Eric Miller of Econologics is back on the show with Nathan Shields to talk about money. His episode, released a couple months ago, is the most listened-to episode in the two-year history of the podcast, discussing what PT owners needed to do financially as they slowed down during the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as clinics begin ramping up, he's back to discuss what owners need to do to re-establish their financial foundation and set themselves up to weather any future downturns. He lists five accounts each owner should establish and the mindset needed to establish wealth. It's simple yet takes consistent effort and intention.
I've got a returning guest, one of my favorites, Eric Miller of Econologics. Eric, thanks for coming on again.
It's always a pleasure and a privilege. It's good to see and fear the beard now.
Also, be jealous of your tan. You are doing well down in Florida enjoying the sun. It's great to have you back here, our favorite financial planner. I love going to you for advice. In your episode, we talked about financial management through COVID-19 is by far one of my most read blogs. You shared some great wealth of knowledge, but we're in a different space. People are still hurt. They're not running at peak efficiencies. There's somewhere in the 40%, 60%, 70% productivity range. Private practice owners are gradually getting back into play. Some might even still be shut down, but we want to talk about what we can do to reset financially. I've talked in past episodes about resetting business-wise, our goals, purpose, marketing strategies, how we see our businesses and getting back into them the way we want to build them back up again.
Let's talk financially about ramping back up and reestablishing some fundamental aspects to our financial foundation in our business. That will do a lot of us good as we start looking forward. I know you're going to talk about this, but to summarize, we're going to talk about PPP loans, how to use some of that money and how to eventually be in a better position to withstand these issues going forward. Let's start with some of the PPP stuff, to begin with, unless there's something you want to get off your chest right away.
The whole idea is that we have to get the attitude that we're all going to try to get into financial beast mode. Let’s forget we're trying to get by. Let's have the idea that we can get in financial beast mode, which is a term that we're starting to use a lot more. Let's up the game a little bit. Let's up the intensity of what needs to be done to get our financial house in order.
It does so much for you to be financially sound, provide so much freedom, and puts you in a position of power that you otherwise don't have. When you can establish the foundation financially, be profitable, and force that profit from your business. There's so much power to come from that.
You can relax to that degree and when you're relaxed about your money, it's amazing to watch what happens. The best opportunities that I see that come to practice owners is when they're relaxed about their financial condition. That's when they seem to get the best opportunities that come to them.
It seems like those opportunities find them. You don't have to go far, they'd put the word out here or there like, “I want to invest in something.” They get resources, they do some due diligence and suddenly, you're making money on top of money.
Good things happen to you.
Tell the owners what they should be thinking about with the PPP. A lot of them got funding, probably the majority of them. How should they see that money? What should they expect?The best owners are very patient with investing money but impatient with the money coming in. Click To Tweet
As you said, a lot of practice owners are around 60% to 65% back to seeing the patient that they were at. A lot of them have gotten this influx of money that is sitting in their checking accounts. The first thing is that when you get a lot of money, you have to pay attention to making sure that it doesn't get spent on the things that it shouldn't be there for. The purpose of the money is for whatever the stipulations were as part of the CARES Act and you should use it for that. At the same time, you're still seeing patients, you're still collecting money and I would be aggressive on my collections line. I would be making sure that when I'm bringing people back, especially in that area, we're collecting money and pushing production back up to the numbers that we need to get to.
You’re saying don’t be compassionate when it comes to copays and deductibles. We need to draw a hard line.
Let's not be complacent. Let's try to break all these bad habits that we had with money in the past. You got to be aggressive on your collections. The best owners that we both seen are impatient with production and not seeing a lot of money come in. They're patient with investing money and being diligent with investing money, but you want to be impatient on money coming in. I would spend a lot of time making sure I was collecting money and then I would make sure that you are controlling that money and you're stacking Benjamins at this point because I don't know what's going to happen in the future. We could get another wave of uncertainty. I don't think the people are going to tolerate another shutdown, but people are still nervous and scared and they may not show up. I would have a lot more in liquidity than what people have told you that you need in the past. For me, it's important that you have that liquidity. I would stack as much money as I possibly can.
If they didn't have it before, people recognize the importance of having a line of credit available to them at any given time. Would you recommend that having a line of credit open and available to you?
I'm always going to recommend that you have lines of credit open for everyone. I would even look at it a little differently. There are five important accounts that every practice owner should have going forward. The level of financial unpreparedness is evident. A lot of practices couldn't survive for more than one month without making any money. That was an economic reality for many practices. There's an engineering term called having a factor of safety. If you're going to cross a bridge and it says, “This bridge can only hold 5,000 pounds,” the engineers didn't build it so that if the car weighs 5,001, then the whole thing is going to come crashing down. They build that factor of safety. As an owner, you’ve got to have that same mindset when it comes to running your household finances or your business finances. You have to have buffers in place. For us, I'm trying to tell a lot of practice owners, “You’ve got to control money differently than what you did in the past.” There are five different accounts that I would set up and make sure that they're part of what my make or break number would be for my business.
Do you literally have five separate accounts?
Yes. I can dive deep into that and quickly explain each one of them. The first one, we call our wealth storage account. That's where the first 10% of your practice revenue transfers from the business to a personal wealth-building plan so that you can create other income streams for your household. That is what we call your owner pay. That is the reward that you get for the risk that you took in putting that business there having to deal with all the employee issues, the debt payments, and the compliance aspect of it. That's your owner pay so we call that the wealth storage account. That would be account number one.
Ten percent gross revenues off to the side down.
Right off the top, like you didn't make it.
I told you before if I had done that from the beginning, my financial situation would be significantly better.
It would be good. If you can at least get that one in, you're going to win the game. The second one would be a business protection and liability fund. What's the purpose of this? We all realized that we did not have enough in business reserves to pay our expenses for more than a month. I would start siphoning off money into that account. That's for the purpose of creating about three months of business reserves.
When you say business reserves, would you get that number from your CPA of your fixed expenses only?
You can make it like payroll, rent, utilities and those kinds of things.
A skeleton crew with grants and that kind of stuff. It's not your entire gross expenses. It may scale back a little bit, but multiply that by three.
It may not include all your profits and everything like that, but it would certainly be a number so that the organization can function for at least three months. Not only that, but that money would be there if you ever got sued for some reason. That would be to settle a lawsuit for legal fees. Anything that has to do with the protection of the business. We all realize that big corporations have these kinds of accounts. If they get attacked, they have resources to defend themselves.
Most of our professional liability plans cover us for $1 million to $3 million, depending on our plan but the out of pocket expenses usually somewhere around $10,000. You’ve got to make sure you have that.
It's like weather-related. Sometimes, you have a snow day and you can't see patients. You still got to pay the bills. It's an important fund to have for the protection of the business. The third one was simple. It's a tax account. In any business, most of the businesses that we see are S Corp, partnerships, or LLC’s taxes S Corp. The profits flow through to the owners. You're liable for the tax on the profits of the business personally. It would make sense to work with your CPA, get some a projection of what you think your estimates are going to be, and make sure money is being siphoned in that account. Nobody likes to get a call from their accountant that says, “You owe $50,000.” You’re like, “I don't know where I'm going to pay the money from.”
I've been there a couple of times. I had to learn the hard way. A couple of times, I had to get hit over the head. It's April and my CPA was in a great mood. He was like, “You had an awesome year last year. You made a ton of money. You did great. Do you think you're going to do the same next year?” I'm like, “Yes, I'm going to kill it.” He’s like, “Make sure you put a check in the mail for $80,000 for the IRS because it's April 14th.” I’m like, “What?” I had to figure that out quickly. Setting money aside is important too.
You want to set money aside for that. At the same time when you start making a lot of money, you're going to want to invest or utilize that money to create tax structures where you can minimize your overall tax liability. You need money to do that. They set up structures so that they can utilize them to offset their taxes.
When you say other structures, you're talking about other LLCs that cover your family, toys and cars?Practice owners are overachievers. If you don't have a target, you are doing yourself a disservice. Click To Tweet
Yes, or other advanced tax structures like conservation easements or captive insurance companies, things that you can create, but you need money to do that. That can help offset. You can either pay that or the IRS, you choose. I'd rather do that one right there. The fourth account is simply going to be a business expansion account. How I try to look at this is there's this idea that you have to use debt to expand. You can use debt to expand, but I don't think it's always necessary to have to use it. In business, you should be able to have enough profit where you can reinvest some of the profits to use for expansion, either buying more equipment, buying satellite practice or putting 20% down on a new building or something like that. The idea that I always have to use debt to expand, I don't think is necessarily true. I would have some business expansion funds that you use to facilitate the growth and expansion of your business.
Especially as physical therapists, when we expand like that, that usually entails hiring on a physical therapist which is going to require some upfront salary before you get a return on that investment. Whether it's a new PT that you've got to bring on or tenant improvements that you need to do the space to build a bigger building. They want the cash upfront for that and the bank is going to ask you to put some cash down in these situations, have some available and ready for you. That way, the opportunities before you with so much cash and reserves specifically for business development make it that much easier.
Let's say that you did borrow a bunch of money to expand a bunch of practices and all of a sudden, they shut down the economy. You then have no money coming in and you have all this debt service to pay. It's another reason why I have a mindset that I don't necessarily need to always borrow to expand. It doesn't mean that you don't borrow money because borrowing money for expansion or cashflow producing assets is warranted but not necessarily all the time, especially for a PT practice. The last account, my favorite account, and I came up with this, so this is mine. It's called a celebration account. A lot of practice owners wildly don't celebrate their victories as much as they should. It's a grind sometimes and you need to celebrate to get off that mental charge that accumulates with that grind. I have people siphoned out. It doesn't have to be much, it can be $1,000 a month or something like that. It’s like, “If you hit the goal, I got this $10,000, $12,000, $20,000 and I'm going to blow and have a celebration of some kind.” It's important to have something like that as well.
Life is all about the experiences. If you want more cool experiences that you can generate, how rich is your life? The cool thing I like about all of these is I've done this to a certain extent myself. It makes it so easy if you have automatic transfers. I have my tax account and I know how much my taxes should be at the end of the year whether it's property taxes or personal taxes, we can estimate and whatnot. I have an automatic draw from the business account into that account. Same thing with my Business Protection Liability. I siphoned off a little bit of money so I never have to think about it. You set it up one time and it siphons money off every month. The money was never there, to begin with. It's not like you're writing a check and grimacing at the same time.
A lot of practices have an opportunity to set these accounts up. You want to set it up automatically and systematically doing this. What it does is it puts an expense on the business and that expense needs to be covered by demand of income. That's why it works. That's the only reason why it works because the business now gets accustomed to it as an expense style. I would start small and then build up over time in doing that but if you can get most of these accounts in as expenses, then you are never going to have to worry about turbulent financial times because everything is covered. That's how it should be. That should be normal. It shouldn’t be, “I have to borrow $150,000 or $200,000 from the government to save my bacon.” I don't think anybody wants to get in the habit of doing that because it makes people not be responsible necessarily for their money condition if there's no way you can lose.
Let's take this as an opportunity as the lesson learned. Hopefully, for most of the people out there that are reading, they weren't completely devastated. They have an opportunity as they're building back up that they can establish these different accounts and set up for their future. The Wealth Storage Concept that I had Christopher Music on, one of my first episodes in 2018. By the way, we had our anniversary here, the first part of June 2020 with a contest. He mentioned 10% off the top and that blew my mind crazy. Since I’ve read about it with Mike Michalowicz in Profit First, and he has a great way of laying it out and whatnot. Even if it's not 10%, to begin with, how easy would it be to start with 1% or 2% of your gross revenues, siphoned off and then increase by a single percentage point every month or two until you get the time? You can either rip off the Band-Aid and go straight to 10%, or you could gradually build up if that’s going to be a little bit hard for you.
I wouldn't encourage that. I would start with like you said, a flat dollar amount and then automatically program it up over a 10 to 12-month period until you get up to your 10%. It gets the business accustomed to that as an actual expense. That's the best way that I've seen it done but it works either way. All of a sudden, you’ve got a couple hundred thousand dollars sitting in your wealth storage account, your business accounts are looking healthy and you feel like you're in control of your money.
It puts you in a position of power because the last thing you want to be is in the same situation that you were, especially if you got negatively affected by the pandemic. You don't want to be in that position with so much going on around us, so much unrest and many questions about the future.
Not me, not at all. Think about how people are feeling now. You almost felt like a dartboard like everything was happening to you. Unfortunately, a lot of that has to do with how the system is set up and a lot of business owners feel that way. They're under a monetary system where your money is not worth anywhere near it was years ago because of inflation and they're putting more money now. You're under a political system where you're like, “I have no idea who to trust. I don't believe either party. I don't believe anything that they're saying.” We were under a tax system that's completely ambiguous and hard to understand. You're under a healthcare system.
I don't have to tell PTs about the healthcare system. You're under a legal system where the rights of you as an owner are underneath the rates of employees or anybody that would want to target you for your money. You're under an investment system where you put all of your money in the stock market. We'll hope and pray that everything will turn out even though I don't have much control over that. I can understand why practice owners are spinning around sometimes but there is a way to fight back. The first thing is that you have to take the viewpoint that I can do something about each of those and then get a plan together on how you're going to fight back because what's the alternative?
It's not hard. That's the thing. There are not a lot of mental gymnastics going on here. You have to open up a few bank accounts and spend an hour or two setting up transfers. Over time, there’s a lot of comfort in knowing that everything is managed financially.
All of those things I mentioned can be done in such a short period of time. The actions that you would need to create in order to change your financial trajectory. People think it's going to be this long and arduous process and it's going to be like, “I'm going to have to change my lifestyle and all that.” You do a little bit but at the end of the day, isn't it worth it to pay the price for the next 2 to 5 years to have the rest of your life where you never have to worry about money again? To me, that's worth whatever uncomfort you'd have to do in the short-term to put in the systems in place so that your household and your business can flourish over the course of the next 30 to 40 years. Don't be shortsighted about things. Don't fall in the trap of, “I always have to have the nicest car or the most expensive house.” You can do all those things but you have to follow good financial habits and pay a little price in the beginning.
I want to touch on quickly that came to me. It was something that an exercise that we went through in your three-day Financial Freedom Summit that you have done. It was simply an exercise that you took. The group of us, but it was me and my wife, sitting down and determining what our monthly revenue goal was as a household. I wonder if that's appropriate for people to consider because you did a previous webinar about readjusting your 2020 goals for your clinic. It's a good time to consider our financial goals for our household. If you haven't gone through the exercise before, figure out what is that monthly goal that you have in revenue that comes from your clinics to your home? We set a number that is that's high for us. At that time, we're like, “I don't know if that could happen.” That's our number. It's not just meeting our expenses, it was double of what we assumed our expenses would be. It was crazy which would make us living high on the hog if we can get to that but it's getting close.
I'm telling you, if you don't have a target, you are doing yourself a disservice. Practice owners are overachievers. They love to achieve targets. This is the problem I have when people are working with financial advisors. I asked them, I was like, “Did they give you an actual income target for your household? How much money do you need to make? That doesn't consist of what's going to cover to pay your ‘expenses.’ That would include you putting money away into investments to create other income streams that would include your taxes and the other goals that you have. How much do you need to make to live the life that you want to live?” It is unlimited. Once you get that number and you see it, it's not a confusion. It's a certainty point. All you have to do is say, “I thought it was $200,000 a year, but it turns out that I need to make $400,000 a year. How am I going to do this?”
The good news is you have a business. How much would I need to get this business up to where I could earn $400,000 a year for my household? You operate on that target. By doing that, it's amazing what happens. Year-after-year, client after client, when I give them targets, I look back and I show them like, “Remember when we gave you that target?” I look back, “How much have you made?” They're like, “I didn't think about that.” I'm not taking credit for it but it's part of giving the observation of things and giving someone some reality that, “This is what you need to do.” It increases your necessity level, financial awareness, and demand for money. That's the secret sauce there because all I do is show people how to channel it, control it and hopefully expand it but it's your job to go out and make it.
It's a cool exercise. The coaching clients that I have, I'll say, “What are your financial goals with regards to the clinic?” “I want to pull $200,000 a year from that clinic.” I'll say, “What does that mean? What profit margins are you running at? How many visits does that entail? Are you working full-time or part-time or not at all?” That stumps them. They want to get to the number. Working backward and figuring out it's not a number, it's an ideal scene that you want to get to. Let's get clear about that. Once we have some clarity about that and what your part is in that ideal scene, let's work back into the numbers and see where the gap is between where you are now and what you want to be at because you'll then recognize that, “I'm only seeing eight new patients a week. I need to bump that up to twenty.” “What are your marketing efforts going to take to get from eight new patients a week to twenty new patients a week?” That starts giving you some action items but if you have some clarity about that number, there's something magical about putting that intention out in the universe.
You hit it right on the head that the clearer you are precisely what you need or what you want your scene to look like, the better you can compare it to where you are now and you can see what the outpoints are. For a lot of people, the gap isn't that much. It doesn't take a lot to bridge that gap but you need a plan. You need someone to hold you accountable to making sure that you're hitting those numbers as well. That's an important part.
That's huge whether it's a financial planner. Honestly, a lot of the financial planners that I have had in the past aren't good at communicating in those aspects. Finding the right financial planner and a coach that can walk you through that thing is important. They make you verbalize and hold you accountable like you're talking about. That's a huge part of the process. Another success story. One of my first guests was Sean Miller. He sold his practices at the same time we did, but five years earlier, he said he had a number in mind that was like, “I want to get to this number as far as wealth. I want many thousands or millions,” whatever that number was for him. Five years later, he hit it and there's something to it. We're talking about action steps and that stuff but sometimes it's simply the intention is out there, you visualize it, you have that number and you keep that number in your head.
It's a decision that you make. You look at the derivation of the word decision. It means to cut off. When you make a decision that you made, you cut off anything else that would prevent you from reaching whatever that is. There's some power behind that. I can't explain a lot of things but you can observe the phenomenon and know that it's true because you observe it.
Once you make that decision or things, that tend to fall in place.It's important that you get a plan, get some direction, and be very precise on what you're trying to achieve. Click To Tweet
As long as there's a good purpose there. Another thing too, you keep your ethics in good shape and that to me is a secret for success because if you're doing the right things, there seems to be a reward for that. People that are doing immoral, destructive actions, there is a penalty to pay on that one. That's a whole other webinar.
I did another episode with Mike Bills. It was simply not so much that he was doing anything immoral, but he put more emphasis on improving himself. As he did that, as he focused on himself making his time sacred and holding other people accountable around him, his business tripled in about eighteen months.
It can happen so fast.
It can happen quickly. There's some power to maintain your ethics and don't sleep until 10:00 AM. You're not going to get to your number by that, but to maintain your ethics, hold that number fast and steady. As you said, the clinic owners we're overachievers, we'll get there. We'll find a way.
We always do. I love it.
Thanks for coming on. Any parting shots? Anything coming up with the Econologics that you want to share?
I would say to your readers, we're offering 15 to 30-minute free consultation. If they want to contact us, then they can certainly meet with one of our specialists and we'll cover any questions that they have from a financial aspect. I would not wait. I would not pause and contemplate what I'm going to do with my money. Now, it's important that you get a plan, get some direction and be very precise on exactly what it is that you're trying to achieve because the dangers of not doing something like that are too great. There is going to be a different financial scene in this country in the next years.
The people that know how to produce, manage their money, control their money, invest it correctly and stay out of debt, all those things that we show people how to do are going to be rewarded for that. The people that are saying everything is going to go back to normal, I'll do the things that I did in the past. You're going to get punished at some point in time because it goes against natural law. My call to action is to get on a plan, get with someone that can hold you accountable for your actions and you can reach out to us. I'll give you a link or something like that, that they can schedule a 15 to 30-minute time with us to talk.
Go ahead and share that with us. What is that? How can we get in touch with you?
You can always go to EconologicsFinancialAdvisors.com and reach out to us that way. We've got a YouTube Channel as well, Econologics Financial Advisors. That will be a couple of ways you can get ahold of us.
You have some great webinars coming out every so often. The next one is Seven Tax Saving Strategies and stuff like that.
We're going to talk about taxes. I do want to mention that too because a lot of people that have gotten all this money from the PPP loan that they're hoping to get forgiven and it may, but at the same time, you're also building up all this cash from the money that you're not spending now. You’ve got to be a little cognizant of how much you're going to have to pay in taxes. I would tune into that. We'll give you four fairly simple, powerful strategies that nobody is using. I'm going to give you two advanced tax strategies that can minimize your taxes by $20,000 to $50,000. It's worth tuning into that and then we're going to talk a little self-storage and real estate investments. We're going to put out a lot of good webinars.
Hopefully, people stay in touch and stay in tune with what you're putting out because you've got some great content.
Thanks for coming on.
Eric Miller has been in the financial planning industry for over 20 years. He’s a co-owner of Econologics Financial Advisors – awarded an Inc. 5000 honoree for 2019. As the Chief Financial Advisor for the firm, Eric has had the good fortune to have over 10,000 financial conversations with private practice owners in various healthcare industry and helped guide them into a more optimum financial condition using a proven system.
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There is nothing more comforting than knowing that you are financially secure for the future. Bringing in a trusted expert from Econologics Financial Advisors, Eric Miller gets into the mindset, attitude, and strategic plans you need in place to secure your wealth for the future and for your household. Eric and Econologics have been working as financial advisors to hundreds of private practice owners over the past decade. Thus, they know some of the pitfalls that we share when it comes to our finances and what it takes for owners to become financially free. Eric goes beyond the investments and portfolios and sets you up with the right mindset and financial purpose and goals that are in line with your retirement plans. Secure your household and make your clinic the vehicle by which you achieve your financial goals in this episode.
I get to talk about money, one of my favorite topics. One of the reasons why I got into business was to have more freedom and security for my future. I decided to bring on Eric Miller of Econologics. If you remember, we had Christopher Music of Econologics on. I've been working with them for a little over a year. I do have to have full disclosure that I have an interest in their performance. I've also been a happy client. The reason why I like Econologics is not only do I like their perspective on financial planning but also the amount of communication they provide. If you follow my episode with Frank Cawley, we talked about important financial indicators like KPIs, reports and developing a financial team. Those things are all important. What I get into with Eric is more the mindset, attitude and strategic plans that you need to have in place in order to secure your wealth for the future and for your household. Important items to consider, this is all about securing the household and making our clinics the vehicle by which we achieve our financial goals. Let's get to the episode.
I've got Eric Miller, Chief Financial Advisor of Econologics joining me to talk about one of my favorite topics, money. Thanks for coming on, Eric. I appreciate it.
My pleasure, Nate.
Can you share with us a little bit about your experience as a financial advisor and your practice or work with private practice owners? What's got you to this point?
Long story short, I am a financial advisor and I've been in the financial industry for about twenty years. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio. I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1990. The funny thing is I get so jealous of practice owners because a lot of you knew what you were going to do when you're 8 to 10 years old. I was 29 years old before I knew what I wanted to do. I always had an interest in money. For some reason, it was an area that always attracted me. I didn't study the subject when I went to college. When I got out of college, I worked for a mutual fund company selling 401(k)s and managed accounts.
I started to get introduced to what financial advisors did. By and large, what I found out was although they were benevolent and they wanted to do a good job, it was mostly an accumulation of assets. That's what they did. They didn't focus on, “How do we change someone's financial condition?” It was, “How much money can we manage?” I met a friend that said, “I'm going to start a financial planning company down in Florida. Do you want to join me?” At that point, I had a house, a dog and a girlfriend. I knew that was my purpose at that point in time. Like many people, I was like, “If I'm going to do it, I better do it right now,” and I jumped. I drove down there and got rid of that life. This was in 2008. Do you remember what was happening in 2008?
Bad timing.Your practice is what drives your personal wealth. It is the main money artery that most private practice owners have. Click To Tweet
It was a global meltdown. The stock market was down 50% and banks overlent to everyone. It was chaos. It was the worst time you could think of to start a financial planning company. We were thinking to ourselves, “We have to do something differently. We can't rely upon all these financial institutions for people to get financially independent.” We had to come up with a system where the business owner himself could be put back into control of his financial destiny. That's what we worked on. We started working with private practice physical therapists. It was the first type of clientele that we worked with. We developed our system of showing a business owner how he can be in charge of his financial future as opposed to putting it in somebody else's hands. How does he do that? How does he use the business as the engine to do that? We focused a lot of our efforts on that. We started working with veterinarians and other private practitioners, but our core is working with private practice physical therapists.
It’s cool that you niched down like that. You've had so much experience over the past decade focused mainly on physical therapists, so you'll know some of the ins and outs of our dilemmas, issues and whatnot.
That's the fun part about it. Your practice is what drives your personal wealth, for most of you. You don't always want to be in that financial condition. That's where most of the money comes from. That's the main money artery that most private practice owners have. If you're advising someone, you better know something about their business that you're going to help them with their money. We do spend a lot of time on that.
You've been working for over twenty years. For the past decade of working specifically with physical therapists, what are some of the things that you would recommend they consider as they're trying to establish a better financial picture or financial condition? We have plenty of display vehicles out there whether that's the traditional 401(k)s, IRAs and stuff. What is your advice to some of the physical therapists out there?
The main thing that we try to get across is number one, you have to treat your household like a business. What I mean by that is that a lot of physical therapists get trapped in the practice. They're there to serve the practice as opposed to the practice being there to serve them. The first thing that we try to teach private practice owners is that you are not there to serve this practice. It's there to serve your household. When you start doing financial planning, it starts with the household. What are the goals and purposes of the household? How can the practice benefit that? What we do is to teach them your point of where you're controlling things. If you look like a company like Facebook. Facebook is the parent company. It owns 80 companies underneath it. Those companies are there to serve Facebook, not the other way around. Our households are no different. Your household, the Nathan Shields’ household, all your kids and your beautiful wife, that's the parent company. That's where everything flows to for the benefit of that.
It's a paradigm shift. Many owners need to make it because they get trapped inside of the company. I espouse that all the time. That's why I want people to reach out and step out of the business so they can work on the business. It's the same thing when you're talking about financials. It's a mindset shift instead of, “What do I need to do inside this business to keep it afloat?” No, you're saying step out and look at it from the household perspective and say, “What does my household need to survive, sustain and prepare for the future? What can the company do for me in order to achieve my household goals?”
When you have that mindset shift right there, it's amazing what happens. You start to put the correct systems in the business that allow you to extract out of it so you can operate from the household level as opposed to being stuck in the business. When you have a plan, you start to know your identity. When you're in the business, you have certain roles that you have to play. You have your owner role, executive role and practitioner role. Not a lot of people are wearing that owner role like they should. That's where we teach people how to do that.
They conflate executive or administrative work with ownership work. Those are two different things. They maybe can hire an office manager to take over some of those administrative/executive functions and responsibilities. That doesn't absolve you from still being an owner, setting up your company appropriately, strategizing and making sure that it funds the household. This is on top of funding itself, so it can sustain your household.
You hit it right on the head. You can pick two of those roles. You can be an owner/executive or you can be an owner/practitioner, but you're always going to be an owner. You have to make sure that you have that mindset of what an owner does. What does an owner do? They make sure that the practice is creating maximum value for themselves and the household. They're trying to build the practice to the highest value that it possibly can provide for the household. That's what a good owner does.
When you sit in the ownership seat, you also never lose the Chief Financial Officer seat at our size. You're still the CFO. You can't delegate that and you shouldn't. You need to be on top of your cashflow.
You absolutely do. The biggest mistake that I see a lot of practice owners do is they stop paying attention to their money. For whatever reason, that's the one thing that you can never do. Money loves attention. It's like a two-year-old at the mall. If you take your attention off a two-year-old at the mall, you have no idea where they're going to end up. Things get lost and your money is no different. When you take your attention off of your money lines, even for a split second, it's amazing how the money will disperse everywhere. Being a good CFO doesn't mean that you have to know how to do spreadsheets and all those technical things. It means that you have to be a good controller of money. It means that you have to be responsible with money. You have to know the basics of money. It isn't that complex at all. It takes some training that you didn't get in PT school.
I can say that my financial situation improved when I started holding my CPA responsible for teaching me what a P&L was about, what a balance sheet looks like, and cashflow reports. I said, “I need to meet with you monthly so you can show me all these things.” I got my own education about finances. On top of that, I started meeting regularly with my biller, which I didn't do before. I was reviewing some of the billing reports and asking them to tell me, “What does this mean? What does this say? What should I know about this, that or the other?” That's when my ship started tightening up or when I started plugging some holes in that bucket. I could see the difference in finances.When you have a plan, you start to know your identity. Click To Tweet
All you were doing is putting your attention in an area that maybe you didn't confront for a while. One of the things that happen to a lot of practice owners is there's a lot of financial terminology that people don't understand and I totally get that. It's an easy area to say, “I don't want to confront this.” You need to dig into it and have some key metrics. A big thing, especially from the household perspective, is making sure that you have measurements or statistics to track your overall financial condition. It's not that hard to do. That's an obstacle that I see as well. A lot of people don't have correct financial statistics that they use to measure the kind of progress that they're supposed to be making.
A lot of people like looking at account statements. You look at your 401(k) statement and see how your mutual funds are doing. “I see that my bank account is a little bit bigger than it was from the week before and that's okay.” These are some of the things that I've asked people, “What do you use to measure your financial progress?” It's crazy some of the answers that I get. You have to look at that and have a list of metrics that can gauge the condition of the household if you're going to run it like a business. If you’re going to do that, you’ve got to do it professionally.
As people are trying to walk that path towards financial freedom or simply improving their financial situation, what are some highlights or actions that they can take in order to do that?
One of the biggest things is that you have to have a target. The first thing would be like, “What's the financial target that I want to achieve?” I created this chart called the Seven Zones of Financial Freedom. I wanted to make sure that people realize, “What financial condition am I in? What does that mean from a statistical point of view? What financial condition am I trying to get to?” That's defined by how much income I’m making, what my overall net worth is, how much ratio of my good debt versus my bad debt, how many income streams does my household have? These are things that you can look at and you can measure. The first thing would be like, “What financial zone do I want to get into?”
Regardless of what it is, personally, for a practice owner that is in control of your financial destiny, that can create as much value as you want to in your marketplace. If you want to be in a condition where you don't have to have concerns about money, your overall financial target has to be at least $7 million to $10 million of total assets. That to me would be a fairly safe financial condition to get into. It doesn't mean you have to save $7 million. When you look at the value of your business, maybe your real estate or other endeavors that you get into, that's the target you should be shooting for. That's a big thing because we haven't been taught to have that point of view. It's been like, “Let's accumulate a couple of million dollars in a 401(k) plan and let's hope that we don't run out of money.” That's not financial freedom.
As we get started at a young age, we think that retirement goal is so far off that it's not feasible to consider that down the road. The more attention you pay to it, maybe you get a little accelerant and you can get closer to that goal faster than you think. It doesn’t have to be all in your clinic. It could be on other vehicles but there's no reason why you can't accumulate those kinds of assets.
The wealth accumulation is almost like a hockey stick graph or a grind. When you’re trying to create an owner independent practice, you're trying to put these things in and you're not seeing these huge results, then all of a sudden over a two or three-year period, you see these massive results. Wealth building is the same way. You're doing the same repetitive and boring things that you would do and you're like, “I don't know if I'm making a lot of progress.” It accelerates towards the end. The other thing would be the time frame to get into a financially independent state. It doesn't need to take 25 to 30 years to do that. You should be able to do that within 7 to 10 years if you're concentrating on your main money source, which is your practice and building that up.
Are there some things out there that you hear financial advisors recommend that you'd say, “That’s probably not the way you should go?”
To me, it's more of a mindset than the recommendations because I found that every investment vehicle has its place. It's the utilization of it and how you're applying it to your situation. There's not a bad investment, aside from someone trying to rip you off. There's some workability to retirement plans, managed accounts, life insurance or annuities. It would be like, “What's your strategy first?” That would be the first thing I would start with, “What’s your overall strategy?” I'll give you an example of what our strategy is for most of our clients. I have an acronym for it. I call it PREP. It stands for Produce income and be profitable in your business. That's the first target. Second, make sure that you are setting up an automatic and systematic way that you're retaining cashflow from the business to the household. Eradicate all bad waste like interest, cost and debt. Protect your assets from any kind of loss including taxes and lawsuits. PREP, that's a strategy right there. If you focus on those four things, you're going to have a mountain of success.
Anything else that falls below that would be tactics. “Do I buy this policy or that policy?” “Do I put money in this investment or that investment?” It's all part of an overall strategy. A lot of practice owners get caught up in tactics as opposed to strategy. This money market accounts yielding 0.5. Should I put my money on this one or should I put this one that's dealing 1.2? They put their attention on things that aren't going to move the needle on their financial condition. We spent a lot of time thinking about what's the strategy first and then tactics. It was Sun Tzu who had a great quote that he said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, but tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” I thought that was important. I know when someone's about ready to lose financially when all they want to do is talk about investment products and performance of something. They’re all about tactics, they're not about the overall strategy. It's interesting.
Do you see a typical pattern when it comes to physical therapy owners? Are they focused on tactics more so? Is there something about physical therapy owners that's unique and that you have to fix even if it's mindset or strategy?
For the most part, physical therapy owners are healthcare professionals. They love to help people. A lot of them are trying to push themselves out of the practitioner role in trying to be better executives and owners. I see that in more so in the physical therapy field than I do in veterinary or dentist. People that are veterinarians or dentists, they love being practitioners. Not that physical therapists don't like being practitioners, but they seem to have the business acumen. They can see what could happen if I get a lot of physical therapists here working under me and I grow this business and I scale it. I can create something that has a mountain of value to it. From a mindset standpoint, I still see a bit of scarcity and some of the decisions that practitioners make. Money is scarce and it’s either this or that. It's never both. A lot of what we're trying to do is trying to make sure that they look at it from that perspective, “I don't have to do this or that I can do both.” How much money does the practice need to produce in order to do that and making sure that I keep my profitability level at a certain amount so I can do that?Money loves attention like a two-year-old at the mall. If you take your attention off them, you have no idea where they're going to end up. Click To Tweet
That's true for most physical therapy owners. There's a scarcity mindset. There's a lot of fear involved in what we do. They also tend to be a significant amount of burnout from what I can tell, so that's why maybe there's that transition out of patient care more so. You don't see a lot of older physical therapists in the profession.
That's funny that you should say that because a lot of the burnout comes from an industry where you're relying upon insurance reimburses. A lot of the reimbursements are going down and the profit is being eroded away. The burnout comes from the fact that there's a lack of exchange there. You're putting all this work and you’re putting all this effort in. You're seeing 10% or 7% profit margins and that would tax me. You can go buy a Puerto Rican bond for 6% and not have the headache of employees and regulators coming in there and saying, “You overbuilt here.” “You didn't code this correctly.” I can see where it taxes and makes a practice owner burnout. Once you solve that profitability issue adding additional services that maybe you didn't before and you get that backup, that's where you see people live it up a little bit.
As you've worked with private practice owners and you've seen them in all kinds of different financial conditions, what are some of the successful actions that they're taking? We talked about the mindset and we talked about strategy. We talked a little bit about tactics. Anything else that you recognize what helps that struggling maybe not struggling? How do those physical therapists improve their financial condition on top of those things?
A lot of it starts with their own personal training. When I say personal training, personal financial education training. Know what some of the basics are of money. Let's not be scared about it. Profit and loss statement is not something that is difficult to understand. That's not even that important to know. You should know about it but knowing some of the basics of money. You need to seek advice from people that are qualified to give it. That's a basic of money. Staying out of bad debt and that would be another basic principle. Things that they probably inherently know but are having a tough time applying. To me, it always starts with making sure that you have your attention on your main money artery.
I call it the main money artery, which is your practice. There's this idea that you have to go out and create all these different income streams that are true for the most part. You definitely want to have multiple income streams flowing into your household. You want to make sure that you have one that's flowing like the Mississippi first. If you can get that one going and setup system, the money then flows to the household to create other income streams. That's probably the most successful action that I've seen. There are some of the most successful owners that I've seen have gotten their practice to a point where it's cashflowing. They set up the system where they take a portion of their business cashflow and automatically every single week set it aside in the household to help create other income streams in the household. That's been the most successful action that we've done with practice owners. If I can get someone to do that, it's game over. They start to feel like, “This practice is starting to serve me as opposed to the other way around.”
I had Christopher Music on and he talked about setting aside 10% of your revenue every month, maybe weekly, but at least monthly. That blew my mind. That's the first time I'd heard that concept and I thought, “If I had set aside 10% of my gross revenues every month for the past sixteen years or whatever I own my clinic, I'd be in a much different situation.” It was cool how he laid it out if you set aside that like it's an expense. Christopher mentions this, you guys mention it. I've read it in Profit First, a popular financial advisory book by Mike Michalowicz. You set aside the Profit First that becomes like an expense line. Inevitably your business grows to meet it.
You have to. We operate with the concept that I know that a business is going to try to spend every flipping dollar that it makes and then some. You know that going in and you see that when you look at practice owners over and over again. I see that pattern. I know business is going to try to spend every dollar that makes. I also know that it will make the exact amount of money it thinks it needs to make to survive. Know those two things, so when you incorporate that 10% as an actual expense and you put it in, you have to do it on a gradient though. If you try to do it too fast, it could cause some problems but if you do it on a gradient, it’s amazing what happens. Things change overnight because you've incorporated that expense. The business thinks it's an expense, but it's simply the accumulation of a reserve pool for the household. If I could tell your whole audience if they did that one thing, they would never regret that ever.
It will change their financials entirely, especially if you look down the road. It's going to be a completely different condition.
Most of the practice owners that are doing $1 million of revenue a year, they're like, “We’ll do the math on that 10%.” “$100,000 a year?” I’m like, “Yes.” When you look at that, that's your owner's compensation. If you're a good owner, that's your owner's compensation. You deserve it. I always tell owners, “If Medicare comes in to audit you, who are they going to audit? They're going to audit you. They're going to audit the practice and you own that.” If you have a lawsuit who gets served. Whose names are on all the notes of any of the practice acquisition loans? It's you. You took all the risks to put this thing there by God, you deserve to get that 10%. That's a reward for you.
Sometimes I have to convince people. It was the funniest thing when we first started, I thought that would be the easiest thing that I could possibly do. I'm like, “There's nobody that would say no to that.” It's the hardest thing to get a practice owner to decide. I knew we were onto something when we started that because I’ve got the most push back when I started saying, “We need to put this money away.” “We can’t do it.” There’s no way.” “There's no way the business is yet too many expenses.” “I can't do it.” We figured out a way that they could do it, so it doesn't cave them in. Once we got that in, everything clicked right after that event for the business owner. It was fascinating.
It's interesting how it also changes the mindset. It changes the energy around the person as you have them focus on their money lines, their lifeblood, their main artery, whatever you want to call it. Once they put their attention on that, the energy changes. They take on the control that they didn't seem to have before and they seem a little bit more focused.
When you do that, it enhances your financial awareness and then it gives you confidence. That's the most important thing in any industry, you have confidence. When you have confidence, you make better decisions. You slow things down a little bit. You control time like an athlete that you see that's competent and what they do, they have so much confidence. They can control time. Most physical therapists are good at doing that from a training standpoint, but on business and an ownership standpoint, they're not as good at that until they get trained to do it. It's establishing financial confidence that does increase your confidence by a high degree.When you have confidence, you make better decisions. Click To Tweet
As you bring on physical therapy owner as a client, is that something you work on them with? What was your typical work look like that might set you apart from other financial advisors?
The first thing that we do is we give them a detailed financial scene that we want them to get to. We define what your ideal financial condition would look like. I don't think that a lot of advisors do that. They'll say, “Let’s save enough for retirement.” They don't give them a clear definition of what their financial condition looks like. We've created a road map where we encompass all the different component parts of your financial life. That’s the thing that differentiates us as well. Your financial life, the body is made up of several different systems. You have the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the endocrine system and all these different systems.
There are nine financial systems that make up your household, from asset protection to estate planning to income planning to debt and credit to tax optimization. There are several different systems and our job as financial advisors is to make sure that all of those systems are operating at their optimum level for every one of our practice owners. Whereas a lot of financial advisors will focus on the investment side. That's 1/9 of your overall financial scene. We put people's awareness on that and say, “Maybe let’s not only look at your investments while they're important. Let's not put all the focus on that.”
I have to say that I work with Econologics and I have enjoyed my experience with them especially compared to other financial advisors that I’ve worked within the past. Simply by the fact that you guys are in communication with me which is typical of the financial advisors that I've had in the past. I wish I had started working with you earlier. To give voice to the first exercise you're talking about. My wife and I went through that, setting a target you talked about $7 million to $10 million. That might seem to be a lofty way out there for some people. You also had us break it down to, “What do I need to be making per month in order to get to those goals?” That gives you a little bit more concrete and current number that can work on. I have that number, and my wife and I have those numbers in our head, “We can have this kind of lifestyle if it makes this much per month, but we can have this much better lifestyle to make this much per month. Let's try to reach for that.” That guides us on a lot of the decisions we're making as much as it pertains to income, investments, and whatnot. That's valuable.
Thank you. When you break it down, I know sometimes we set big targets for practice owners. You will be sometimes a little bit like, “There's no way I'll be able to do that.” When you break it down to like, “We don't have to do all this now.” What can we start? Where can we start? We build upon that. Financial planning is a set of boring repetitive activities. As you continue to do them, you see little mini results. All of a sudden, it’s like, “Boom.” It's amazing how it works. Traditional financial planning is like, “If you put $10,000 away for the next 25 years then you'll have blank amount.” Real-life doesn't work that way. People change, business owners change. Their confidence and business changes. The production of their business changes the industry that you're in. There's so much money pouring in private physical therapy.
There are so many opportunities out there to create a practice that you want to that there's no reason that you should restrict yourself at all. To your point, set big targets and big goals. Let's work backward on what are the actions that are going to lead to get there. When you get the numbers down, it's not that much. It's not that hard. It's not that much and that's where a lot of people appreciate you. You need to have a written plan not only a proposal of, “Let's put X amount of dollars and this investment strategy and X amount of dollars and that and this investment strategy.” That's a proposal. A plan is like, “These are the sequence of actions that I need to take in order to accomplish this.” Most people are operating on financial proposals and not financial plans and that I've seen.
The plan goes back to your ideal financial scene. I want to invest in my children's education. I'm going to have this much at retirement so I can live the way I want. I want to invest in these kinds of vehicles. I want to live mortgage-free. Those are the things that you start from and work on.
That's where it starts. What are the financial goals of the household? Which a lot of people have done. It digs into, how are we going to measure that? That's where I've seen, in our industry there hasn't been a lot of good financial metrics that measure the condition of the households and how we integrate the business into that as well. We have seventeen different financial diagnostic statistics that we look at. We can show someone, “Here's a statistic that you need to look at and we want to improve.” It goes above looking at the performance of an account. It's something that will help someone change their overall condition.
Is there anything else you want to add to the financial stuff that we hardly get into it or what?
I don't even know. This is getting fun.
I know we’ll definitely have you on again, so we have to save a little bit.
For the most part, the keys I want to leave people with is, no matter what your financial condition is, good, bad or ugly or no matter where you're at in your life cycle, whether you're still growing your practice, whether you're mid-career or whether you're thinking about exiting out. You can always do something to change your trajectory. You can always do something to change your financial condition. The sooner that people can realize that their household is the parent company. Make sure that you're wearing that identity of a Chief Financial Officer assuming that beingness, there's a good book called Atomic Habits on if you ever read it before.No matter what your financial condition is, you can always do something to change your trajectory. Click To Tweet
I've heard a couple of people mention it. I need to read it.
The main point of that was, the actions aren't that hard. It's who you have to become if you want to be successful at something. You have to become the identity of that person. Your financial conditions are no different. You have to assume the identity of someone that's responsible with money, that knows how to acquire and control money, and that can expand money. That's an identity. That's the Chief Financial Officer identity. If you can assume that identity, understand that and wear that, the actions are easy. It's not that hard. It's don't spend more than what you make. Take 10% of what your practice does and set it aside, invest prudently. The basics are not that hard. You have to assume that identity of the person that is going to direct this whole thing.
I love that idea because you are exactly where you think you should be. There's an internal dialogue that's always going on. If you assume or if you take on the mantle of, “I am good with my money and my business makes money for me,” then that's what will happen. If you are careless with money and you think, “I spend more than I make. I need to do better with my money.” That's exactly where you will be.
It's 100%. I have created what's called a Chart of Money Attitudes. I don't know if you've seen it or not. Every single day I’ll say certain things to myself like, “I'm a creator of money. My financial decisions are naturally right. I'm fully responsible with money. I want enormous wealth and I want others to have wealth too.” All these affirmations, things that I'll say to myself every single day because I want to make sure that my attitude towards money, which if you want to look at it, this is where it starts. What's your attitude towards money? If you have the attitude of, “I can't have money. Money is scarce. I'm terrible with money. It always disperses,” you're going be bad with money. You need to give yourself a checkup from the neck up every once in a while. When it starts with your money, that’s a key thing. Make sure your attitude, in terms of money, is in good shape and get out of some of the fixed ideas that you have or get out of some of the following gurus and around. You don't need a guru. You need a guide. The attitude comes from other places too, from parents and the experiences that they’ve seen and all kinds of things. We can get deep on this one.
It brings us full circle. It's where we started. It all starts with your mindset and your attitude with money and recognizing that the business works for you instead of you working for the business.
You hit it right on the head.
If people wanted to reach out to you, Eric, how do they do that? What do you have coming up?
We have a three-day training academy for private practice owners. We built our system for private practice owners. We don't work with engineers or teachers or any other of those types of vocations. We work with private practice owners and we built our financial planning specifically for them. We also create a financial planning education system where we teach them the basics of how to increase the value of their business and then how to make sure that they turn those business profits into personal wealth. If they want to contact us you can definitely start by going to our website which is EconologicsFinancialAdvisors.com. You can email me directly at Eric@Econologics.com.
We created 100 question assessments that will give you a snapshot of where you stand in your personal finances. I would recommend that if anybody has any uncertainties, confusion, or I don't know in regard to their personal finances or curious. Everyone's curious about their credit score. What's my credit score? We've created an assessment that will give you a financial score. If people want to go to our website, it's called the Financial Prosperity Index. They could click on to that and it will take them right to that assessment. They can take the assessment. We will give you a free 30-minute strategy session where you can ask us anything you want in the subject of money and personal finances anything at all. As long as you take that assessment, then I'll assure you that you'll get that free 30 minutes or longer depending on how long it takes.
Thanks for coming on. We'll have to have you on again because I know you've got more to share for private practice owners.
We'll keep it on topic next time. We’ve got a lot of different places right there.
It was good. I love it and like I said, I love talking money.
It's all good.
Thanks for your time. Thanks, Nathan.
Eric Miller Has been in the financial planning industry for over 20 years. He’s a co-owner of Econologics Financial Advisors – awarded an Inc. 5000 honoree for 2019.
As the Chief Financial Advisor for the firm, Eric has had the good fortune to have over 10,000 financial conversations with private practice owners in various healthcare industry and helped guide them into a more optimum financial condition using a proven system.