Business goals usually look and sound good when written on a piece of paper or hung in the office, but most of the time, they are easier said than done. By putting an effective workplace culture in place, these goals can be brought nearer to reality. Nathan Shields talks to Jim Stoker, PT, advisor for 8150 Advisors, about the importance of nurturing employee relationships, frequent company meetings, and integrating accountability in reaching every goal laid out for the success of a business. Jim also talks about going beyond the usual team-building strategies, emphasizing the one thing every leader is afraid to explore – challenging your goals and seeing if they are truly worth the shot.
I've got Jim Stoker, an advisor with 8150 Advisors, and also a past partner with Clemson Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. I came across Jim because he wrote an article in the November 2020 issue of Impact Magazine, talking about how to review past goals, adjust your expectations, and create goals for the upcoming year. It's a good time to reassess, adjust and projecting the plan for 2021. Thanks for coming on, Jim. I appreciate it.
Nathan, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much for the invitation. I'm looking forward to this conversation.
I know you've got plenty of experience to draw from, and I'll reference the article as we go through a bit because he hits some great topics in terms of assessing and creating goals for the future. Tell us first a bit about yourself, your professional experience and what got you to where you are as an advisor.
I'm a physical therapist. I've been practicing for several years. I joined Clemson Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation when we had just three offices. Over the years, we grew from three offices to 30. That culminated in August of 2016. We were acquired by ATI Physical Therapy. I continued to serve with ATI Physical Therapy for South Carolina, overseeing the operation of 60 clinics for about three years. During that time, what shaped my appreciation for planning, goal setting, and even more specifically, strategic planning was a lot of my involvement with our state association, the South Carolina Physical Therapy Association. I have served as the Vice President, President, Legislative Chair, Reimbursement Chair, many roles with our PT association. In one of those roles, we completed a strategic plan a number of years ago. That was my first introduction to strategic planning and goal setting, and how that's such an important part of any organization.
What's interesting in the way you approached it in the article is that you started by reassessing your goals from the previous year. I don't think that's a step that a lot of us take. Me as a coach, sometimes that's a step I overlook, like how did we do in this past year? We'll think generally we hit some targets and whatnot and things were great, but we focused a little bit more on the ideal scene going forward and what we want to hit. Tell us a bit about what you recommend in terms of reassessing the past. Do you spend a lot of time on that? How much energy do you put into it?
You have to be willing to be objective and self-critical to look at the past and be honest about what did we do well, but at the same time, what could we have done better? Hindsight is 2020, so there is some knowledge to be gained from looking at the past, and take an opportunity to say, “Where did we fail? Where could we have done better? What would we like to do better in the future, and how would that translate to improving value for your company or for your organization?” Many times, acknowledging your missteps can teach you where to do better in the future and what you may want to avoid.
I liked that you referenced the willingness to look at some of those KPIs and assess them against not only progress in your own company but against national benchmarks. Nowadays, you can find those benchmarks here and there. They're more easily available to the PT industry than they used to be. It's nice to say, “Our arrival rate improved. We got to where we wanted it to be.” How did it compare nationally and what should be expected? That gives you a better sense of where you truly stand.
A shameless plug for the Private Practice Section that I've been a member of for years and have benefited from the knowledge of that group and the network that provides. The Private Practice Section published some benchmarking studies. We didn't have those several years ago, but many times it can be difficult to look beyond the thought that patients love me and like me. Unfortunately, there's more to business success than patients like me, and they recommend me to their friends. It’s having a standard but appreciating there are significant regional differences within those national standards. Something as simple as revenue per visit, then the KPI that people look at. If you delve into that, we understand there's a significant variance in the geographic price index that determines the Medicare fee schedule. There are some variations you have to appreciate per region. You can drill down to your practice setting in your region and compare it to some of that normative data. It is a beneficial exercise.The personal goals of the owners directly impact the goals of the business. Click To Tweet
I came across an article that yes, it's a worthy exercise to consider why we got the numbers that we got. Sometimes our perspective can be a little bit tinted, but more importantly than looking forward is, how do we improve? How do we get to another level? How do we correct some of the missteps that we made prior and move forward in that direction? That starts a different conversation rather than looking backward and saying, “Why?” Yes, that's a worthy exercise. There was this, that, and the other, but “how” then generate some more forward-thinking. That was the takeaway message from the article that I was reading. It was focused on how and what we need to do going forward to those changes. As you're looking from the past, how do you then shift to looking towards the future as an advisor?
Looking past you essentially helps you determine where you are. You're focusing on where do we want to go and how are we going to get there? How do you bridge the gap? One of my colleagues at 8150 Advisors is Steve Stalzer. We were both passionate about our belief in the benefits of strategic planning. Strategic planning can look and feel different for many different organizations. If you're a one-person practice, if you're a large practice, or if you're a hospital department, there are a lot of different moving parts. The basic framework of strategic planning provides the necessary steps to objectively address the questions you outlined. You start with the strengths and weaknesses of your own organization.
This whole process requires honesty and the ability to be self-critical. You identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Where are we good? Where are we not good? Where can we improve? You then expand that strategic planning process to an internal plan, internal assessment, and then external. Most people can have the ability to control and influence their internal environment, much more than you can your external environment. There has to be a willingness to commit to the plan. Once you decide, these are the obstacles. What is it going to take to overcome these obstacles? That's where you use the strategic planning process to drill down to initiatives and action items that are going to take to address each obstacle to move you towards the goals you want to achieve.
As you're doing something like this, and you're referencing the SWOT analysis, do you start with that ideal scene first like what I want my clinic to look like and some of the numbers I want to see at the end of 2021? Do you do a SWOT analysis before that or does it matter?
It does matter. I mentioned to Steve, years ago, I was one of those individuals that felt a mission statement and a vision statement was mostly fluff. It was something that looked good on a piece of paper and it felt good. It wasn't until years later that I completed this type of process with our state association, and then went for our own company that I did appreciate how important mission and vision statement is. It does drive your goal setting. You start with your mission and vision statement and then determine what our overarching goals are. Do we want to expand our clinics from 1 to 3 in the next year? Do we want to go from 3 to 5? Is it a goal-setting just for your clinic? It improves aspects of that clinic. Is it a business goal or revenue bottom line? Do you have a philanthropic goal of community engagement?
A lot of people only think of business, which is important, but there are other worthy goals that may not be directly tied to your bottom line. I like to think of it as start with an agreed-upon mission and vision statement that helps you drive your overarching goals, and then you drill down. You start the big picture and drill down to the details through the specific goals. What are the specific KPI goals that allow us to achieve the overarching goals? What obstacles are in place, what initiatives, tasks, and specific action items do we need to take to achieve those goals? It was going from the big picture to small detail.
I love that you brought up that it's more than the clinical stuff because we're talking to individual and independent business owners here. In my experience, and maybe you've come across this as an advisor, I've had clients come to me and say, “What should my next steps be? Where should I go next?” I can't answer that for them. Much of these things originate from what the owner or the partners in that owners want to achieve. You have to be clear and figure that out first because not all of it is about clinical growth, financial goals, you name it. Some of it is maybe you don't want to treat 40 hours a week anymore, or you want to go to part-time treating or not treating at all. You want the freedom to explore a hobby, or there's a household revenue goal that you have for your household, and your business needs to create 100% of that, 75% or whatever. Some of these overarching goals stem from our personal and household goals that we need to be a bit clearer on as well.
When you have partners in a business, the more partners you have, the more potential obstacles. You have different personalities and characteristics, and those can potentially lead to different goals. One of the things that were a challenge for us that we do ask when engaging a client that has more than one owner is, is the leadership aligned with her goals? Many times, they're not. Without question, the personal goals of the owners directly impact the goals of the business. Business goal achievement is directly tied to an owner's personal goals. You do need to have that question. You need to have an agreement among the leadership of what are the goals together. You can't have two people pulling in two different directions. Many times, you have that down South here in the Bible Belt, we call that the Come to Jesus meeting place. You've got to get the leadership and ownership on the same page in agreement with, “This is our goals. This is where we're headed.” If you don't have alignment at the top, you're going to struggle to have alignment moving forward with the rest of the team.
That even goes so far as alignment with your spouse or significant other that might be a significant part of the business because there are some spouses that are a part of the business.
We recommend if a spouse is legally part of the business, potentially not officially part of the business. Input from all influencing factors is important.
What I thought was interesting in your article that I hadn't considered so much, as you look at these goals for the upcoming future, you go so far as to consider the ROI of change. Tell me a bit about that and your thought processes regarding the ROI of change and going past more than the goal setting, but what it's going to take to achieve that goal and considering if that goal is worth it.
As you go through the planning process, something might look nice, fun and pretty on paper, and it might feel good. You might determine as you drill down to the individual tasks and action items that are required to achieve that goal. You may find out it is going to take a Herculean effort to move the needle a bit. When we talk about the return on investment as you vet the various goals, you'll want to turn and say, “How much a difference is that going to make?” I’ll give you a specific example. If a particular company looks at a common KPI of visits per day, I don't think you can meet a physical therapist in outpatient work that doesn't talk about how many people do you see a day.
If we move the average visits per day from 10 to 10.4 or 10.5, is it clinically relevant? Are we able to maintain the commitment to quality that we always have? You answer all those questions, and they say, “Yes. It's doable. It's reasonable. It's a goal.” What's the monetary return on that? You can objectively put a dollar amount. From January 1 to December 31st, if we're able to achieve a 0.5 increase, or maybe there’s a percentage increase, you know your revenue per visit and your expenses, and you put that number on top of it. You know exactly how much value you're creating for your entire company and your organization.
That makes me think about some clients who might say, “I want to double my gross revenues this year.” That's nice and good, but it is also important to recognize doubling your gross revenues means doubling your number of visits. Do you have the capacity to do that? Do you have the square footage? Do you recognize the staffing that it's going to take to double your revenue? Do you have it in your marketing budget to increase your marketing spend to get double the new patients? There are other things you can do to improve the efficiency and productivity of your clinic that can get you a bit more business, 10% to 20% better if you short things up. You're talking about a large investment. It's worthy to consider an exercise in which you're looking at not just the goal but also what it takes to get there. Is it feasible? Is it realistic? Do you have the capacity to do that?
That's the process we vet with clients about. If someone suggested that goal, “I want to double my gross revenue,” we're going to ask the difficult questions of, “Is gross revenue the best goal that measures value for a company? Is it net revenue?” If you focus on net revenue, you're acknowledging both sides of the business equation of income and expense. You drill down to where that can come from. How much of it are internal efficiencies through visits, appropriate charging, clinical efficiency, front office efficiency? Are we losing revenue because of authorizations or denials on treatment? Those are efficiencies you can create internally. How much is going to come from internal factors that we can control? How much potentially needs to come externally? How many more new patients are we going to have to generate? Do we have physical space? Do we have the staff? Can we recruit the staff? How long does it take to recruit and hire and bring someone on board? That would be an example of a large overarching goal that would have many sub-goals that would come for different aspects of the company to try to achieve.
I love the drill down to maybe focus a bit more on net revenues. See how that affects your business a bit better. I love the way that you redirect a little bit there. I also liked how you talked about how does that change occurs with the team that you currently have because then you further go on to talking about change management. Many of us as entrepreneurs have grandiose ideas and visions, “We're going to hit the arrival rate. We're going to improve it. It's going to be a 95% arrival rate this year. Let's go. Here it is, team. We're going to push.” A month later, “What did we talk about last month?” There's a lot of energy and spark at the beginning. How do we get a change in management to occur?
You described the mistake I've made more times than I care to admit. It’s multi-factorial. There are many moving parts. I do believe that so much of your planning success begins with the culture that you have. There’s so much at the end overall industries about how culture is important in an organization. At one point in time when I was more black and white, science-based, and right out of school and focused on clinical aspects. I didn't appreciate that as much as I do now. I learned that the hard way. To truly have a culture that will accept change, accept challenges, and focus on goals and improvement is paramount to the success of any plan.
That's part of the looking back process that you start initially. You answer the difficult questions about what culture is in place now. That involves communication style, frequency of meetings, are you a top-down culture? Do the owners decree, “This is how it's going to be. Do it my way. This is how we do it?” Do you have a culture of engaging your staff and your leaders, and empowering them to be part of the problem-solvers and decision-makers? You have to understand the environment in which you are going to implement the plan. That’s part of determining what obstacles are in place, not just physical obstacles, but environmental obstacles, and how does the team function?Culture fosters the ability to work towards a common goal. Click To Tweet
I'm glad that you took it in that direction. Was it Peter Drucker or was it Brené Brown that said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast?”
That was Mr. Drucker.
She quoted it though in her book, Daring Greatly. You could have many plans and ideas, but if your team isn't willing and isn't prepared in a place of reception from what you're bringing down from the mountain per se, then it's going to fall flat. If someone is reading this and they're like, “I don't know if I have that kind of team,” or “I need to work on my culture,” would you recommend they start improving their culture first before hitting some of these KPIs?
I do because it will be part of the entire plan. If an owner believes that and they acknowledged that that is an obstacle, we're going to help them create initiatives and action items to overcome that obstacle that is going to be occurring in concert with your other goals and your other action items. It boils down to leadership development. Developing leaders and identifying the champions may not be owners. That's going to differ greatly between the size of the organizations. If you have one clinic, that's three FTEs versus one clinic that's ten FTEs, versus 3, 5 to 10 clinics. You're identifying those champions that are going to help foster change. You need to begin with one level of leadership training, maybe it's two levels of leadership training.
When you were following the leadership training, you're investing in your team. You're communicating with your team. During that process, they become part of the team. That is building the culture. They are appreciative of the development in themselves. They see that there's more to this process than simply showing up at 8:00, seeing ten patients and going home. You’re part of the bigger picture. As you include them in the process, you provide transparent communication. They begin to appreciate the bigger picture, and then now being able to implement goals that impact the larger picture, which is the organization is much easier to achieve.
I talk to clients about leadership development. The limitations of the clinic are the limitations of the owner. If they are unwilling to delegate, train and develop these leaders, then the clinic will expand to the limits of that owner's time and capabilities, and also will mimic the weaknesses and strengths of that owner. Whereas you can be a much more well-rounded business. You can expand and grow if you expand that leadership team. When I bring that up to owners when I'm on a conference call, I get the deer in the headlights sensation because they don't know where to start. I don't know what you'd tell your clients, but I'm telling them to do what you did. If there are books that were influential for you, invite them to read some of those books and discuss what you learned.
If there was a consultant or a group or a training program that you went through personally for management training, invest in particular team members to take that same training or follow your path. You don't have to recreate the wheel. I'm sure there are companies out there that can provide management training for you. If you want to start from scratch, do some of the same things you did, and then give them morsels of leadership when it comes to leading out on a team meeting. If there's a charity that you want to endorse, let them start the toy drive or the canned food drive. Get that going and get everyone involved instead of you doing yourself as the owner. Those are opportunities for leadership and growth that you're talking about and can help with the culture.
I'm a firm believer that step one is getting to know your team. All those great examples that you mentioned may not apply to clinician number one versus clinician number two. Joe Brown is going to have a different skillset, characteristics, and value system than Jill Smith. In order to understand how to communicate and how to connect with your entire team, you need to understand and get to know the team members. I'm an old broken-down athlete myself. I'm an old basketball athlete with two old knee surgeries back in the ‘80s. Thank goodness they don't do those procedures anymore.
When I'm talking with folks, I equate to being a coach of a team. There are team members that responded to grabbing your face mask and physically challenging someone, versus your teammates that they more respond to put your arm around them, support them, ask them what they need and be more of a friend. It's one example that many people relate to having play sports throughout the years. Your various team members are going to communicate differently. They're going to absorb knowledge differently, and they're going to respond to challenge differently. Learning how to address and communicate with each team member will help you build that culture. That also develops trust because as you're getting to know your staff, you're developing trust.
I was talking to another client about creating culture. It's something that owners might think comes naturally, thus there's nothing special about it. As he's developing and writing out policy and procedure, I told him, “It's as important to be intentional and write out policy and procedure to generate your culture.” That sparked something in him. When we think about culture, we might think it happens naturally because it comes from us who are the leaders, and we generate the initial culture. If we want a certain culture, there are things that we can do intentionally with our clinics to generate more “culture.” You mentioned meetings on a regular basis, how those go, what you highlight, and how you address and communicate.
What I was talking about with him is he enjoyed a lot of crosstalk in the clinic between providers and patients, and patients with other patients. What are some of those things you can do to generate crosstalk? Whether that's a TV in the clinic, watch certain game shows or a sporting event, or a whiteboard that has a nice saying or a trivia. Some of those things can be intentional to generate culture. I'm assuming you would agree that it's almost as important to have things that do generate that culture in the clinic, as it is to make sure people are wearing their name tags and coming in on time.
I'll give a lot of credit to one of my former partners and mentor Skip Hunter. Skip Hunter was a PT and athletic trainer, one of the more fun individuals that you'll ever meet. He said from day one when I started as a staff therapist, "The most important piece of equipment we had in the physical therapy gym was the radio." Having the radio on the created conversation. It created much of the culture that you described. It creates an environment that is inviting that's professional but relaxed. That was the culture that we chose. That might not be the appropriate culture for everyone. Everyone has to choose theirs. We were in an orthopedic sports medicine environment that did encourage communication and cross-talking between clinicians and patients.
One example of how we encourage that, we felt it was important and best for the patient that they get to know other team members on day one. It's important for our clinic to be available to the patient at their most convenient time. If they have a stringent schedule and they need to be there at 4:30, we all know how popular that 4:00, 5:00 appointment is. I can't see everybody at that one time. On day one of the evaluation, before that patient leaves the clinic, I'm going to put my arm around them and we'll introduce them to at least two if not three of my team members. I tell them their name, have them wave and introduce them. I'm going to talk up my team members. I have known this person for 10 years, 5 years, they are one of the best shoulder specialists you can have. We worked together much. When the opportunity arises that is in the patient's best interest that they need to see a team member, it is a seamless transition. It creates that team environment and culture in the clinic. That's one example of something that we emphasize that I felt helped greatly.
This conversation has gone in a different direction than I thought it would go. I thought we were going to talk about some KPIs, what the important ones are, and how we need to do that, but we ended up talking about culture and the importance of it, and I'm glad we did.
That's the mechanism that allows you to pursue the goals that you set, the KPIs. To jump back to our initial topic, the planning process allows you to drill down to the KPIs that you believe are most meaningful and are going to have the greatest impact on your organization. At the same time, it also helps you stay focused and know when to say “no.” You can't do everything all the time. If everyone on the team has agreed that these are the goals, these are the KPIs we're focused on, and we're not going to get sidetracked with the latest and greatest idea over here. This is what we're focused on, and this is where we're going to work towards in that alignment. The culture that we enjoy talking about fosters the ability to work towards those common goals.
As you have a team and a culture like that, then you can say, “We're doing our patients a disservice because only 20% of our new patients are completing their full plans of care.” The team is going to recognize. You talked about why that's an important statistic that we need to measure and how it affects our patients in our business. You get their buy-in and a sense of urgency, and then you work together. You can generate a plan as the owner, but as you start talking about it and get their feedback and input. We talked about how we're going to measure this and see for making growth and progress towards our goals.
When you have that culture that tends to stay in place and setting up some structure from the ownership side and being intentional about, “We're going to measure it at this stage. We're going to measure it the next month. We're going to address it at this meeting. We're going to see how we're doing, and we're going to have this conversation.” Having that structured implementation and a strategic plan on a solid culture keeps those statistics in front of mind, then you can see some real progress and change.
We enjoy talking about culture. In general, when you talk about culture, you start with the fun part and about the fun aspect of culture. There's a significant business professional aspect to culture. That's accountability. Accountability has to be part of your culture. Your entire staff needs to be aware of expectations beyond the only time and your patients like you. The expectations of every third Tuesday of the month, we're having a staff meeting and we're going to review the prior month. Every Monday at 12:30, we're going to have a fifteen-minute huddle to review our KPIs from the previous week. We do that every week. That's what we do. That's part of our culture. We're open and honest about, “My KPI of arrival rates slipped last week. Why in the world did it do that? What I could have done differently?” That conversation quickly expands to, “How can we as a team help each other manage?”
I had this conversation all the time. If you've worked in a clinic, your schedule never happens the way it looks at 8:00 in the morning. You get your schedule, and you see it's nice, and however often you schedule it, be it every hour, every 30 minutes, every 45 minutes, whatever you do, it never happens the way it looks. Things go haywire, people show up late or they cancel. That's where that culture of teamwork helps you achieve efficiencies that help drive those goals. The professional business aspects of culture boil down to accountability and the frequency and follow up. Everybody has these great either end of your meetings or beginning of your meetings, “This what we'll do next year.” A month later, everybody’s forgotten about it. The problem is you have to engrain accountability into your culture, so it does stay top of mind.
Meetings are a huge part of that. There are many clients that I talked to that don't have regular meetings with their team and with their leadership team to expand it out, or even with their billers. They should have meetings with their billers. It's in those meetings that you have the opportunity to maintain traction towards the goals and you take that. What we're talking about is a year-end projection, and you break it down by months and like, “How did we do in the past month? What are we going to do this next month to improve that? This is where we are, guys.” That meeting rhythm is important to the growth and acceleration and progress of the company. I love that you shared that. When we think about culture, sometimes it's about the fields, the atmosphere, the parties and how we engage with people, but there is a business culture that's also a sub-part of culture. That business culture involves regular team meetings, one-on-one meetings, and how we act and perform and how we hold accountable. I love that you brought that part of it.
That made me think of one of the obstacles. It's common that many times impedes the ability to have frequent meetings is accessibility and visibility to your KPIs. One thing we talk about with offices is, what's your visibility? How can you extract information from your system? Can you drill down to the individual clinician? How frequently can you calculate the arrival rate? Can you calculate visits per day for a clinician? It is common in any team and industry, if you put a handful of teams of individuals together and there's a team, you're going to have high performers. You're going to have middle of the road, and you're going to have those folks that you have to bring along. That directly impacts how you coach and what you do.
For example, you have a clinic and you believe they're a little bit low on arrival rate. “We can do better.” If you address that clinic as a team, say, they're five clinicians. You're addressing the team and challenge them, “This is what we need to do.” If you never drill down and see the details behind that number, you may see that you have three that are 98% knocking it out and they love it. There's one person that may be at 82% or 80% bringing down that number a bit. You're spinning your wheels because your high performers believe you are lumping them into the problem when they're not. Visibility to the KPIs and to the numbers, and correctly identifying where the opportunity is, and then addressing the opportunity as a challenge, but also thanking your high performers. Don't lump your high performers into the problem or the challenge. Thank them and then incorporate them into how they can impact, influence, and potentially lead the other folks that need some support.A culture that will accept change and challenge is paramount to the success of any plan. Click To Tweet
I love talking to owners about their accessibility to numbers, and can they get the statistics that they need. Many EMRs aren't that capable, unfortunately. Some of them are behind the curve, but to get that down to an individual practitioner level is huge. You could be cracking the whip on your whole team like, “We're trying to get to 92% arrival rate and we're stuck at 90%. What's going on?” The high performers are like, “I don't know. What more do you want me to do.” You shouldn't be cracking the whip on the team but drilling down to that individual provider. It's equally important that they are capable of being able to track and find their own individual numbers so that they can see what their scorecard is. There might be only 1, 2 or 3 KPIs that you assess some of your providers on, but getting them to know the system well enough that they can see their own numbers can be labeled, so they can see how well they're performing.
Accessibility and visibility, and then understanding which ones. Not to get lost in the big picture because you can be overwhelmed with too much. That's where the focus of what we are working on is important. Something that gave me another thought is that you use the word intentional. One of the more common obstacles that I experienced and that I hear from many owners is the inability and the unwillingness to sacrifice treatment time or clinical time to designated time to work on the business. If you're expecting accountability, the frequency of the meetings with your staff, the owner has to set that standard. They need to schedule time weekly, be it 1 or 2 hours, be it in the afternoon, whatever it may be that’s appropriate for that size of the organization. It needs to be scheduled, uninterrupted, and standardized. What am I doing with this time? Where do I start? Where do I finish? What am I going to focus on? The shotgun approach. I have learned from my mistakes many times. Life became easier when I followed that mantra and learned from many other people.
Do you find that it's hard to convince some owners to take away productive time and hours from the clinic to have a meeting? I do. I'm wondering what you do to change their minds or convince them otherwise. What do you say?
That goes back to calculating your return on investment. If you're saying, “If we move these visits per day,” or whatever KPI is, this percentage point over the period of time, the cumulative effect of doing that compared to one visit once a day and you compare the time. You do the math. Easily, you see if you improve a KPI over the course of the team. You compare those two. It’s easy to see the benefit of creating long-term efficiencies versus squeezing that one patient in that one day.
I have to challenge the clients to do some of the meetings first. They understand the reasons why they're doing it because it's going to benefit them and it's going to get the team moving in the right direction. It's not until after a few meetings and their team members are saying, “I don't know what we did. How did we get by for ten years without having weekly meetings? How did we survive as a company?” They finally start noticing that things are getting done, things are improving, and numbers are improving. We're able to do things that we've never done before they finally recognized the value of some of those meetings.
It takes time and commitment. It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. That's also what creates long-term success. It's not a quick fix or a Band-Aid. You have to get over the hurdle of feeling like you've plateaued, and you have to stay the course. That's where you're going to appreciate the growth and the improvement over time. Many people get a little fatigued, “We're not making progress. We're still pushing.” It’s the commitment, accountability, and consistency over time that makes a long-term impact. Ultimately, it’s going to create value.
Those consistent little actions are eventually going to get us to that goal and that ideal scene that we want at the end of the year, but we have to stay the course and stay consistent. That's where those regular meetings, holding people and the team accountable, over time, we'll eventually see bigger goals being achieved. We've covered a ton of stuff. Jim, is there anything else that you want to add as we start wrapping things up?
I could go on forever. I enjoy the topic. We've proven that one topic leads to another. Many different aspects are intertwined. Bringing it back to the core of strategic planning, just as our conversation flow to many topics, that could also happen with an organization. You can get off track with chasing different topics and different goals. A strategic plan helps you focus on what you have decided is most important in this period of time for our organization. It helps you provide focus.
If people want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?
My email is Jim@8150Advisors.com.
A simple Band-Aid fix cannot attain long-term success.A simple Band-Aid fix cannot attain long-term success. Click To Tweet
I'm going to do another interview with you. We're going to talk about something else that you're passionate about and you've had a lot of success with, and that is the utilization of athletic trainers and coordination with physical therapy clinics.
A little bit because we’re sports medicine in orthopedic clinics for so long. We've had experience with athletic trainers. I was a co-founder of a nonprofit organization entitled PlaySafe. We did that because taxpayer funds, state allocated funds for public schools are not allocated to public schools to hire athletic trainers. We tried to come up with a better way and a more sustainable way to help fund and provide athletic trainers beyond one entity, a PT clinic, a doctor's office or a hospital hiring them all. It’s an interesting topic and it's a passion of mine as well.
We'll wrap this episode up and use that as a little teaser for those interested or who have athletic trainers on staff and how they can utilize the program you guys have started. Nonetheless, thanks for sharing your wisdom and being a part of this.
It’s my pleasure. It was a lot of fun. Thank you, Nathan.
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Dr. Avi Zinn, PT, DPT, OCS, the owner of Druid Hills Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia has been gradually growing his practice with the goal of giving high-quality care to his patients. Since our last episode, he has procured a PT business coach to reach the goals he has for his business. Today, Nathan Shields checks in with Avi to see how it's going so far, what he's learned, and his experiences since they last spoke. Discover what Avi has learned and the traumatic experience that challenged him as a young owner.
This is episode two of my reality podcast episodes with Avi Zinn, tracking Avi's relationship that he's developed with a coach and consultant over the past few months. If you haven't read the episode, go ahead and do so. That'll give you an idea of where we're coming from because that was prior to Avi starting his coaching. In this episode, we want to focus on simply what his initial experience has been and some of the things that he's had to deal with since we spoke. He had some trauma that happened in his clinic and I hope we pay proper respect to the nature of the issue and how Avi got through it appropriately. It was a difficult situation for him and his clinic to go through. Hopefully, we handle that situation appropriately and understand that Avi had to navigate a ton of emotions while also trying to be the leader and a stalwart of his clinic on behalf of his team, patients, community and families involved. This is an interesting episode, but we got a lot out of it.
The Owner of Druid Hills PT, Avi Zinn. If you read the first episode with Avi, you'll understand that what we're doing here is simply tracking Avi's journey as he brings on a coach, a business consultant, if you will, to help him in his business. We shared a lot of his professional story and what he'd done before that point. Correct me if I'm wrong, Avi, you had hired the consultant as of our last episode but hadn't started doing anything with him formally.
Right, Nathan. I can't remember what month, it was a right around the same time. I may have hired them on, signed up with them, but hadn't gotten anything going.
I wanted to follow along with Avi maybe every quarter or so and see what his progress is like. What he's learning from his coach? What's helping, maybe what's not in some of his experiences as he's taking it on. I started asking you questions already, but thanks for coming on again.
I'm glad to be back.
If you want to follow Avi's story and learn a little bit more about him, read the first episode. Since we talked, tell us a little bit about some of the things that you've done with your coach, some of the things you've learned and some of your experiences.
First of all right from the get-go, things started well. Getting all of my numbers in order, taking all the analytics with WebPT. We had all these analytics but I didn't know what to do with them. We took all of our analytics, all of our metrics and put them all on a dashboard so we can objectively look at the numbers and track them and follow them. Right from the start, we were able to see an increase in efficiency, looking at better utilization. The numbers were able to be tracked. From the start of the coaching, it has been able to get me through a lot of not knowing, being able to like, "I see what that is, now I know what to do."
In relationship to the numbers, there's something to it, but there's a thing out there which is measured, improves, measured, and reported improves exponentially or something like that. What you find is as you start looking at the numbers, even if you don't put a lot of effort into improving the numbers, they start improving somehow. The universe starts pushing you in the right direction if you will. It's simply tracking the objective numbers and your KPIs in your clinic. That exercise alone seems to start improving things.
It feels that is happening by having those numbers on the dashboard and looking at them every month and comparing them, we see positive changes.
The cool thing about it is you're looking at it objectively and I'm not speaking for you, but for myself and maybe some other owners, you might feel things are getting better or you might feel things are getting worse. When you look at the numbers, you have the data right in front of you and you know if it is getting better or how worse it is getting or how much improvement you've made. It's good to have that certainty, if you will.
To get back to the question about how things are going. Having my coach that I speak to every two weeks and we talk about the numbers and see what needs to be changed, how could we change, what can we work on. Going back to the first one we did. Talking about The E-Myth originally and a lot of people read The E-Myth but they don't implement it. Having these numbers, the coach and the accountability is allowing me to stay focused and not get distracted by any of the millions of other little things that anything could happen, accomplish or try to affect and change what we're working on.
Considering you talked about accountability, do you feel a little bit of pressure? As you know that your meeting is coming up with your coach that you go, "I need to get this stuff done," whereas maybe you wouldn't have that before?
That's why it's good to have that person. I'm assuming your coach is a physical therapy owner as well or was or something like that. They can relate to, they can talk about the same language and use the same vocabulary. You started using the metrics, started following your KPIs. You're meeting with your coach. Are you doing anything else on top of that?
The coaching program, there are also a whole bunch of modules that they have set up for let's say patient engagement or internal marketing or all these different modules. Another good thing that the coaching helps with is you're focusing on those numbers, “Let's talk about what we think can help change that.” If it's making sure that we're focusing on not having the patient drop off or making sure we're more efficient and completing plans of care. There are modules for, "This is what works and this is what you can do." There are all those things that I'm working on. At the end of each call, there's the plan of action and then by the next call, I'm like, "I finished this and I implemented that." That goes back to knowing that is coming up. I’ve got to make sure I get all those things done before the call so that I can say, "I've completed that module and let's work on the next thing."
You've got some homework to do in between. As I'm talking to people who are calling me about doing coaching, this is good to have this real conversation. Because when I tell them we're going to meet bi-weekly and discuss what's going on in their clinics, they think that it's just a call and that's it. What happens is you walk away with a ton of homework to do, sometimes even a little overwhelming if I'm not mistaken.
There's still a lot to be done. It can be overwhelming.
There are many things to do where the coach can help you do it and maybe you've experienced this, help you prioritize what needs to get done more urgently or simply prioritize. “Let's make sure we hit this thing first and if you can get to it, that’s great, but let’s focus our energies.”
My coach, being that he is a PT owner, it comes in handy because he can say, "This is what works for our clinic or proven in the program. These are the things that I can see based on the numbers, based on what you're saying, and based on what we're talking about, that this is what you should work on. If it's time management, then do that mount module and work on chunking your time so that you're efficiently using your time and not being all over the place and getting things done more efficiently. If it's patient engagement, then you start working on these things because that's what we ultimately need to get on to help with that.”
In your program, do you follow a step-by-step process? It’s like, “We're going to focus on number one first and we're not going to stop talking about number two until we get to number one figured out.” Are you able to work with them about things that are of a more urgent nature? Say if there's some disciplinary action that needs to take place, talk about disciplinary procedures and how to handle an employee. If you need to recruit somebody because numbers are going high. Are you able to discuss some of those other things as well in place of the program itself?
There's flexibility within what needs to be worked on and what the priority is. There are the modules which are prerecorded videos, you can watch those at any point in time. We have our coach, we have our call, there's module one through however many, but it doesn't mean that you have to start with number one. “Let's look at what does Druid Hills PT needs?” We're looking at the numbers and visits are fine but maybe there's a poor utilization or I say, "This week, I noticed that we are having problems with cancellations still. Let's focus on that. This week, I noticed that my front desk isn't able to collect as much from the patients. How do we change that?" There's room for flexibility and working on what needs to be worked on, not just following step-by-step through the program.
What's a typical agenda for your meetings with your coach?
We get on the call and talk about some positive things that I've been able to change or implement since we talked. It could be anything, focus on starting on a positive note. It could go 1 or 2 ways but so far, I've had enough to bring up that I wanted to work on. Whereas there were 1 or 2 times where I'm like, "I need your help, what do you think should we work on?" A lot of times, I'm like, "This is what I've been focusing on. I've completed that. That's working pretty well." One of the things originally was working myself out of treatment. I got that under control for a little bit. I was like, "I've done that. How can I use my time better?" My coach says, "You can watch module whatever for time management and then talk about different strategies on what to do with the time and how to utilize it better." There's not necessarily one exact structure of the call other than trying to look at what we think needs to be done. We always look at the numbers and make sure things are going as we want them to and then go from there.
That sounds similar to what I do. It usually starts with what were the wins? What are the successes since we talked? What's top of mind that usually there's something that's happened that you want to talk to out and address? If there's not a whole lot there, then typically the coach will have something that he wants you to maybe consider or focus on as well. Maybe it's the next step or it's something that you might not have looked at, “Have you considered this?” There's some fluidity there based on my experience with coaching. Usually, you want to talk about things that are top of mind, but the coach then also can bring in things that you might not have considered at this stage of your ownership. Does that sound similar?
I only know much and that's why I'm doing the coaching. Hopefully, a good coach can do exactly what you said.
I'm assuming you're progressing fairly well towards the goals that you have set forth already for the year and whatnot?
Yes and no. A few things came up and it's been interesting. One tragic thing happened. One of our PTs was killed in a car accident and it's been crazy. That's what could have been a crazy, downward spiral for the business. It didn't turn out that way. It's ultimately because of the coaching and having that accountability. At first, it was certainly a shock and it was something that I never had to deal with. As a business owner, I had to make sure that the staff was okay. I had to make sure that all the PTs, the patients were okay. Some people didn't want to come back and that's completely understandable. Those are all things and dealing with the PT's family and it was overwhelming.
What a difficult experience and I didn't even think about this because you'd shared that with me but to consider what is expected out of you as the leader in this regard. You're not only responsible for your emotions and handling yourself, but you've got to consider the other team members, the patients that you see, this physical therapist's family and that's involved. Maybe any responsibility you have might have towards them that had to be overwhelming. How did you handle that?
I handled it all right. It was shocking. The first week, I was sitting in my office staring at my computer not knowing what to do. I will say going back to the coaching, you had to separate the emotion from it and then still recognize that this is still a business. Not to be insensitive, but the business needs to continue to move on. That alone that was tough to be able to put aside emotions and focus on the business. It felt insensitive, but it had to be done.
You want to honor them and you want to honor your emotions and your feelings. If you're looking at it from a logical standpoint, the business going down doesn't do anybody a service. You’ve got to keep it up and running because you've got multiple families and your community relying on you to perform still. That's got to be a hard position to be and to find the energy to move forward in that path. Sometimes some of these objective measures helped you out along the way.
The objective measures, having the coaching, having accountability, being able to look at the numbers and at the end of the day everything that happened, I had to jump in and treat more and pick up those patients. At the end of the day, having the numbers and looking at them objectively and being able to look at them rationally and not emotionally and irrationally, allowed me to look and see. The business is not doing anything that different, maybe not growing as much as I was expecting and wanting to, but it wasn't falling apart and becoming this downward spiral. Everything was being able to stay stable. We were looking at the numbers and then having that accountability of talking through it with someone and getting a little bit more direction on what could be focused on more than other things that would be helpful had to have been what allowed me to get through that time.
I can't imagine the support that a third party like your coach provided at that time from the business perspective. The support that they could provide you because you'd laid a foundation, a framework of measurements of policies and procedures that we're able to keep you guys going so you can lean on it. It was a foundation. You could lean on this structure that you'd already built, even though it's not quite finished if you will, but you're able to lean on that and maybe give you space to work on your emotions as you were dealing through this issue.
That's interesting that is what happened in that. Maybe we weren't getting this crazy growth I was anticipating or not even crazy growth, just moving forward. At the same time, because there was that foundation, the integrity of the business was there. Things were able to continue without having to get caught up in losing revenue and whatever. That allowed me to deal with what was going on maybe emotionally. Maybe there would be a time in the day where normally I would be super productive, but that hour I sat in my office and staring at the wall or something. That integrity and that foundation created the space to allow me to do that.
What was the therapist's name?
His name is Tyler Wallace.
It’s a tough situation. I honestly haven't come across a lot of that in my interviews. I had to deal with the death of a longtime PTA that was part of our company. She was amazing. She was with me for fifteen years or maybe more. She was a big part of the company, a real light in our clinics every day. She almost became like a sister to me. It's something that I'm finding and it doesn't go away easily even a fellow employee is still working through their emotions in regards to that passing. It's a tough one. It can be hard because the team members become part of your family. Sometimes you see them more often than you see your family. It can be a difficult experience. I have to commend you for the work that you did ahead of time. You’re creating the foundation of policy and procedures, objective measures, and having the coach. It's hard to say what it would've been like if you didn't have those things in place? Hopefully, we can look back and say, "Some of those things we're able to carry you through."
I believe that is completely what did it. This has been something I've been struggling with, not to be insensitive and not to honor the process. There were a lot of interesting things that happened with the business. By the nature of losing a PT, we had fewer PTs, but because we were implementing all of these different practices and trying to become more efficient and focusing on whatever we're focusing on. The numbers were improving at the same time. We were paying fewer payrolls because we had one less PT to pay and we still see the same amount of visits. The PT schedules were more full and we were becoming more efficient. We were having less drop-off because we are focusing on getting the patients to complete their plan of care. You've got two sides of the thing. This horrible thing happened, but in the end, a lot of ways the business benefited from it. It's hard to say that because of the actual situation but that ultimately goes back to the coaching and the ability to be able to objectively look at the numbers and see that these things work. By looking at the numbers, we can not only get through hard times but grow from them at the same time.
From a larger perspective, I don't want to minimize Tyler's passing, but you had gotten to a point where you weren't treating at all for the few weeks before his passing.
That's true. I was down to no treating.
Focused on business, time with your family, time for hobbies. I see it quite often, not necessarily that someone's going to pass, but obstacles come in the way. Whether that has to let go of somebody or personal issues show up as you're making these steps in progression, life is going to get in the way. It's because you have some of these structures in place that make getting through those difficulties easier. If someone does pass away, we've got these structures in place and we're watching the statistics. Someone who we thought was an integral part of our program and a rock that we couldn't let go of. Maybe they leave for greener pastures or for disciplinary procedures or whatever it might be. You come out the other end, things can improve. Whereas in the state beforehand, if you hadn't measured those things and structures weren't in place, then it would have been complete chaos with a lack of control or power or whatnot. You give yourself to whatever happens. You're simply riding the waves, but you're able to have some power if you're able to structure your business and your management appropriately.
Having those numbers, having that accountability from the coach and having the structure, I was talking about in the last episode that we did, my PT, my first employee, she had reduced her hours. She was doing some home health. I started looking and I hired a new PT full-time and then she decided to do full-time home health. I had this new PT and she had this planned two-week vacation before hiring that we all knew about and it happened at the same time. This went from me backing myself out of treating, having three almost full-time PTs to then having one full-time PT for two weeks. One full-time PT and then me going back into full-time treating all of a sudden. After going through all of that and then looking at the numbers, seeing that at the end of the day, we were 20% more efficient with our utilization.
Our bottom line was in line with what we were even with one less PT. It came back full circle in that when you had asked me about, "How did I decide to hire someone on early?" It seemed out of the norm, usually you don't hire on that early because you want to make sure everything is more efficient, 90% full. It came back for full circle in that. At first, after all this happened, I'm like, "I need to start looking for a new PT because I need to fill that spot." That's not the biggest priority because I realize that we can become as effective as long as we're efficient. That's what the coaching and consulting are helping with is becoming more efficient. Ultimately we're doing the same with the business with fewer PTs, which is what exactly what we're trying to do.
What are some of the things that you're looking forward to now going forward? You've been through a tough experience that was his passing. What are you looking forward to as you're moving forward? Where are the things that you're working on as you progress through 2020?
The first mastermind, the group with all the consulting, we all get together quarterly. Right after that, I came back and we had this whole meeting and talk to everyone about the company’s vision and trying to talk to the staff also to see, maybe they have some input on the vision. What do they want to see out of business? What are they looking for? How can we all get on the same page as the vision of this company? I've been thinking about that a lot. What is our vision? What is my vision? How can we include everyone that works here in that? What I am focusing on is I've got two great PTs that are working and I'm focusing on them and trying to get a great team, focus on the staff that I have. Try to get everyone to work together with the same goals in mind.
The vision as simply put is trying to help as many people as possible. We want to be there for the community. I'm telling all my staff that I'm doing the coaching and explaining to them that I'm focusing, anytime I come to the office and say, "We’ve got to do this and this is how we’ve got to change things." It's not because I'm trying to micromanage things. It's because this is what we're doing to try to get to that goal, that vision. This is what we're going to do to get there. I'm focusing in on the staff that I have to build the culture and create a strong foundation of not just the business efficiency, but also the team and the culture of our business.
You say that you're focusing on them, focusing on your physical therapists. What are some of the things that you're doing to focus on them?
I had a meeting with the PTs. First of all, I acknowledged that I appreciate their hard work. That simple thing is probably something that doesn't happen often. Focusing on them, meaning they are my employees, but I also appreciate them and I want them to feel like they're a part of this as well. That is something that will help the business. It's not I'm doing it so that they can feel more appreciated. It's more like if we're all here doing this together, we're going to be able to make this thing work a lot better and help more people. Making it known that they're appreciated, not just tell them that you appreciate them, but asking them what they think we can do better. What is it that we're doing that they see from a different set of eyes that would be different, that would help out? I'm one person and there are a different set of eyes on the business and they see it differently. Their opinions are as valuable. Listening to them and trying to gain that and implement those ideas is going to be super helpful.
What a great way to develop your culture and also get your providers engaged and bought into the company by simply asking their opinions like, "What do you guys think? What should we do?" Recognizing that you don't have all the answers, that maybe they could do some things or have some answers that are better than yours. That's a great exercise that you started and you can continue to do with them to start developing this culture that you have in a new company like that. That's a great step. When I'm thinking about the vision, usually I see it as coming from the top down. It's an essential vision for the company but it sounds like you took them through an exercise where you wanted to see what their vision for the company was as well. Am I right? This is something that your coach has taken you through while you got it from the mastermind but your coaches had been following up with you and seeing how things are progressing
Correct, and giving ideas on how to even bring up the topic or the exercise like my coach was, "What's your vision?" I was like, "To be a good business." He's like, "You need maybe to have a little bit better vision than that." I went home and that was some homework. That was one of our coaching calls. It was like, "Next coaching call, I want you to have your vision." I spent the next two weeks, I watched some TED Talks about people, company visions. I read some stuff and created what I thought would be our vision, not just for the company's growth but also what we're trying to do for the community as well.
The effect in the community, the larger purpose, that stuff and how you want to be seen. You have some other mastermind groups that you're going to go to. You'll have your bi-weekly meetings. Are you going to any conferences then as well?
We have another mastermind coming up. We'll see what new nuggets we get from that.
Based on your initial experience, you've only been with your coach for a few months. What would you tell somebody who's considered it or maybe even not considered? What would you tell our audience about your initial experience with having a coach?
I would say that if you haven't gotten a coach yet, you should go ahead and do it. Even if you're thinking of starting a business, I would say it’s probably better to do it even before starting so that you cannot have to fix what is broken, but start on a much better solid foundation having that. Having that accountability and those calls are helpful to have so you can be focused and committed to what you're trying to accomplish because it's easy to get distracted. There are many millions of things that you could spend your time on but are not important. If you need to get things done, you having that coach and that accountability not just to guide you but also to keep you accountable is instrumental in being able to grow the business.
What would you say your ROI so far on investing in a coach? Maybe you do not see it in sheer numbers, maybe you are, but what would you say are some of the ROIs on what you've invested in so far?
I would say numbers are not the easiest thing to see yet, because of all the things that had happened and we're down a PT. We're at the same as far as the bottom line where we were. Everything else is more solid, more a better foundation. As far as the return, knowing that I have someone to fall back on after going through something like this and able to get through it in such a positive and productive way was more worth more than anything. There's no way that I could've gotten through that without having someone else to keep me focused, keep me rational, keep me objective instead of getting super emotional about it.
I'm glad you had that support. Condolences to you, the families and your team. It’s a horrible, horrific experience to go through. I wish you guys the best and I'm glad to hear that you've got some support and it sounds like you guys are starting to get your footing back and moving forward. I'm sure there are things to work through still, but you have some vision. You're starting to develop a culture and you're starting to get back on track.
We're getting there.
We'll stay in touch. I'll follow-up with you again. We'll see where you are at the time but expect huge changes.
Thanks for your time, Avi.
Thank you, Nathan.
Dr. 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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The Private Practice Section of the APTA established the Peer2Peer (P2P) Network a few years ago and since then has provided a great opportunity for PT owners to collaborate with fellow PT owners and discuss how to improve their businesses. In this episode, Nathan Shields interviews Randy Roesch, PT, owner of Business Solutions Consulting Company, and Steve Anderson, PT, Executive Coach for Orange Dot Coaching. They are also current facilitators for P2P. Both have personally benefited from networking during the course of their careers, making them a great resource about the benefits of networking and what P2P has to offer. Nathan then also highlights his mantra for successful business ownership, which is Reach Out - Step Out - Network.
We are going to talk about networking. I've got Randy Roesch and Steve Anderson, both physical therapists and facilitators for the Peer2Peer Network in the PPS section of the APTA. If you don't know much about it, I highly recommend you look into it and possibly apply because the application process is closing during the month of January to join the network. I specifically want to talk about not only the network but also the importance of networking, whether it's the Peer2Peer Network or Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Vistage or BNI to name of the few networks that are out there on the country. Networking has provided to the people in my network, the benefits of growth and accountability. I'm sure there's more to it than that. The Mastermind concepts have been around a long time and seem to be initially labeled by Napoleon Hill in Think and Grow Rich. In terms of growth, usually what I find is that the benefit that leads to that growth is the fact that you've got multiple minds coming up with solutions to problems, specifically your problems.
You also now have access to resources, people that may have been there and done that or they may know a company that might be able to help you solve that problem. They might have someone in their network that they can refer to you to help you improve or grow. Secondly, the accountability as owners, we don't have anyone holding us accountable other than maybe our spouses, but the health of the business maybe. There is no one to hold us accountable to the goals that we set forth initially. We all know that if we have an accountability buddy, we'll do better when it comes to achieving our goals. That being said, I wanted to highlight The Peer2Peer Network, especially since it pertains specifically to us as PT owners. From a greater perspective, I want to make sure you all understand the importance of networking with whatever network it is. Let's get to the interviews.
I have Randy Roesch and Steve Anderson. They are both facilitators of the Peer2Peer Network in the Private Practice Section of the APTA. I wanted to bring them on because if you've heard my mantra before, it's, “Step out and network.” Not very often we talk about the importance of networking, especially as independent physical therapy owners, but it is huge. First of all, I want to thank you, Randy and Steve, for coming on.
Thanks for having us.
Randy is the Owner of the Business Solutions consulting company but also a doctor and a physical therapist. Steve Anderson is also a doctor of physical therapy. He's a former CEO of Therapeutic Associates on the West Coast and is an Executive Coach for Orange Dot Coaching. They both are working hard on the Peer2Peer Network and they'll share a little bit with us about the details here as we go along. Before we get into the details, I want to learn a little bit about you because you were both successful physical therapists in the past. I want to know a little bit about your path. Randy, do you mind sharing with the audience a little bit about your professional path and what got you to where you are?
I graduated from the Mayo School of Allied Health in 1973. I've been a PT for a long time. It started out, as most of us do, in acute care and decided that I wanted to do something on my own. I was practicing in Florida and the director in a hospital. I talked to the hospital about getting a piece of the action and they said no. I went out and started my own private practice. Over the course of years, I built that company. The name of the company was RehabWorks. Some of you may have heard that name. I think it's still around in some areas. Eventually, I had four partners and we had a company in 26 states. We employed 1,800 therapists at that time. We were in hospitals, nursing homes, school systems and outpatient clinics. It was a wonderful experience.
We finally reached the point where we couldn't continue to grow without some influx of funding. We pulled interest and joined a company called Continental Medical at the time and that company eventually went public. I've been in the corporate world too. It was an interesting experience. I stayed on for four years and then decided that getting back into private practice was what I wanted to do. I joined my husband in his private practice for several years and then started my consulting company. I've been working with PTs in private practice for the past years. It is a fun ride.
Steve, how about you? Tell us a little bit about your path and what got you to where you are.
It's a little bit similar in the sense that I started out as a staff PT. I joined a company that I was impressed with. The name of the company was Therapeutic Associates. I started with that company. In a few years, I became the director of one of the clinics in the company and eventually became the CEO. I was with the same company for 37 years. I was the CEO for 19 years. It's an interesting company because it is a shared ownership company. It's a legacy company. It's owned by physical therapists. When I retired at the end of 2016, I believe there were 50 PT partners. The directors of each of the clinics have ownership. It continues on and it's doing great in the Pacific Northwest. We also have a hospital contract in Southern California that we've had interestingly enough since 1954. I retired at the end of 2016 and I did what has always been my real passion, which is helping leaders become better leaders. I started Orange Dot Coaching. I now do coaching services for executives, NPT and in the business world as well.
Since we're talking a little bit about networking, specifically the Peer2Peer Network. For either of you, did networking play a part in your progression in your professional path?
It did for me. I was active in the Private Practice Section beginning in the early ‘80s when I started my private practice. It was an amazing experience. I met many wonderful people. The thing that I found in the Private Practice Section was that everybody was willing to share. It was amazing. You would go to these meetings and people would tell you what to do and what all the resources were. It was great. It was one of the reasons that I've stayed active in this section. I wanted to give back because it helped me so much in the development of my company.
For me, I felt like I was on an island when I opened up my own clinic at the younger stages. I thought I had to figure all this out on my own. I felt like it was up to me to figure everything out. Little did I know, once I started networking, that there are other people out there that have already been there, done that and know all the answers or can give you the resources. If I had only tapped into something like that earlier in my career, things would have gone so much smoother. What was your experience, Steve?
The Private Practice Section was great for me too. I've heard her say before and I felt the same way that you go to your first meeting or two and you say, “I've found my people. They understand me and they helped me.” Some of my dearest friendships continue to this day that I found at the Private Practice Section meetings. I love them. My story also goes in the sense that I was part of this big private practice company, Therapeutic Associates. I was elected by the board to become the CEO at 41 years old. I was excited and felt pretty cool about that. The real truth, I was scared to death.
Just like a lot of my clients, I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of the job and to do so networking was extremely important to me. I got a lot of help from friends in the Private Practice Section, but I also found something that we may touch on here a little bit too. I joined a group called Vistage, which is an international group that puts groups of CEOs together and there were 12 to 15 in a group. I did that for seven-and-a-half years. We met on a monthly basis and that was extremely valuable to me. I learned a lot in that period that we're going to talk about, how I learned a lot after that type of setting. A huge proponent of it, I felt that it took me to the level where I needed to be interacting in life in that environment.
That's a great point, Steve, because my business partner and I were part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. Much like Vistage, it gives you an opportunity to network, talk with and share issues with people who are outside of the healthcare, specifically the PT industry so that they can maybe challenge some of the perspectives that you have. “Why do you have to do it that way?” They don't come from where we're coming from. Sometimes it's helpful to talk to people outside of the PT industry to look for some of the answers. It gets a little bit different perspective on how things go outside of the industry, what expectations are, what company norms or business norms are. Whether it's a Peer2Peer Network, Vistage, Entrepreneurs’ Organization or BNI or any number of this business that can be hugely helpful in your ability to overcome some of the issues that you're having, but also mingle with other professionals.
The key to that set up or organization, which I know Peer2Peer does as well, is that you need to get to a level of trust and vulnerability with people to get to them to the bottom of things. The way they're set up like that, you can get there because you get to know these people. It's amazing. There were tons of business stuff that came up, but quite frankly, there was some personal stuff that came up too that shocked me at first. When you're running a business and you're working these long hours and doing things, sometimes you have issues at home that you'd like to run by people, “How did you handle this?” If you have that trust and vulnerability, I'm already set into the group, but you can go there and help there as well.
As far as Peer2Peer Network is concerned, Randy, what's the history around Peer2Peer Network? How long has it been going? What got it started?
A couple of people that were on the board, they always laugh about how they were out having a beer one night. Mike Horsfield and Jeff Ostrowski got to talking about how nice it would be if they had a board of directors that they could talk to and they could share problems. They talked about how they could maybe create this group. They thought they came up with this brand new idea that nobody had ever thought of. As Mike says, we realized that the Mastermind concept has been around forever. It started in the early 1900s. That's what it's patterned after is that Mastermind concept. We call it networking on steroids because it's a way for PTs to network with each other and learn from each other. They went to the board of directors of the Private Practice Section. They said, “We'd like to try a couple of pilot groups and if it's successful, then maybe this is something the section would want to offer.”
They had two groups, five people, who were in companies with gross revenues of less than $2 million and five people who were in companies with over $2 million. They started working together on how to better their company. They talk about the problems they had and the things that they had in common that they didn't understand and could help each other with. They loved the experience. They brought that back to the board and said, “How could we make this happen?” They decided to try this Peer2Peer Network. At the point that I joined them, I had been very active in the section as was Steve has for many years. I was very excited about the opportunity to do something like this that would be so beneficial for therapists. We opened it up. During the first year, we had 35 new people join. Now, we have 157 network members and 29 groups.
The groups are made up of 5 to 8 people. As I said, we have this arbitrary cutoff at $2 million. Steve and I interview everybody that's coming into the programs. We get to know them and then we put the groups together. We look at what your strengths and weaknesses are, so if somebody wants to learn more about social media marketing, we might put them in a group with a younger person who's got a lot of experience with that. If someone wants to own a building, we'd put them in with somebody who owns a building. We build and put these groups together. The groups meet on an annual basis face-to-face. We have a summit every year in April. It's a three-day summit and then the rest of the time, they meet on a monthly basis. Usually, video conferencing and then there are tons of emails and texts going back and forth. Most of them have a Dropbox as a way to communicate with documents that they want to share and so on. We're getting amazing feedback from everybody that's in the program. The one thing that I often hear is, “It's the best thing that PPS has ever done. These are the people who saved my practice. They helped me make some of the decisions I needed to make or learn how to move forward. I was stuck.” It's been a great program.
The person who turned me onto Peer2Peer Network, and I didn't know much about it at all, was a friend of mine who owned a clinic up here in Alaska. He said the same thing. He met with a group of about 6 to 7 people. He was having issues with recruiting physical therapists, especially up here in Alaska, how to retain therapists and how to move his clinic forward in different aspects. He grew 85% over the course of one year and attributed a lot of that success to Peer2Peer Network. It sounds like that's not an uncommon success story.
It's really not. As I said, we've had several people who have said that it's made tremendous in their business. The thing that I find interesting and Steve maybe found this Vistage, but what people are saying is a lot of times, especially solo owners didn't have to be accountable to anybody. They had great plans but they weren't accountable. A lot of the stuff, you go to these meetings, you're all these great things, you come back with great ideas and then you get busy and it goes away. This is like having your own little board of directors and you have to go back and talk to and say, “I did that. I didn't do that.” “Why didn't you? What's up?” These people are setting goals and they're holding each other accountable. That's what they say has made a tremendous difference.
Would you agree with that, Steve?
Absolutely. That's what I experienced when I ran a bigger group. We hold each other accountable. I think for the smaller practices that don't have that, it’s a huge benefit. People you know and trust, you don't fool. You don't show up to the meeting and BS them because they'll call you out in a second. Sometimes, as humans, we need that. I would totally agree with Randy on that.
I've recognized the same thing as I've been in some of those groups. It's hard to make excuses for some of the things that you didn't get done and that you had committed to because they'll call you out on it. They'll say, “You can't use you are busy as an excuse. We're all busy. How are you going to prioritize and get things done?” I love that you brought it up, Randy. That accountability piece is huge because who's holding the owner responsible to get things done? If it's an employee, they can huff and puff and maybe they might even leave. It's nice when you don't have to get to that point and someone else out of empathy and an environment of security is providing that ability to hold you accountable. That's huge in the growth of small business owners.
In the groups, we talk about the rules of engagement. The things that people learn and help each other with is that they trust. They have this huge trust. As Steve said, that was important in this group, the commitment to the group. They show up for the meetings. They schedule these monthly meetings and everybody shows up unless there's some kind of emergency. Everybody comes to the summit every year. They work hard on balance sharing so that everybody's talking, sharing and not just one person taking over the group. It's important. We don't have any competitors in the groups. Number one, we have a wide variety. We have people who have been in practice for 30 years and people who have been in practice for three years and they might be in the same group.
We also are very careful that they're from different geographic areas. That vulnerability, you're not to talk about opening a clinic if you know that your competitors sitting there. I'm moving into that area. The confidentiality piece is extremely important and then the ability to play well in the sandbox. We've been fortunate because we've had very good results with the people who have been in the program. Very few people have left. We've had a few people who have left because they sold their practice. One of the criteria is that you're the CEO in your practice and an owner and some people are not able to continue anymore. We've had a few people who have said, “This isn't quite for me. I've gotten all that I could get.” We've had less than 10% attrition. I think that's pretty good.
What are the criteria? I think you've covered a few of them.
It’s a PT or a PTA and you have to be a member of the Private Practice Section. You are the chief executive in the company, which typically is the owner. I think we only have one person who was the CEO and not an owner, but he was the CEO of the business. There's a fee. It's $750 a year and that covers the costs of the summit as well as what we do for the program. It also covers benchmarking. PPS, we developed and started in Peer2Peer Network. Some people have probably heard about benchmarking opportunities through PPS. We have twelve KPIs that we monitor. That's done on an annual basis. We have an outside firm that does all the work. It's all anonymous, but we use it so that you can compare yourselves regionally and nationally to all the benchmarks and the groups use it to extensively compare to each other, “How come your cost per visit is this? Let's talk about how we can make me more like yours.” That's been a huge benefit for the members of Peer2Peer.
That is huge, especially when we don't have the business acumen and the ability to compare some of those finances like, “How much of my gross revenues am I spending on the payroll? What is my cost per visit? What is my average number of visits per new patient?” Those kinds of KPIs you want to compare and see where you're at. Am I below average? Am I above average? It's good to have an idea of what's happening in your clinic compared to the industry. There aren't a lot of benchmarking data out there for physical therapy owners. It is a huge benefit to have that available to us.
We've expanded it now. We've opened it up so that other members of the Private Practice Section can also get into the benchmarking program. I think we are offering 500 slots, but we thought the more the merrier. We can have more information and more data. That's why we opened it up beyond Peer2Peer.
Steve, you're talking to some of these people who are considering joining the network. What are some of the issues that they have that you have to address? What kind of encouragement do you find yourself reiterating to the PA owners that are considering joining the network or any network?
Whenever you're running a business, it doesn't matter the size of it. There are two things that I see. One is being overwhelmed like, “I know I've got so many things to do, but I still have to treat patients. I still need to do this. How am I going to get it all done?” Seeing what others do and how others have handled that is extremely important. The other thing I see in my clients a lot too because I know I have it big-time is what's known as the impostor syndrome. When you're sitting there thinking, “Everybody thinks I know what I'm doing because I have a successful practice and I don't have a clue.” That's a hard thing to deal with. When you're in a group networking like this, there are two things that happened. One is you hear about people in the same boat so you can say, “I'm not weird thinking this.” Secondly, people are going to reassure you that you're not clueless, that you do have some skills and you are successful for a reason. You can build on that and that's what that group brings to you. They say it's lonely at the top and I would totally agree. Sometimes you need people that are very objective and willing to tell you what you need to hear and not just tell you what they think you want you to hear to the organization.
Randy, what are some of the common concerns that they bring up as to why they don't want to join the network?
I don't talk to very many people that don't want to join because my job is to find people who want to join. I would say that some of the people who have decided not to remain, it's been primarily a time issue. They don't feel like they have the time to devote to it. Even though in my mind, it's not a huge time commitment. It's probably a few hours a month for the call and then some emailing back and forth and those kinds of things. I don't know if it’s the true reason why they didn't want to stay with it. To reiterate what Steve was saying, we're finding that a lot of people, no matter what size the practice have a lot of similar problems. They appreciate the opportunity to be able to have someone to talk to about it and learn from other people.
To add to that, I find this with people I do work with as well. Sometimes they said, “I really want to do this, but I don't have the time.” It's a funny thing to say because the reason you do it is so that you can find more time and be better at what you're doing. It's like, “I need to hire somebody, but I'm not going to hire him because I don't have time to train him.” You just need to find the time to bring them on and train them and then help you expand it. The same thing goes with leaders is there's never going to be a good time. There's never going to be, “Now it's exactly the time to do this.” You have to decide, pull the trigger and go.”
I think you have to recognize that and I want to get your feedback on this as well, whether it's networking or something else that you might commonly recommend the PT owners do, but they've got to take the time to put on the owner hat and recognize that they are the leaders, the owners of their company. Sometimes, if they're treating patients full-time, they do not recognize that. They're putting on their owner’s hat sometime around midnight when they've already lost a ton of energy. They're neglecting parts of their business because they're not fully executing in that ownership seat. If you were to go back and talk to yourself or maybe a younger version of yourself that owned a clinic like some of these owners do, what are one or two things that you would highly encourage them to do? What kind of mindset or encouragement would you give to them at this stage if they are treating full-time, not much time to run the business type of situation? I'll start with you first, Steve.
You mentioned earlier when we first started about working on the business and not in the business. We probably all read The E-Myth book and understand what that means. It's one of those things where I find that when you're in small business and you've got all these pressures on, you tend to think very short-term. What I try and tell leaders is that you need long-term strategies so you can kill it for six months, nine months, a year, maybe a couple of years and do well and be profitable. At the end of it, you can't sustain it. A long-term strategy is what can I do to set things up now so that when I am 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the road, I can sustain what I'm doing and continue to grow because otherwise, you're going to hit it. There are only so many hours in a day one person can do and you're going to tap out unless you're preparing for that growth along the way.
What would you share, Randy, in terms of talking to that younger owner?
I think Steve’s spot on. They use the phrase, “We're running our business by the seat of our pants,” and that's how it feels as a PT because we didn't learn any of this stuff in PT school. I think as Steve said, we can work as we all did really hard, but at some point, you got to figure out how you're going to run this business and be able to not be working 80 hours a week and trying to have a life besides your business. Looking ahead and trying to make a plan, you got to start somewhere and you're going to work hard for the first few years. It's important not to neglect thinking about your goal, where you want to take this thing and how are you going to get there and plan it out rather than go day to day and figure that somehow it's going to work.
I love that you shared the long-term aspect because a lot of times we were thinking short-term, how many visits are we getting this week and new patients and not looking long-term as to what we need to grow in terms of company. If someone wants to join the Peer2Peer network, Randy, how did they go about doing it?
We take applications and the application period is open now until mid-January. They go to the PPS website, which is PPSAPTA.org. There's a networking tab right on the main page of the webpage and that's where the Peer2Peer Network lies. Once they go into networking, they'll see Peer2Peer and they'll see the application. There's a list of FAQs in that tab. Steve and I are also available to chat with anybody at any time to talk with them a little bit more about the program and see if they think that it's right for them. We often do that.
Is your contact information on that webpage? Would you be willing to share?
I'm willing to share it, but our contact information is on that webpage so that they can send us an email and then we get back in touch and talk with them, answer their questions and do interview calls with everybody to where I'm in. We want to make sure that they feel it's a fit, that they're going to enjoy the experience. My email address is RRoesch@Ymail.com.
They can reach out now. You said that the application period starts now, but did that start in September or October?
The application period is open all the time but for the class coming up, we're going to have to cut off probably about mid-January. Steve and I interview everybody who's coming into the program. We put the groups together and then we do some group calls before the summit in April. We have a lot of work between January and April. We try to get things tied up by mid to late January. If people are interested, they need to apply as soon as possible.
It only comes around one time a year.
We do a new class and we bring in 50 new people a year. That's 8 to 9 new groups every year. We're continuing to grow at that pace, which is great. We're very excited about it.
The exciting thing this year is the conference is in San Diego, which I'm excited about.
We held it in Alexandria, Virginia, which is where the Private Practice Section headquarters are. We did that for the first four years and we have people from all over the country, like, yourself, from Alaska. We had people asking if we could possibly consider moving it. We said, “That's only fair.” This year we're on the West Coast, in the beautiful San Diego.
That's April 22nd to 24th or something like that.
The meeting starts on Wednesday afternoon. We end at noon on Fridays, so people can get back home for the weekend.
Anything else you want to share, Steve, in regards to the Peer2Peer Network or some of your insight to the audience?
I think we've covered most of it, but it's a wonderful program. I commend the people who came up with it, Mike, Jeff and Randy for driving it for the first few years. It is a top-notch thing in the Private Practice Section. I believe everyone could benefit from it. My advice to you is don't say you don't have the time. Find the time. It's not very expensive. If you take a look at Vistage and some of those other groups, you're spending some pretty big dollars and this is done very economically. I don't think the cost is an issue. You just need to find the time.
Thank you, both, so much for taking the time to join me here. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and the work that you've done in the past.
Thank you, Nathan.
It has been fun being on the program.
Dr. Roesch began her career as a Physical Therapist, graduating from the Mayo Clinic School of Allied Health in 1973.
She practiced at the Mayo clinic for 6 years and then moved to Sarasota, Florida where she was the Director of Rehabilitation at Blake Memorial Hospital for 4 years.
In 1983, Dr. Roesch opened a private practice outpatient clinic and began providing rehabilitation contract services to local nursing homes, Easter Seals, and the local school system. Over the course of the next 6 years, Dr. Roesch acquired 3 partners and grew her business, known as Rehabworks. Rehabworks employed 1800 therapists, and provided rehab services in outpatient clinics, hospitals, long term care facilities and school systems in 26 states.
Rehabworks was sold to Continental Medical Inc. in 1989. The new company then went public. Dr. Roesch stayed on as Chief Operating Officer for 4 years. In that capacity her primary role was to value and acquire businesses as well as lead the transition team for these new acquisitions.
In 1994, Dr. Roesch started Business Solutions, a consulting company to provide services to therapists in private practice. Today she concentrates her business in the area of succession planning and practice valuation.
Dr. Roesch has been very active in the Physical Therapy profession over the course of her career, including volunteer service with the APTA. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Florida Chapter, the Private Practice Section, and as Director, Secretary and Vice President of the APTA Board of Directors. She served as the Interim Executive Director for the Private Practice Section. She is currently a Trustee and Board Secretary of the Foundation for Physical Therapy Research. She is also the Facilitator/Director of the Private Practice Section Peer2Peer Network program. Dr. Roesch has received our professions’ highest honor being named as a Fellow of the American Physical Therapy Association in 2016.
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