?” I’m like, “Yes.” When you look at that, that's your owner's compensation. If you're a good owner, that's your owner's compensation. You deserve it. I always tell owners, “If Medicare comes in to audit you, who are they going to audit? They're going to audit you. They're going to audit the practice and you own that.” If you have a lawsuit who gets served. Whose names are on all the notes of any of the practice acquisition loans? It's you. You took all the risks to put this thing there by God, you deserve to get that 10%. That's a reward for you.

Sometimes I have to convince people. It was the funniest thing when we first started, I thought that would be the easiest thing that I could possibly do. I'm like, “There's nobody that would say no to that.” It's the hardest thing to get a practice owner to decide. I knew we were onto something when we started that because I’ve got the most push back when I started saying, “We need to put this money away.” “We can’t do it.” There’s no way.” “There's no way the business is yet too many expenses.” “I can't do it.” We figured out a way that they could do it, so it doesn't cave them in. Once we got that in, everything clicked right after that event for the business owner. It was fascinating.

It's interesting how it also changes the mindset. It changes the energy around the person as you have them focus on their money lines, their lifeblood, their main artery, whatever you want to call it. Once they put their attention on that, the energy changes. They take on the control that they didn't seem to have before and they seem a little bit more focused.

When you do that, it enhances your financial awareness and then it gives you confidence. That's the most important thing in any industry, you have confidence. When you have confidence, you make better decisions. You slow things down a little bit. You control time like an athlete that you see that's competent and what they do, they have so much confidence. They can control time. Most physical therapists are good at doing that from a training standpoint, but on business and an ownership standpoint, they're not as good at that until they get trained to do it. It's establishing financial confidence that does increase your confidence by a high degree.

When you have confidence, you make better decisions. Click To Tweet

As you bring on physical therapy owner as a client, is that something you work on them with? What was your typical work look like that might set you apart from other financial advisors?

The first thing that we do is we give them a detailed financial scene that we want them to get to. We define what your ideal financial condition would look like. I don't think that a lot of advisors do that. They'll say, “Let’s save enough for retirement.” They don't give them a clear definition of what their financial condition looks like. We've created a road map where we encompass all the different component parts of your financial life. That’s the thing that differentiates us as well. Your financial life, the body is made up of several different systems. You have the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the endocrine system and all these different systems.

There are nine financial systems that make up your household, from asset protection to estate planning to income planning to debt and credit to tax optimization. There are several different systems and our job as financial advisors is to make sure that all of those systems are operating at their optimum level for every one of our practice owners. Whereas a lot of financial advisors will focus on the investment side. That's 1/9 of your overall financial scene. We put people's awareness on that and say, “Maybe let’s not only look at your investments while they're important. Let's not put all the focus on that.”

I have to say that I work with Econologics and I have enjoyed my experience with them especially compared to other financial advisors that I’ve worked within the past. Simply by the fact that you guys are in communication with me which is typical of the financial advisors that I've had in the past. I wish I had started working with you earlier. To give voice to the first exercise you're talking about. My wife and I went through that, setting a target you talked about $7 million to $10 million. That might seem to be a lofty way out there for some people. You also had us break it down to, “What do I need to be making per month in order to get to those goals?” That gives you a little bit more concrete and current number that can work on. I have that number, and my wife and I have those numbers in our head, “We can have this kind of lifestyle if it makes this much per month, but we can have this much better lifestyle to make this much per month. Let's try to reach for that.” That guides us on a lot of the decisions we're making as much as it pertains to income, investments, and whatnot. That's valuable.

Thank you. When you break it down, I know sometimes we set big targets for practice owners. You will be sometimes a little bit like, “There's no way I'll be able to do that.” When you break it down to like, “We don't have to do all this now.” What can we start? Where can we start? We build upon that. Financial planning is a set of boring repetitive activities. As you continue to do them, you see little mini results. All of a sudden, it’s like, “Boom.” It's amazing how it works. Traditional financial planning is like, “If you put $10,000 away for the next 25 years then you'll have blank amount.” Real-life doesn't work that way. People change, business owners change. Their confidence and business changes. The production of their business changes the industry that you're in. There's so much money pouring in private physical therapy.

There are so many opportunities out there to create a practice that you want to that there's no reason that you should restrict yourself at all. To your point, set big targets and big goals. Let's work backward on what are the actions that are going to lead to get there. When you get the numbers down, it's not that much. It's not that hard. It's not that much and that's where a lot of people appreciate you. You need to have a written plan not only a proposal of, “Let's put X amount of dollars and this investment strategy and X amount of dollars and that and this investment strategy.” That's a proposal. A plan is like, “These are the sequence of actions that I need to take in order to accomplish this.” Most people are operating on financial proposals and not financial plans and that I've seen.

The plan goes back to your ideal financial scene. I want to invest in my children's education. I'm going to have this much at retirement so I can live the way I want. I want to invest in these kinds of vehicles. I want to live mortgage-free. Those are the things that you start from and work on.

That's where it starts. What are the financial goals of the household? Which a lot of people have done. It digs into, how are we going to measure that? That's where I've seen, in our industry there hasn't been a lot of good financial metrics that measure the condition of the households and how we integrate the business into that as well. We have seventeen different financial diagnostic statistics that we look at. We can show someone, “Here's a statistic that you need to look at and we want to improve.” It goes above looking at the performance of an account. It's something that will help someone change their overall condition.

Is there anything else you want to add to the financial stuff that we hardly get into it or what?

I don't even know. This is getting fun.

I know we’ll definitely have you on again, so we have to save a little bit.

For the most part, the keys I want to leave people with is, no matter what your financial condition is, good, bad or ugly or no matter where you're at in your life cycle, whether you're still growing your practice, whether you're mid-career or whether you're thinking about exiting out. You can always do something to change your trajectory. You can always do something to change your financial condition. The sooner that people can realize that their household is the parent company. Make sure that you're wearing that identity of a Chief Financial Officer assuming that beingness, there's a good book called Atomic Habits on if you ever read it before.

No matter what your financial condition is, you can always do something to change your trajectory. Click To Tweet

I've heard a couple of people mention it. I need to read it.

The main point of that was, the actions aren't that hard. It's who you have to become if you want to be successful at something. You have to become the identity of that person. Your financial conditions are no different. You have to assume the identity of someone that's responsible with money, that knows how to acquire and control money, and that can expand money. That's an identity. That's the Chief Financial Officer identity. If you can assume that identity, understand that and wear that, the actions are easy. It's not that hard. It's don't spend more than what you make. Take 10% of what your practice does and set it aside, invest prudently. The basics are not that hard. You have to assume that identity of the person that is going to direct this whole thing.

I love that idea because you are exactly where you think you should be. There's an internal dialogue that's always going on. If you assume or if you take on the mantle of, “I am good with my money and my business makes money for me,” then that's what will happen. If you are careless with money and you think, “I spend more than I make. I need to do better with my money.” That's exactly where you will be.

It's 100%. I have created what's called a Chart of Money Attitudes. I don't know if you've seen it or not. Every single day I’ll say certain things to myself like, “I'm a creator of money. My financial decisions are naturally right. I'm fully responsible with money. I want enormous wealth and I want others to have wealth too.” All these affirmations, things that I'll say to myself every single day because I want to make sure that my attitude towards money, which if you want to look at it, this is where it starts. What's your attitude towards money? If you have the attitude of, “I can't have money. Money is scarce. I'm terrible with money. It always disperses,” you're going be bad with money. You need to give yourself a checkup from the neck up every once in a while. When it starts with your money, that’s a key thing. Make sure your attitude, in terms of money, is in good shape and get out of some of the fixed ideas that you have or get out of some of the following gurus and around. You don't need a guru. You need a guide. The attitude comes from other places too, from parents and the experiences that they’ve seen and all kinds of things. We can get deep on this one.

It brings us full circle. It's where we started. It all starts with your mindset and your attitude with money and recognizing that the business works for you instead of you working for the business.

You hit it right on the head.

If people wanted to reach out to you, Eric, how do they do that? What do you have coming up?

We have a three-day training academy for private practice owners. We built our system for private practice owners. We don't work with engineers or teachers or any other of those types of vocations. We work with private practice owners and we built our financial planning specifically for them. We also create a financial planning education system where we teach them the basics of how to increase the value of their business and then how to make sure that they turn those business profits into personal wealth. If they want to contact us you can definitely start by going to our website which is EconologicsFinancialAdvisors.com. You can email me directly at Eric@Econologics.com.

We created 100 question assessments that will give you a snapshot of where you stand in your personal finances. I would recommend that if anybody has any uncertainties, confusion, or I don't know in regard to their personal finances or curious. Everyone's curious about their credit score. What's my credit score? We've created an assessment that will give you a financial score. If people want to go to our website, it's called the Financial Prosperity Index. They could click on to that and it will take them right to that assessment. They can take the assessment. We will give you a free 30-minute strategy session where you can ask us anything you want in the subject of money and personal finances anything at all. As long as you take that assessment, then I'll assure you that you'll get that free 30 minutes or longer depending on how long it takes.

Thanks for coming on. We'll have to have you on again because I know you've got more to share for private practice owners.

We'll keep it on topic next time. We’ve got a lot of different places right there.

It was good. I love it and like I said, I love talking money.

It's all good.

Thanks for your time. Thanks, Nathan.

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About Eric Miller

PTO 73 | Secured Financial FreedomEric Miller Has been in the financial planning industry for over 20 years. He’s a co-owner of Econologics Financial Advisors – awarded an Inc. 5000 honoree for 2019.

As the Chief Financial Advisor for the firm, Eric has had the good fortune to have over 10,000 financial conversations with private practice owners in various healthcare industry and helped guide them into a more optimum financial condition using a proven system.

 

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PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or Outsourcing

 

It's an age-old question for PT owners - should I have my own billing department or outsource it? It's a dilemma that each PT will go through at some point. Let's get the answers from billing veteran Amy Sparks. Amy has 20+ years of medical and PT-specific billing experience and has a firm grasp of what it takes for an in-house billing department to run smoothly. IF you have the right people and IF you can monitor and manage them regularly (weekly and monthly meetings), then in-house billing may be right for you. But IF you outsource your billing, you still need to monitor, manage, and demand regular reporting. Make your decision to go in-house or outsource but never abdicate your responsibility to stay on top of your cash flow.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Bringing Billing In-House Or Outsourcing: The Pros And Cons With Amy Sparks

I get to talk with Amy Sparks. She is the Billing Account Manager out of Star Physical Therapy clinics in New Orleans. We're discussing whether or not to bring your billing in-house or to outsource your billing. After my discussion with Amy and based on my personal experience, I personally believe that in-house billing is the best way to go, but only if you have a couple of things in place, only if you have these two things. Number one, you've got to have the right person with the right personality type. The best billers that I've had seen billing and collections as a reflection of them personally. They take it personally if people don't pay, whether it's $5 or $500, they're in the pursuit of that money. They're willing to confront anybody that's not willing to pay, whether it's insurance companies or patients. They've got to be able to hold those conversations and demand payment when it's appropriate. The second thing is you've got to be able to have the time and the bandwidth to monitor and review and check up on the reports of the billing department that they provide you.

You've got to step out of treatment. Take the time on a weekly and a monthly basis to review billing reports with the billing supervisor, whether that's in house or outsourced to track your money. Whatever time you take away from patient care to review billing will come back in spades both immediately and in the future. That's your money, that's your cashflow, that's the lifeblood of your clinic and you've got to stay on top of it or else it will leak out. We talked about some of the reports, some of the KPIs that you'll want to review on a weekly, a monthly basis. Ultimately, the billing department did what's best for me when I demanded the most out of it. When I found the right person, I would talk to them about my expectations for the KPIs and they went along with it. I also talked about the reports that I wanted to see and they went along with it and created those reports and even added some statistics on top of it to show their performance and help them track the performance of people that they managed.

When you work in synergy like that and demand more out of the billing and collections, your billing and collections will improve. Your cashflow will improve. Those clinics that are growing have a heavy, solid, strong billing department. Those companies that are floundering typically also have a floundering billing department. We talk a lot about the ins and outs and the pros and cons of in-house versus outsource billing, some of the questions that you should ask if you are going to bring your collections in-house and some of the expectations you should have if you are going to outsource your billing. Let's get to that interview.

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I've got Amy Sparks. She is the Billing and Account Manager out of Star PT Clinics based out of New Orleans. They have eight locations. I came upon Amy because she wrote an article in Impact Magazine regarding in-house billing versus outsource the billing, what you should do and how to determine what if you should do either one. I'm excited to do this because it's a common question for all PT practice owners. First of all, Amy, thank you for coming on to the podcast. I appreciate it.

No problem. Thank you for having me.

Tell us a little bit about you, the experience that you have with physical therapy and billing in particular. How did you get to the point where you are now?

I was raised in New Orleans. I actually got involved in billing by accident about many years ago and I can't believe it's been that long. I started in billing for outpatient dialysis. From there, I ended up working at health insurance. I got to take those phone calls all day. I got involved as the biller for an OB-GYN doctor. About a few years ago, I got a job at an outpatient physical therapy clinic. That was my first experience in billing for physical therapy. I've been here at Star for two years.

Did you notice this significant difference in the billing between those other medical professionals and physical therapy?

If you billed for any sort of health care facility before, you can bill for physical therapy. Click To Tweet

Other than the coding, no. The codes are different, but pretty much the rules in the game are exactly the same.

I asked that because a lot of PT owners might be looking for that billing person. I never knew, is it important that they have physical therapy-specific experience? Any healthcare experience is beneficial and there's not much difference, but you're telling us it’s not that different. 

The CPT codes vary, but the rules of the game stayed the same. If you billed for any healthcare facility before you can build physical therapy.

I liked how you talked about the typical storyline that physical therapy owners go through in the article. You talked about a story that I'm very familiar with and a lot of other physical therapy owners are familiar with. Did you start with maybe a dedicated staff member or someone like that who is a rockstar? Maybe they want to do things on their own or maybe they start with an outsource billing company. What's the path that you typically see that you mentioned in the article?

Typically, what I usually see is when someone with a physical therapy clinic is starting out, they will hire somebody they think is a rockstar or even a family member or something, thinking, “Our patient load isn't that crazy right now. This person can handle this.” What ends up happening is they end up growing. Once they grow, they realize either they’re not so much of a rock star or this person was great when we were seeing twenty patients a week, but now that we're seeing 100 patients a week, it's too much for them. They'll end up either outsourcing to a billing company or trying to hire someone they think is better equipped for the job.

That usually goes a long way and based on your experience, I can share my experience as well, but outsourcing to a billing company, what are some of the pitfalls with that?

Some of the pitfalls with that is if it's a larger billing company, I don't think they can devote as much time as they should basically to your AR and your claims and stuff like that. If I have 200 other customers, they don't devote that amount of time and they're trying to get to that basic level, "We said we would get you 80%. That's where you're at." We're not going to go for the extra, even though it would be easy to. This is the same thing for in-house. You're at the mercy of who you hire in a way. People can look great on paper. They can interview like a rock star. When you get them actually to put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, they don't know half of what you thought they did.

You see that no matter whether you're doing it in-house or outsourcing your billing, you're never quite sure who you're playing with. When it's in-house, you do have some control there or more control at least because you can hire according to your values and hire someone that's aligned with you. You also can hone in on the customer service aspect of it that you don't have a lot of control over when you're outsourcing. One of the issues we had with outsourcing was that we had someone who was a jerk on the phone to these people and they were like, “That's not us. That's not our values. We could control that a little bit more when it was in-house.

I was going to say too because the person's right there, you can see how they spend their day. If you wanted to check in on them, you can hear how they talk to your customers, how they talk to insurance companies. That way you have more control of, “Is this what kind of person we want doing this for us? Are they giving us a bad reputation and we don't even know about it?”

PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or Outsourcing
Billing In-House Or Outsourcing: One of the pitfalls of a larger billing company is that they can’t devote as much time as they should to your AR and your claims because they have 250 other clients.

 

Unfortunately, that can be the last impression that they have of your clinic. They're no longer being seen in physical therapy and you don't have any contact with them. If they're doing something 3, 4, 6 months later that could be negative, that impacts you in a bad way.

Absolutely, it does. I always say the clinician and the billing department are basically in a relationship of a good cop, bad cop. The clinicians are the good cop, the people in billing are the bad cops always. We're good with that. We're fine with that. We're the ones who are going to take the bullets from your patients and stuff like that as far as getting of claims paid and such. We got that going on, but at the same time you have to keep a level of professionalism. You have to be mindful of what the owners want and what their values are. You can't overstep that and can go rogue with that as far as dealing with patients because you get problems with that. With in-house, you have more control over that because you get to see that more on a day to day plus you're right there. Your patients are right there. If they had a bad experience, trust me, the clinicians are going to be the first one to know about it.

It's also important to note that as you're managing the billing department from an owner's perspective, it's so important to manage the reports. When you have someone in-house, you can generate those reports and create them in a way that you want to see those important numbers, the KPIs and whatnot, getting them from an outsource billing company. Sometimes I've had a difficult time getting those reports. I have a hard time meeting up with them to talk to them about the reports or individual cases.

We're leading down the road towards the benefits of an in-house billing department. Some of the cons for an outsource billing department and we'll get to that because there are some benefits to an outsource billing department and not everyone's ready for an in-house billing department. As you manage your cashflow and as you manage your money when it is in-house, you have greater control. You can manage it appropriately. You can dig down on individual cases very readily. You can set up meeting times at appropriate times for both parties to work it out well. There is a huge benefit to that. That is difficult when you're outsourcing.

You don't have the freedom of meeting convenient times for you. You're at their mercy. If you have questions, you might be waiting a minute to get your answers because you don't have the person right there readily available to answer the questions for you. It depends. If you're starting out and you want to focus on growing your business and if you have the patient traffic coming through your doors already then maybe you do want it in-house because you want to focus on this. There are pros and cons to both. It depends on really where you're at. Honestly, the patient flow has a lot to do with it as well. If you have the patient numbers and where you're at in your business and what you're looking for. It depends.

It's almost like a seesaw. I like how you explained the cycle that some clinics go through, they'll outsource and they're not happy with the collections rate or how they're being representative of patients so they bring it in-house thinking they have a solid person who can do that and "save them money." Maybe the billing isn't as good as it should be because they don't have the experience and the knowhow. Maybe they have to consider, “We need to find another EMR as better billing software.” It's the seesaw battle. What I liked about how you broke it down is how to determine if you're ready for in house billing to ask the questions. If it's truly right for me at this time to have an in-house billing department, these are the questions I need to ask and answer. Let's go over those a little bit.

If you're considering doing in-house billing, we definitely want to have dedicated staff members who have a good work ethic, who know how billing works, who understand coding, who basically looks at your denials and say, "I need to fix this.” Also, they have the ability to find the right people to staff your billing department as well because that is a huge area. Hire somebody and you might think they're great and might take you 3 to 6 months to realize that this person's not great at all. The good thing about the billing is probably the only job that will always tell on you.

The numbers don't lie. 

The numbers don't lie and you can't hide that you don't know what you're doing or you're not doing your job in billing. You might be able to pull it off for a month or so, but eventually it's going to tell on you.

People can look great on paper. They can interview like a rockstar. When you get them to put their money where their mouth is, they don't know half of what you thought they did. Click To Tweet

You're saying you have to have someone who's not only educated but dedicated to billing. Maybe they're not full-time if your numbers don't match up. They need to have separated segregated time to do billing, only billing, focus on that and then also be capable of being a manager. As you grow, that billing department is also going to grow. That person is going to move from being the biller to the billing manager and maybe not touching everything but having to oversee somebody else.

As you grow, as a building manager, you have to know how to delegate. If you don't delegate, you will live swamped, constantly feeling like you can't your head above water. You have to find people around you that you can trust. That you can tell to do something. They're going to do it how you want it done and let you know when it's done, that you can rely on. To me a very strong work ethic is as important as the knowledge you bring.

It's a certain personality type that succeeds in billing. I'm sure you've seen this and what I've seen is the people that are successful, they are going to get every penny and it's almost a personal assault. They take it personally when people don't pay. They have to be able to confront. If you're very passive and laid back and trying to be a nice guy, you're not going to do well in the billing department. You have to find someone who is able to confront these patients who have a balance and talk about money because it can be a sensitive subject. 

 I've always told clinicians even though it's one patient, we are dealing with two completely different personalities because you're getting the nice, "Help me please," and very friendly. I'm getting a different person because I'm trying to get money out of them. He might be the sweetest person in the world in clinic, we'll get him over here and they'll start yelling. It's the nature of the beast. You definitely have to have a person who is thick-skinned, someone who doesn't take things personally. We need somebody who has a great attention to detail. A lot of times you'll find things are denied because one digit is off. I need you to find that or somebody has to have a very strong attention to detail. When you're talking to a rep on the phone and insurance rep particularly when they try to tell your reason for denial, I'd say a good 50% of the time, that's not what it is. You're looking at it like, "No, that's how it is." "What you're telling me is wrong, I see that I've done that part." “I see this down here is not right.” If I could look at that and say, "Look at coding," and say, "This needs to be modified or this code needs to be changed." things like that. They have to have very good attention to detail, definitely.

Tell us a little bit about the reports system, the ability to meet, review reports and where your clinic is in that regard. How important that is to determine if you can do in-house billing? 

For example, I meet with the owner once a week and then we meet again at the end of the month after we close out that month. What he will do for example, is he'll do an analysis. He'll randomly pull ten patients and check to make sure that the follow-up on them is done according to our procedures. That pretty much everything he pulls randomly has been touched. It goes to figure if he's pulling ten patients and I see that three of them have not been touched in several months, then it's safe to say that you probably have a pattern there going throughout your clinic. We'll meet on that. We make sure everything balances out, paychecks, denials, adjustments and refunds. We go over all these reports at the end of the month to verify that nothing was written off.

It shouldn't have been that insurance reversed the payment, but it was a legitimate reversal. It wasn't, "We want to take our money back on this," things like that. It's like the check and balances system. Meanwhile, throughout the month I'll randomly pull an AR report, go through it and spot check it basically to see. I’ll make sure everything looks good, the girls are following up working denials and things like that as they should be. He spot-checks me. It's a system of checks and balances that we have in place. We will meet once a week. We email, "Can you meet at this time?" We set up a time. It's very convenient because like I said, I'm here in-house.

Especially if you're going to do the in-house billing, then it's necessary to recognize that you need to set aside the time to meet weekly and monthly to review weekly and monthly reports. You know what you're looking at as the owner. There are certain statistics that I'm sure he's going to review or certain categories that he wants to check out. Also, take the time to do some spot checking and follow up on it themselves. I think that's a great word of advice, but tell us a little bit about some of the key statistics that you're looking at maybe that you and your owner are looking at as you review some of the weekly or monthly reports. What are some of the top 3 or 4 statistics that you guys are reviewing?

One thing we look at is called the Accounts Receivable Conversion ratio. It’s called an ARC ratio. It's basically our total AR divided by the number of average number that we have built out per month. We'll take an average of the last three months, not including things like auto, attorney or people who are in collections obviously. We basically divide the AR by the average bill. We'd like that number to be less than 1.3. Basically saying that it takes us 1.3 months or less than 1.3 months to collect. That's basically what that tells us. We are much less than that actually. That's always a good thing as long as we stay below that number.

PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or Outsourcing
Billing In-House Or Outsourcing: If you're considering doing in-house billing, you need dedicated staff members who have good work ethic, know how billing works, understand coding, and have the ability to find the right people to staff your billing department.

 

It's great because we all know that the longer you let that money sit out there, the less likely you're going to receive it. You get pennies on the dollar the longer it stays out there. To keep that average within or 45 days is huge.

It also helps you as far as if there's a problem somewhere. For example, we monitor it every single month. If that number were to skyrocket from one month, the next we'd be like, "We have a problem here somewhere." Either an insurance began processing our claims wrong or we're not receiving payments somewhere or something's not right. It's also great with a monitor that everything should be steadily going down with that number. It's a good way to monitor and make sure I catch it early if there are any issues happening that maybe you're not aware of.

That's a monthly statistic that you follow and that's huge. What are some of the others that you follow?

Another one we follow, we call it the 90-plus. Basically what we do with that is we will take the AR 90-plus.

The AR aging report and whatever's in the 90 plus day range and above.

We'll divide that by the total AR and that gives this a percentage of basically AR that is over 90 days old. You want that to be less than 10% of your total AR.

When you come into a clinic that's bad or a clinic that’s in a bad situation, when it comes to collections, you'll see that statistic specifically be bad. To take it from there to under 10%, in my experience can take anywhere probably about six months at least to get down to a good range. That's where you're going to find some extra cash, but you're also going to lose a lot of money as that number gets larger. We used to actually bonus our biller based on her ability to keep that under 10%. Once she did that, then she essentially got a raise to continue to keep that under 10%.

Once you get it down there, it should be very easy to maintain, but I'm glad you brought that up because I think a lot of clinic owners, whether it be in PT or other areas of healthcare don't realize that if your AR looks bad, it's not going to get fixed overnight. It is going to take time for it to come down because it takes an insurance 30 days to process a claim and that's if it looks good. You have to keep in mind that it's not going to be an overnight thing. It will take a couple of months to get it down. Six months is probably very good timeline think about. If you're not seeing anything drastically improving in a month, don't freak out. It will be a slow and steady drop it took and you didn't get this bad AR overnight it's going to take at a time to come down. It's going to be a lot of fighting with the insurance because that is definitely something that has changed since I've started back in the day. It used to be a lot easier. You file a claim, the member ID is right and the birthday is right, they’ll get paid. Now, no.

Not so much.

The clinician and the billing department is a relationship of a good cop, bad cop. The clinicians are the good cops and the people in billing are the bad cops. Click To Tweet

There are two players I'm thinking of in particular that are good at the game. You've probably seen this yourself. For example, therapeutic activities. You build therapeutic activities with any other therapy exercises. There are two payers in particular that they will automatically always deny therapeutic activities even though it was built correctly. They'll deny it and that they want you to send in all this documentation and medical records. If they find your documentation is sufficient, then they'll pay it things like that, which is very time-consuming. You're left with this $50, $60 balance on your claim. They'll sit there for a few months because they will take their time with that. The frustrating part is that there was never anything wrong with it. We could have paid it from the get-go. It ends up on your AR longer than it should.

They know that if they simply deny it, then they'll save money. Most people won't take the time to appeal it. Especially in some of those cases where the outsource billing won't go after the extra $50. 

They'll say, “We're going to write this off,” and it can be a problem like that because those charges do add up. They don't want to devote the time. I can tell you from our standpoint, we've gotten to the point with that where we've had to basically create a letter of medical necessity template. We tailor that for each patient and it seems to be working. Prior to that, you'd go through sending in flow sheets, sending in medical records and waiting for those to tell you, "No, that's not enough." That is a team effort because we have to get the clinicians on-board like, “I need you to tell me exactly what you did every single minute.”

That can be difficult.

They're not crazy about it either obviously, because they know what they're doing.

What are some of the things people should look for if they are considering a billing company? What guidelines do you recommend? 

If you are looking for a billing company, you should look first at all your costs. I would say you should not pay any more than 6% to 9% of your collections. Also they should provide you with consistent reports to show you their performance like, "Here, look what we've done." They should also provide you with their policies regarding their workflow because like you said earlier, their policies, their way of doing things might not match up with your values. You need to have a clear idea of what their policies are regarding their workflow, how they handle things.

They should also be very transparent regarding how much time do I actually put into a claim as you ask. If I have one code that denies from $50, are you even going to try and fight for it? Are you going to suggest that we write it off and move on? That will give you an idea of how much time they're going to put into chasing, not just that claim but all of your claims. The insurance is hoping that you're going to give up. They think that if they hold you out for six months, you’ll be like, “I'm tired of this. Let's go. I'm going to write it off.”

One thing that also always brings up the red flag for me when it comes to dealing not just with billing companies but with any vendors is their willingness and ability to communicate. If I have to constantly search and ask for reports or feedback, that's a lot of wasted time and energy. I would like for them to take the initiative to provide those reports on a monthly basis. I've had to do that with billing companies in the past. I said, "At the beginning of each month, I want to see these reports come to me without me asking for them. Can you do that for me? If you're going to ever write off a balance, that needs to be cleared through me first.”

I don't even write off balances without getting the owner's approval first. I do think this is true for anybody, your support staff starts at the very front, your receptionist. I know a lot of people think that, "She just answers phones, schedules and appointments, whatever." She needs to have a great attention to detail because she's doing the data entry of this patient's information usually and not to mention she's your first point of contact for your patients. She's basically the face of your company when they walk in the door. It's important to understand that one wrong digit on a birthday or a member ID number will delay your claims payment for at least another 30 days. You have to have a strong person at the front. At least double-check what she put in, make sure the numbers are right. You need to have somebody very strong upfront as well. It's a whole group effort between the receptionist, the billing department and the clinicians.

PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or Outsourcing
Billing In-House Or Outsourcing: A lot of clinic owners, whether it be in PT or other areas of healthcare, don't realize that if your AR looks bad, it's not going to get fixed overnight.

 

One thing also to figure out with when you're considering outsourcing is how closely are they going to work with you on improving collection or billing performance. One benefit of having in-house billing is to say, "We're constantly getting denied for such and such code," like you're talking about, "We're constantly getting denied for therapeutic activities. Should we consider modifying our documentation so it’s built under therapeutic exercise and we don't have to go through all of this?" Of course you don't want to tell them how to treat, but you need to raise the awareness like, "We're spending a lot of time and effort on a code that's getting denied." If you have someone in-house, you can have that conversation. If you're going to outsource this, you need to make sure that you're having those same conversations and you need to make sure you're setting up time and the awareness that's expected. 

I agree and something you had mentioned was saying how you've had to chase down some of them out when you outsource to get your reports and stuff. An important thing to remember is not to sell yourself short with that because if that was happening in-house, you wouldn't tolerate that. You wouldn't tolerate having to chase down an employee to get a report. You would expect them to bring it to you. It’s the same thing with the outsourcing. You have what you expect and you shouldn't settle. If you're not getting what you need from this outsource billing company, I would say definitely you need to make a change, but you really shouldn't have to chase people down because you're paying them. They're not paying you. They work for you, so they're like any other employee.

If I have a question, I need you to answer it in a timely manner and you need to expect constant communication. There are many times that they need information from you or they're expecting information from you and you need either back to them. Because of that, sometimes I think we feel like we're working for them instead of the other way around. You need to remember that you're the owner, you can always change this person out. You can always fire your outsource billing companies. If they're not doing what you need them to do in terms of reports, meetings, communications, customer service on your behalf, you can always fire them and you need to find someone better.

There are too many companies out there. There are too many people out there with billing experience. There are companies that do outdoors that you shouldn't have to settle, if you're not getting what you want.

To give some of the owners a heads up, what is your experience when you do switch out of an outsource billing company to in-house? If you're moving from an in-house biller to another in-house biller because one got let go or whatnot. I'd say that to preface this is to say that when I've seen billers change whether going from outsourced to in-house, there can be a real blow to cashflow for about six months or so before you get back on your feet again. I think PT owners need to understand that they expect the transition like that might be good, but you're not going to see the benefits of it for 6 to 12 months and they have to be patient and stay on top of the metrics in the meantime. 

I know it's human nature. You want it now, but you have to keep in mind that the fact that your reason you're changing is that if it wasn't working the way it was going. More or less, you've gotten yourself or billing company has gotten you into a hole, if you will. You're not replacing them because they were doing a great job when your AR is low. You're replacing because they weren't doing what you needed or your AR, your cashflow is going down. It's a mess. Like any mess, it’s going to take time to clean up. As I said, you didn't get in this hole overnight. This took months to happen. It's going to take months to fix it. I know it's very frustrating for owners because they expect to see an improvement within the following month. It doesn't happen that way because keep in mind that insurances on average take 30 days to process a claim in itself. When they're going through cleaning up your AR, they're refiling all these claims, correcting them, refund insurance.

At best, you're looking at 30 days and that's not going to be for everything because at least half of that you're probably going to end up fighting for because the insurance doesn't want to pay. The worker's comp company doesn't want to pay it. They'll deny it for crazy things. Probably one is not timely, even when you send in proof of timely file. For example, you know how it prints on a HIPAA? If today's date would be 10, 18, and 19. I've had a particular insurance company deny saying that date of service was prior to the patient's date of birth. I realized that the patient was born in 54, they are reading the date of service as 1918 or 1919, not 2019. I'm like, "Are you kidding me? My health insurance is in 1919. My health insurance’s dead. What are you talking about?" I couldn't believe it. It blew my mind. This is hands down the worst denial I've ever seen in my life.

I want to talk to you a couple more questions simply because you are a billing manager now. You are working with billing people who work underneath and you oversee them. What are some of the recommendations that you can give the PT owners as they're working with a billing department, not a single person? If they're large enough to where they have two, maybe three people doing billing for them, what are some of the things you are looking for as a billing manager in your management of others? The separate duties, how do you organize your staff? 

I separate my staff. We have a person who bills out claims every day so she'll bill those up. She's also the person I have that works my insurance AR because she knows how to code. She's billing the claims out. She knows what to look for. She's very strong in that. Also, I call her my pit bull because she does not have any issue getting on the phone and fighting. I swear she fights like it is her own money and that's what I look for. That's what I love in a billing person. It's like, "I'm sorry I got mad." "No, don't be sorry, you got mad. I appreciate the fact that you act like that is coming out of your personal pocket, like this is your money."

I love that. I look for that. I look for a good work ethic. You don't want somebody that's constantly calling out because this, that or the other. Somebody who doesn't mind being on the phone, doesn't mind getting into the trenches as far as that goes to the insurance company and sitting there on the phone with them for 30 minutes fighting. Also on the flip side, I have another person, she does all of my patient payments, my attorney's cases and my patient AR. I have her do the patient payments because she's the one calling the patients to about bills. That's how I break it down. As I said, I oversee them, I spot check them and that's my checks and balances for them.

As you grow your business, you’re going to have a billing manager. You have to know how to delegate. If you don't delegate, you will live swamped 24/7. Click To Tweet

I have somebody who does the same thing for me. You need to have systems in place with reports. Checks and balances is a great thing. I do it to them and somebody does it to me. That's how we make sure that we're running officially, policies are being followed, procedures are being followed, everything's being done, how it should be. We have a system in place as far as patient collecting, “You do this and this,” and then you send them to collections if you've got nowhere. We made sure all the steps are being followed and things like that. It works. Prior, I've seen it done other ways. I didn't like it.

I've seen where they would say, "This person is going to handle these five insurances and then this person is going to handle these five insurances." Basically everybody’s got their hands in everything. I prefer to keep it separate. It flows better that way. You only have the same two people accountable for patients. You have the same two people accountable for insurance and that will never cross so there can never be, “He said, she said,” kind of a thing. All communication between the billing department and the receptionist needs to be via email because we have a paper trail that way again, “I told her this." “No one ever told me that.” It cuts out all the, “He said, she said.”

That's a great policy to have because the insurance or the billing department is all about paper documentation of everything they do. You might as well keep that as it pertains to communication with the front desk as well.

Also we have over 100 employees here, otherwise a lot of people are always emailing billing, which is fine. I prefer email because like I said, you have a paper trail and also you're not constantly getting that distraction on the phone. You take this phone call and by the time you're done with that, "What was I doing?" That kind of a thing. This way it's all in writing. You're not getting constantly distracted twenty times an hour or pulled away from what you're doing twenty times an hour to answer phone calls about, what about this? What about that?

We talked a little bit about when you consider an outsource billing company, their charges are typically somewhere between 6% to 9% of your revenues. What is your company's expectation as far as what the cost of your billing department is to the revenues of your company? 

We'd like to keep it between 3% to 5% maybe and it's toward the 3% honestly.

It gets like that when you're a larger company. For a guy that's smaller, if they're thinking that, “Maybe I can save some money, if I bring it in-house, they'd probably need to expect it's going to be closer to the 5%.” Maybe a little bit more and recognize maybe some of the benefits that go with it if it's running well. If it's not running well, then that billing department's going to cost you more. When a billing department is running well, you can expect it to be in a smaller clinic somewhere between 5% to 7% compared to the 6% to 9% that you would pay otherwise. You'd have to consider the benefits and the pros and cons of both.

We've had Star open eighteen years. We've had quite a significant amount of time to grow and expand and work out all the kinks. We're about 3%, but as I said, we're larger though. We've been around for a while, so I could definitely see where to expect that number to go up whether you're smaller or a newer clinic even.

You guys have been around a long time. You've got a ton of experience. If people wanted to reach out to you and maybe ask you questions or get your advice, are you open to that?

Absolutely, we actually love to mentor and advise new PTs, new clinic owners. I actually spoke to someone. I didn't know her but it was through the article and she was a clinician and she was just asking me questions about different things we thought she should do. One of the things I definitely want to preface to her was that as the clinician, you don't want to be involved as far as try to collect patient balances. You're the good guy. You're the helper. You need somebody to keep it that way. You need somebody to bigger fall guy basically and that's what we are. As I said, we're good with that but you definitely don't want to be both because you're on their side.

PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or Outsourcing
Billing In-House Or Outsourcing: If you’re looking for a billing company, you should not pay any more than 6%-9% of all your collections. They should also provide you with consistent reports to show you their performance and policies regarding their workflow.

 

You don't want to taint that in any way by bringing money into it basically. You definitely want to keep those two separate. As a clinician, you want to stay as far away from that as possible. You definitely need people for that. I was going to say that while you're starting out and it's new and you don't think you need this, that or the other because "We're new, we're starting out." That is one thing you would definitely need as a new clinician. You need somebody to handle that for you. Whether it be outsourced or whether it be in-house as a clinician, no matter how small you are you don't want to be that person.

If people had questions like that, how would they get in touch with you? 

They can email me. My email is Amy@StarPTClinics.com. Our owner for example, he's been practicing since ‘93 and he's a member of the editorial APTA board member. He loves to talk to other PTs and business owners like that. He loves to advise them. He loves to help them with any questions they may have or anything they might possibly need. He likes to help other PT clinicians grow and expand their business. That's what he's really trying to get into now. As part of that, something we would also like to do is possibly start billing for other PT clinics. You could go with an outsource you might not know too well or you have solid companies you can go for. You can go for that as my reputation and word of mouth.

You guys obviously have the systems in place, you know how to get things done. You've got a ton of experience behind you. It's one thing to go with an outsource billing company that might do a billing for all kinds of medical professions. Whereas you guys are PT-focused, PT-specific, you've got a couple of decades in the business based on your owner and the experience that you bring with it. You guys can bring a lot of value to those PT clinics that are looking to get things started to maybe outsource until they're ready to bring it in-house. 

We have all the systems in place, the reports, policies, checks and balances, you name it. Obviously it's been successful because Star itself has been open for eighteen years but we're still growing. We opened up our eight clinic and we still have plans to open more. It’s obviously successful. Our owner's been practicing PT since 1993. He loves helping, marketing and helping people grow and expand, showing new owners what to do. He's been through the trenches, he's been through the trial and errors of it all. He has seen it all because he's basically was his own test patient more or less.

What was his name?

His name is Matt Slimming.

We'll have to remember him.

If anybody wants to reach him, you can email me and we'll both be in touch with you.

Thanks again for your time, Amy. I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom.

No problem. If you need anything, give me an email.

Thank you very much.

Important Links:

About Amy Sparks

PTO 72 | Billing In-House Or OutsourcingAmy B. Sparks is the Billing Manager for Star Physical Therapy, the largest independent Physical Therapy group in the greater New Orleans area, with eight clinics and growing. Amy was born and raised in New Orleans. She began working in health insurance billing twenty years ago.

She has experience billing for several different types of healthcare providers and has also worked for Aetna Health Insurance, giving her experience on both sides of the industry.

 

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PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals

 

Freedom comes from making a healthy profit. Thus, on this episode, host Nathan Shields and guest Frank Cawley, PT discuss what it takes to establish a solid financial structure and improve profits in business. They tackle the important KPIs you need to track, the financial team you should have in place, the pros/cons of owning your office space, and the reports you need to review regularly. We're all in the PT ownership business in order to do things the way we want to do them and to make as much money as we want to make without depending on others. If we lose sight of our financials, then we're bound to lose our business altogether (or endure a lot of stress in the meantime). Take the time to monitor your finances regularly and your business will reward you with more money and freedom.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Financial Fundamentals: How To Achieve Your Financial Goals With Frank Cawley, PT

I'm talking about one of my favorite subjects and that is anything to do with money. I've got Frank Cawley, a physical therapist out of Pennsylvania on with me. We'd taken the opportunity to break down some basic financial fundamentals in regards to your physical therapy practice. If you feel like you've got a handle on things, maybe this is a good episode to compare what you're doing with Frank's recommendations as well as my experience. If you're new or feeling green in regards to your financials, maybe this is a good episode for you to take notes because we talk about KPIs, Key Performance Indicators and the statistics that you need to follow in your practice. We talked about the importance of renting versus owning the space that you're in. Also, the importance of developing your financial team as it were.

We go into a number of different things and it's great to talk about it. You might be able to tell that I get a little bit excited in this episode because I love talking about numbers. That's who I am. Vitally important, we have to make a profit in order to sustain ourselves in what we're trying to develop and obtain the dreams that we have either for our clinics, for our families or our individual selves. It all comes down to making a profit. Although we like to think we're a little bit more altruistic, we got to make money.

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I’ve got Frank Cawley, the CEO of Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation out of Northeast Pennsylvania. He’s successful. He’s got six locations going. He’s also the Cofounder of Next Level PT and Director of their AR and real estate acquisitions. I’m excited to bring him on because we’re going to talk about money. Frank, thank you for coming on.

Nathan, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here. It’s a big honor.

Thank you for taking the time. If you don't mind sharing with the audience, what got you to six locations and where you're at? You've had a long history. If you don't mind sharing a professional snapshot of what got you to where you are at?

My wife and I started the PT business. She is not a physical therapist, but she was helping out with the business side of things. It was her and I. I graduated from Hahnemann University in 1999 and want to take on the world, treat everybody and get everybody better. I thought that's what was going to happen. I got out into the field and started treating people and enjoyed it. I started to understand a little bit more of the business aspect of things. Quite frankly, I never thought this was something that I'd be even possibly talking about, but my wife somehow someway convinced me, "You could do it yourself. I think that you'd be great at it." Lo and behold, as with most things, she was correct. We opened our first clinic in April of 2003 with the grand total of zero patients on the schedule for the first week. Thankfully through perseverance, hard work and support from my wife, family, friends and our communities, we started to evolve. We started with one clinic at that time and opened our last clinic in April of 2019.

We're very excited about that. That was our sixth clinic. We're seeing upwards of about 650 patients a week which we're very happy about. We'd like to say 650 satisfied and successful clients. We continue to look for ways to evolve and grow. We have a ten-year vision and mission of twenty clinics with hopeful of 2,000 patient visits per week and roughly 130 to 150 new patients per week, which is pretty amazing because we sit around a number of 130 to 150 new patients a month. Thinking of those numbers seems so unfathomable, but with time and with growth. I love to know what things would be looking like in ten years from now when I’m able to have a conversation with myself and see where we're at. We're anxious, excited and hopeful that we can meet those expectations.

I'm sure you will, just the fact that you have those goals, you've put that out there in the universe. I'm sure you're heading in the right direction because you've worked yourself to a point, I'm assuming where you're the leader of that ship. You're looking ahead at that goal and people have followed in line with you and you've got the right people in place to do that. You've established a great foundation if you have six clinics.

I would be the first guy to say this. Back in the day when it was my wife, I and somebody helping us getting started, a PT technician or a PT aid, my goal was to see as many patients as I possibly can and attend to twelve-hour span on a daily basis. I thought that meetings were foolish. I thought it was a waste of time and that there was nothing productive that came out of meetings because you're not seeing patients and not being profitable. Little did I know that fast forward to the present day, I do more meetings. Each of those meetings has such significance and consequence to make sure that you have proper systems in place, proper structure. The best and most appropriate people for each position doing what they do in what they're good at and ways to oversee those and have the proper metrics to track those things. Most importantly, I believe we're developing a brand and a culture with what we're doing, which is what excites me and makes me love getting up every day and come to work.

That gets exciting when you get to that point. I'm sure you've recognized that you are the leader, you are the CEO, you have the vision and you're also the executive in terms of managing metrics and establishing systems and policies. In those meetings that you're having with people, you're also a coach. You're there to essentially serve your team members and you're coaching them and training them on what you've learned along the way.

I like to believe that I'm coaching them, but I learned a long time ago from somebody much smarter than me is that you don't have to be the smartest person in the room. If you surround yourself with smart people, that is definitely going to carry a lot of weight and carry over. I believe in many instances, I have a lot of the answers that people are looking for or that we are looking for. I've also learned that now going from two people in a business, being my wife and I to 25 plus, that the most important thing you can have is a voice from every one of your team members and let them know that their voice is heard. It's important that everything that they have to say could mean the difference between making a positive versus a catastrophic decision and I think that it's of critical significance. I learned a long time ago that twenty heads are better than one for sure.

It's so nice when you have a team that has strengths that complement to you. People can do things better than you do and sometimes they've got more energy than you do towards certain goals. It's nice when you can have that complement of teammates.

I'm a big fan of the SWOT analysis. When you find someone's strengths, we all want to feed off that strength and enhance our weaknesses with someone else's strengths. When we're strong, share that opportunity for them to improve and for them to strengthen whatever weak points they have as well.

You are the AR guy, the real estate acquisitions guy of Next Level Physical Therapy and you wouldn't get to the point of six locations and managing that well if you didn't have a solid foundation of financial understanding. That's what we want to get into a little bit more and your thoughts on how to establish and achieve the financial goals that you have as a PT owner. We have these altruistic ideas that we want to become the premier physical therapy clinics in our location. We want to serve the community, but that doesn't happen unless we are able to profit, if we're not able to be sustainable financially. Talk to me a little bit about your thoughts regarding that, how to establish and achieve financial goals.

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals
Rich Dad Poor Dad

You hit one of the keywords, Nathan, right off the bat is profit. In Next Level PT, when we are talking with other owners or private practice owners, many times people will be saying, "I made $1 million. I made $2 million. I made $500,000 but I still don't have a lot of money. I don't know where it all goes.” How many times have you heard that? I'm making a lot of money but I'm spending a lot of money. We all know that it outlines everything. Profit is the key term the way I look at it. In particular net profit, but profitability and a percentage of profitability that you have in your clinic is what is the key. You can make $1 million in a year, but if you spend $900,000, you're 10% profitable. However, if you can make $1 million and you made $200,000, you're a 20% profitable company. That obviously not only helps you, it helps your staff with those people that you might be relying on bonuses and extra payments.

It helps you with expansion purposes and grow that helps you buy equipment that might be necessary. For a guy like me who loves real estate as a passion and as a secondary thing to what I do with my physical therapy. Physical therapy has afforded me the opportunity to also get significantly involved in real estate acquisitions, both from a commercial and a residential standpoint. As a secondary means of not only income but as investments and building equity. For me, it's like a future retirement thing.

To go back a little bit, we talked about profits. What are you saying based on your experience or maybe what do you hear within the PT industry that is either a minimum level of net profit that we should expect out of our PT clinics or maybe if you have an idea of the industry average, what do you know about that?

From research and from talking with a lot of the other cofounders with Next Level PT and interviewing a lot of physical therapy practices and about their profits. It seems like the numbers are magic numbers that you're hearing is that, "If you could be 10% to 15% profitable, you're doing okay. You're doing pretty well." You could be 15%, 20% profitable. You're probably in the top 20% to 10%. If you could be in above 20%, 25% or more in terms of profitability, you're probably in the 3% to 1% for profitability in terms of overall looking at physical therapy as a whole.

I think we're on the same page because I'm assuming that the average net profits are somewhere around the 15% range, maybe a little bit less. If you're doing anything less than 10% net profits, that's tough to justify being an owner of a company that has less than 10% net profit margin. Those guys that are doing over 20% are killing it. A lot of that can depend on location and the reimbursement rates that you're getting in your clinics. That sounds about right.

Nathan, you hit some key components in there as well. A lot of that can be contingent upon the certain metrics that you look at, whether it's reimbursement, whether it's the caseload that you carry. There might be somebody with 50% Medicare versus somebody who has 50% worker's compensation. Where we're at, the worker's compensation is a much higher payer for what we see comparatively speaking to some other insurances. We'll have the insurance companies that might reimburse you only at $60 a pop or $55 a pop, but then you have some of the higher reimbursing ones depending on your charges, which is a hugely key component that we educate our staff on and talk about regularly is proper billing and charging. I don't know how you feel about this, Nathan, but notoriously as physical therapists, we undercharge and underbid, “We're afraid to charge that." Why? You did the service. What are you afraid of? You documented, you have proof, there's nothing to argue about there. Those things and having those metrics in place can set the foundation and tracking those metrics to make sure that you're being as profitable and maximizing your revenues as best as you possibly can. It’s a key.

I want to get to those exact metrics that you recommend that people follow. PTs in general, I like to call us compassionate billers. There's so much fear in our industry already. We fear that we're going to overbill or we want to be generous or we think somehow we will be looked upon more favorably if we don't charge everything that we did. I don't understand it. If it's unethical to overbill, I think it's also unethical to under bill because we should be getting paid for what we provided. It's up to us to document and justify it. You know it and I rail on it a lot. Nonetheless, what are some of those key financial metrics that you might recommend every PT on or be following? 

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There's a couple of that. For each person, it might be a little different. For me and for a lot of the founders in Next Level, we clearly look at patient visits as a big one. You could look at that, but if you're getting $60 a patient visit versus the $80 a patient visit, there's a huge difference. The next thing is charges per visit is what we touched upon. How much are you charging per visit? More importantly, based on those charges that you're doing per visit, how many of them through the EMR that we like to utilize? There's a direct versus indirect units. Being direct is getting better reimbursement. That might be your therapeutic exercise, your neuro reeducation, your therapeutic activity and your manual codes. It’s much more handsomely than an ultrasound or a cold pack. That's a key component that you want to look for. In addition to that, we look at our initial evals. Is that an important one to track? How many units are being charged on an initial eval? Nathan, why do you think that's super important?

Because you can charge on top of that initial eval and you should be if you're doing any work outside of the assessment itself.

You're absolutely right. What does the eval do for every visit they're to follow? It sets the foundation. If somebody is coming in, why do 90% of people come to physical therapy or more?

They're in pain.

If you're coming in and I'm having this range of motion, this manual muscle test and these special tests and you're like, "You're hurting me," and then I do nothing and you leave after that, there's a great likelihood that person might not come back. They’ll think we're masochists and we're not really there to help them. It's critically important to get the proper treatment and charge capture on that first visit to set the tone in the foundation for what people are doing there. That's a key component. Schedule efficiency and clinical efficiency. These are a couple of other ones that you want to definitely look at. You should know in your practice how many times per week your patients are being scheduled. We like to look at a 2.3 average across the board. That means if you have 100 patients on a plan of care, you should be at about 230 visits for the week at 2.3. Sometimes people look at these numbers and all of a sudden they're like, "I only have 165 visits scheduled." That means your schedule efficiency is at 1.65. "No, we know our patients two to three times a week." I understand what you're telling your patients, but your front desk or someone else is not doing that or the patients are not adhering to that.

That’s a big issue because right there, I made some adjustments to how I was billing. We discussed about how we under bill a lot of times. Also, I'm sure you're familiar with redundant coding. If you charge a Medicare patient, for example, three therapeutics exercises over 45 minutes span, the second and third units are going to be reduced in terms of the amount of reimbursement compared to the first. If those units could be more wisely utilized or built accordingly for a therapeutic activity or a neuro reeducation task, you are automatically generating $4 to $5 to $10 to $15 more on that session for those little tweaks and changes, which I think is immensely important.

It's huge if you consider maybe if an average reimbursement per visit was $100. For some people, that's pie in the sky. If the average reimbursement was $100 and you were able to increase your per visit charge by $10, it's $10, but then at the end of the year, that's a 10% increase.

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals
Tax-Free Wealth

To the readers, I would assume that anyone of us would take a 10% raise as quickly as possible. I think that's tremendously important.

To comment on some of your other key performance indicators that you're addressing, knowing that reimbursement per visit is huge simply because some of those contracts are $50 per visit, $60 per visit especially as these third party administrators come on board. We need to know exactly where we are at on the reimbursement per visit side so that we can appropriately say yes and no to some of these contracts. It's in our nature to simply take all comers but we don't necessarily look at how that affects us financially.

I couldn't agree more. We typically do not participate with tertiary insurance parties. We have had numerous ones in our area giving examples. For workers' compensation, there are several that will pay $90 to $100 on the eval and some will pay $70 and some will pay $85 on the subsequent visits. For some people reading this, they might be like, "That's great." They might only make, and I say only because that's maybe designated for their area, $65 to $70 a visit. They might say, "That's crazy not to take that." When you consider not doing that and they can still be referred to you, we can easily make on some of those insurance carriers $125 to $150. That's night and day differences in terms of that reimbursement. That's a huge key component. Knowing another metric is knowing your percentage of patient caseload. For people out there who may take a medical assistant space plans, maybe traditional Blue Cross versus Medicare versus workers’ comp and automobile insurance. If you ever practice that 70% of workers’ comp like in my case versus a practice, same case that's 70% medical assistance, you're talking $65 a visit versus possibly $130. You doubled your reimbursement times 70%. I'm sure you can see the difference that can tremendously make.

Knowing that payer mix can be huge because number one, knowing what it is and then number two, knowing if that's what you actually want to see can really affect at that point of marketing strategies. We need to steer away from some of the more medical assisted plans, whether that's Medicare and the workers' compensation field more. You can start establishing some goals and some metrics to see that payer mix change and get some of those higher payers coming into your clinic.

One of my colleagues, we often say when we have discussions is no metrics, no conversation. If you can give me the metrics on what your patient population is or you give me the old, "It might be about 30% to 55% Blue Cross. My units per visitor are between 3.7 and 4.6.” I could say 4.5 to 4.6, but anything more than that, we really need to get down and dirty knowing the metrics, knowing your numbers. Statistically, you could make a proper educated decision financially on what's in your best interest on the decisions to make. Let's face it, this is how people can expand clinics, how they can grow things. For people like myself who have six clinics, it's important to diversify how each clinic separately is doing. The Next Level PT, we do a clinical analysis form for each of the clinics to see how profitable they're being, what type of volume they're seeing, when is it ready for growth? When do we need to let somebody go? You can tell when a clinic is growing or static, you can tell when it's hemorrhaging and knowing those numbers is of immense importance.

You have a separate QuickBooks account for each clinic and you're also tracking metrics separately per clinic?

The metrics I do on my own. One of my best friends at my clinic is my accountant who does the QuickBooks for me. Your accountant could be your friend or your foe and I mean that wholeheartedly. It's like anything else. If you added a therapist that was doing 80 visits a week and just crushing it every day and yet another therapist is doing 40 visits or 45, you'd be like, "What's going on here?" Somebody who's clearly subpar and maybe not doing what they could do. It’s the same thing with your accountant. Your accountant is one of the utmost importance on your financial team to help you and educate you in making proper decisions about the health and viability of your business. For me, my accountant keeps track of my QuickBooks and then shares that with me whenever I want. We make it a point that we meet every month without question or sooner if I want to go over the various details of how things are going. In between those, every week I have metrics that I'm tracking and looking at through my in-house billing and looking at from those perspectives, many of the metrics that we talked about to see that we are on point of doing the things that we should do.

The most important thing you can have is a voice from every one of your team members and letting them know that their voice is heard. Click To Tweet

I recognized in my experience and I love that you're meeting with your CPA monthly and I recommend the same thing to everybody. I noticed a difference in my financials once I did that. My CPA would simply check in once in a while, maybe once a quarter, every six months or something like that. Finally, I told him, "I need to meet with you monthly. I need you to show me what a profit and loss statement looks like and what it says and how to read it myself without talking to you. I also need to know what a balance sheet looks like." It's when I started gaining control over that information that I had a little bit more power and I saw a difference. I started seeing a change in my company because I was looking at financials on a regular basis.

Looking at your cashflow statement, your balance sheet, your profit and loss, those three, if you're reading this and you are unfamiliar with those terms, you want to definitely be reviewing those on a minimum quarterly, preferably more frequent than that. These are things I recover with my account on a monthly basis to make sure of the health and validity of our business that it is sustainable. That we are growing and we're not going backward in addition to what we do on a weekly basis to track these things.

You have to do this with six separate clinics, but if you had one clinic, you need to know your breakeven number. It’s like, “How much money do I need to make in order to make a profit?” Do some reverse mathematics to figure out how many visits that is. If you don't know that number and you're in a cashflow crunch, you're in a hard time so you need to know your numbers and what it takes to get to that profit margin that you want.

Everybody always likes a good story and my story was years ago, we decided to go into the electronic instead of paper. We are glad we did that. I'm very happy with what we're doing with that. When we made that transition and switched up the billing companies that we were utilizing for that to do the interlink between our EMR and then the billing that goes out. There was an issue with that transition, and believe it or not, my practice was 38%, almost Medicare based and for over 4 to 4.5 months, we had zero reimbursements for Medicare.

Imagine operating your business at 62%. Nothing changes except your revenue. The good thing is I knew I was going to get that money. The bad thing is I had to wait four and a half months. That's why we talk a lot about in our own business as well as Next Level. At a minimum, you want to try to strive for a minimum of two, hopefully, three times cash reserves of what your monthly expenses are to cover something like that. In other instances, most people would probably potentially go under or try to find other means to support them to get through that.

You can't do that unless you're free like you are to look at the metrics and look ahead. I could say that having gone through a couple of EMRs that if you're going to switch EMRs, you give some sage advice in that. You want to have a nice cash reserve set aside because it's not smooth sailing no matter what the EMR companies tell you. There are going to be some hiccups. How long did it take for things to really clear up for you guys? Is it about six months or more?

It was about this time years ago when we did the switch. It went all of October, all of November, all of December, all of January into the first two weeks of February when we finally started getting reimbursed. Thankfully we were getting larger lump sums coming back that was catching us in arrears and getting us caught up. Thank God that we did have 3.5-ish to 4 months’ worth of reserves to carry us through that. I was ready to crack open my piggy bank when it got to that point after so long.

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals
Achieving Financial Goals: Your accountant is very important on your financial team to help and educate you in making proper decisions about the health and viability of your business.

 

It’s good information to share. Yours is a real-life example. Switching EMRs is not an easy thing and it can take a lot of toll on the clinicians. It can be a big toll on your cashflow if you're not properly prepared for it like you're about and try to smooth things out as much as possible on the front end. You’ve got to expect about a six-month time frame.

Three might be adequate, but I think you nailed it, six months is probably safe.

I love talking about the statistics that you brought up, especially the charges per visit and the average patient visits per week. The number of time a patient comes in per week on average. It goes back to number one, if you can improve those stats, it improves your financials. Also, if you improve the average number of visits a patient comes in per week, your results are going to be better because your patients are going to get better. We don't typically measure that and it's not easy for a lot of our EMRs to track that. I don't know about you but I think most people I have come up against, have to do it manually and that's okay.

The other key component that I failed to mention too, that goes right along with the patient visits and a frequency is the length of stay is tremendous. You may look at it and some people might say, "I have a length of stay of nine, so I get people better in nine visits.” That's fantastic. Some of those people though that aren't fully better, even though they met their goals, can you reestablish goals? Can you reestablish new expectations for that person to push them further? It's like a professional athlete. They throw 95 miles an hour pitch, they want to throw 98. Can you get them to that three miles an hour? For some people, three miles an hour, three extra visits on somebody who sees 1,000 new patients a year at ten visits, you'd take that and you go, a length of stay of thirteen, you can't imagine what that small. Do you know how they talk about the power of compounding interest? The power of compounding length of stay for patients is absolutely tremendous. I'm not sure what the literature that you've seen, but historically what I've seen on average of people who have some of the best outcomes and best results come somewhere between seventeen and eighteen or more sessions for physical therapy depending on the diagnosis or the specifics.

The industry average is around eleven, maybe twelve per new patient. I don't know what you've seen, but that's what I saw a number of years ago. We were thought we were doing pretty good with thirteen, but I can see where patients will maybe stop coming if simply their pain has improved. I don't have so much pain anymore. As physical therapists, we know there's more to it than that. There are these people who are going to regress and revert back to where they were before if we don't increase range of motion and strength and that can take a few more visits. That's not only a benefit to them, but it's also a benefit to you, your reputation and your service to the community. It improves your bottom line because many times your expenses are staying the same. If you can tick up and appropriately charge what you should be charging per visit. If you're getting them to come in the number of the frequency that they're supposed to come in, that all hits the bottom line and increases your net profit margin.

If you can ethically, morally and consciously be able to give the patient what they need and perhaps we can extra half a unit out and a visit or two more out of necessity to make that patient reach those goals or exceed those goals that originally established and obtain new goals. Not only is it number one, advantageous and beneficial to the patient because you're going above and beyond exceeding that patient's needs or original expectations, which who wouldn't love that. Secondly, for your bottom line, it has a tremendous impact on that.

Not to divert the conversation too much, there's constantly a conversation about whether you should own your space versus lease your space and the benefits of both. Give us a little bit of that as we're getting to the end of our show.

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I love physical therapy. It's a passion for sure. I have come to love real estate as much probably at this point in time in my life as like with many things. I'm sure you have physical therapy, the people who mentored you for that and possibly steered you into this field. It’s the same thing with real estate. I had some people locally and meeting a lot of different people who deal with real estate and some names that people would really recognize and some that would never recognize. It steered me towards the value and benefit of real estate. I have a lot of owners ask me, including founders in NLPT, as well as other owners that we have in the group the benefits, the pros and cons to owning versus leasing. Some are very obvious. If you lease, you'd turn the lights on when you come in and you shut the lights off when you go home. If the toilet is leaking, if the lights burn out, if there's some leak, if something’s not working, an electrical outlet, you call the landlord and say, "Get down here and fix these things. They're not working," which is fine and he has to fix those. Depending on the lease and the setup you have, which is very key. I have many owners that will connect with me questions about their lease, about their rental set up and about the terms of the lease.

I'm not a lawyer and I tell them that, but I've seen enough leases and I've gotten enough leases working with my financial and real estate team to know maybe some of the key components to look for. As opposed to owning, for me, it's been a Godsend with owning. I own four out of the six clinics that I have. Probably there will be one more. That'll be a fifth by 2020, five out of six. I'm always looking to do that. Owner operator, for me, has been advantageous in all of the commercial real estates that I do have because I also have some residential. I am an owner-operator, but I also have tenants. The ultimate goal with being a landlord for myself as well as for other people is trying to develop ways and strategies to utilize real estate to help out in my physical therapy business and vice versa. I look at real estate as a long-term investment. Some people can get someplace and flip it. You heard a flipping, they’ll flip it and make a quick $5,000, $10,000, $100,000, you never know. For me, I look at it as long-term investments and the advantages for me of owning exceed definitely the advantages of leasing.

I think you can see because you're developing this portfolio of real estate that you're setting yourself well for retirement and the passive income that comes with owning the real estate after you're done with physical therapy and it sets you up to be in a position of wealth. You can have equity in something, you can have that passive income and you also get certain tax advantages that you don't get if you're leasing.

That's most people's least favorite word, tax. For me, I'm not too crazy about it either, but the tax advantages with real estate, like in leasing, you can also write off the lease payments. I'm sure that's something that you discuss with your accountants. For me, it's imperative to have an accountant, to have a financial advisor, to have a wealth expert and to have a lawyer familiar with real estate type of stuff or business lawyer, for your physical therapy practice. Those components are super key to have on your team, especially if you're involved with real estate or even physical therapy in general.

You need to have people that you can count on to know every aspect of the financial and legal world because you don't have that knowledge.

Absolutely not. I'm a physical therapist. I'm not a real estate guy per se but I'm learning the tricks. I'm learning the trades. I've owned real estate for about eight years and I've learned about something called cost segregation. Have you ever heard that term before?

Yes, I've heard it but I couldn't define it for you.

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals
Achieving Financial Goals: It’s advantageous and beneficial to the patient when you go above and beyond exceeding the patient's needs or original expectations.

 

You know how with some properties you have depreciation and amortization. Let's say you have a $390,000 building, you could take that and depreciate that over 39 years traditionally, which would be $10,000 a year. There's something called cost segregation where you can pay this company. I deal with the one in particular out of Florida, but you pay this company and they do a cost segregation study on your property. What they do is they can expedite or speed up the way you can depreciate some of that property. They amateurize it into 5, 7, 15 and 39-year properties. Even though you look at a building, the whole building might be 39 years appreciable, but certain components of that can actually be depreciated much quicker. That's a great way for people that are looking for advantages on tax savings and ways to decrease potential your tax burden through real estate cost segregation. It has been a lifesaver for us utilizing that component of real estate to help. Just that one single advantage has been tremendous.

If you didn't have that input from a professional, you could lose out on tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax savings.

That takes us back to my accountant that I discussed with cost segregation for tax savings. My original guy said, "We don't get involved with that. We don't do that." That's like saying to your patient, "We're a back pain clinic. We don't do much of rotator cuffs, even though I was trained in school to do that." It doesn't mean you can't help me with it, you're choosing not to. That was one of the reasons that I decided to make a switch and go with a different accountant that was better able to suit my needs and suit my wants of what I was looking to do. For me, it was clearly a blessing in disguise in making that transition. I can't reiterate the importance enough of that financial team and your biller, depending on who's on your billing team for physical therapists is an extreme key component to that. The biller that I have here, I wouldn't trade her for $10 million for sure.

Once I found that right biller in our company, that was a saving grace and it was the rock of our company. Everything else could fall to crap, but we knew that our biller was going to be awesome and we loved her. Katie was amazing and she still is amazing. Having the right biller is huge.

That goes back to some of the key metrics that we're talking about as well is that's the right person. They have the key things in place that they see certain things that are coming through. They don't put the charts in because that's their job. They see the changes that are happening. They are someone who's going to reach out to insurance companies every six months or once a year and be like, "Is there a possibility we could renegotiate and possibly up our reimbursement $1 or $0.50?” That goes a long way with hundreds and thousands of visits.

The thing I loved about Katie is, we met with her so often, at least by the month, but she was providing us reports weekly. She would give us red flags as to what might be happening at the front desk. "We're noticing that a lot of these things aren't getting authorized or we're noticing that we're getting incorrect information on the insurance verifications and whatnot." They can give you a heads up if you have the proper communication channels in place about what's going on the backend of your clinic.

That's why meetings with all the different departments, we like to look at things from an organizational chart or organizational board perspective. If that works from the top down, but when you look at an org board it branches out like branches on a tree. Everything has to be connected to that trunk concentrically so that everyone knows that everyone is on the same page. If one person might be missing something, we have some other way to check and balance that off to cover that and make sure that we're covering all of our bases.

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Frank, can I ask you what EMR you guys are using?

We're using WebPT and we linked that with Kareo as our billing software.

You guys have been pretty happy?

I have been, yes. I don't know if you recall this one from way back when, but we use PTOS.

I never used that one.

Physical Therapy Operating System and that was something that we utilize way back when. It served us very well, but that got absorbed and WebPT was one of the ones that came to the front of the line for us and we looked into several different options. For us and for our staff, it was a nice learning curve and a good transition for us that worked out well. It makes the billing process pretty streamlined, which is great.

It's good to know what you're using because we talked about a lot of key metrics that you have to track and follow. You want your EMR to provide as much of that as possible without having to do the manual labor. You've been relatively happy then with the reports they provide.

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial Goals
Achieving Financial Goals: It’s important to have meetings with all the different departments so you can look at things from an organizational board perspective.

 

We do utilize as well as a form. We've created several forms internally in Next Level PT that we utilize almost pretty much daily or weekly and monthly. To WebPT, I love utilizing their analytics that I can pop up and see metrically where we stand with some of these statistics to be certain that we're doing all the right things that we should be. How we can be strong and where we're strong, how we can improve?

Are you able to get off of WebPT the frequency of patient visits per week or is that something you have to track manually?

We have an active patient tracker that we utilize for that. That is one of the products of Next Level PT that one of the other founders Chuck Schulte had worked on. That is something that all of us are utilizing. It's like a godsend because you can track how many times a week they're scheduled? How many times a week they should be scheduled? How many times they actually came in? We all know that there's a lot of variation in that.

That's my challenge to all the EMR companies out there is that should be a key component of the metrics that they provide. Maybe they need to talk to Schulte and you guys might have a play to get bought out there. Frank, anything else you want to share with us here?

Nathan, I want to thank you for having me here and sharing some information. I hope that if anything, whether somebody could take one thing out of this or ten and someone finds it advantageous. If anyone needs to get ahold of me, they can feel free to reach out to me anytime at CawleyPTFrank@Gmail.com, or feel free to check out my website CawleyPT.net. You can reach us through Next Level PT on Facebook or you can reach me at Frank.Cawley@NLPTBaseCamp.com.

If anyone out there hasn't been on their Facebook group page, I highly recommend that. You guys have some great information to share at the Next Level PT BaseCamp.

Thank you, Nathan. We have a great team. There are nine founders. All of us have our strengths and all of us have our weaknesses, but that's the beauty part of that. Where I might be sitting here by myself trying to figure out a solution to something, I send out a text message to eight other guys at least probably two to three are like, "I do that. I got you. Here you go," which is great.

It's the beauty and it's the evidence of the power of networking.

There is no doubt.

Frank, I appreciate your time. Thank you for coming on.

Nathan, thank you so much for having me. You have a great thing going on. I love your show.

Thank you, Frank.

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About Frank Cawley

PTO 71 | Achieving Financial GoalsFrank Cawley was born and raised in Pittston, PA just 2 hours north of Philly and 2 hrs south of NYC! Fun fact...In the 1970’s Pittston PA was home to the 3rd leading Mafia city in the country! Frank is the youngest of 3 children (Katie and Colleen) older sisters. Frank’s dad was in law enforcement his entire career and his mom was an administrative assistant. Frank and his sisters were the 1st generations of Cawley’s to go to college. (Thx mom and dad for guiding us and never letting us settle for average or mediocrity)!

Frank was denied entry into PT school his 1st two times he applied. On his third go-round, he got waitlisted and was accepted 2 days prior to classes starting and was informed there were no more dorm rooms left so he would need to find a place to live over the next 48hrs!

Frank opened his PT clinic (only through the support and guidance of his wife of 16+ years Courtney). The day we opened (April 3, 2003) we had a grand total of Zero Zip Nada 0 patients on the books! Fast forward to 2018, we currently have 6 locations seeing over 600+ visits per week and are working on opening more offices (and a gym by 10/2019)!

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In this episode, host Nathan Shield talks about the people within your company with the CEO of Pure Physical Therapy and Founder of Next Level Physical Therapy, Frank Garza, PT. Frank started seeing growth in his PT clinic once he started weeding out the "bad apples" in his organization and focused on hiring and firing those people who weren't in alignment. How did he do it? He, along with his wife, established the purpose and values of the company and hired and fired accordingly. Now, the people on his team are rowing in the same direction and growth has accelerated. Plus, the energy in his clinic is fresh and exciting, and the culture is drastically changed. Want to establish a culture like Frank? Set the standards, establish purpose and values, and get your team on the same page. Your growth and an exciting culture will immediately follow!

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Listen to the podcast here:

Identifying The Bad Apples In Your Organization With Frank Garza, PT

I have Frank Garza out of Texas, a successful physical therapy owner who recognized that once he had established his purpose and values, he was able to weed out those employees that weren't on the team and we're limiting him. By removing those people, he has been able to achieve significant growth. Based on the book, Tribal Leadership, Frank recognized that there were certain stages of people and certain stages of a team that contribute to your success. As you weed out those people that are in stages one and two, and as you move your team into stages four and five, that's when you make significant growth. That's when you make significant progress and start to achieve the purpose that you set out to achieve. This is great that we can have a personal experience establishing the purpose and vision, hiring accordingly, getting the right people on the team, and then seeing the success that comes from it.

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I've got Frank Garza, a physical therapist out of McAllen, Texas. He is the CEO of Pure Physical Therapy and Pilates and also a Founder of Next Level Physical Therapy mastermind and consulting group. I've interviewed a number of original founders and members of Next Level Physical Therapy. Frank is on to talk about an important topic. Thanks for being with us, Frank. I appreciate it.

Thank you for having me, Nathan. I appreciate it as an NLPT being able to come aboard and talk about all the stuff that us private practice owners wish we knew when we were starting.

Tell us a little bit about you. Where did you start? Tell us about your physical therapy path and especially your ownership and entrepreneurship path and what's led to where you are.

I graduated and I played sports. I think like most physical therapists, they get into it because they got hurt and got exposed to the field and connected with their physical therapy team at the time. That's how I got intrigued about it. I ended up graduating and I coached and taught for a little bit. I liked that, but I knew that I wanted to be my own boss. I knew that I wanted to do something that I could control and that I could lead. In football, that's the position that I held. I liked it and embraced it. Going into physical therapy, I knew that I could have my own business. That's why I got into it too. I went through it and got out. I worked for a private practice clinic for a year. Right after that, I felt I knew enough to go out on my own and do things on my own and get my feet wet. I say sometimes that I rushed it and I say that might have been a mistake, but at the same time it probably could have been the best thing I did because people were there trying to help.

There was a time when there was a lot of work. Private home health companies were picking up PT companies to do their home health visits on the side and paying them a good rate. That's how we got started. We said, “This is an opportunity to go on our own and do something that we can fill our schedules and get other people to work under us.” We did that model for two to three years and then it went south bad. Luckily, we had already planned to do our outpatient clinic and that's how our outpatient clinic got started.

You started doing home health first before you went into it.

We started doing home health first. The reason for that was the people that we were working for said, "There's enough work out there. We'll help you get started.” You build your company name, you get a contract, you start bidding home health agencies for work. There was so much work that you could fill your schedule fairly quickly. It's also something easy to manage. You didn't have all the red tape about credentialing and audits and all that stuff with paperwork because they controlled everything. You were just a contract payer. It was a good way to get that taste of freedom, flexibility and ownership of your own business. At the same time, it was one of those models that you were chasing the profits all the time. You weren't making that much money and you were seeing a lot of patients, you had people that were underneath you seeing a lot of patients and you have to pay them. If they didn't pay you on time, then you couldn't pay them on time. We started learning that it wasn't a great model to grow, to scale and to make the money that we wanted to make. We started saying, "Our ultimate dream was to have an outpatient clinic." We had enough capital to invest in that.

It’s a good thing we did because the home health went south shortly after that. There were a lot of people getting busted for fraud. That model went to hell. We've entered into outpatient and we did what we did and we got started with what we knew. The experience of running the home health, but it was a totally different monster. There were so much things that we had to do before we even saw our first client, our billing and all this other stuff. It was an adventure, to say the least. We knew right away that we needed to hire people to help us. We hired staff. We chugged along for a year, two and three. Have you ever been on a roller coaster ride and sometimes the whole cart shakes on one of the stable tracks? That's how the first three years felt like.

You almost have to fail at everything HR before you understand it. Click To Tweet

Not everybody was a good fit for your team, I'm sure.

That's exactly what I was going to get to. We started realizing quickly that who we hired was like, "It's not going to work out. Who are we going to hire? We don't have anybody to hire." I think our mentality at the time was, “We need people to work for us. Let's pick up whoever is available.”

“If they're breathing and can follow some instructions, then bring them on.”

If it was somebody that somebody referred, that helped. That's even better. There were people that we knew in the home health field and they were like, "I have a cousin, a friend that was looking for a job." We quickly assemble the staff. We also quickly found out that we were in for some trouble if we didn't fix it because it wasn't the ideal staff. We didn't know what the ideal staff was. We learned a lot.

In my situation, I was like, "I don't necessarily have any job descriptions written out, but I'm going to put you in this position. I expect you to do what you're supposed to do." I was so naive to think that I could put him in a position and expect immediate productivity, an immediate buy-in. I found out later on that it was probably good to hire people who have bought into your vision, who share the same values. They're aligned. Maybe it's even better if I actually develop a job description and tell them what productivity looks like and how I'm going to measure them. It all comes over time, but you wish you would learn that sooner rather than later because things change when you start hiring based on that model.

I learned a ton. I learned that if we had concentrated on that department itself early on, on the human resource department for sure, that maybe we have not struggled as much as we did because it was a struggle. I look at my position and I'm learning that it's still a continuous work in progress. There's never HR and building your culture and your team like that. That doesn't stop because it's always evolving, things happen within your team and you’ve got to replace them. There are some things you can't control, but it's a work in progress. I also learned that you almost have to fail at everything HR before you understand it. We're not taught any of this in school. We don't know where to grab all these concepts, stuff and resources early on. It sometimes takes you telling the story of failure to another friend and they're like, "You had to do this and you’ve got to read this. You should go take this class." You learn a lot from failure, but who doesn't? One of the other things that I learned is that you cannot swipe someone else's HR material and expect for you to understand it and then much less for your staff to understand it. It doesn’t happen.

You think that there's a one-size-fits-all HR employee handbook. That's not true. Much of your culture and so much of you is simply how you do things. That's what I consider culture to be. This is the way we do things around blankety-blank physical therapy. That eventually develops your culture and it goes even back to your HR material. This is how we treat patients. This is how we expect you to show up to work. This is how we handle disciplinary actions. All that stuff needs to be broken down and individualized for your own clinic.

The number one thing that I learned early on is that we did not have that company culture that we wanted for the first three years and we have to fix it quick. It started with us, which is exactly what you were saying. We have to make a transformation mentally of what we wanted to instill in our company, what the vision was, what the mission was, how were we going to do it and make sure that everybody understood that, everybody was clear on that message. That was the number one thing that I think if people are out there wondering, "How do I do that? How do I avoid making the same mistakes?" Travis already did a show about this. It starts with us and our vision and our mission. It’s making sure that our staff clearly understands that and making sure that everything they do is working towards that common team goal that you're trying to accomplish. It's something that we realize we didn't have early and we started to change it quick.

It's probably you and your wife that came up with the vision and the mission. Maybe you created values between yourselves and your team. When you finally implemented that after three years, was that rough to implement it and get everybody's buy-in? Did you end up getting rid of a lot of people after establishing and planting the flag like “This is who we are?” Was it an easy transition for you or was that something that got smoothly brought into your company?

PTO 70 | Identifying Bad Apples
Tribal Leadership Revised Edition: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

The transition is never easy when you're trying to get rid of bad culture and create a totally new culture. For us, we identified that we had people already in our organization that we're not going to work out based on the meeting that we had about our mission and vision, all that stuff about what kind of individuals we wanted, what kind of characteristics they needed to have per each individual position? That's key too because you want them in the right position. All of that starts with us. We need to identify the vision and mission and how you are going to do it? It’s on your core values. If you know that you're hiring for the front desk, you're going to go look for certain characteristics for that front desk. That's your expectation. You got to give them an expectation for every position. I looked back and I said, "What did I do in some of my coaching career with my team to get buy-in and culture? What did other coaches do with me when I was playing?” There was one coach that brought out a binder like it’s the beginning of the football season and everything that we were going to live by that season was in that binder.

Our hyped-up a chant before the game is spelled out, everything is written. That was his way of instilling that culture. It was a new coach coming in. He was changing everything. Even before school started, we were reading stuff through that binder and getting to know what his philosophy was, how we were going to do things, and how he expected us to do things. If we didn't abide by-in or if we're doing something different, then there was a consequence to it. The same thing applies to your business. You got to set that standard as a CEO and as a leader. You make sure that they follow it.

That's the important thing to note. A lot of times when you set the mission, vision and values in midstream that you've been practicing for a few years, you decide, "Let's establish a foundation and get down to some fundamentals and talk about vision, mission, and values." Inevitably there are going to be some people who don't like the implementation of that structure and that don't have buy-in. You're more than likely going to lose some people. You have to understand that up front and you've got to be okay with that because the people that you lose are the people that haven't bought into your clinic. Once you shed yourself from those people and you can attest to this, Frank, you will then experience some accelerated growth. Especially as you start replacing those people with people who actually do buy-in to your mission, vision and values. As long as you're establishing that over and over again, you don't stop talking about the mission, vision and values after the initial introduction. Once you plug it in and then start hiring according to those, then you start getting some people who buy-in and the growth then accelerates.

It’s happened to us on two different occasions. One of the things to educate our audience on is how do I identify the bad ones and the good ones? What are some characteristics of some bad culture in your company? I was brought onto this book called Tribal Leadership. It goes through five different cultural stages. After reading that, I started evaluating my staff and listening and observing their body language. You'll find out right away who's on board and who's not. I'll go through those cultural stages to help people identify them for those that are wondering what are they and how do I identify them. Stage one is characteristics and qualities. This is the type of mindset that creates street gangs. We don't want any of this in our company. Their thing is that life sucks. They're despairingly hostile, they band together to get ahead in a violent world. The great example is The Shawshank Redemption. We don't want to hire stage ones, but sometimes you'll get people in your meetings that have that bad body language and in everything you say they’re like, "No, yeah, whatever." There's always something negative to everything you say. There's always a problem to every solution.

Stage two is a little bit different. Instead of, “Life sucks,” they're a little bit more personal, “My life sucks.” They're a little bit more passively antagonistic. They may not say something verbally, but in a meeting, they'll go cross their hands in judgment and not be totally bought in but not be totally against you either. They never get interested enough to spark any passion. These are the ones that sometimes you come in from a mastermind or conference, you've got all these ideas to share with the group and they're like, "I’m not interested." They're not too excited. By the same token, if you say a funny joke to them, the laughter is a sarcastic resigned thing. They’re the whatever type. The talk is that they've seen it all before and watched it all fail.

A person at this stage two will often try to protect his or her people from the intrusion of management. The mood here is that their life sucks. It’s a cluster of apathetic victims is how they characterize that. Stage one and twos are exactly what you don't want to have. If you're looking and coming into meetings and you're seeing these types of behaviors, you want to know that they're not the ones that you want and then they start changing a little bit. They start getting a little bit more positive. Stage three, the theme is, "I am great and you're not.” Knowledge is power so people hoard it. They're the people at this stage they have to win and winning is personal. They're your big competitor people. They will outwork and outthink their competition on an individual basis. The results from this as a collection of lone warriors. These are your hardworking individuals, but not so much team players. They're often seeking help and support, continually disappointed that others don't have their ambition or skills.

If somebody is not trying as hard as they are, they’ll be disappointed. Their complaint is that they do not have enough time or competent support. They’re like, “I’ve got to do this by myself.” It's a bunch of self-described star players. You can't have too many star players. They can't play together as a team. That's basically the theme there. You’ve got your stage four and five. These are the ones that you want all the time. Instead of going from, "I'm great," the stage four theme is "We're great." This is where I think most of your positive company culture is, your great, thriving, growing companies. When they have great culture, they have a great team. They have a lot of stage four characteristics and qualities because it's all about team. Everyone is excited about seeing each other at work. They take the tribe away from the person's sense of self. These are the people that if they take the team away, they feel like, "Where am I?" They feel lost because they feel the team is their second family. At this stage, the culture is effortless. Nobody's trying too hard. Everybody's doing what they’ve got to do and working for each other as opposed to for themselves.

The only one that has influence is the tribal leader. Here in stage four, whoever's at the very top is the only one that actually has influence over this culture because other than that, there are no lone warriors. Everybody's working together as a team. You have your last one, which is, "Life is great." The language revolves around infinite potential and how the group is going to make history. They want to make a global impact. This is where they make an example of Apple where they say that the innovators from Apple and Steve Jobs were at stage five because they did things that made a global impact and they wanted to make life great. The mood is an innocent wonderment. A very small percentage of companies have this type of characteristic. Most have stage four, but you definitely don't want the ones and twos. That's important to understand, to identify what you have.

That's great because you can put this assessment up against each individual within your team very easily. I think it's easy by what you laid out to say, "Who are my stage one players? Who are my stage two players? Who are my stage threes?" What have you learned? Can any of these people change from two to three or three to four? Do you simply hire slowly or fire fast? Do you simply get rid of them?

The transition is never easy when you're trying to get rid of bad culture and create a totally new culture. Click To Tweet

The ones and twos, there's no change there. The threes can get into fours and that's definitely what you want.

Just cut your losses.

Especially if you have a big organization and you have this person in a position where they have a lot of people under them. If they're a stage one and two, imagine what they're telling all those people under them. Imagine the mindset and the stuff that they're feeding them. That's what those people think of everybody else on top. That's not necessarily true.

When you have those people in your company, they can be a real poison. It's almost like if they're allowed to linger long enough, everyone that they touch in their immediate circle becomes poisonous as well. We've had that experience before in one of our clinics where one person in particular was poisoned and unfortunately, they were the leader. After that person left, it took at least a year before we got everybody out who they had an influence on before that clinic started turning around. Looking back on it, my partner and I both believe that we should have closed down the clinic, fired everybody that had a connection to that poisonous leader and started from scratch and got some new people. It can be that devastating and that pervasive when that one person has that much influence.

I'll tell you a personal story of my own too. Sometimes you think it was so bad and then you’ve got a new staff and it got better. You're meeting some goals that you'd never met before and you're like, "This is great." It plateaued for me. I was like, "What's going on?" We've got a new hire. This new hire, it was the first time we have put them through a rigorous hiring process and had this funnel built out and had all these triggers that they had to do before they even came into an interview. I was like, "This guy has got it." We hired him and sure enough, he came in and in six months outworked everybody in the front desk so much that we redid all our internal processes at the front desk. That's when I knew, I was like, "We may have another problem." That wasn't his job. He was going to come in and do reception. He ended up coming in with all these things and changes and made things better. The problem was those other two people that were there before him didn't I go through that interview process that you went through. We didn't weed out as much as we thought early on.

Since then, we've hired another one and we ended up tweaking his process more to make it more specific and refined to make sure that we got another person just like him. The other two people are not there anymore and the other two that we hired are now all cross-trained the way he did everything at the front desk. When we brought them on board, we made the onboarding process and the interview process very detailed to everything that he had created and changed up there with my direction. Even when you think you've got it, you probably have to do another thing. That's what happened to me. We went through and we hit some numbers that we had never hit the first time around. We plateaued and we weren't hitting our goals that had after that. He came on and totally changed it. We brought these two other girls on.

As soon as the new staff came on board without the old staff here, because there was a little bit of overlap, they have put in their two weeks. There were several part-timers in training. The very first week when all the old staff was gone and it was just a new staff with the person that we trained up there, we hit our 200 visits a week goal that we haven't hit in a while. It always happens for the better, but I feel it only happens for the better if you put in that work, your blood, your sweat and your tears into making it better. We refined our process, we identified the leaks, we identify leaks again. We tweaked and refined the process and we got a better product out of it. You got to keep tweaking and refine. That's the main thing.

That's the perfect example of the theorem that the people that got you here are not the same people that will get you there. Some people will be good at getting you to a certain point. What's cool about this also is it exemplifies how you were so intentional about the person that you want to hire. In your own words, it was a rigorous process. For someone at the front desk, if you can breathe and say hello, usually that's good enough for us to sit at the front desk, but you took it a step further. What do we exactly want out of this person? How are they going to be the most productive and how are they going to be the face of my clinic? Immediately, as soon as you did that and got rid of the other people, your numbers grew again. That’s a great example. 

Our main focus was we want to create overwhelm for these candidates. That's what I told the guy, Bruce, he helps some of my marketing and all my funnels and stuff. I said, "I want to create overwhelm." He goes, "What do you mean by that?" I said, "I want you to give them everything and all descriptions and tasks that they will be having to handle." Even if they only have to do it once, even if it's not their main task. I said, "I want them to feel overwhelmed." I was like, "Why?" It's because if somebody can come in knowing that they're a little overwhelmed and stick the interview, then they're going to be good because there's a lot of overwhelm at the front desk. Wouldn't you agree? He’s like, “Yes.” That’s what our mentality was when we did that.

PTO 70 | Identifying Bad Apples
Identifying Bad Apples: When you have employees that have great culture, then you have a great team.

Congratulations that you experienced that because that front desk is such an important part. Correct me if I'm wrong, are you paying these newer guys a little bit more than you were previously? 

They're still in the probationary period. It’s equal to what it was for the others but going forward, they're both doing verifications. I already prepped them and have their one-month meeting and say, "This is where I want to be able to get you at, but I want to make sure that you're completely independent with all of these things." They're not quite there yet, but they're helping so much more than the other two were as far as what they're going above and beyond doing.

That's awesome because you're incentivizing them and you're telling them, "If you're going to make more, this is how you're going to do it." That's always awesome that you can incentivize them. There was also a change in the quality of the candidate once we decided to increase our per hour rate that we were willing to pay that front desk person. If we were stuck in the $8 to $10 an hour range, we’ve got $8 to $10 an hour type of people. Once we bumped that up to closer to $12 or $15, then we got $12 to $15 an hour people. I'm not saying that you need to share your numbers, but I'm leaving that as an example that sometimes you should be paying a little bit more for someone who is super productive at the front desk because that person drives so much of the success of your clinic.

I had a conversation with my wife about this. We were going to try to increase base pay across the board for techs and front office going forward, but with these expectations, our next tech coming in is not going to start there. He's going, "You're going to start here and you could get to here once you get to a year-and-a-half experience and you're doing this." Our techs had been with us for about a year and a half, two years. They’re in a little bit more responsibility. One of them is responsible for the cleanliness of all the gym and the other one is responsible for all the equipment. We have to order stuff. He knows my online account where we go order. He just gets it approved. They're a big part of what we do here and they're making more, but if somebody that comes in and starts to do tech work, they’re not going to start there. They're going to have the expectation of, "If you can do this like Alex is doing at some point, this is where you could be.” I do bonus them. Everybody got a bonus. We do a little a profit share at the end of the quarter. Even though their base rate is a little lower, when they get incentivized and bonus, it turns out to good hourly grade. I do feel you on that trying to get those candidates.

We're talking about front desk and tax, but this is correlated with physical therapists and PTAs as well, even the clinic directors. They can have such an influence on your team if they're in stage one and stage twos. You want to have more of the stage fours, people that are bought into the culture. We're talking about your hiring process. Are there other things that you do to cultivate that culture and move those people into stage four types of employees where they're bought into the team and it's all about effortless culture or the things you do to maintain that?

I've been working on that a lot. That's something that we've been changing around here because before, we were tied up with life. We're trying to get their business to where it needed to be. Get the kids in the home life to where it needed to be. It wasn't at the top of my focus at the time, nor did I know it needed to be. I started seeing all the positive effects of that. I read a line by Peter Drucker somewhere in his book, he said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast. It never stops. It's a 24/7 thing." I said that to my wife and I said, "I'm going to take on this hat and know that I'm going to be coming up with some ideas to hang out as a team. We're going to be celebrating any and all little wins, things that nobody else is looking at." We’re trying to create our identity. That's what I told her. As a team, we’ve been hanging out a lot.

Every quarter, we set some goals and when we hit them, we celebrate them. When we celebrate, we go out. I rented a house on the beach and everybody came out and I barbecued all day. They went to the beach and we're in the pool and hung out and had a place to stay and drink. We’re hanging out with each other. We try to create an atmosphere of family and trust just like you do at home. It's hard because it’s like, “They're not your real kids, Frank.” I was like, "I know they're not my real kids, but if we take care of them, it's going to turn around two folds, ten folds for you as a company.” It takes a lot of work.

You're talking about regarding culture, we've talked it about a number of times on the show. When your team members treat their work team as if they were family, that's next-level stuff. You get so excited when they'd not only bought into the company culture, they've bought into each other and they wanted to see each other succeed. They're trying to help and they're trying to promote each other and help each other out. That's the stuff that you hope for as a business owner. In order to cultivate that, it takes celebrating wins, creating goals together. I think quarterly meetings are a huge success. You can push a lot of great cultural values and unity in those cultural events if you're intentional about it and if you plan those out properly. It can gain a lot of traction. It's nice to not only implement the mission, vision and values, but then follow that up with intentional culture-building activities that show the mission, vision and values. We talk about it during those times. That's when you start seeing a culture change.

We try to do that, even when we get together casually, we'll play little games, “Who can recite all our core values the fastest?” We throw stuff out there and always relate stuff to the clinic, even joke about some things that happened in the clinic and create that atmosphere. At the end of the day, we're CEOs and that means we have to lead. We want to lead them to do great things. I used to be a coach too. We can lead them to be good, but when they overachieve and we lead them to overachieve, that makes us feel great. They want to make you feel great. They want you to be proud of them. They don't want you to pat them on the shoulder and say, "Great job." In some cases, you may not know this or they may not tell everybody, but they may have a hard life at home and work is their happy place. It says a lot about how you do that. You can lead by a lot of ways. You can lead by service. You can lead by love. I like to motivate my team. Every Monday, we do a Monday update and we do a little motivational Monday video clip. I'm big into motivating.

Knowledge is power so people hoard it. Click To Tweet

The other thing I've learned that I think helps them respect you and learn a little bit about you as a boss is to not be afraid to feel embarrassed in front of them for something you did. Being in a business where I own it with my wife, I have some experiences sometimes since we work together and we live together. Sometimes you're at work and I may say something that maybe I don't realize that other people are in front and it's rude. When I realize that, I immediately will stop, apologize and make it public like, "I messed up." The faces and the looks that I get from them sometimes it's cool because they're like, "He's normal." They're not afraid of me because they know I'm just human as they are and we all make mistakes. The example is man up about your mistake and make it right or make sure that you expect them to do the same when they messed up. You're going to move on. It's okay.

Show a little bit of humility. Show them that it's okay, that we can make mistakes and we can overcome them and next time I'm going to do better. 

At the end of the day, I tell my kids, “As long as you give it 110%, that's all that matters. Give it your all.”

Is there anything else you want to share, Frank?

This is one thing that I read and I thought I want to share with my staff. I read this and I'm going to share it with them at the next meeting. It says, "If your presence doesn't make an impact, your absence won't make a difference." That goes for all of us. As a CEO, you want to make an impact on your business. You have to come in here full of positive energy, leading your team, motivating your team, loving your team, setting the mission, the vision. Make sure everybody's clear on it so that everybody can focus and go forward. As an employee, you need to do your job and make an impact in your post. When you're not there, it's not going to make a difference.

How do you want to make an impact?

When you're not there, they're going to be like, "Where's Frank?” because you made an impact.

As a leader, you want to be able to say, “I made this impact.” As a leader, especially in a physical therapy clinic, personally I didn't want my impact to be that I saw 60 patients that week. That's not the impact you want as a leader. The impact that you want as leaders is, “I've affected these people's lives whether it's patients and or employees. This is how I lead and this is how I've created a culture that inspires people.” That provides much more power than it does simply treating patients all day.

It's who you are, what are you there to do and how you're going to do it?

PTO 70 | Identifying Bad Apples
Identifying Bad Apples: If your presence doesn't make an impact, your absence won't make a difference.

Frank, thanks for taking the time. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom. If people wanted to reach out to you and ask you questions, what's your contact information? 

I'm going to give you two ways that you can opt in for any information. It's a text message. You can text MM to 844-444-1481. If people want to get onto our app and get some of the free stuff that we have on there for mastermind stuff, they can text app APP to the same number.

That's for the Next Level PT mastermind and coaching that you are doing?

Yes, correct.

It's always awesome talking about culture. I get excited about what we can do to filter out people who aren't bought in and find those people who are bought in because the sailing is so much smoother when you got those people in the right seats in the bus. 

We're still tweaking and refining because that's the process we have for the front desk, but we still got to create one for the clinic and for PT and everything else. It's a work in progress.

Thanks for your time, Frank. I appreciate it. 

No problem, Nathan. Thank you.

Important Links:

About Dr. Frank Garza

PTO 70 | Identifying Bad ApplesDr. Frank Garza has been a physical therapist since 2006. After working as an employee for one year in private practice, he decided to venture into an independent private practice setting, with his wife, where he is now the CEO.

In doing so they began to see patients in their own home for about 2 to 3 years before expanding into their current outpatient physical therapy facility, Pure PT & Pilates (PPTP), which he owns and operates along with his wife, Dr. Amy Garza.

Together, they have been managing and running the practice for seven years, soon to be eight. Frank is also a founder of Next Level Physical Therapy (NLPT), a consulting group that helps other physical therapy CEOs create the time, choice and financial freedom they deserve.

In the last 2-3 years, he has been really focused on developing and refining his practice’s Human Resources Department. Frank is currently a resident of Mcallen, Texas, a small city located in South Texas, with his twins, Frankie and Tessa, as well as his beautiful wife Amy!

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PTO 69 | Creating Vision And Values

 

If you're stuck on how to create vision and values, this episode is your "how to." Business coach, entrepreneur, and physical therapist Sturdy McKee, PT makes a comeback in this episode to talk more about creating vision and values. Sturdy is a business coach, entrepreneur and business owner who also happens to be a physical therapist and private practice owner. Today, he reveals the three components of a vision and how much they can influence how you seize opportunities, make business decisions, and identify a good team player. Sturdy also touches on his methods in helping business owners and executives achieve their business and financial goals. Prepare to be inspired and fired up to start a business that not only drives wealth but also makes the world a better place.

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Listen to the podcast here:

The How-To And Benefit Of Creating Vision And Values With Sturdy McKee, PT

I have a returning guest, Sturdy McKee, a physical therapist out of San Francisco. He is a successful physical therapy business owner, business coach, and entrepreneur who I want to bring on to dive a little bit deeper into vision. We had an episode about vision and its importance. I want to talk to Sturdy about what a vision consists of, how to go about creating it and how to utilize it in our practices. Sturdy is a great guest to have on because he has quite a bit of knowledge about current businesses and how they've been impacted by implementing these fundamental principles. I love hearing his real-world examples of how these things are helpful in our businesses or how they can hurt us if we don't have them. He's got a lot of wisdom to share. I don't want to speak into it much more than to get to the interview.

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I've got Sturdy McKee, a physical therapist out of San Francisco, who is a business coach and entrepreneur himself. Sturdy was on with me in 2018. We had a nice discussion about his story and what got him to be successful to the point where he is right now. He shared the formula that I espoused. He reached out, he networked with people, he stepped out of his clinic and started creating the business that he wanted. Thank you, Sturdy, for coming on the show again.

Thank you.

We already shared your story about what got you to where you are. You have the social proof, you're in your business once a week managing, leading the company and in touch with your clinic managers and directors. I know you reached out to me. I'm excited to have you on because we’re talking about vision. You shared the idea and I agree. It'd be nice to get deeper into how to create a vision or what a vision really is. Where are you coming from in that regard?

I’m passionate about what a vision is because I've been through the same thing. Many people, your readers, all have heard of these different versions. I used to teach some of this stuff. I remember the mission of the VA stands out as one. When I first started teaching, I was using it as an example because it was obviously done by a committee. Each one of them, each VA was different. I'm not talking about each district. I'm talking about the Palo Alto VA and the San Francisco VA. Each one of them had its own mission statement on their website. I have some old PowerPoints where I copied a couple of them. They're all gone.

I haven't been able to find the old ones, but they basically were a laundry list of all the content constituencies at that organization. It was very internally focused on what we do. Without getting too much into politics, Obama and under the VA administration updated and changed it. The mission of the VA was revamped to be one sentence by Abraham Lincoln. He quoted, “It's around taking care of our veterans and soldiers.” It is far more eloquent. It's more purposeful in nature and that's a great contrast. It’s all over history. My history is working in hospitals and other businesses and seeing things like vision, mission, values and all these different things that you need.

I have been taught by coaches and some others and guided this way, but I have come to this conclusion where my definition of vision includes three things. It's very clear, these three things. It's the higher purpose, it's the core values and the big, ambitious goal. Whatever you want to call that, whether that's a BHAG or what have you, we can take them one at a time and break them down a little bit. The higher purpose is your why. It's the reason the company, the organization exists in the first place and it's not profit. Profits are good and it's necessary, but generally it's not the reason we got all fired up and went out and started whatever business we did.

It's more of the Michael Gerber explanation of it. He calls it an entrepreneurial seizure. I call it an entrepreneur or temper tantrum, but it’s like, “I'm going to do it by myself. I'm fed up wherever I am. I can do it better.” Whatever triggered that is the higher purpose. It's not necessarily the service that you're providing. This is true, whether you're an attorney, a therapist, a plumber or a cake baker. “I'm going to do it because I can do it better.” It's like, “Why were you not happy with where you were? What are you going to do for whom?” That’s more of the purpose. Why are we doing this? Why are we going out and taking this crazy risk going on this journey that is really hard?

I’ve read your blog with Will where he talks about falling 50 feet, breaking both legs and arms, the rehab and everything with that, and then saying, “The business was harder than that.” That made me think about another friend of mine who is a Navy SEAL. He was honorably discharged. He took over his father's business. After about a year and a half, he was one of the EO members, Entrepreneurs Organization that he has been involved with. Darren is an EO member. He did a talk for us, a small breakfast talk, only about twelve members in the room. One of the things he said about having run that business was it was the hardest thing he's ever done in his life.

We're like, “You're a SEAL for more than ten years.” He's like, “I know.” That was incredibly humbling at the same time, I'm still not sure, maybe my journey has been a little bit easier, but it hasn't been easy. I'm wondering, “That's a heck of a comparison too.” It is this thing that keeps us doing what we're doing. It's the reason and it's the why behind it. The other thing to know about a higher purpose is it's not a goal. It's not something that will be achieved. It will never be completely finished or fulfilled per se. It's the reason that you get up in the morning and do what you do.

It's also the reason why your employees should maybe feel compelled and excited about a vision that, “I'm going to work for something that I believe in.”

Let's put them all together and then talk about how we can use it. That's definitely one of the areas. The core values are the second one. We talked about a higher purpose. That's the why. The core values are the how. It’s not the operational how but the behavioral how. It's the code of conduct. It's how we do things around here. When you write them out, I've looked up core values and you get this long list of one word to choose from, please don't do that. The core values need to be behavioral in nature. They're generally about three to six words in length because they need to be descriptive enough that people know what to do.

PTO 69 | Creating Vision And Values
Creating Vision And Values: Our higher purpose is not a goal. It's not something to be achieved. It’s the reason that you get up in the morning and do what you do.

 

There are a lot of good examples out there. You look at the New Zealand All Blacks, an organization since 1902 or 1906. In any event, for more than a hundred years, they have a 77% win rate. That's a country the size of Phoenix. In an international competition, they have the highest win rate of any professional international sports team in the world for more than a century. A lot of that has to do with their core values. “Leave the jersey in a better place, champions do extra,” those are a couple of values. They got five that they outlined. These are the things that tell them all how they're going to behave.

“Sweep the sheds is another one.” Sweep the sheds doesn't mean sweep the sheds, but it means cleaning up after yourself. Take care of the facilities. Take care of the place. It doesn't matter if you're an international superstar or you're the towel boy, you still pick up your stuff. If you don't do that, you don't get to stay. They've stuck with that. That's an attitude that brings to them together and bonds and they have. They've dismissed international superstars in the past because they haven't lived and abided by the core values. They lived and not agreed with because that's a whole other thing. It’s behaviors. What we need to do is ensure that the people in the organization are following those behaviors. Then, we'll come back to attracting people.

The third component is the big ambitious goal. It's sometimes referred to as the Bang or the BHAG. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras defined it in the Built to Last book in 1994. It was the Big Hairy Audacious Goal. They set a time frame for 20 years to 30 years, yet their number one example is the Moon Shot, which was about ten years since then. I've had this discussion with a couple of other friends who are business coaches and former coaches of mine, and we all settled on an eight-year to ten-year time frame. That's far enough ahead that you don't know how to get there, yet. It can be aspirational. It can be inspiring. You can figure it out along the way. It's not so far over the horizon that it's abstract.

If you ask me 25 years ago what I'd be doing, I would have been way off the mark. Twenty-five years from now, what will I be doing? I have a better idea than I did 25 years ago. If I can look at an eight-year to ten-year time frame, I can start to put my head around that. I can grasp that intellectually and logically, but it still gives me enough time to figure stuff out along the way. Those are the three components, the why, the how we're going to act on the way there and where we're going. Those are the three components of a vision that I seek to work with clients to develop and get those in place. The earlier you can do that in your process, the better.

That's not to say they're set in stone. They can shift. They can iterate and morph as you go along. You may discover some things that we're missing, assumptions that need to be more explicit or what have you as well. It will evolve along the way. It starts to give you a beacon, a north star, a direction of where you're going. This has got a lot more attention. This isn't some feel good, “I want to fulfill my destiny” type of thing. There's been quite a study around purpose-driven and values-driven organizations. They outperform their competition. They're hard data, but they outperform on multiple fronts, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, innovation and financially.

Harvard Business School did a research study where they looked at companies for a decade. They outperformed their rivals by a factor of twelve. That was in seventeen different countries too. I've had people tell me, “This is culturally specific.” It's not. Maybe what your purpose is could be your values, but the structural blocks do attract and inspire the right people. It makes your life easier all the way along the way. It’s not just if we talk about how we use this stuff, there’s one other thing that is interesting is it may give more credibility to this whole thing. Do you know who Laurence Fink is? The CEO of BlackRock?

Profits are good and necessary but it should not be the reason you get all fired up to start your business. Click To Tweet

That sounds familiar.

Laurence Fink is the CEO and Chairman of BlackRock. I didn't even know this. I knew of them. They're here in San Francisco, but they have somewhere north of $6.8 trillion under management and investment. It might be as much as $7.4 trillion. It fluctuates a bit. The point is they're one of probably the biggest investment firms in the world. Every year, Larry Fink writes a letter to the CEOs, the thousands of CEOs that are running the companies that they are investors in, that they have board seats on and all this stuff. In 2019, this is the quote in his letter, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” He started to talk about not just corporate social responsibility because that's not the same thing that we're talking about, but a purpose-driven values-driven organization that isn't solely shareholder focused.

In the publicly traded world, I think rightfully so, he got some push-back. A couple of hundred saw his letter and wrote him a letter back. They said, “That sounds great until you change the playing field in the rules, the way we get compensated, the way we avoid liability and don't get sued and all the rest of it. That sounds great, but you’ve got to change the playing field if you want that outcome. The way it's set up now isn't going to allow us to do what you're talking about.” That's great news for most people who are going to read this because you're not running a publicly-traded corporation. Very often, you're the sole shareholder or at least the majority shareholder. You can take this stuff and you're answerable to yourself not to institutional investors and CalPERS. You can do this. The cool part is if the playing field over the long-term favors this and the big guys, the corporations and your perceived competition out there can’t do this, at least not with any integrity or fidelity over time, then you have a bit of an unfair advantage.

Maybe someone already has an idea of a vision that's already out there. How does one either assess their current vision? Is that different than someone who's trying to start from scratch? I don't have a vision in place necessarily, how do I go about creating one and get to my why?

If you have an existing organization, whether you've been in business six months or fifteen years, you already probably have a purpose. You already probably have values in a way you do things. What those are more of a discovery process of unveiling, sussing out and asking, “Why did you start doing this in the first place? What are some themes throughout your life? What do you do when you're not getting paid? What inspires you? What does your family tease you or make fun of you about?” They’re like, “That's Nathan. He does that.” It's that stuff that starts to give you this common thread that ties it all together. Sometimes, we're the last ones to be able to see it.

Everybody around us sees it. We think we've made this great discovery. We tell them, we figured it out and they're like, “Yes.” Another friend of mine, Bill Gallagher is a coach. I love his saying, “A fish as the last one to see water.” Ask your loved ones. Ask your best friend. Ask your spouse. What do they see in you? What do they think drives you? That will start to help reveal the why and you tie that into your business. How does that align? What is it doing at the core values? Similarly, when I go through and do the core values, that exploration and facilitation with clients, I want to get everybody in the organization, in the room together, at least the leadership team.

PTO 69 | Creating Vision And Values
Creating Vision And Values: If you have an existing organization, whether you've been in business six months or fifteen years, you already probably have a purpose. It’s just a matter of unveiling it.

 

Do you do that with the vision or do you leave the vision simply to the owner?

The vision is the aggregate of the higher purpose, the values and the BHAG, those three components. The higher purpose is usually more around the owner, but it depends on the maturity of the organization as well. There was an interesting story. I forgot what university it was. This woman came in and was leading the department organization. She was new to it but was going to be taking it over. To figure out what drove the people that were already there, the tenured professors, the new faculty, and the other people that had been around and were there for a reason, she went and talked to all of them about what that reason is. She started to find some commonalities and threads through that, that she then brought back, reflected them, asked them, vetted it and they were like, “That's what we're about.”

That is the discovery process. The core values are largely a discovery process because we have expectations for each other. What irritates you when somebody doesn't live up to those expectations? What do you expect from each other? That's a way to get to that. There's a cool exercise to go through and get in the weeds and ask all the details, be on time and look people in the eye. What do you do? You start to find those common themes. The couple I mentioned follow the respect theme. There's something there about respect. What does that mean for us? How are we going to manifest that in our day-to-day actions and behaviors? How do we articulate that, not only so we're clear about it, but for new people joining the organization? How do we make it clear to them what the expectations are before they even get here?

I like how you filter it down from what it sounds like. You take this aggregate of behaviors. You filter it down to a common word. What's our definition of that word? What does that mean? What does that look like in our company? From our perspective, we had four core values. PAGE was the acronym, Professional, Accountability, Growth and Empathy. We had those for a number of years, but they didn't gain a lot of traction until we did two things, until we defined to them with the leadership team as what that looks like. What does professionalism look like in our minds? That could be different for somebody. You can't assume that everyone has the same definition.

That's the biggest hazard of these one-word values. If we have fifteen people in the room, we've probably got seventeen different definitions, which of those? Does respect mean the same thing to you as it does to me? It’s communication. It’s communicating. I hate that one. Communication can be a theme, but exactly what you have said, how does that manifest itself? Being a good one-way communicator and articulate, that's maybe part of it. Listening is important in working together. There's an empathy component, or there are other pieces and parts that come together that start to describe how we embrace that. Communication might encompass a theme like grouping, but then what we're doing is taking those micro behaviors, pulling them together into something more cohesive.

You mentioned, “Champions do extra.” For the All Blacks, that means, “We run farther, we work harder, we stay later, and we go the extra mile in some cases. That's if we want to win.” I've seen companies take that on and swipe it. Please don't do that. Core values need to be unique to you. Aside from the fact that whatever business you're in, you're probably not a champion. You're not literally competing for a world title. If you are great, then maybe that works. For most of us, figure out what your own version looks like. Make it your own and embrace it. The idea can be great, but that brings up one other thing. These are real. These are serious, real expectations. It's somewhat hazardous to create core values that are aspirational in nature and that we're not going to fulfill. That's one of the hazards, in addition to the one word. Be careful about aspirational core values. You want them to be actual rules we live by.

Spend time and effort on people that are attracted to your purpose. Click To Tweet

You've got to make them. They are the law.

That’s the third risk. If you're the owner leader and you're not going to abide by them, then you're probably better off not ruling them out. That's going to create dissonance and a problem with integrity in the organization. If you don't intend to follow these, if these aren't things that you exemplify in your behaviors, you may want to think twice before rolling it out to the rest of the organization to holding them accountable.

You’ve got some good advice. It's not something I've considered before, that there could be a hazard in making it an aspirational value. We hope, but it's tough. It's something that we want to live to, but we're not quite doing it yet. It doesn't vibe. You can lose some people in that regard because you're supposed to be holding people to this standard. If that standard is somewhat fuzzy, then it's hard to play black and white and say you're not living up to it honestly.

How do you explain that one's aspirational, but the other ones are real rules? You're creating potential conflict at least internal, mentally, emotionally. Don't set the bar too low either. We don't want a show up to be the goal or value. These are things that, again, are yours and not everybody's going to agree with and that's okay. It's still what we hold as important.

How does an owner know the values? It might be easy to somewhat of an exercise to come up with, but how does someone know that they've got it? When they are happy with it, that's it, but sometimes you can feel uncomfortable.

There are three or four questions you can ask. One of them is, “Will I spend money on it to fix it or to train? Will I confront someone else in the organization about it? Would I fire somebody who refuses repeatedly to get on board with it?” Along the lines of the spend money, would you also forego money? If you had a client or a company that wanted to hire you that wasn't in congruence, wasn't aligned, was in conflict with your values, would you still take that? If the answer to any of those is no, then it's probably not a core value. Maybe, it's nice to have. Nice to haves are great, but they do not core to who we are as an organization.

PTO 69 | Creating Vision And Values
Creating Vision And Values: The path to success very often lies in our focus and persistent work toward a goal, not running around to all the different things.

 

Those questions bring up the whole idea of, “How do you use these?” One of the cool things about them, once you have these three pillars, these three pieces in place is you use them in your decision-making process. They become the first questions to be asked when you have an opportunity or when a strategic partner or an employee comes to you with this idea, this program, this thing we want to do. Does it align with our core purpose or higher purpose? Does it fit with our core and does it move us closer to our big ambitious goal? If the answer to any three of those is no, we're done. Move on.

If the answer to the three of those is yes, then we move to another layer of questions. That's when you're looking at, “How does it serve our target customer? Is it profitable if we're running a business? Is it process-driven versus individual-driven? There are other questions that you can get to, but I'm not worried about answering those until I know that it checks the boxes on the first three by weeding things out. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett say this, so many people who are very successful say this, but it's the things I said no to, not the yes. It's too easy for us to get distracted. There are too many opportunities. There are many things we could be doing. The path to success very often lies in our focus and persistent work toward a goal towards something, not running around to all the different things.

It's cool how you lay it out because I can consider taking these things. The vision, the values, or the higher purpose, the values and the goals. We start weaving that into interview processes.

That's another way to use them. You're connecting people. Your job postings, you're going to surface that. Hopefully, if you've done that well for the right people. This is also key. For the right people, it should be inspiring. Not for everybody. That's fine because if they self select out and they're not aligned with your vision to start with, you didn't have to spend your time and effort. You're spending time and effort on people that are attracted to your purpose. You layout the core values and not tell people what they are. I'm a big advocate of reorganizing your interview questions to answer how aligned people are with those values.

I have a scoring system aligned with the poster child as opposed to not aligned with whatever. There’s a number scale that we came up with that we can rate on each one of these. We have the questions to answer whether or not basically their past behaviors. That's the other thing. We're not asking hypotheticals, “What would you do if?” We're asking, “What did you do when?” That's evidence-based as well. People's past behaviors are more predictive of future behaviors than somebody's answering the question the way they think you want to. If they're telling you the truth about how they behaved in certain situations that they were confronted with, that'll fall into this realm of your core value number one or core value number three. You start to get a sense of their behaviors and how well they are aligned, with that value.

You can decide, based on that whether they would be a fit with the organization. We did two interviews, and clients do two interviews. The first one is solely focused on are they fit with the team? Are they inspired by the purpose? Are they aligned with the values? Behaviorally, we're looking for who they are before we're looking at their skillsets and stuff. That weeds out more people. You might be a lovely person, you might even be a great player, but if you aren't going to live by these behavioral values, then you're not going to be happy here and we're not going to be happy with you.

People's past behaviors are more predictive of future behaviors than answering questions the way they think you want them to. Click To Tweet

This ends up being a real good test for all parties involved. They may not understand it quite the same way you do after years of practice or what have you, but if I send somebody away because they're not aligned with the values and they're like, “I really like you guys and I want to work with you,” you're not going to be happy. I've seen this before. We like you. This isn't a judgment about you as an individual. Are you going to be happy here with the team or are you going to contribute in the ways that we want? Are you going to abide by the same rules that we do? It doesn't mean it's the law. It means that it's important to us.

What a powerful position to be in to say, “We like you, but we can tell that this isn't going to work out.” To be able to forecast that as you interview many people. You've lived and worked through your core values and tested them so much that you can find the right person. I know that bears out with you guys because I don't know if you still do this, but I tell a lot of people that one of your filters for candidates was that they had to play team sports in the past.

Collaboration is a big deal.

Consider that to some people that might be like, “That's odd, but that would make you many decisions based on that one thing. That's how you figured that out.”

Not quite so hard and fast on that if they can come up with another area where they truly collaborated.

It holds tight to your values.

PTO 69 | Creating Vision And Values
Creating Vision And Values: Work together, help each other, share knowledge, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or ask questions.

 

That's one of those things that were conditioned in school. Especially if you're coming out with a DPT, twenty years of schooling taught you that collaboration is cheating. As soon as you're out of school though, that's not true anymore. I want people to have the context of working together, helping each other, sharing knowledge, not being afraid to ask for help or ask questions. You’re not withholding information, but sharing and telling, “I made this mistake. I'm hoping the whole team can learn from it.” There's not a fear of repercussion there or punishment or getting it wrong. There's a, “This will help the whole team and ultimately help our patients, our customers or clients.” In doing so, can we avoid this mistake in the future? Can I help everybody else out? Those are things that are important to us in our culture. That's not everywhere.

That's a great example of holding to your values. Is there anything you want to add here at the end to inspire people to help people solidify their purpose, values and goals?

We're talking about the big ambitious goal, the eight to ten years down the road, then you can backward plan your three years, highly achievable goal, your one year, your quarterly, that type of stuff in your planning. I would encourage you to get working on it, but of all the things, if this is new to you and you're thinking about it, start writing it down. If you've been through this before, start writing it down and implementing it. I started working with a client and we were talking about this stuff and they're like, “We've done all this before.” I'm like, “What are they?”

The silence was the answer. “What is your purpose?” “I'd have to look it up.” “What are the core values?” They couldn't recite them. How are you using within your organization? That's not an answer to how you're using them. We use them in our interview process. We use them in our one on one meetings. We tell a core value story about somebody else. Every week, we bring them up in staff meetings. We have a theme each month. However, it is that you employ and use these in your organization. They must be used. We use them in our decision making. Fair enough. If they're not used, then they're more words on the back of a name badge or a plaque on the wall that nobody cares about. That's the other thing. They've got to be written down. They've got to be utilized in the organization. When I say used, I don't mean one time, I mean this should be your favorite ten or whatever.

It should look as part of the agenda on meetings. It's absolutely purposefully put in many different locations.

Those are more reminders. We're using these in our decision making. What marketing efforts are we going to do? What outreach are we going to do? What programs are we going to do? We ask these three questions first every time. They don't get dusty. They don't have to pull them off the shelf. They're well-worn and use as your favorite pair of shoes.

You start attracting those people. You don't necessarily have to filter them out, but sometimes they tend to start finding you.

The bigger and the more you live these and use them, the more that's out there. It's not employees and stuff that tell their friends or others. It's patients, it's referral sources. It's partners and vendors and other people that are like, “These guys, they know what they're about.” Maybe it's not everybody's cup of tea. That's fine. They know what they're about. I think you might like them. They start matching people up and telling them about you and vice versa and stuff. It becomes a lot more organic in large part because people know what you're about. They know what matters to you, and can be fairly powerful as well.

If people want to reach out to you and help them if they needed help establishing these or reestablishing these or any other business questions, how would they get in touch with you?

Thanks. It is SturdyMcKee.com. There's contact info there, my cellphone. Text me or call me. There are links to Facebook groups. There's a free Facebook group for business owners. There are all kinds of resources. Jump on there.

Thank you for your time. It is hugely valuable. I appreciate going into a little bit deeper into vision and values and its importance in our companies.

Thank you, Nathan. I appreciate it.

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About Sturdy McKee, PT

PTO 69 | Creating Vision And ValuesSturdy is a business coach, entrepreneur and business owner who also happens to be a physical therapist and private practice owner.

He helps business owners make the world a better place.

He has a special place in his heart for physical therapist entrepreneurs and private practice owners.

 

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PTO 68 | Team Buy-In Secrets

 

Team buy-in means a significant number of people become greatly involved in making your company or organization perform well. If you tried to implement this change without success, then Arlan Alburo, PT, DPT, MTC has you covered with his thirteen-step process. As the CEO, Chief Content Officer, and Co-Founder of Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists, he saw to it that he is leading the company in the right direction. In this episode, he explains each of the steps one by one, and intricately shares how he convinces his team members to buy-in the new programs and procedures. He teaches us how we can align everyone on the same page and optimize plan implementation. Arlan’s thirteen-step secret incorporates objective data, proper planning, tracking, and (maybe most important) team input. Following the process will surely increase your rate of success.

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Listen to the podcast here:

Getting Team Buy-In: The 13-Step Process For Successful Change With Arlan Alburo, DPT

I've got Dr. Arlan Alburo out of Indiana. He will be sharing with us the thirteen-step process to implement change and new programs in our companies. You may have experienced it in the past, I know I have, where you present changes that might be coming, new policies, procedures, new programs, new ideas and treatment techniques. Maybe it falls flat during the meeting. Maybe you get some head bobs, but you're not convinced that there are a lot of buy-ins and you’re questioning the success of the program going forward. Many times, there's some resistance to that change. You get feedback after the fact that there are some disgruntled employees, people who haven't fully bought into the changes that were presented. Sometimes those programs aren't altogether too successful.

If there was a way that you could increase your success rate in implementing those changes, you would want to know, I would assume. That's what Dr. Arlan Alburo was going to talk with us about is how to be more successful and get buy-in from the team when we implement changes in our company? I'm excited to present to you the thirteen-step process. I'm excited to use it on myself and my teenage boys. I could always use more buy-in with the family. As we implement this thirteen-step process, we'll see a significant increase in the success rate and buy-in from our company teammates as we follow the process.

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I've got Dr. Arlan Alburo out of Indiana. He is the Cofounder of Next Level Physical Therapy, which is a mastermind coaching group for PT business owners. I've interviewed another cofounder and member of Next Level Physical Therapy both Travis Robbins and Kevin Kostka. Arlan is a part of that group. He is also the CEO and Cofounder of multiple physical therapy clinics in Indiana called Orthopedic and Balance Therapy. Thanks for coming on, Arlan. I appreciate you doing so.

Nathan, thank you. I'm honored that you've invited me to be a guest on your show.

I'm excited to know about your story because I know a little bit about it having talked to you, but would you mind sharing with us your story to become a successful physical therapist and what got you to where you are?

I'm originally from the Philippines. I was 22 years old when I immigrated to this great country of ours. I like to tell my story and start off by saying, “I got off that airplane in Chicago with a $150 in my pocket in fives and the ones.” I am so thankful for the profession of physical therapy who brought me to realize my American dream with my family here in Indiana. We have four locations for our practice here. We’re considered as a suburb of Chicago. I am also the Cofounder of NLPT to help our fellow private practice owners out there realize their dream of running a profitable practice, achieving time choice and financial freedom. I started my practice in 2003 in Valparaiso, Indiana, with my cofounder.

Back in those days, we did everything like most private practice owners when you're starting out. You do your own marketing, went out to visit physicians, you type your own reports and your vacuum. You do everything. My practice went up fairly quickly to about a 100 to 120 visits between the two of us, but then you realize, “For this thing to grow, I'm going to need more help.” We plateaued by 2007. By 2011, we were thinking, “This is not what we thought it would be.” We were paying ourselves but we would have made more by working for somebody else.

For the longest time, that was the question at the end of 2010, “Should we keep our practice open?” At that point we realized, we need something. We need some help. We need to study a little bit more about business, about entrepreneurship. That's when our practice started turning. That's when we started realizing, “We can grow, we can scale this thing, but we're going to need more help.” By 2013, we were growing pretty well. My practice went through quite a bit in 2013. Our main location was involved in a fire. We closed our practice for seven months, but we actually came back from that pretty strong. From a team of three, by the end of 2013, we were probably eight to nine people, which to us was already a lot of growth.

Working together with your team in framing your plan increases its likelihood of being carried out. Click To Tweet

Now, we're a team of 30 in four locations. We're opening our fifth one shortly. My fellow cofounders from NLPT had been a great help in doing that and in scaling the practice. I'm a full-time CEO and visionary for our practice. I don't see patients anymore. That's what has helped us put systems in place, putting our leadership team in place and make this thing run smoothly with the help of our leadership team without the owner or the cofounder having to carry the burden of running the business. It's exciting times and I’m hoping to share that with fellow private practice owners out there.

You’ve got to rewind for us. What did you do between 2010 and 2013? I have an idea in my head and I have a formula that I reiterate on the show for successful business owners. I wonder if you followed the same path to success between 2010 to 2013.

What we did was we searched, “How can we get help? Is there coaching out there?” During those times, there was not a whole lot of coaching. I'm a natural fact-finder, so I read the lot but we decided to go with a consulting company out of Florida. I don't know if they run anymore. We got some leadership training and how to organize our practice. I believe Kevin Kostka went through the same thing. That's what got us started is putting systems in place. To put systems in place, you start with your organization. You’re organizing the board and being a good executive, like what Kevin Kostka talked about with you. That's how it got us started. We attended marketing conferences. Most of all, conferences on entrepreneurship and business development has been helpful.

It's the same formula. I always reiterate to reach out, step out and network. Reach out to find a coach, consultant or mentor, someone that can guide you. You’ve got to step out. As you got that consulting, you had to take portions of your treatment day instead of the sign for the business. You probably started at a half-day, maybe a full day a week or starting simply work on the business since you’re not seeing patients. You started networking or joining accountability groups, masterminds or collaborating with other PTs or simply business professionals to establish your network and start working on some of these business aspects that you're trying to move through. Almost all my episodes have followed that same pattern. It's one that I consistently preach and harp on.

It’s crazy because when you're working in your business and seeing patients, there’s nothing wrong with that. The longer you're there and spending most of your energy just seeing patients, by the end of the day, you don't have the energy to work on your business. Without that energy and without that dedicated time to work on your business, your business will never grow beyond the line of patients you or your partner can see.

I started doing half days of working on the business. Transitioning from that patient treatment energy to working on my business was energy draining. It was hard to switch mindsets during the days. I tried to move people towards taking a full day and simply focused on the business from the outset. Did you have the same issues?

That’s exactly the same issue I went through. I started out by blocking four hours. I would stay in the office. I will just close the door. If you stay in the office, you block four hours before you know it, someone's knocking on your door. That's also telling you that you don't have systems in place. I thought, “This is not working.” I decided I'm going to go to the local library for four hours. I would tell my teammates, our teammates in advance and tell them I'm going to be off the grid four hours. My phone is going to be off. I'm not going to be checking email. They know that even if they tried to reach out to me, they wouldn't be able to reach me. That four hours became eight hours and then I said, “This is working.” Eight hours became two days. It became three days. By May of 2017, I was gone from treatment full-time. I have not been seeing patients for many years now. It is fun running practice when you have help and you have a leadership team in place.

I'm assuming that you are opening up your fifth practice, but you're probably not doing a whole lot about it. Are you pretty busy yourself?

I'm not going to be seeing any patients. My job there is laying the vision of how that location's going to be, setting the pro forma for that with my CFO and then envisioning how many we need to staff that place. We have our leadership teams and VP of operations to make sure that things are running smoothly right off the bat on the first day.

PTO 68 | Team Buy-In Secrets
Team Buy-In Secrets: It is fun running a practice when you have help and you have a leadership team in place.

 

That's great. Congratulations.

Thank you. I refer back to my leadership team. Without them, it would be tough because when I opened my second office, I did all the work.

From 2010 to 2013, you're getting some consulting and training. This is what we're going to talk about. You're getting all this consulting and training and you're getting all these ideas. You're like, “We need to do this. We need to do that. I need to structure it this way. My employees are going to do this thing.” Was that well-received right off the bat? How did you start implementing things?

It's probably happened to most private practice owners. You learn a lot of stuff from the consulting that you're going to or maybe go out of state for three to five days and learn business concepts and then you go back and instantly try to implement it. It's easy to do when it's just you and your partner and maybe be a couple of people. When you have a big team and you're trying to implement new concepts all the time, you might not always get the best buy-in from your team. Sometimes you're going to get blowback. A lot of owners out there were seeing that in our consulting with NLPT too. Our first mastermind group was a group of twenty. When they first joined, we were throwing a lot at them to help their practices out, but they would go back to their teams and tried to implement them right away. They were getting a ton of blowback.

We then realized, “We need to introduce the thirteen-step of change through persuasion to our mastermind climbers.” That way they can introduce any program, any change that they're trying to implement in their practice and ensure maximum buy-in because it happened to me. From that period from 2010 to 2013, I would go back and tried to implement. It was a little easier at that time because we had a smaller team. If I did that now with my team of 30, let's say I attend a conference in San Diego and come back on a Monday and decide we're going to do this thing for the whole company. That’s not going to go well. There are specific steps that you need to take as a private practice owner when you're introducing change through your practice or implementing a program or trying to tweak a certain process. You have to go through these thirteen steps to make sure that you'll ensure maximum buy-in. The problem is most owners jump to step seven. Step seven is implementing the plan. They skip steps one through six.

It's not any different than going to a ConEd course that you alone go to and then you come back and say, “Every other therapist needs to introduce this into their treatment protocols.” They're going to be like, “Why? What? Who?” They didn't get all that prep that you got during the course of your ConEd course. It's not necessarily different than implementing some new treatment procedure when you're trying to change structures and procedures and something is as fundamental as their jobs. I can imagine, it takes some cozying up to them and preparing them for that change. I'm excited to know what the thirteen steps.

There are four major stages of change through persuasion. Stage one has three steps in it. Stage two has four steps in it. Stage three has three steps in it and stage four has three steps in it. All in all thirteen steps. Let's talk about stage one. Stage one is called Setting the Stage. You have to set the stage. What I mean by that is the three main steps in setting the stage is facing the facts. What are the facts behind this change that you're trying to implement? The more objective data you have, the better. Even graphs or trends. Let's say, what's a common thing that you've heard from your podcast guests as far as may be something that they've helped introduce or change in their practices? Let's say the arrival rate or something.

It’s simple things like that. Arrival rates or recruiting PTs are hard. Trying to figure out an appropriate salary to offer.

The common thing that we would hear is that the owners would like to improve on the plan of care utilization. Maybe the patients of their PTs are not utilizing the plan of care properly or fully well. There's something that PT owners wanting their team members to improve the plan of care utilization. Making sure that patients are graduating and making sure that patients are completing their plan of care. The common thing that would be facing the facts would be, what is the present plan of care utilization percentage? What is the arrival rate? What's the drop off rate? What is the graduation rate? What is the trend? How does that look like on a graph? Has it been down-trending for quite some time?

To implement changes, make sure that you as the leader would be walking the walk and talking the talk. Click To Tweet

Another combination maybe for some practices that sell cash services. Let's say, they have a laser or dry needling that they're selling as cash services and their team is not selling it. The owner can sell it, but when it comes to their teammates trying to sell cash services, they can't do it or hardly doing it. Again, you lay out the fact, “This is the fact. Our plan of care utilization is at this level or our sales are at this level.” Even units per visit is another thing. Maybe PTs have some locations or some practice may be seeing patients for an hour and maybe only charging three units.

Anything that you're trying to change, you’ve got to face the facts as far as that particular situation and issue goes. After you think about the facts, the next step would be you got to establish a sense of urgency. By the way, the most powerful way to face the facts in my view, and we've been doing this for years now, is open-book management. My practice is open-book management to all our teammates, not just our leadership team. Our whole team of 30 people from the front desk, techs to PTAs, PTs, clinic directors or marketing people, they see our financials every month. That's a steep gradient for most owners to get to that point where you're showing your financials.

There's a whole lot of obstacles for some people to do that or a lot of reservations to do that. Face it, it can get any more factual than that. When you show your financials, the team sees whether you're doing well or you're not doing well. It's good to see that this is what's happening. How are you impacting the top line of the business? How are you impacting the expenses? A lot of lines on that P&L, they don't have control of, but the one thing that most teammates have control of is their impact on gross revenue through visits and through appropriate utilization of charges. That's one of the most powerful things that we've seen in this step number one facing the fact.

Number two, you establish a sense of urgency. If this trend keeps going, what's most likely going to happen and when you present this to your team, you have to get this out of them. You have to ask the same question, “If we continue in this pattern, this trend, let's say for a plan of care utilization, how would that impact our graduation rate?” If patients are not graduating and not getting the results, how will that impact our marketing? How would that impact our image with our referring physicians? How would that impact you as a PT or as a teammate? At the end of the day, that sense of urgency has to resonate with them. Most of our teammates are interested in the number one radio station, which is WIIFM, What's In It For Me? That sense of urgency has to ring true to them.

I love that you're asking the questions and you're bringing it back to them.

It has to resonate personally with them because otherwise, they would say, “Why do I care?” If we have the right teammates, they would be concerned. This is a way of making sure that they relate to the issue at hand. The third step would be creating that ideal scene. If this issue is addressed properly or if this program is implemented well, how does that ideal scene look like? What does it look like for you as a teammate? What does it look like for the practice? What does it look like for everyone who's working here? How does that look like for our patients? How does that look like for our referral sources? Creating that ideal scene is step number three. Those are the three steps in stage one, setting the stage and make sure you face the facts, show the facts and be as objective as possible. Establish a sense of urgency but to establish a sense of urgency, you have to help your teammates realize that there is a sense of urgency. You have to ask them questions, you have to relate it to them personally. It has to resonate with them that it impacts them. Finally, as a team, you have to create that idea of seeing what would that look like.

Once you've done that preliminary part, then we move on to stage two. Stage two has four steps in it. Stage two is essentially developing and implementing the plan. The first step, which would be step number four, in this case. The first step under stage two, which would be overall step number four would be framing a preliminary plan. If you have a leadership team, you start framing a preliminary plan of how are we going to address this issue? Who would be involved in implementing the steps that we were going to layout? What would be the timeline? Who's going to be impacted? How are we going to measure the results based on this plan? You frame that preliminary plan. Why is it a preliminary plan? It has to be preliminary because you have to involve the input of your team. If the plan is just from you, the owner or the founder, that plan is not going to be very powerful. You're not going to get complete buy-in.

If you frame that preliminary plan together with the help of your team, initially with your leadership teammates and you all work together on framing that plan, the likelihood of that plan getting carried out and implemented well shoots up very high. The next step, which would be number five is gathering feedback. You present your preliminary plan for your team, then you gather feedback. How do you gather feedback though? At NLPT, we love seven questions typically when we're gathering feedback from our teammates. The number one question we ask, let's say you present your preliminary plan. Whatever plan it is, maybe it's on the plan of care or improving cash services or maybe hitting our profit and loss targets and profit-sharing plan. People would have questions when you present a preliminary plan. The first question for gathering feedback, there are seven questions for gathering feedback that we love to use. This is based on the book, The Coaching Habit.

PTO 68 | Team Buy-In Secrets
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

Those seven questions, not that we wanted to memorize it, but understand how those questions flow. Let's say you present your plan, the first question that you need to be asking your team is, let's say, someone raises an objection, an issue or a concern about the preliminary plan. Your first question as the leader, the founder or the CEO would be, “What's on your mind?” You asked your teammate and you just shut up wait for their answer. Let them talk. After they talk, you follow up with the second question which would be, “And what else? Can you tell me more?” Let them dive deeper into it. Question number three would be, “What's the real challenge here for you?” Let's say they raise an objection or they're thinking this plan is not going to work, then you ask question number three.

Question number four would be, “What do you want out of this? The number five would be, “How can I help?” Showing them that you're concerned with their success as much as they would be. “How can I help make this a reality?” Maybe this is the preliminary plan. Maybe it ends up not being the actual final plan. By going through these questions, then you're able to gather feedback from your team and maybe you realize, “They would have a point. Maybe this is not the direction that we need to go.” Which leads us to question number six, “If you are saying no to this, what are you saying yes to?”

Essentially, you're asking your teammates, “I realized this plan may not be the best plan, but do you have another alternative for us that you would like to suggest?” Let them give you an option. Finally, number seven is, “What did you learn about this? What was most helpful here for you?” In number seven, you'd want to take notes on what you learned about that process because the next time you introduce another change or plan to your team, that number seven questions are important for you to remember. “This is how we did it the first time or this is what worked the last time,” and maybe this is the same way we go about it. Question number seven is, “What was most helpful? What did you learn about this process?”

That's the gathering feedback step, which would be number five and number six is finally just rolling out and finalizing the plan with your leadership team. What does a final plan look like? There's a goal, there's an objective, there are action steps and there will be people assigned to each action step. There'll be milestones and timelines for each action step. You also want to make sure that there is an actual deadline for when it's going to be done. As far as setting deadlines, deadlines should be agreed upon by the whole team instead of the founder just setting a deadline. Let everyone agree on a deadline and you’d get a great buy-in that way. They know, “He's not just mandating that we get this done on this particular date.” That was a mistake I've done.

There are so many times where I delegate something or ask somebody to do something without a deadline. I'd follow up a week later, “How are you coming on that?” He said, “I didn't even start working on it. When do you want that?” “I wanted it a week ago.” It's all my fault. I didn't set a deadline.

It can swing in the other direction too, where you said a pretty aggressive deadline and then you have teammates thinking, “What does he think? I'm not doing it right. I've got a ton of work that I need to do and here we go. He's putting a deadline.” That's why it's good to agree on a deadline for both ways. No deadline is not good. A super aggressive deadline that the owners set for the teammates are not very well-received either. It should be something in the middle, a happy medium. That's stage three. Most owners jumped to step seven is implementing the plan. Step six, finalizing the plan. It doesn't end there though, after implementing the plan. Stage three is you got to manage the results and morale of your team.

There are three steps here that are super important. Step number eight would be planning for and celebrating short-term wins. Let's say you have a huge goal or a big thing to implement or a specific metric. Let's say for example your plan of care utilization is 80% and you wanted to jump to 95%. A jump from 80% to 95% is such a huge jump. It's cool if you would set, “Team, if we get to 85%, how should we celebrate it as a team?” We love doing mini-games. I got this from Travis Robbins. We do mini-games in our practice as far as if there's one particular metric that we would like to influence, we'll do a mini-game around it. Then we'll decide on what the prize of the mini-game is.

In a month or in a quarter, it's something to look forward to making it more fun. Plan for and celebrate short-term wins. It is so important for our morale. Step number nine would be you need to track and report results on that particular plan that you're trying to implement. It has to be included in your scorecard. Typically, tracking and reporting usually happen during weekly team meetings. I would highly recommend if you're introducing a plan to change something, it’s something that you monitor, you track and report results on a weekly basis as a team. That way you know it's getting implemented correctly and you can debug it even more. Step number ten would be continuing to engage your team. You track and record results. The next step, engage the team, continue to debug, continue to tweak. If the plan needs to be tweaked out a little bit, change there a little bit and that's where the feedback from your team. You continue to get feedback at this step.

If the plan is just from the owner or the founder, that plan is not going to be very powerful and would not get complete buy-in. Click To Tweet

I haven't said a lot because I'm learning a ton and I'm writing down notes as you go into this, but continuing to engage the team. If you're one of those personalities that jump to the next thing often, this can drop out. That's where your teams can get desensitized to the changes that you present. They might look at it and say, “There's another idea. This will go by the wayside in another month.” He comes up with the next bright idea and then that'll go by the wayside. You're a little desensitized to the changes where I love how you're talking about continuing to engage the team and recognizing like, “This is part of our practice and I'm going to continue to talk about it. We're going to continue to push.” I love this step.

This leads us to stage four, which is preventing backslide. Change is difficult for most people. We’re all human beings. We are typically resistant to change and change is so personal. Especially, if our teammates have been doing things a certain way and then we are introducing a change. There might be some initial changes. They get desensitized to it. Maybe the first two or three weeks they might be doing it or implementing the plan and before you know it, they might backslide back to their old ways of doing things and back to the same issue. All that work results in nothing if you don't particularly plan out stage four which is preventing backslide. How do you prevent backslide? Step number eleven would be you need to discuss with your team right off the bat when you frame that preliminary plan and finalize that plan, disruptive versus desired behavior as far as that as the new plan or new change that you're trying to implement. List out at least three disruptive behaviors and three desired behaviors as far as the new plan that you're trying to pursue or a new change that you're trying to implement.

Is it part of the plan or is it something that you do on the fly?

I would do this right off the bat. You can include this in the plan. We just put this at step number eleven, but I think it's a great idea to put it in the plan right off the bat so that way people are aware. This is in stage four preventing backslide. It was put there to remind people to create this step and you can add this step to finalizing the plan in step number six. List disruptive and desired behaviors so that way your team is already aware, “These are the actions that we want to see from our teammates.” If there are five or six, perfect. These are the actions we don't want to see in regards to this particular plan or change that we're trying to pursue.

Finally, step number twelve would be to make sure, you as the leader would be walking the walk and walking the talk. You need to be the first model of an example. This is an easy example. Maybe the change would be a new employee handbook. In the employee handbook, it talks about coming to work early, like five minutes or maybe ten minutes. If you as the founder, the owner or the leader come late all the time, then it would not be great for implementing and following the plan when they could see you yourself following and creating one of those disruptive actions you've actually listed.

Finally, number thirteen is systemizing the process. Now that you've gone through this new plan, the first stage is you set the stage. In stage two, you've developed it and implemented it. In stage three, you've managed results and morale, you've track results and it is working. In stage four, the final step, want to systemize it using a process map. This is the thirteen steps of change through persuasion. We coach our mastermind groups for a whole day on this. How we dive deep into it including the process mapping at the end. You've got to learn how to process map. Once you know that the plan works, you got to put that as a system. You got to write that down. How do you write that down though? There's a great way to process map that. That's something that we coach our mastermind climbers on. I believe this change through persuasion thing is something that's a little bit underrated for most owners. It seems like it's something easy to implement, but the tendencies are to jump to step number seven. It seems like the first six steps, they're just a hassle. If you skip those first six, you will not get the maximum buy-in that you're looking for.

Maybe our readers are already doing a couple of the steps, but I love how you're talking about and presenting the facts, “Here's where we are and this is where we need to get.” They don't take the time to involve the team by establishing a sense of urgency and asking them questions. They also might not totally be open to gathering feedback from the employees or team members. They also might not be willing to engage the team members by celebrating the wins. I love the thirteen steps because it incorporates the team members throughout the process where some people might just say, “Here's the issue, here's what we need to do, get it up to that level. If you do so, great. We'll move onto the next thing.” I love the engagement that's brought out through the process.

At the end of the day, engaging with this is the key. When you look at the thirteen steps, it is the heart of this, engaging your team so they know they're part of forming a plan. When it comes time to implement it, they'll be fully vested.

I can see how this could be a good filtering mechanism or a vetting mechanism in and of itself. Even though you go through this process, some people are not going to be bought in. Some people are simply resistant to change. I see this as a great opportunity to use the process to filter out those people that simply won't get on the bus or fall into alignment with what their company is doing and where it's going. This goes every step of it. It allows for engagement and invites them to change it if they're not willing to do so along that path. It's easy to move people out in this regard.

PTO 68 | Team Buy-In Secrets
Team Buy-In Secrets: Once you started adding coaches to help you out, then the practice grows.

 

If you go through this process and you have a teammate who's still not buying in, then you might have to be looking at that teammate and maybe letting them off the bus.

I love that you broke it down into thirteen steps. I love that you brought in the The Coaching Habit. I read that and I saw a friend of mine reading as well. I loved it and how it can be influential as a leader because we are essentially coaching for the team members that we work with. As the leader, we're there to help them through any issues and problems. Sometimes we need to see ourselves as that coach.

That's actually written in my home office at work. My three hats. To our readers, when you think about it, you have three main hats for your practice. Whatever stage you're in, you may still be seeing patients, but still your top three hats and treating patients is not in the top three. Number one is you're the visionary, number two is strategist and number three is head coach. The neat thing is those three hats, you need to somehow incorporate that into your week and find times here and there to wear your visionary hat.

You have to work on something related to visionary and strategy every week and then work on coaching. In our practice, I've dedicated Tuesdays to coaching our teammates. Tuesdays are also our leadership team meetings, but it's also our one on one meetings. It is also our coaching meetings. That's the most powerful thing because that's one thing that I needed when I was starting out. I did not seek out right away and no wonder we didn’t progress as well. Once you started adding coaches to help you out, then the practice grows. It's the same thing for our teammates. If you want to be our teammate, we’ve got to coach them.

They want that. They want someone who's as concerned about their future as they are and maybe provide a little perspective along the way.

Do you follow football?

Of course.

Who's your favorite team?

I'm from Arizona, so it's the Cardinals.

There's a huge gap between knowledge and understanding, but there's an even wider gap between understanding and implementation. Click To Tweet

I'm a Chicago Bears fan. Our head coach is an amazing leader. When you look at it, we are like a sports team head coach. Running our practice is like being a sports team head coach. Trying to encourage and motivate your team. Matt Nagy is great at that. He is a great head coach when it comes to motivating his teammates, his team, being a great and encouraging leader and engaging his team.

Arlan, you've shared a ton with us. Is there anything else you want to share?

I want to end with something that I read. You've probably read this book, Executive Toughness by Jason Selk.

I haven't read that one.

I love that book. In that book, he mentioned specifically that there's a huge gap between knowledge and understanding, but there's an even wider gap between understanding and implementation. I already discussed the thirteen steps and maybe you've memorized it, but it's one thing to know and understand it and it's another thing to implement it. I would strongly recommend you implement it in your practice. If you have any more questions, feel free to reach out to me or reach out to NLPT and we can help you implement change through persuasion in your practice.

How do people get in touch with you, Arlan?

The best way would be through our Facebook group, NLPT Basecamp. It's a free Facebook group. They could join there and they could also add me as friend personally. You can message me on Messenger and we can correspond that way. If you have any questions, I'd be more than happy to help you.

Thank you so much for your time. You shared a ton of great insights. This is a huge step for any successful business owner who wants to make changes. You have to change in order to grow and scale. In order to do that, you have to implement these changes and this is the way to do it. I appreciate the wisdom that you shared with us. It was great.

Thank you, Nathan, for having me on.

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About Dr. Arlan Alburo

PTO 68 | Team Buy-In SecretsDr. Arlan Alburo, PT, DPT, MTC founded Orthopedic and Balance Therapy Specialists (OBTS), a physical therapy practice, in 2003. With 4 locations in Northwest Indiana in Valparaiso, Crown Point, and LaPorte, OBTS strives to liberate Hoosiers from relying on pain pills, getting them active and mobile without fear of slowing down, well into their retirement years.

Arlan is also a co-founder of Next Level PT, a Mastermind company focused on helping private practice owners achieve time, choice, and financial freedom. He speaks during Mastermind conferences on change management and how to achieve true team buy-in. He is also NLPT's head of strategy and leads strategic planning meetings.

He obtained his Bachelor degree in PT from the University of the East in Manila, Philippines and his DPT from Evidence in Motion. He is married to his wife Jane of 23 years, and they have 2 children, their daughter Alex and their son AJ. They live in Valparaiso IN.

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