"How are you showing up in the world?" is always a central question in marketing. For Jamey Schrier, PT, driving referrals is an essential first step in building up your business authority and reputation. Joining Nathan Shields once more, he talks about the best way to present yourself to referral sources, patients, and communities, which is an essential part of your marketing message. Nathan also discusses how to be clear with your goals, choosing the proper target market, and how to come across the public in the most engaging ways. He also explains why it is important to focus on delivering tangible solutions than mere therapeutic methods, making your PT practice more than just what is happening within your clinic.
I've got multiple-time guests coming back to be on the show. Jamey Schrier, I appreciate you coming back.
I appreciate you having me, Nathan.
Thanks for coming on. We've been talking about a bunch of different topics and trying to figure out what the connection was. We want to talk about how we make more connection with the audience. How do we provide them what they need? How do we prepare our messaging so that they want what we're giving? Maybe I'm not saying it the right way because we were thrown a lot of things out there. First of all, let me say, if you haven't heard my show with Jamey in the past, go back to those. I've had you on what 2 or 3 times now.
I think so, at least 2, perhaps 3.Marketing is all about how you show up in the world. Click To Tweet
Jamey has got a great personal story. If you can find his first show from our first year of doing shows in 2019, go back and listen to it and what drove him to become a coach and consultant now for PT owners. Make sure you go back and read those because he's got some great wisdom to share and great value for you. We want to talk about how to connect. Where do you want to start this off, Jamey? I don't have a certain direction I'm going with this because we can provide some great value with simply the discussion, but where do you want to start here?
Let's start by grabbing people's attention. What we're going to do is talk about driving referrals to your business. That's the essence of what we're going to discuss because a lot of this comes down to how do we connect. How do we bring in referrals to our business starting with understanding how to connect with the people that we want to come into our business? We're all caring and compassionate people that went out on our own to start a business. I've never met a business owner that wasn't busy, overwhelmed, and stressed in doing that but yet, we all have this challenge of getting consistent referrals in our business that of course convert into new patients or new clients. What we were talking about before is we’re discussing where's the real problem here.
Not necessarily the tactical thing, which I can certainly provide some tactics, some tools and some tips, but where is the problem in doing it and what can typically be done? That's an area I've spent a lot of time and personally being a former private practice owner for years and now the Founder and CEO of Practice Freedom U, this is what we discussed. This is what we live for and this is what we do every single day. It’s providing this business knowledge to help people grow and flourish knowing that we haven't been taught this, we're out there, and there's a million clinical courses to help you treat your back better. This stuff is a little rarer. Where would you like me to begin? I can go in any direction you like.
We can talk about driving referrals and start with where you were with your workshops. Most people are going to go once they get a referral for XYZ Physical Therapy and sit in their car with that prescription, they're going to Google XYZ Physical Therapy and see your website or they're going to say, “My back hurts. How am I going to get over my back?” Let's start with the webpage because a lot of people nowadays are going to see your presence online. As your experience with what you shared with me, 99% of those physical therapy websites is hard to tell exactly what they can do for me, the patient. They're focused on saying, “We've got this certification, we do this service, we do that service. We do this kind of thing.” The messages seem to be off, they're highlighting themselves, and not highlighting the result or the product that they're producing.
If we take a 30,000-foot view here before we dive into the ground level and get into the weeds a little bit, the 30,000-foot view is marketing is all about how you show up in the world. That's what marketing is. How do you and your company show up in the world? It could be your personal brand, but even your personal brand is still about you, your practice, and how are you showing up in the world. How do other people see you? When you look at it from that perspective, you want to consciously and intentionally show up in the world the way you want to show up in the world because if not, other people will pigeonhole you and stereotype you that, “You're a physical therapist, you’re good at doing some stretches,” but we're the ones that take care of people with back problems. We're the ones that take care of this.
That has happened to physical therapists for 50, 60, 70 years. The reason is because we are not communicating clearly and effectively how we want to show up in the world. It's confusing. We have a great saying at Practice Freedom U and it says, “Confused people, don't…” What it means is any time there is confusion, you are going to have someone that does not make a decision or if it's your staff is confused, they’re unproductive. If there's someone out there in the world that's thinking, “I have a back problem. Who should I go see?” If your message is confusing and it's not clear on whether or not you can help me, then I'll go somewhere else. I'll go to someone else that's speaking a louder message, a clear message, or maybe a message that's showing up either on the website.
That's one of the big things from a higher-level perspective which as owners, we have to take that perspective first. We never want to dive in first. We have to look at it from that perspective first so we could make sure we're moving in the direction that we want. That's number one, marketing equals how we show up in the world because if you don't, someone else will have a plan for you and start to dictate how you show up in the world.
How do you help someone get clarity on their message? That can be a difficult one. I know for Will and I with our practice, it took some work talking it out. We had to get back to what was our purpose and get clear on what were our values. Start there before we can start talking about what we can offer to the world, how we present to the world, and that it derives from that. That's where we came from. What do you recommend?
Nathan, that's not fun. I don't want to do that. Read books, you start with that, that’s not fun and yet here you are saying, “Do you know what we do in our program? We start with a mission, vision values.” Do you know where Donald Miller, Michael Hyatt, Tony Robbins’ people and others start? A mission, vision, values. Now, you might call it something unique. You might wrap it up in a different bow, but that's where you have to start. You have to start with, “What are you about?” Before you communicate that out in the world, you have to ask yourself. I'm going to be very honest with everybody. The world does not need another physical therapy practice. We will survive without you. However, the world needs you. We want to make sure that you are bringing something that’s impactful and important.
You have the ability to do that but I don't want you to show up as someone else. Be unique and communicate at least to yourself, “What is your practice about? Your vision or your mission? What are you about? Where are you going? What are you trying to do? What impact are you trying to make in the world? What impact are you making in your community? Why did you get into physical therapy? Why did you open up your practice?” These are the questions that make you think. I get that most of us are impatient and we want this now but these questions are going to come up again and again as you start marketing, building your referral sources, building your presence online, and doing the other things that we do to drive referrals. We have to start there for sure.If you don't get clear in what you're about, then other people will just tell you what you're about. Click To Tweet
I've had marketing people on in the past and they say, “If you can improve the customer experience and create a culture, that can improve your marketing efforts three times.” That's where this starts from. When you're clear on your message, your purpose, mission, vision, values and all those things, then that drives the culture of the business and then you start developing something that people can get behind and people can buy into. Remember, when people buy, they never buy logically, they buy on emotion. If you can translate that into your message, that means the connection becomes greater. It's hard for me to work with PT owners because many of them don't have a clear purpose. I don't know if you've had the same experience, but that's where we'll start. As I'm working with clients, it’s okay, let's get clear on this and their purpose. You've probably seen this as I have. We're going to be the best physical therapy that provides hands-on treatment and a one-on-one approach.
I was yawning when you said that. “We're going to be the commitment to excellence and the best therapist place.” That was mine. I got it from the Oakland Raiders back in the day.
No surprise that we're a commoditized entity at this point because we all say the same thing. Physical Therapy is not your purpose and not your why. Physical Therapy ends up being the vehicle through which you've lived out that purpose. You could be a roofer and live out that purpose as long as you're clear on that purpose, what it's doing for the community and those around you. It's important to get that clear in and that then drives the marketing and can improve referrals because people buy into that culture. They buy into what you're doing so much more than the services you provided.
The way your prospect, your client and your patient are going to look at it as they have a problem and they want a result. What you're providing as a therapy provider is the solution to that. You're the bridge. There are lots of solutions. As you said, Physical Therapy has been considered a commodity which means Physical Therapies are Physical Therapy. We're grouped into “it's all the same.” It doesn't matter. It's interesting if you ask any physical therapist that they would not say that at all but if you ask other outsiders, they may say that. That goes back to my point that if you don't get clear in what you're about then other people will tell you what you're about.
To your point, if you provide a better customer experience or customer journey as it’s often called, it comes from the Hero's Journey, that is critical in how you can generate referrals. What you have to understand before that, after the vision, after the mission, after you divide those values and this principles in which you live by, what you understand, and what your business is about, the next most important step is understanding your audience. That means you have to first of all, figure out who is your audience. Let me tell you a quick story. We have something called the Velvet Rope Policy. Imagine this. If COVID is over, you go down to Miami, you're walking along, and you see this club. You hear the music on and you see this Velvet Rope. What's the first thing that you think when you see the Velvet Rope and there are people on the other side of that? What do you think, Nathan?
There have got to be some special people in there.
There are special people on the other side of that rope. They’re VIPs. You're thinking, “They must be important people.” You might also be thinking, “Am I one of those very important people? Am I VIP?” Here's what happens. Here's the psychology behind the Velvet Rope. The Velvet Rope is the target audience of that club. These are the celebrities, the big people, the big spenders, and the people that will attract other people to the club. That's their audience, but here's the mistake that people make in our businesses. We're not clear on our target audience.
One of the things that we discussed in our Practice Transformation Workshop that came up is, “I'm afraid of becoming too niche.” “I can help many people and they go wide.” They say, “I can do this.” When you do that, nobody knows exactly, can you help them? By having that Velvet Rope and by being very clear, not only do you dial in your message to your ideal audience but other people go into that club too. Not just the VIPs. Most of the club is not made up of the VIPs. Most of the club are the regular people outside. The false misnomer, the myth that is happening is that if you spend your time focusing on your niche audience, your target audience then you're not going to attract other people and the opposite is true.
I have a couple of examples. One is Amazon. When Amazon first started, what did they sell? They sold books. They did not start with selling 42 billion items as they do now. They focused on books. They dialed in their messaging. They dialed in their operations. They dialed all of that in. Once that was dialed in, they started to expand what they offered. That's a perfect example of a niche. Another example that came up in our conversation is Lululemon. It came up funny and someone brought it up. I bought a pair recently of ABC pants. Have you ever heard of ABC pants?
I've got a couple of them.
People were cracking up because what does ABC stand for?
A couple of friends of mine were wearing them. They played golf with them. They went out to dinner with them. They hung out with them. A lot of times, all on the same day, they never changed. I'm like, “That's cool to complete in their stretching.” Do you think I'm Lululemon's target ideal customer? Heck, no. I'm the furthest from them but it doesn't matter. I understand who their customer is. My wife wears some of that stuff but I still paid them money to purchase something. When they do an ad specifically on the ABC pants, that ad is going to be reaching their particular audience, which is you and me, basically your 30, 35-year-old to 60-year-old male. That's who they're going to target. One of the things that we have to do right from the get-go and after where we established our vision, mission and values is to dial in our audience.
When you dial in your target audience, you're clear on their fears, worries, wants, needs and frustrations. When you are clear on that, that becomes gold because that's the messaging that you will use. You can use it in workshops. You can use it when you speak to referral sources that I know seems to be a dying focus with people and our profession. We are specialists. People are referred to a specialist. That’s a fact. What we're talking about a lot of is that messaging online. "What is our website's message? What are we putting out there if you're using social media, Facebook or whatever? I don't think you need to be an expert at being a social media person. As you've mentioned, you've had a lot of other internet marketers or internet people on. There are talented people that can help you do it. Our job is to understand our audience and be able to speak clearly in our messaging to our audience no matter what medium it's in. You hire someone that can help you put all the tactical stuff together in order to do that. That's the next step, Nathan, that we need to begin before diving into all the other stuff.
I had a bad experience with a website designer that I was sharing with you prior to our conversation and as I was discussing that experience with my coach, it led back to the fact that I wasn't clear on my message. They're lost in the woods as to what to design for me because my message wasn't clear and the same can be said for the physical therapy teams. If they're not clear with their message and who that specific avatar is, get it down to, “Is it a man or a woman? How old are they? What are their cares and concerns? What are their family and community look like?” All those things. Get detailed so that you can speak to that. As you said, the fear comes up then what about everyone else.
As you said, I don't know how many times I've seen it. My friend, Angie McGilvrey down in Florida had the hurricane come through. They had to start all over again. They decided, “We're going to do it this way.” They are going to focus on social media, but their focus was going to be on 30-year-old female CrossFit athletes. That's their avatar. They’re busier than they've ever been before now because they treat those CrossFit athletes well. CrossFit athletes have families. They have friends who are CrossFit athletes. You and I both know if I have a rotator cuff issue, I want to get my rehab from the guy that works with the Major League Baseball operations. I want the specialists. I want the guy who's known for being good with the athlete rotator cuffs. I'm nowhere near an athlete and I'm not going to throw a ball more than 50 miles an hour but I want that dude. As your niche, you aren't limiting yourself. You're saying, “Here's where we focus.” You can also be part of the group. We're still going to take you that it allows you then to focus on your messaging.The more information you know about your audience, the more you'll be able to connect with them. Click To Tweet
This is an example that will hit home. Surgeons have done this. Everywhere across the country, if you look at multiple places that do, let's say orthopedic surgery, what you will see on their site, you will see very clearly the surgeon and the specialty, the back guy, the knee woman, the ankle specialists or the shoulder specialists. What they realized is that people are referred to a specialist. Nobody wants to see, “I have a back problem. Can I see the generalists? I want to see the generalist, not the specialist in shoulders.” Here's what you don't see, “I have a good friend, Dr. Goldsmith. He’s a great guy on the site. He's the back guy. What's interesting is he tells me that 60% or 70% of his patients are not back problems.
I said, “You're the back guy.” He goes, “Yes but they call me for everything.” As you said, they refer their friend, neighbor, kids, and their spouses. As a business owner, it hits me. I'm like, “That's brilliant.” In the workshop, I was telling you, we had one of the participants and they’re pediatric therapists. We went on the site and there was a picture of a child on the site. There was nothing verbally saying what their niche was. There was just a picture of a kid and they had all of the different diagnoses and all the different treatment techniques. It was way too much information but it never answered the question, “Can you help me with my problem?” It became confusing and she's been doing this a long time.
She was like, “I never realized that.” I was like, “How much time have you spent getting clear on who your audience is and what your message is? What do you want them to know that is important to them, not you? What's important to us is our certifications. What's important to us is how much information we know. We want to throw up on people of how many years we've been doing and how many certifications.” That's fine. Do that at your next conference with your other colleagues. You can show off all that stuff. Your audience doesn't care. The person that has back pain wants to know, “if you help them with their back pain so they can go back to playing basketball.” If the answer is, yes, they come to you. If the answer is no, they don't. Either way is fine. When the answer is, “I'm not sure,” then you are potentially losing, who knows how many potential referrals. It's not a financial thing. You're losing the ability to help somebody, which is what we do, which is why we do all this.
They may go somewhere else and maybe not get the help or they may go nowhere and try to look for the magic pill even though you could help them so well but they don't know that. They don't know what you know. If you do those first two steps, that mission, vision values, and start getting clear on your audience, start diving in like you said, “Tell me everything about them. Where do they live? How much they make? What do they like? Do they have a dog or do they have a cat? Are they married or are they not? What kind of car do they drive?” The more information you know about them, the more you'll be able to connect with them. That's what this game is about. That's where the art of marketing comes in. It's the ability to connect with people. You have to start there. If you start there and find a good reputable person, let's say your website or other digital things, you are going to be much more successful at generating referrals consistently because you know how to connect with your audience. That's the part that's missed. We take a bunch of money that we don't have. We give it to somebody in the hopes that they're going to do all of this work.
The expectation is, “I give money, they give me a bunch of referrals.” What they're saying is, “Yes, I can help you get referrals but I can't answer all these questions.” Hopefully, they can do what they promised to do which is the links, connections, put the images up and all the stuff up. That messaging I've spent tens of thousands of dollars. I won't call it a waste. I will call it a lesson. It was an expensive lesson I had. I went to school. I paid $50,000. I got an F but I learned. I learned that there were some things that this person in this company did that I wish I knew but a lot of it was. I wasn't being clear in what exactly I wanted. That was the problem because I wasn't clear. That's on me and that's on every single owner. We have to start focusing on that which of course begs the question we've talked about in the past, which is, “I'm busy. I don't have time. I'm dealing with all the stuff.” I'm like, “There's the real issue. What do you focus on and how do you carve out time?” That could certainly be for another time management topic.
That’s completely another episode. As you're talking about that, I remember I had Aaron LeBauer on. If you don't know Aaron, he has his own cash-based or out-of-network private practice and is successful at coaching others in setting up their own cash-based private practices. Interestingly, in his practice, they don't bring up the words physical therapy. They talk about what they can do for their patients. They have an ala carte menu. Part of what we can provide you is physical therapy. That's one of the menu items. That's interesting because I brought him on to talk about how to market an out-of-network owner to ask someone to pay cash when they could go down the street and have their insurance pay for it all. That's a higher level of marketing acumen that you've got to attain to get people to pay cash for something that could be for free.
Yes and no, Nathan, so give me a chance to respond.
I was going to say, it's interesting though that his focus wasn't physical therapy. That's not what we provide. It's a service that we offer but that's not what we do per se. What we do is we live out our purpose, providing you a pain-free lifestyle, getting you back to the functional activities you want to do, helping you enjoy your family, your friends, and your neighbors, and helping you play with your dog. That's what we do. Physical therapy happens to be a vehicle.
Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Begin with the end in mind.” It’s one of his famous sayings, and everyone grabs and uses it like me. What does that mean? In this case, the end is the outcome and what people want. They are coming to you with a problem, pain, a disability, balance issues, and their kid not able to play a sport. What they want is the outcome. Clear as day. That's what they want and that's what you want when you do the same thing. You want the outcome. What is not as important is the part where we spent our whole life, which is learning the solution from the problem that they have to the pain. That's not where the conversation begins. Is it important that they understand? Yes, perhaps. It all depends if they have those questions.
A lot of times, they don't ask every little thing that you're going to do. They connect with you, build rapport, trust you and say, “This is the place for me.” Sometimes, they want to know so exactly what the process is. You can share that with them, but what has to be clear first is, can you help them solve their problem? That's the biggest problem. I know Aaron, I've been on his show. He is smart and he understands the fact that the less you can talk about the widget of how you help somebody. A widget can be a product or a service. We're going to talk about the widget service, the dry needling widget service, the myofascial release widget service, the exercise widget service, and the pool therapy widget service. These are solutions to help people get what they want.
People don't care about that initially. They may or may not care eventually. What they care about is, “I’m in pain. Are you going to help me get here? If so, what do I do? How do I get with you?” We have to be clear on that. As an owner, potential director, manager of your business, and as a clinician, it is very confusing in our heads that that's how our people are thinking. We need to make sure that when we're looking at marketing and our business that we step out to that 30,000-foot view and make sure we put this marketing hat on to start looking at our business from their perspective. From the perspective of our avatar of our ideal client. When you do, things will start to become so much clear and you will start to be able to get more people coming to you because they will understand the question. Can Nathan helped me get what I want? You said something about cash-based. Can we operate out of network? I’d love to dive into that.
To add on there in my conversation with Aaron and also to what you're saying is one of his first questions in that initial evaluation goes back to imagine six weeks from now and completed your physical therapy, what would have happened? What does your life look like to say that this interaction with us and what we're doing to help you with your shoulder, back or knee has been a success? What does that look like? Starting with the end in mind, he takes that so far as to put it in part of his initial evaluation process and to get compliance, to get buy-in to say, “I can help you do that.” On subsequent follow-up visits is that's what they're going to allude to.
Remember on our first visit, you said at the end of our treatment, we want to get here. How much closer are we? This is what we needed to get there. It's less, so much about mini me, my OCS, ECS, CSCS and CSS. No one cares about all the letters but it's what can you do to help me get to that goal. He takes it not from his marketing and getting that message clear then putting it into his first initial visit with that patient is, “Tell me, what are you here for? What do we need to get to in order for this to be successful?” Keeps compliance that way.You don't need many relationships to blow away your numbers. Click To Tweet
There are three ways to get referrals in your business to step out of the fray. You can get referrals online. We know about that through your website and different social channels. You get referrals through referral sources. It does not necessarily mean just doctors. There are lots of other people that have influence over your audience. When you're clear on your audience, you'll know who those people are. The third way to get referrals is one of the ways that we love to get referrals which is word of mouth. It happens when you're delivering an amazing experience to people, and we want the experience to be consistent and to happen regardless of who they are when they come in.
That’s what you're talking about with what Aaron was saying. When you start focusing on the experience, it starts when they call your office, they come in, and go through the evaluation. You're always looking at the experience that you're delivering from their point of view. We can go into lots of detail about how to do that and all the different touchpoints of that experience, leading up to the discharge and then the experience after the discharge. That increases the ability for one patient to turn into multiple patients by referring others and shouting on the mountaintops how great you are. To the one point about beginning with the end in mind and the evaluation is a funny story. I had a mentor for many years, Dan Sullivan, strategic coach.
It’s a great book he put out. Who Not How is crazy awesome.
One of the most powerful things that he always talked about is delegating and the Who Not How. One of his biggest things that he developed was something called the R-Factor Question. It's called the Relationship Question. The Relationship Question says, “If we were sitting here blank time from now and we were going to look back on now, what would have to happen personally, professionally, depending on who you're talking to for you to feel good about your experience or do you feel happy?” Once you see that, you realize that there are lots of ways to take that question to that perspective and use it throughout your thing.
Aaron is using that question, “If we're sitting here eight weeks from now, what would have to happen for you to feel good about your progress here?” You're taking people into the future and into the possibility of what is going to have you feel good. That's some tactics and strategies of how to connect with people build rapport. When you do that, you reduce cancellations. The key is driving the referrals to begin with. That happens in 1 of those 3 areas through a referral, an internal referral or word of mouth. Putting out there in that digital world and allow people to come to you and come to your website.
It's more important than it has been in the past. We saw that with the pandemic where we couldn't visit doctor's offices, and there was no way to connect with our community unless we did use other avenues to get to them. It's important that we're clear on that message so we can connect with our community directly and have more of that connection without relying specifically on the physicians all the time.
You and I talked about this. I want to caution people not to jump ship and say, “It's not where the doctor is at. It's all online. We’ve got to go online. We’ve got to get the people online.” People are referred to a specialist. People ask their friends. I have this thing called Listserv in our community. We have a community of 400 houses. Every day, there is someone saying, “Does anyone have a recommendation for blank?” Many times a week, it's always something health-related. What's amazing is multiple people then provide the solution or provide the answer like, “You’ve got to see my person.” Sometimes they're so adamant about their person. They're like, “You’re going to go see them? I'll give you their information. I'll call them for you. I'll help you set up an appointment.” These are your raving fans. This is how people are referred to a specialist.
Now, they may then go online to do it or the reverse will happen. They're online in your Facebook Ad or social media post comes up and they go, “Whatever,” then the person mentions that and you're like, “I've heard of them.” They don't know where, but they saw you out in the universe and their world. Most of us are within a community, we're not trying to promote ourselves nationally. We're in a community where it's easier for you to do that because it's a confined area. I want to caution people not to stop building relationships with referral sources, with referral partners.
Here's a tip on that. I want you to look at your referral relationships. People that have an influence over your audience, you have to identify your audience before we’ve spoken about that and I want you to look at them as they're your client and your patient. I want you to start looking at the referral partner as they're your target audience, not who they're referring, they are. What would you want to know about them? Would you show up? I have a blog that talks about one-night stands. You’re going to love it. It talks about we treat a lot of our referral sources like one-night stands. It's a one-way relationship and we want to get what we want where we want to call them up. “I'd like to meet with you because I want you to send me some referrals. Can you do that please?” That's not a relationship.
To your point, COVID said, “We can't visit doctors anymore.” I'm glad that happened because we have to wake up. People have been asleep at the wheel and not woken up to the fact that it's about relationships, and it's always been. If you start to focus on these doctors, try to create a relationship, truly try to be interested in them, see how you might collaborate, and serve them better which ends up meaning helping them somehow with your expertise and your solution to their clients and patients. That mindset shift will help you develop key relationships.
For most practice owners, let's say $500,000 or $1.5 million in revenue, you don't need many relationships to blow away your numbers. Get a handful of people. Get five good relationships sending you a couple of people a week. That's 50 new patients a month. Most likely you would blow away your numbers beyond belief. Your next problem would be hiring therapists to see everybody or getting a bigger space, which isn't a problem because there's plenty of space out there available. That mindset shifts of looking at them the same way you would look at your patient. You want to have two avatars. You want to have a referral source avatar and a patient avatar. Start there.
I love that because you never try to think about who your perfect referral source is or what your message should be, what do they want to know and who is seeing your perfect avatar patient? That's a good mindset shift as you're considering your marketing strategies because those guys and girls that I know that did fairly well through the pandemic got through it okay. The people that they had the doctor's cell phone numbers because they had developed that relationship over time. They didn't have to rely on going into the office and dropping off candy. They had got the relationship with the physician to the point where they could say, “How are you guys doing? Do you need anything from us? We're still open. FYI.” They could market to them directly because they had taken the time to develop relationships with these people.
Unlike a one-night stand, when you develop a real relationship, it can withstand things like this. It can withstand competitors. People are trying to move in a little bit. It can withstand a lot of things. It comes back to why haven't we looked at it that way? Our perspective with doctors is they have served one purpose and that purpose is to feed me, people. If they don't, there's something wrong with them. This is a systemic problem that we need to shift the way we think about this. That could be the greatest collaborators with us. If we step up our game and start to look at it as how we can work together, how can I provide a service and help to you? That means increasing our own communication skills, ability to connect, and build rapport.
These are things we haven't been specifically taught in that we have to learn. When you do, there's not a lack of people that need us. What was the latest AVTA number? Eight percent of the population comes to physical therapy but 150 million need or could benefit from physical therapy. Where's the other 92%? It's not because we're not good at what we do and you're not knowledgeable enough or smart enough. It's because we are not spending time educating and learning how to connect with them with their wants and their needs. When we start to do that, there is plenty for everyone.
It's sad to know about physical therapists who worry about the competitor within a couple of mile radius. It's understandable to know what they're doing because it feels like with a mindset of scarcity, then we're all fighting over that 8%. Whereas if we improved our message and got that out to the community, we could be playing in a much bigger pool that is 92% of 150 million and not fighting “over the 8%” that are getting the therapy that they need. There's so much more to be had if we got clear on our message and focused on those people who need it.
The shameful part of it is a lot of these people that you're referring to are very smart, talented people that are providing in a very small way and amazing services. They don't look at it as a business. More importantly, they don't look at themselves as an owner or as the CEO. As the CEO, your job is to 100% focus on not only where the company is going but servicing your customer. You have at least two customers. You have the patient that comes in and you have the people that refer patients that come in. If you spent a little bit of time and did some basic stuff, you can't get any less people connecting with people, building rapport, and showing them value.
You can only go up. That's what we've seen with our program and with our clients. I'm sure you've seen the same thing. This is why we do this. My mission is to help every single practice owner and practice that wants to build and grow to do it because we have an endless number of people who need our services. It's not because our high is only ten people. That would be a problem. It's a blue ocean out there. It's endless. We do such great work. We need to have a little B-School for the practice owners. We need to get a little business education with the practice owners and that's what we try to provide and help them in.
We’re going on for a while now and I appreciate you taking the time. We could go on for more. We had many tangents if we could have gone down there. If people want to get in touch with you, Jamey, how do they do that?
If you want to get in touch with me, go to PracticeFreedomU.com. You can check us out. Also on there, you can download my book, The Practice Freedom Method: The Practice Guide to Work Less, Earn More, and Live Your Passion. It’s not a bad three things to do. It's about my experiences as a practice owner and all the trials, tribulations, and disasters I've had but I was able to figure out a path and now trying to impart some knowledge to help some others.
Thanks again for taking the time. I appreciate it as always.
It’s my pleasure. I appreciate you and what you're doing, Nathan.
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This episode is unique in that it is the first episode I believe in which we've discussed networking. That's one of my three main action items in the mantra, “Reach out, step out and network,” yet we haven't talked a whole lot about networking itself. A friend of mine has written a book about it. I thought, "I've got to have you on the podcast so we can talk about how to network, how to go about doing it, the benefits of it, etc.” The guy wrote a book about it, so why not bring him on? My friend, Jarom Schmidt, joins me on the episode to talk about networking, the benefits of it, how to go about doing it and how to utilize social media. We'll get into all of it.
I've got Jarom Schmidt, the Chief Operating Officer of Mat-Su Regional Medical Center in Alaska and also the author of the book, College Success: Networking from College to Career. I've met Jarom and I found out that he's an author of a networking book. I thought, "I've got to have him on because that's the mantra, “Step out, reach out and network.” It's one thing I feel like we haven't discussed a lot in the podcast so I figured I'd bring on an expert. Jarom, thanks for coming on.
Nathan, thanks for having me. I enjoy all your material. It’s definitely a neat thing to be a part of.
Thanks for taking the time. I know you're a busy man, especially as the CEO of a thriving hospital. Tell us a little bit about your professional path and maybe how networking influenced it along the way to get you to where you are and make the connections that you've made. You're not a physical therapist and that's what my audience is. We could learn a little bit about some of the benefits and things that you've taken advantage of in your professional path, even though it's not physical therapy specific.
I'm a Montana boy, born and raised as a small country guy. That shaped a lot about who I am. For me, going through college, like anybody else, what do we want to do? I always saw myself as an entrepreneur. I started a few small businesses in college. I said, "I'll get a degree that I could fall back on in case something doesn't work." That was my strategy. I said, "Let's do healthcare because it's specialized. There's an expertise there." As I started doing that, I found a passion but most importantly, I found mentors who believed in me in open doors and essentially somebody to network with. That's what spark networking. I started to understand it. From there, I did a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in healthcare. Through that journey, like any field, it's always tough to break in. You hear these days, it's all who you know not what you know. There's a bunch of different phrases, but it's true, especially in healthcare, in the administrative route. I remember applying to jobs or looking at jobs in college. Everybody required that I have three to five years of experience. I'm a college kid. I don't have any experience.
For me, I had to network in order to propel myself to get further in my career. I was fortunate enough through networking and some of those things I'll share with you that I was motivated. I was excited. I got out there. Most college kids were sitting on their butt and enjoying college. I took every opportunity I could, whether it's doing multiple internships or pulling the student card because as a hospital executive, I've got dozens of people every day trying to get a meeting with me and I have no idea who they are. Frankly, I'll probably never meet with 99% of those people. If a student showed up and said, "I'd like to meet with you," it feels like a way to give back. That was a blessing for me once I realized that. Through all those experiences, it led me to this career and opened up the doors to networking.
A lot of people ask me about this book, "Did you set out to write this book?” “No, never. It just happened.” A lot of people saw me working hard, "What is it? Are you at the right place at the right time? Does your family know these people?” “No, it was through various strategies." As I share those strategies with different people, I realized there is a method behind my madness. It's worked for me. That's how I integrated this networking success book into helping others build and maintain a network.
It mentions College Success: Networking from College to Career. A lot of the aspects of networking that you did talk about in the book could translate into professional lives to our professional careers, even though we're not in college.
Most people realize networking is an art and a skill. For some people, it's natural. It doesn't matter what stage of life you're in. What's funny about networking is you've been networking your whole life. You don't realize it. We've gained relationships, friendships, family and acquaintances. That's networking. You've built a relationship with tons of people. The question is how do you make it work for you professionally?
We're going to get into some of the strategies that you talk about in the book and ideas that you have to improve our networking skills and how we can go about it. I want to go back to something you said in the course of your career path and that is that you obtained some mentors. There's a difference between networking and getting a mentor. How did you go about getting a mentor? That can be super valuable for physical therapy clinic owners to find a clinic owner, maybe another business owner if it's not a PTR, someone who is where they want to be and maybe tag along and meet up every once in a while. What is your thought about mentors in general?
One thing to never forget is people love to talk about themselves. It's because it's what we know best. When we don't know what to say or when we're meeting somebody new, you'll find it and pay attention to what you're saying. We often start talking about ourselves. That's the beauty of a mentor. People all around you want to help, whether that's other PT owners, the referrals that you obtain. Once you realize how smart these people are and you help them realize how smart they are and they see that you realize that, they're motivated to help you. They want to see you grow and succeed. That's natural. We don't find pleasure in seeing people suffer. We see the pleasure in people succeeding and us playing a part in that success. That's what brings a level of satisfaction to people professionally.
If someone's looking for a mentor, how do you recommend they go about it? Is it a simple email? Is it a call? Is it to figure out their schedule and see what conference they're going to be out next? How did you go about acquiring a mentor?
There are many different ways. The first part is always define your scope. Who do you need to network with? "I need to network with other PT owners." Is it hospitals? Is it orthopedic surgeon, primary care providers, your different referral lines? First, identify who that is and define your objective. Why that's important is because you need a goal. What's that goal? Is it to grow your patient panels? Is it to improve your pair mix? What exactly is that? Once you define those two things, you've targeted those individuals or those organizations. How do you find them? The beauty of the internet is everything's out there. You can google anybody. Before I meet anybody, I google them. I Facebook them. I LinkedIn them. When I tell that to people, some people are like, "That's weird. That's stalking." No, it's research. I'm paying attention to what you post, what you like, "You're a Kansas Jayhawk fan. There we go. We have a connection. I love college basketball."
You're looking for those things to connect, "You went to this school. We know these same people." You've got talking points to break the ice. People always wonder, “What do I say when I go in there?” Break the ice. Be human. Be normal. Find a connection because you've got to connect with that person in 30 seconds. That's going to dictate how long you're going to have to communicate with them at that time. Using the internet is the biggest tool. There are a lot of other great things: getting involved in the community, rotaries, Chamber of Commerce events, volunteer, play a part in the community. Whether that's some marathon run or some not-for-profit foundation, find where influential people are in the community and volunteer, help out. You will realize who knows who. That's where I'm always amazed. When I first started this career, I never thought my grandma knew anybody in healthcare. I never thought my cousins, aunt and uncle, my friends, parents.
You start paying attention to those things and you ask, "Do you know anybody?” In this case, use a physical therapist, an orthopedic surgeon. You'd be surprised who knows who. My grandma, of all people, somebody that she went to church with who would come over and check on her once a month and even come help her mow her lawn and bring her boys. He was a hospital administrator. In that long shot where I said, "I'll ask grandma." I had a connection. She had that relationship. She was able to say, "Can you do me a favor and talk to my grandson?" What do you think that guy is going to say? He's going to give me the time of day. Always reach out first to your own network, which is your family, your friends, your acquaintances.
Start looking again, reaching out what other connections do you have? Where did you do your education? There's an alumni connection that you automatically have. Being an alumnus myself of the University of Kansas, we pride ourselves in the Kansas Jayhawks. That's my immediate connection for anybody who is from Kansas and anybody who's from one of the big twelve conference schools in that region. Although they're not Kansas fans, we have a connection. I'm not going to rub it in their face, "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk." I'm going to talk about their school. A lot of it is start by talking to your family friends. Once you expand out of there, start connecting with the community. There's always LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a beautiful thing. I have a lot of caution with LinkedIn, but there are a lot of benefits if you do it right.
Tell me about that a little bit. Where you're going is great because it sounds like the same way you would get a mentor is the same way you would expand your network. Maybe with your mentor, you want to single out an individual, whereas the network you're going to cast the net wider as far as a group of people that you want to be a part of. Tell us how you use LinkedIn because I've used it honestly to expand my network, expand the guests on my podcast and reach out to people who are posting articles or I hear their names from somebody else. Initially, I'll start with the LinkedIn message, but tell me how you use it.
The best way to use it is there are filters available. You can search physical therapist. You can search for an area, put the city that you're in. Everyone who has an account is going to come up. If you're looking for a surgeon, a referral line, search for surgeon or doctor, search that area, even go as far as, where did you go to school? Where was your training? What are your passions, connections there? You can search where did you go to school. Type in PT your city and type in that school. You'd be surprised somebody may come up. Right there you already have multiple connections and things to break the ice about. I don't encourage everybody to start spamming. I honestly probably get about 20 to 30 invites a day. Usually, they're all trying to sell me something.
I don't read half of them. Every now and again I'll write somebody to quit messaging me because I'll look at the thread and see they've messaged me ten times in the last week and that's abusing it. It's ridiculous. You're never going to connect with somebody, that's a stalking method. Remember we're doing research. We're not stalking. Simply by adding them, connecting with them and now you've learned more about them. Go pop in and say hi. Go ask somebody in the community, "Do you know this person? Would you be willing to make an introduction?" LinkedIn is a wonderful resource. One, research. Two, to connect. Three, use it as a tool to help facilitate conversations.
I see the beauty of it because not only can you do all this footwork straight from your desktop, but you don't have to be an extrovert to do it. You don't have to be naturally gifted with social skills to take advantage of the social media and spread your network-wide. You can do a lot of it from scratch through the social media networks. When you finally do get a chance to meet them in person, that makes that opportunity, that conversation much easier.
A great thing about LinkedIn is it does notify your followers or those people who are following you that, "Jarom has a work anniversary. He's been working for three years at this organization." I do read those comments. Every now and again, somebody writes to me and says, "Congratulations. Great job." I don't even know who this person is. For some reason, I felt the desire to add them when they sent me the invite. I thought that's not spamming me. That's sincerity. I'll write back and say, "Thank you." Now I opened the door for them to write back and start a conversation with me. It's about paying attention to milestones. Honestly, one of the best strategies that physical therapists could use to connect in the community is to pay attention.
Read the newspaper. I know we're getting away from newspapers, but what I do is anytime I see an article about one of my doctors or somebody in this community that serves on my board or anybody influential in this community, I'll cut it out. I'll put a card with it and I'll tell him, "Congratulations, well-deserved. This is a great article." I'll mail that to them. In my job, we're in the paper a lot. I don't cut out every picture of myself and put it in a memory book. My mom lives in Montana. She certainly doesn't see it. If somebody sent me something like that, I'd be, "That's neat." It's personal. You want to stand out from everybody else. How do you do that? That's the challenge.
It's one thing to get that person into your network and now they're part of your team. You could grow that to hundreds and thousands of people. How do you maintain that network? Do you go out of your way to specifically hit up some of those people in your network?
It's the art of following up. Networking for most people is an easy thing. You're saying, "I don't want to network. I think it's manipulation. I'm not social. Networking isn't for me." Remember, you've been networking your whole life. You call it something different. It's called building a friendship. That's all networking is, it's building a relationship. Many times, I remember when I classified networking because I always did it. I was always great at it but it was natural. Once I figured out this thing called networking, there's some strategy to it. I realized there is a true art to following up. It's a Thank You card. I remember after visiting with the CEO of a health system in Arizona, one of my mentors gave me an introduction, set up a meeting, which is hard to get a meeting with these types of people. He spent an hour with me. I left and I realized I never left an invitation. There's no follow-up. Honestly it felt like, "I shook his hand and it's over."
I sat in the car. I didn't even pull out yet and I was already panicking like, "I can't waste this opportunity." Thank You cards go a long way. Thank them for spending that time. You could send an email. I get 300 to 500 emails a day. Sometimes I don't read those emails. There's too much. That's why I like Thank You cards because I will open that mail and I'll read it. That means something to me because it was personal. It was personalized. Another thing, gift baskets. You'd say, "Are you going to give him a gift basket for meeting with you?” “No. What's the occasion?" If they're in the news, if there's an anniversary, if they expanded their business, if the surgeon got another surgeon in their group or this physical therapist got a new building, send a gift basket.
Invitations. Invite them to stuff that you feel like they want to be at. They may not want to come to your barbecue. You’ve got to use common sense and fill people out. Are these the type of people that would hang out socially? If so, make that invite. My favorite is holiday cards. I love holiday cards. Every year, my family and I do a family photo and I send it to the people in my network. These are people that I necessarily call every month. I want them to remember who I am. I want to connect with them every so often. Once I get that card, they remember me. They remember that connection. All those are great strategies on following up. The key is before you even have that meeting with somebody, already have in your mind what the strategies are. Once you connect, rehab that conversation with yourself. What level did we connect on? Is it sports? Is it religion? Next sporting event, I'm going to send an invitation. I'm even going to buy that ticket because there's an investment, but I know that there's going to be a return professionally.
Your professional life has followed according to the mantra. You are the average of the five people around you. The greater the people that you can have around you, the more successful, the more positive, the more energetic, the more entrepreneurial, the more people that you have around you only lifts you up and provides you support. Whereas if you don't have a network like that, then you can feel isolated and alone. It's hard to find resources to give you the support that you need. It's looking outside of yourself and having a different perspective on things. There are many benefits that can come from networking and expanding your sphere of influence.
I love that you said that because as you start networking, look at who you hang out with. Look at who your friends are. Are they positive? Are they negative? I think about my place of employment. We employ hundreds of people. I always tell my directors, “Who do you hang out with here?” I know who the high performers are by who they associate with. All the negative people, all the complainers, the upset people, they're all friends. They all hang out. All the positive people, they're over here in another group. There are groups. I would assess who are you hanging out with?
Especially socially, as you're out in the community and not condoning drinking or partying to any degree, but when you're out in public, are you with that crew making yourself look like an idiot in front of the public or same thing as far as go ahead and google yourself? You’re googling everybody else here to do this research. Have you ever looked at your digital footprint? It blows your mind. In this day and age, employers are looking and googling these applicants because it says an awful lot about you, about what you're posting and sharing. I caution before you go add somebody on Facebook and LinkedIn professionally, make sure that they're going to see something that represents a brand that says, "That's my physical therapist. That's who I want to be mine," and post that appropriate stuff. You’ve got to be cautious on your digital footprint.
You talked about social media, but what about those times when you're going to a national conference, say the APTA Conference, PPS, what have you? There are people that maybe you want to target while you're there or maybe you're not targeting anyone specifically, but you want to break the ice and talk to somebody who's there that might look interesting or maybe someone who spoke that you'd like to pull aside for a couple of minutes. What are some of your recommendations on how to break the ice?
First, before you break that ice, come to the realization why are they there. They've paid money to be at this conference. Why do we go to conferences? We go to connect with people who would go to grow and learn. Growing and learning come from that speaker that's presenting and it comes from each other. We're all there. First, break that on the ice yourself thinking, "Nobody wants to talk to me." That's not true. We're all there for the same reason. Once again, it's a strategy where you're trying to find ways to connect with people. It could be as simple as look at what they're wearing. Do you have any commonalities? Comment on their tie, comment on their shoes, whatever it may be. When I see that, there's a class with it, "Nice shoes, have a good day." Why do you like those shoes? What do you like about that person?
You've got to find that and you've got to find a way to share that with them. Most importantly, it's as simple as an introduction. Never forget this. People love to talk about themselves. You always think, "What do I say?" How about you start by asking them who they are and what do they do. Once they started talking, continue to ask questions, ask questions until they ask who you are. You'll find that will flow naturally. “How long have you been practicing? Is there anybody else in your group or is it you? Do you have one location or two locations? How have you found success?” Before you know it, they've done all the talking. That's the great thing is to let them do the talking.
They carry the conversation. It's interesting cause when you get into those conversations and even though you're doing all the talking, you feel like there's a lot of give and take but you also feel like that person is interested in you. They're taking a personal interest and invested in the conversation. That goes a long way. One thing is you probably need to have your business cards on the ready so that you're well prepared. You have your toolbelt ready to go into some of these situations. It's almost like dating. If you're going to comment on a good-looking woman's shoes or a dress or something like that, then break the ice that way.
It is dating. The hard part about dating is the fall-through. You said it too, business cards. Always have an invitation whether that's, "I'm going to go out for coffee. We're going to go out and go walk the strip after this,” or whatever it may be. Give that invitation. That invitation maybe, "Here's my card. I enjoyed chatting with you. I'd love to chat with you more. Do you mind if I have your card?" You need to give and receive something and that comes with an invitation.
Are you also a part of small business networking groups or healthcare networking groups where you're part of maybe a mastermind or something like that?
There are various things, some I've been active, others I've dropped off on and it depends. There's a stage in life for everything. My needs today were not the same needs professionally or within the same network that I had a year ago. It evolves. Sometimes, I need a whole new network because of the stage I'm in. By all means, there are a lot of good groups out there and resources. Why are they there? The same reason you're there is to talk, to learn and to connect.
I came across another local physical therapist. We were talking about my podcast and he said, "How do you come across all these people? How do you know them all?" I was like, "Half of them I knew prior to, but it was being part of either consulting groups or mastermind groups.” It was part of the impetus for doing the podcasts because I thought, "Here's a bunch of incredible physical therapy clinic owners that have the keys to successful actions that should be a resource to other people and share some of their wisdom.” After that's tapped out, it was a matter of reading a few more of the industry publications and seeing who's writing the articles and reaching out to them or maybe reaching out to some of the common consultants that are out there and saying, "Are you interested in doing a podcast interview?"
It's through that taking advantage of those opportunities I was able to show this other physical therapy clinic owner that I saw that you can create it and network. It's not that hard, especially nowadays with social media. The importance of it now is that I can go back to some of those people, even if it was a year ago that I did the interview. I can email them and say, "Congratulations on this or that. How are things going?" I feel like these high rollers within our industry will know me and there's a benefit to that.
What you're doing is amazing. You're creating a platform for people to connect and refine their skillsets. Personally, I know a ton of physical therapists. You'd better believe I'm going to be showing them all your material and getting them connected because it’s a support system. I don't know how much support there is out there in the PT community. Most PTs are small business owners. You don't learn all these things in school. How do you run a business? How do you network? You learn how to become a great therapist, but that's it. For you to pull in all these resources and pull in experts from multiple areas, you're crazy not to be a physical therapist and be a part of this.
First of all, thank you. What I was trying to show is that it's not all that hard to create the network. Part of the reason why I do the podcast is I wish that I had the resources that are available to us now. Years ago when I opened up my first clinic, I felt like I was on an island trying to figure things all out by myself when there are a lot of resources out there now. I'm hoping that I'm one of those that can provide some good business knowledge to other people. It goes back to what you were saying. There are a lot of experienced professionals out there that are looking to give back. You have to take advantage if you're younger or even if you're not younger but you want to learn it a little bit more, take advantage of reaching out to those people who have been there before and done that.
Even in this industry, there are so many changes within healthcare, whether it's the payer structure. I know you do a lot with insurance. There's so much evolving and to tap into some resources because even in my field, I don't have time to read every piece of legislation and plan for the eighteen scenarios that may happen within the next election and how that's going to impact my industry and in the payers. It's resources like you're providing. It's education that is important that we realize that is out there. Years ago, when you needed to buy a new camera, what did you do? Who would you ask? You say, "Do I get this Canon or do I get this other brand?" Who did you ask? Your friend, your parents? You’ve got a few opinions. I'll never forget my wife when she was buying our first camera. She posted on Facebook. She had about 100 comments. You would have never got that in times of old. The reviews that people were giving opinions, that's the beauty of a network. Her network was her friends, her acquaintances on social media. Look what she gained because of our technology.
Anything else you want to share with us, Jarom, and anything else in your bag of secrets?
Building relationships is natural. Remember, it takes time. You're not going to be best friends with somebody overnight. These people aren't going to give you everything that you need right away. It takes time. It's the art of following up, maintaining. Networking is about building. It's about maintaining a relationship. Building is easy. We're naturally good at finding and building a relationship. Maintaining it, that takes work. It takes work to be a good friend, a good father, a good mother, a good daughter but most importantly, a good business professional. Whether that's to your colleagues, to your patients or to those referring to your business. Never lose sight that it takes time, but it pays off.
Thanks again for your time. If people wanted to reach out to you and maybe make you part of their network, how would they do that?
Probably one of the best ways is I love connecting on LinkedIn. Don't send me ten messages in ten days. I give a preface to that. LinkedIn is always good. You can find me, Jarom Schmidt, on LinkedIn. I'm happy to give my email. It's JaromJSchmidt@Hotmail.com. I'm always open to connecting. That's the beauty of a network. If I know people, if anybody needs it, introductions, I'm happy to make those introductions. Anything I can do to be a resource to you, Nathan, and your audience, let me know.
I appreciate you for making that offer both to me and my audience but also taking the time. It's important stuff. I'm glad I could hit this and bring it home because it's been part of my mantra since the get-go. It's important that physical therapists network because there's so much value that we can learn from each other. We’ve got to tap into that power that's available to us. Thanks for reminding us of that and taking us down that road.
Thanks for having me, Nathan. I appreciate it. It's great to be part of this.
Jarom is a bright student who has amazing potential. He understands what it means to be a leader, as well as a team player. Understand complex issues and is able to see a problem from multiple perspectives, which allows him to visualize the bigger picture and provide multiple solutions.