On today’s show, Nathan Shields talks to Mike Bills, PT, the President of Measurable Solutions and the CEO and Owner of Loudoun Sports Therapy in Sterling. Mike has seen some amazing growth in his PT clinic over the past few years, and it's not because he started a new program that generated new patients or found a physician that loved how he treated patients. Rather, Mike has seen phenomenal growth because he has been focusing on himself and improving the different aspects of his personal life - physical, intellectual, professional, financial, etc. He teaches us the importance of focusing on oneself before focusing on others. Learn more from Mike on how you, too, can be the owner of your personal freedom and enjoy the life you have envisioned!
I'm bringing back a previous guest, Mike Bills. If you haven't read his first episode or my first interview with Mike, please go back to it. It's one of the most followed episodes that I have. He had some mind-blowing statistics and marketing strategies that he provided in that episode. It is an episode that I've shared with a number of my coaching clients to show them what is possible if they're not focused on physician relationships, but rather do some focusing on internal marketing programs. I wanted to share Mike's experiences in how he has worked on himself individually and as a leader over the past years that has generated 50% year over year growth in his clinic. It’s not necessarily focusing on certain programs or working in new procedures or better marketing strategies. Mike simply focused on working on himself as the owner and leader of the clinic. By doing so, he had great results and dividends from his efforts.
I've got Mike Bills, CEO and Owner of Loudoun Sports Therapy in Sterling, Virginia. He’s also the President of Measurable Solutions, a physical therapy owner consulting business. I'm bringing Mike back after we did another episode regarding his marketing strategies and how successful he's been doing internal marketing programs in his clinic. I'm bringing him back because I have something exciting that I want to talk about with him. Mike, thanks for coming on again.
Thanks for having me back. It was a lot of fun the last time. I know it will be this time too.
The reason I reached out is because I have a coaching client who went to a Measurable Solutions Conference and he shared with me something that affected him and I've been thinking about it since because it's affecting me as well. In one of your presentations, you said, "My business has grown significantly more over the past years simply because I haven't necessarily been working on my business, but I've been working on myself. Because I've been working on myself, my business has grown at a greater pace than what I've seen in the past.” Maybe you can talk to me a little bit about that. That struck a chord with me that your business is improving significantly, not because of your immediate focus on the business but upon you specifically. Maybe you can share with me a little bit about what you said more clearly and we can get into that.
It was a talk that I was doing at an Owner's Conference for Measurable Solutions. We were in nice and sunny Cabo San Lucas, which is on the Western side of Mexico when it was snowing at home for me in Virginia. In preparing for that talk, I was trying to figure out what it was that had made a couple of years of my practice to be so much more successful. I've been an owner of private practice for many years. Since 2012, I've grown considerably every year, but a couple of years have been this exceptional growth. I started searching and trying to figure out what it was that led to that.
When you're talking about exceptional growth, is there any numbers that you can share?
Leading from 2012, I was a client of Measurable Solutions and I started learning how to be a business owner, something that none of us ever learned how to do in PT school. I started learning and I always had nice growth, 28%, 32%, 30%, etc. every year. Until a couple of years ago, I had 49% growth. I'm talking 49% growth in new patients, collections and production, what we're billing, patient visits, etc. In 2019, I had a 53% growth in the same thing. I was happy with 21%, 28%, 30% now. I looked at these two years and I was like, "What is different?" As I looked at it and I started to focus, I realized that I was concentrating a lot more on myself than I was the years before that.
The years before that, I was concentrating on building this business. I was the guy that was doing everything. I was making everything go right. Being able to look back, what I realized was that I started paying attention to what I needed as an individual. What did I need to be the face of the organization? What did I need to empower my staff to be better at dealing with patients, treating patients, handling processes at the front desk, whatever it might be? I looked at improving myself whether it was reading more about how to be a business owner and a team leader, listening to podcasts, listening to things on TED Talks, taking time to exercise, etc.
To give you an example, a few years ago, I weighed about 85 pounds more than I weigh now. I was spending all this time working because that's what I thought I needed to do. I was being successful but in retrospect, my health was going downhill. I was approaching 50. There was no way I was going to continue to be able to be the face of the organization. When I stopped and took a step back and started working on myself, all of a sudden I was able to be a better leader. I was able to give better guidance to people. Here's a good example, I'm driving into work and I'm listening to a book. I don't read. That hasn't happened since PT school. I listened to all of my books on tape. I do it through Audible. When I say read, what I mean is I'm listening to a book.
I'm reading or I'm listening to this book and I'm like, "My staff would benefit from hearing this." I bookmark it, get into the office, play it, record it and send it out to everybody in a text. I was doing it to listen for myself but then I'm like, "The information is pertinent to something we were talking about the other day.” In the process of helping myself to be a better person, better read, etc., I'm able to pass that on to many other people. That's where I feel I've made myself a better person. I've taken time to concentrate on myself and it allows me to empower and strengthen the people around me to be even better, which is what's helped us to have so much great growth.Be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi Click To Tweet
That brings to mind the quote, "In order to see a change in others, you have to change yourself." It's important to recognize that if you're going to make an effect for change within your company and with your clinic, if you want to see the change in your relationships with family members and friends, but we're talking professional network, if you want to see a change in your business, it starts with you. It's not expecting more out of other people. It's simply changing yourself and maybe tightening up aspects of your life that you let go a little bit.
Whether it be losing weight, how can I be the owner of a business that professes people need to be active if I myself am not active? How can I profess to my managers and the people that I'm asking to help me to run this business to do their job if I'm not in a good position to be able to do it myself? Taking the time and looking at my personal finances. How can I expect my staff to get patients to pay their bill if I'm not working on my personal side to make sure that all of my accounts are in good standing? When you improve yourself, you automatically empower all of those around you. That's where I believe my exceptional growth has come from is that I've made myself a better person, which in a sense rubs off on everybody else. My attitude and demeanor is better. My tone and my happiness scale, I'm much higher on that scale and therefore that rubs off on all of these people. I don't get reactive about that patient that canceled or things that go wrong because I'm much more in control of myself. That doesn't become the way that they react as well.
A couple of years ago, you became more intentional about working on yourself. Looking back, you're seeing that working on yourself had a significant influence on the other things around you. You didn't go about trying to make that change in others around you first. You simply focused on yourself.
I had to add to maybe shift my mindset for a moment. I had this mindset that I'm the owner, everybody else should come first, take care of my employees, etc. What I realized was who was going to take care of them if I wasn't able to take care of myself? I had to set that example whether it takes a huge health scare for somebody or whatever it might be. When you're in a better state of mind and better frame of mind, whether it's because you get to leave every day and go home and sit in the bubble bath if that's what you want to do, go for a run, when you're able to be in a better place, then you bring that better place in with you. What I realize is that everybody then follows that. You're the one that they're looking up to.
Everybody is always looking for somebody to look up to, whether it's your kids or employees. If you become that example that they look up to, they're striving to be like you and to improve themselves. Before you know it, they're all reading or listening to books on tape or they're all going home to exercise and have dinner with their family. It starts with me changing my mindset to not feel like I'm less important than everybody else. I had that realization a couple of years ago. I was the most important thing. Without me, this clinic wasn't going to exist. It wasn't going to be what it had become. I had to be able to survive and be a good person and set that example for it to move forward.
“Be the change that you want to see in others,” is the phrase or something like that. To someone who's saying, "I'm looking at these different aspects of my life," you've seen a lot of growth and success on the intellectual side, physical side, emotional and psychological side, financial side. I'm assuming that you also put some focus on your schedule and prioritizing your time. If you look at those 5 to 6 aspects of your life, someone who's maybe not where they want to be individually and looking at that, that can seem a little bit overwhelming. Did you take a step-by-step approach or how did you approach these things so you could see an influence throughout the whole scope of your life?
It became a matter of I'm a schedule-oriented person. When I say 10:00, I'm ready to go at 9:50. As PTs, we all ended up being that way unless we're letting patients walk in the door whenever they want. We run by a schedule. I had to make things become part of the schedule. Initially, that meant a few years ago, I've got to create this time for whatever it might be. I've got to create time to be able to go for a run. At the time, I wasn't even taking a lunch break. Lunch was, "Let me shovel something down." Somebody bought a Chick-fil-A or Panera Bread or whatever for me and that was it. I had to make sure, "I'm going to take 30 minutes." That means the patients that would have been in during that 30 minutes had to be either before or after that.
Get everybody to understand that's sacred time and you can't take that away. That 30 minutes then became an hour and then that hour became leaving at 3:00. It built from there. Scheduling was the most important thing. I had to also change my mindset. For example, to watch the last three innings of the baseball game at night and do something else for the rest of that time. As much as I felt like I was productive sitting on the couch from 10:00 at night until 1:00 in the morning doing work, I had to recognize that, change that and schedule that differently. It came down to scheduling it is what made the difference.
Do you schedule your sleep between 10:00 and 1:00?
I scheduled going to bed at 10:00 instead of going to bed at 1:00. I had to make other people help me to be accountable, like my wife to come and close the lid to the laptop that I was working on at 10:30 at night. She had to help me do that. It's like at work, I would have my staff be like, "Mr. Smith is upfront." They're there to remind me to be accountable. I had to have that in place and ask people for help to do that and stop thinking that I was the one that needed to be in control and doing everything. I needed to have people be able to help me ask people to help me with that. I needed to get those around me to understand why I was doing it and what it was that I was trying to accomplish.
I love that you bring up the concept of control and schedule because as therapists, we follow a schedule, but we don't necessarily take control of our schedules. We defer when the patients are available. We'll adjust our schedule accordingly. If an employee needs something from us, we'll adjust our schedule accordingly. Instead of what it should be ideally is that our time, especially as the owners and leaders of the clinic, is sacred. We dictate when we see patients. We dictate when our door is open to have meetings with our employees. It’s not the other way around. We default as therapists to do whatever we need to do to get the patient in, to get the patient better, to see the patient, to maximize our "productivity" instead of being in control and having power over our schedule and saying, "My sleep is vital. I need to go to bed at 10:00. Honey, help me get to bed at 10:00 and let's start getting ready at 9:30."
I don't see patients over the lunch break, even if it's an emergency situation. Maybe that's one of your rules. I only see patients over the lunch break if it's an emergency situation, but none else. That lunch break could be two hours long instead of one hour long so you can get your jog in if that's what you need. Being in control over our schedule and saying, "I'm going to block a time to work on the business two half-days a week. I can't see patients. I'm not going to take on any meetings unless they're scheduled ahead of time. No knock on the doors, 'Do you got a minute?’ That’s sacred time for me to work on the business.” Once you start establishing that control is when you start having greater control over your life and you start seeing progress like you did.
It is about control and it's about understanding that my mindset needed to change and realizing that I wasn't in control. Everybody else was in control of being. Everything else around me was in control of me. I was the result of this situation and this environment that I had created, which was a business that was growing and thriving and doing well, but I wasn't in control of anything. I was the guy that was being controlled by everything that was happening, the patient that was on the phone, the patient that was upfront, the person that needed a signature for this, "Can we talk about that? I want to buy this." That kind of thing and being able to set some rules and some standards.
I had it in my mind that if I did that, my employees were going to look at me differently. They weren't going to respect me. They weren't going to follow me. I had to realize that if that was the case, if they were going to respect me less because I wasn't working on my computer, on my couch from 10:00 at night until 1:00 in the morning, they weren't the people that I wanted on board with me anyway. They wouldn't do that. That wasn't what I would expect them to do. I had to get that control back on my side. A lot of it is changing my mindset and changing my viewpoint on things. I had to accept the fact that people weren't going to look at me differently. In the end, it was to improve the whole situation of things and make that be the strict policy that I was going to operate towards. Amazingly, when I set an example, they all follow and they all start making themselves better whether it's because I keep sending them these things to read or listen to or not. Ultimately, it's helped to make them all better people as well.
That's something that comes up quite often. I went through a little bit of that as well. When I shifted out of treating full-time and into working more on the business during the course of the week, there's this fear that if I take time for myself to work on the business or heaven forbid I go home early, the team is going to look at me like, "You're not pulling your weight." Maybe they're going to look at me differently questioning, "What are you doing with your time if you're not treating patients?" It's different from the status quo that they were used to. The fear that some of the coaching clients I have is that, "If I take away this time, what is my team going to think of me?" It sounded like you got over that mentally, but did you have any of that blow back or did you have to talk to yourself through that continually?
Yeah, I did. It was a challenging thing for me. All of us as practice owners, whether we came out of school and opened our practice or we were out of school for 8 or 10 years before we ended up in private practice, we all are about doing something. To us, we've been trained to treat this patient and that's where things are going to go well. People are going to respect you and that's where your skills are. What I had to recognize was that's not where my skill was best suited. I could find people that even though they couldn't necessarily treat a patient maybe as well as I could or as quickly as I could, it would take them 2 or 3 visits longer to get the same effect. I was going to be way better off in the long run.If you don't have data, you start making things up. Click To Tweet
If I could get five people doing what I as only one person could do, I would be much more productive as an overall group. I had to change my mind on the fact that, what are these people going to think if I stopped treating patients? To the extent that I had to help them to understand. “Here's my reason behind wanting to do this. I want us to be able to help more people in the community.” You hear it all the time, patients come from this doctor's office across the street where they have physical therapy and they're like, "It's different here." We can't do that if I'm not here to lead seven of you because I have to constantly be one of the people out on the floor. Don't you want to be able to help more people and taking that approach with them?
I realized that was all in my head. They were all like, "Yeah, sure. That's great. You mean somebody's going to approve our vacation time as opposed to we have to keep asking you all the time? Do you mean somebody's going to be able to make that order for the equipment that we wanted to get and make sure that there's enough money in the bank account?" I'm like, "You guys have been wanting this for a while." Yet, it was me having this fixed idea that they were going to be all upset and jump ship if I made this change. To tie into that, we have this joke. We have a large number of staff but barely 10% of them remember me out there treating patients. I'll come up every now and then like, "I do have a PT license. I still remember how to treat."
Here's a short story. I was treating one of our PTA. She had a neck problem. Everybody was busy. I'm like, "Lay down, let me take care of it." She's like, "I feel a lot better." She was one of the ones who worked here when I was treating patients, but we realize there are six people standing around going, "He knows how to treat patients." They haven't seen that. My point to that is, they hadn't seen it, but yet they see the value that I bring by the other things that I do and they accept it. I had to change my mind that they were going to respect me less.
When you made that change to your schedule, did you sit them down in a team meeting and tell them, "This is what I'm doing and this is why I'm doing it?"
I was scared about doing that. I didn't sit everybody down when I made this change. If I was going to do anything differently, I would sit everybody down. I made this change and the only person I told was my front desk manager. I said, "At noon, I'm leaving and I'll be back at 1:00." She's like, "Why?" She hadn't realized that I had moved all of the patients. I said, "I moved all the patients. I'll be back at 1:00." I walk out, it's late spring, I've got shorts on. I'm going to go for a run around where our office is. She's like, "Where are you going?" I was like, "Remember I said I'll be back at 1:00." I came back in at about 12:50, so I had time to take a shower. Everybody was all worried about where I was or what had happened. To answer your question, if I was going to do it again, I would help everybody to understand because then it was like, "What's wrong?"
They all thought that they had done something wrong, that I was pissed off that I had to go for this run. It was something that they hadn't seen. My belief is if you don't have data, you start making things up. I had seven employees at the time, all of which had all these cockamamie ideas in their head of, "What had gone wrong. Where did Mike go? Why was he this way?" If I were to do it over again, I would sit everybody down and I would say, "This is what I'm going to do. This is why I'm going to do it. Let's see how it goes.” We'll have some open dialogue about it. Over the course of that first week, I had all these people coming into my office and checking on me, "Are you okay? Is everything all right?" I'm like, "Yeah, everything's fine. What's the problem?" It dawned on me why that was the concern.
That's interesting because one of my clients, he pulled himself out and he's explained it to the team, "This is why I'm doing it." This is 1 or 2 months down the road since he pulled himself out of treating full-time. He still does it a couple of days. If they see him on the floor outside of those times, they get mad at him. The question I have for you is, as you've respected your time and set up some boundaries and whatnot, have you found that the team is also protecting your time?
Very much so. It's funny you say that. We have a need for two PTs. The two that we've hired can't start immediately. We've had this need for about six weeks. We're running at super high capacity. Every now and then, I'll be like, "I'll come out and help you." There will be a problem. "What are we going to do? How are we going to handle this?" I'm like, "I'll come out on the floor and help you guys." They're like, "No, we do not want your help. We've got everything under control. You stay and do what you're supposed to be doing. We don't want you out there." Part of that is because they know I'll come out and I'll be like, "How about we change all this around?" At the same time, they recognize the disadvantage that would create because we'd be back to the days where things aren't happening because the guy that's supposed to make them happen fell back into patient care.
What a great position to be in that they know if you step back into the business, you're going to "mess things up." You stay behind the drapes and keep pulling the levers like the Wizard of Oz.
I was in our front office and the phone was ringing and all five of our front office people were on the phone. I reached to pick up the second phone that's next to one of them. She slapped my hand and I'm like, "Okay, good. I'm going to walk away." She doesn't want me doing that because she knows I might screw something up and because there's something that you should be doing instead. Don't get drawn into whatever's on the other end of that phone.
That's someone who's taken ownership of their position, "That call is mine. It's not yours."
That brings it back to where as I was helping myself, I've helped all of these other people to take control of their position and not be reliant on me coming along and going, "Let me do it for you,” or "This is how I would do it." They're much more in control. That carries over into their lives, which is part of that talk that I was doing at that owner's conference. How me being in control of myself has spread into everybody else. How as I lifted myself, they've all followed, and so their home lives, income, spending habits, taking care of themselves are better. Why we all became PTs was that we wanted to help people.
As the owners, we have to look at it from the perspective of, "I can help patients but there's this whole other group of people that I can help to have a good working environment that they enjoy coming to.” If I make myself better, how much better am I going to make not only the care that my patients get but the family feeling, the experience, the culture that my employees have so that their lives are better? Their kids are being brought up better. Their marriage, relationship, weekends are better. It becomes this exponential thing.
One of the books that I've listened/read over the last couple of years is called Multipliers. It talks about that exponential piece. If you do something, it affects anywhere between 10 and 24 other people. They do something and think about, especially in this day and age and not to go off on too much of a tangent, sometimes how poorly ethical society is. By making ourselves better and by making 48 employees having a good working environment. They go home and they create better environments that they live in for their families, their kids and it becomes that exponential or that multiplier piece to it.
I was thinking about that as you were sharing your stories. You can treat a patient and do well. If you could get five therapists to treat patients 80% or 90% of what you could do, that influence alone is much greater. It's multiplied.
That allows us to get all these patients that are coming from all these other places where they're not getting good care, whether it be from a big corporation or a hospital or physician's office. Even many other private practices where they're being run through as a mill. If I can get five people to do even part of a good job as I would have done, it's all of those patients that are having good experiences. It's part of that multiplier piece that keeps on going.
It’s such a great influence that you've exemplified here in the last couple of years. For some reason, control comes back to me. You've simply taken control. You're not at the effect of whatever the business is doing and what your employees are doing to you. Someone's quitting and you don't know what you're going to do because you’ve got to treat this patient. You simply reassessed your life and you stepped back and decided, "I'm going to take control of these things." You've been intentional about the change that you wanted to see in yourself first. The results that you wanted to create in your life you've taken that control over. You become more powerful in that regard. That's landed to 50% growth year over year for a couple of years. That's astounding. To give people some social context, if they haven't heard your story, feel free to read the first episode with Mike. You've got sixteen providers under one roof. It sound like it might be more.
From an actual clinician perspective, I have nineteen with two more coming. By the time they get here, we'll need at least one more beyond that. If I go back, it was me and a PTA. Think about how many more people I'm able to help because it's not me that's doing it. It's nineteen people that are able to provide that. That's the piece that I realized was not necessary. There's no way I could help nineteen people. We have more than nineteen staff numbers, but nineteen clinicians, do that without somebody being on that host or wearing that hat all the time. You talk about intention. There's a difference between putting my attention on growing the business. That's what I was doing before the last couple of years. I put my intention, which is no matter what is going to happen, I'm going to be the leader but I'm not going to be the one that does it. To me, that's the difference between attention and intention is that I'm not going to be the one that's going to do it. I'm going to be the leader that's going to direct where that card is going and I'm going to be able to make sure that it gets there. I have to be in a good position myself for that to happen.When you're in the process of helping yourself to be a better person, you're able to pass that on to many other people. Click To Tweet
I love the differentiation because as the owner, you feel like you are also the doer of all of these things when you're better suited to delegate, oversee, follow up, hold accountable and that stuff to free your time.
By doing so, it helps us as the owner to be able to live the experience of being the owner, which is why we wanted to do it in the first place. Who got into this to be an owner because they wanted to work 80 hours a week? Nobody's like, "Yeah, that's what I'm signing up for." We got into it because we want to be able to be home with our families more. We want to be able to have four-day workweeks or whatever it might be. That ties everything we've talked about so far together up to this point. I had to accept the fact that it was okay for me to not be in the office. I've gone for periods of time where I haven't been in the office for a whole month. I had to accept that that was okay. It was because my reason for wanting to be a business owner was I wanted to see my kids. I wanted to do things. I'd go visit my son in Atlanta. I do whatever it might be. I travel wherever it is. I had to accept that that was improving things. That was why I got into being an owner was to help people. It didn't mean I had to work 80 hours a week treating 100 patients myself.
At this point, you’re a great example of enjoying the ownership experience. You're leading a great team. You're in control of your schedule and your life. That's exactly what I want other PT owners to understand. That's a possibility. That freedom and growth can happen. You can fulfill your dreams as a PT owner in that regard.
I had this realization in August, September 2019 when I was preparing for a different talk. I opened up a Measurable Solutions course book that I had done. One of the things that they had me do early on was writing out what my ideal scene was. I had written down seven things. I wanted to have X number of visits per week. I wanted to be treating patients X number of hours per week. It was my first time realizing that all seven things I had put on that piece of paper, every single one of them had come true. That to me is intention. I had the intention that it was going to happen and I made it go right. What I realized the number one reason why it went right was I'm the one controlling everything and the others were the people that were doing it.
I'm the guy in the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain pulling the strings. I had to empower those people to do that. That's where all of that successful growth came from. In the end, I became what I would view to be the biggest winner because everything on my ideal scene had come true. Between you and me and everybody else out there, number seven on that list was I wanted to be able to go back to Measurable Solutions. It’s a consulting company that had taught me how to be a business owner. It’s something that we had never learned in school. I wanted to be able to go back to Measurable Solutions and give back to the company that had significantly changed my life. In July 2019, I assumed the role of being the President of Measurable Solutions. That was the seventh thing that was on that list. That was something I had written out years ago. Had I not taken the direction to work on myself, I never would have achieved half of those.
I love talking to you about this because many PTO owners look passively at what their business is doing instead of taking control and being intentional about it. The results speak for themselves. Every person that I interview, you included, once they've decided to take control of their business, then things improve. I love sharing the story.
It's scary how many of us are in private practice without being in control and the practice is controlling us. We have to look at, is that where we want to be 5, 10, 20, 30 years from now? I missed parts of my oldest son growing up. He now lives in Seattle. I'm going to Seattle quite frequently not because I'm making up for it, but because I finally created what I truly wanted. I got out of my way and I stopped telling myself that something was impossible. It comes back to I worked on myself to make it so, I believe that it could be so, and I made it to be so. Everybody else around me is happier as a result.
Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your experience with me. If people wanted to reach out to you and learn more about you or Measurable Solutions, how do they do that?
Before I forget, Multipliers is the name of the book. It's written by Liz Wiseman and John Meagher. It’s a very good book. I could give you a list of any number of other books. If anybody wants to get in touch with me, I give out my cell phone number. I love having conversations with people. My whole goal is protecting the whole business of private practice. Feel free to reach out to me anytime you want. My cell phone number is (703) 470-5995. I love it when I get calls from Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Florida. I love chatting with people. I'm happy to discuss things with anybody. You can also email me if you like. My email address is the best way to always get in touch with me is that Measurable Solutions, Mike@FortisBusinessSolutions.com. Feel free to email, call or text me. Anybody reach out, please.
Thanks for coming on, Mike. I appreciate you sharing your story and taking the time.
I appreciate you having me on. It's fun as always. Thanks.
Mike Bills is the Owner and CEO of Loudoun Sports Therapy Center in Sterling VA. He started his practice in 2005 and did everything: answered the phone, treated patients, billed the insurance, etc. Since that time he has grown his practice by over 10 times. He now has a staff of well over 20 people, including 14 clinicians and a facility size of over 10,000 square feet. It was always Mike’s goal to have the time and ability to manage his business and not work in it and he has fulfilled that goal as he is the true CEO and no longer treats patients.
Another goal Mike had was to be able to help other PT’s have the Freedom they deserved from their practice. Mike was a client of Measurable Solutions where he learned how to truly manage a private practice and where he learned how to truly be the CEO. This is where he learned the basis for all of the systems that he uses in his practice that have helped him to be so successful. Recently Mike was named the President of Measurable Solutions and is now able to fulfill that goal of helping other private practice PT’s have the same success as him.
If it weren’t for the perseverance and drive over the years to build a successful business this never would have been a reality for him.
Marketing is one of the most important pillars of a private practice and I have worked hard to develop systems that continuously help my practice to grow and thrive despite the time of year or whatever else is happening in my community. I am happy to be invited onto the podcast to share just a fraction of what has helped us be so successful. For more information, feel free to reach out to me either via cell: 703-470-5995, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Although Mike Bills, PT had plenty of managerial experience for a large hospital network, it did not prepare him for owning his own PT clinic. He quickly learned that owning and managing are two different ball games. Mike reached out and got some consulting support five plus years ago, stepped out of treating full-time, and has networked with other PT owners for the past five years. Now, his one-person clinic has turned to a 6,000-sf facility with thirteen providers, and they're continuing to grow in spite of the POPTs and hospital networks that have sprung up around them. What are they doing differently to thrive and survive? Today, Mike shares the formula to ownership success as well as their successful actions of obtaining new patients through their internal referral programs and social media/internet efforts.
I've got a friend of mine. I've known Mike Bills for a few years. We're both clients at Measurable Solutions. He's the President of Measurable Solutions for those of you that have been through any of their programs. Knowing Mike and the successes that he's had at his clinic, I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with him. He shared with me how much they're growing and how well they're doing. I thought, “I need to bring him on because there's one aspect in particular during our conversation that stood out.” One of his most successful marketing actions is a robust internal marketing program to the point where a great percentage of their patients come from internal referrals from current physical therapy patients. They're not dipping their foot in the water here. They've been doing this for a number of years.
It flabbergasted me when I was doing the interviews. They do 30 minutes of drilling, training, and roleplaying with all of their 30 to 40 team members every week on how to get referrals from current physical therapy patients, not just providers. The entire team is responsible for this to the point where it's affecting their referral sources significantly in terms of internal referrals. Another example is that they've focused on internet and social media referrals. That's where they get the majority of their patients at this point. We go through that. He shares the powers and the numbers. They simply get a minor percentage of their patients from physician referrals. I want to share that with you because it's powerful what you can do with internal referral programs and the usage of social media and online marketing to the extent that I have seen from other physicians or physical therapy owners during the course of my show. I'm excited to share this insight with you. Let's get to the episode.
I have Mike Bills, CEO and owner of Loudoun Sports Therapy from Sterling, Virginia. He is also the President of Measurable Solutions. For those of you that might've been through Measurable Solutions at one time or another over the past couple of decades, Mike is now the face of Measurable Solutions. Thank you for coming on, Mike. I appreciate you doing so.
Thank you for having me. I'm excited.
You've got a great expanding clinic in Virginia. In talking with you in the past, you've had some successful exit actions in terms of your marketing strategies and whatnot. I want to get to that, but I wanted to learn a little bit about you and your professional path. What got you to where you are now? Would you mind sharing it?
I started out as a physical therapist many years ago. I was a therapist for quite a long time, but I got started in therapy probably a lot as everybody else did. I wanted to help people. I had some injuries myself in high school and in college and it led me down that path. I was trying to decide between being an athletic trainer or a physical therapist. I had some physical therapy issues and I fell in love with it. I'll be honest, I never truly had any inspirations to be a business owner when I started out. I talked to a lot of guys and they come out of school knowing they want to own their own practice by the time they’ve been out for a couple of years. I never had that interest on my part. Physical therapy was a lot different then. I went to work for a company that I had been to the place where I had been a patient. I knew a couple of the therapists that were there. I had a good relationship with them. They helped me to grow skill-wise early on in my career. We got bought by a large hospital system, and I ended up somehow in management and not a hospital system. Maybe I got tricked into it.
I was the Outpatient Regional Head of about 37 different outpatient therapy centers up and down the different parts of the East Coast hospital system. I don't know how I get into that because it wasn't the direction I wanted to go. In the several years that I did that, I will honestly tell you that I never learned a single thing about running a business. I was responsible for all these places, who got hired and who worked when, but nobody ever taught me how to run a business. One day I said, “I am not happy with what I'm doing. I'm not happy working for this big conglomerate. I feel like I'm being told how to do everything.” I pretty much said, “The first opportunity that comes up, I want to get out.”
I mentioned that to my boss at the time. I said, “Anytime any one of these physical therapy centers in this area where I live here in Virginia is up for sale, let me know because I want to buy it.” Lo and behold, a few months later, Jane called me up. She said, “We're going to need to close a couple of places. Are you interested in any of them?” I said, “I sure am.” It fell into my lap so it's on my lap. I knew nothing about running a practice. There I was. All of a sudden I owned a practice. That was in 2005. A few days later, my wife and I bought a new house. A few months later, my daughter was born. A lot of things happened in a short period of time.
Here I am, I'm doing well. It was me at the time. I started to realize that I didn't want to be small. I wanted to help as many people as I could. I was in an area that was growing a lot. New doctors are coming in and things like that. I started to figure, “I got this. I can do this. I've run all these other places.” I started almost grasping at straws and pulling things out of the sky. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Healthcare was a lot different back then. We got reimbursed a lot better and there weren't all of the authorization and restrictions that there are now. As those things started to creep in, I wasn't sure anymore what to do. I was starting to have some struggles. You mentioned Measurable Solutions. I was a client of them as well, that's where I found them. I started to learn how to run a business and that's what's become successful for me to the point where I've grown my business significantly.
What led you to reach out to Measurable Solutions in the first place or decide to get some help? What's intriguing is that you had all these years of management experience, yet you didn't learn how to run a business and you would assume that it'd be an easy transition for you to be successful in an outpatient clinic, which is a story itself. What led you? Was there a turning point where you're like, “I need to get on top of this. I need to find something else?” Is there a backstory behind that?People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it because they perceive how dedicated you are to what you do. Click To Tweet
Definitely, there is. Around 2011 to 2012, at least in my area, it's where a lot of physicians were starting to open their own PT practices. There were a couple of big companies that came into the area at the time, HealthSouth Physiotherapy came into the area. They started to open or buy a lot of clinics. I've run these outpatient centers, but I ran them underneath the guys in the management of this hospital system that I was part of. Here I am, I'm on my own. I don't know how to compete against HealthSouth Physiotherapy or PTs that are opening their own practice. I felt like I needed some help to help me to survive that period of time. That's when I reached out. That's what's been the impetus for me growing and being successful over the course of the last several years. We've expanded over 600% in terms of size and volume. It started from 2011 to 2012, where I was scared of what might happen if I didn't have a better plan in place to compete against these big guys that were coming in.
I don't know if the environment is all that different nowadays for new practice owners. Whether it's physicians that are taking their therapy services in-house if they haven't already done so or hospital networks buying up or larger nationally-run private equity firms or publicly-traded physical therapy companies that are coming and buying some of the smaller clinics. It's happening all over the place. Even though it's a little bit different than your situation, I'm sure there is a similar environment now where there are owners who aren't sure what their future looks like, reimbursements are going to go down, authorizations are going to be a lot harder, all that kind of stuff. There are plenty of questions out there. That's my mantra. You’ve got to reach out and get some help. Reach out, step out, and network. You’ve got to reach out and find somebody to give you some of that business training.
That's why I love your show because it exposes people to many other opportunities. Many other people had been through the same things. I was at PPS, I was talking to a lot of new guys that are coming out. They've been out for a couple of years and they're experiencing the same things. Here in my area, I forget about the fact that there is not even a primary care physician in my area anymore that doesn't own his or her own PT practice. I forget about that because I've got assistance ingrained. It works so well. As I was talking to some guys, it's happening all over the place pretty much no matter where you are from Alaska to Florida. It's the same situation.
It was you as a physical therapist when you initially got started. Where are you at now? How many providers do you have on staff? How many locations do you have?
I always like to look back on that. It truly was just me. I didn't have any office staff. I didn't have a tech. I didn't have anything. It was me. I answered the phone. I collected payments. I sent the claims to the insurance company. I treated the patients. I cleaned the tables. I always like to look back on that. Here's where we're at now. We had our fourteenth clinician PT that started. In PT/PTA, we have five athletic trainers that work for us as well. I wouldn't be doing it fair if I gave you a number, but we have a large number of the front office staff that includes billing and things like that. We'd probably have 8 or 9 people. We have a total of 38 or 39 employees now. We're all in one location. I would say I have six clinics. They're all in one building.
Every time we've needed or wanted to expand, we've been able to take on additional space in the building that we're in. It’s one of the things that I learned when I moved to this building back in 2007. We're in this direct center of the county and you have to drive through us to get to anywhere you go in our area. Rather than opening another place over here and another one over there, it's always worked economies of scale for us to take on another 2,000 square feet and turn it into that. We took on 2,000 square feet. We haven't knocked down the wall yet. We don't need the space yet, but it puts us at over 16,000 square feet. That's why I say I have six clinics, but they're all in one. Every time we do so, we've got to hire new office staff, new clinical staff and that's how we've grown.
I've always been envious of that. It's nice to say that I've got 4, 6, 10, 12 locations, but I've always been envious of you because you've got one location and a bunch of providers knocking it out. It’s economies of scale. You got immediate visual oversight of what's going on in the clinic and everyone is in connection with each other. It's easy to develop your culture and a lot of that goes on well. Your story is awesome but I want to talk about what ramped up your numbers. What were some of the successful actions? There's one particular program that I want to delve in with you about. What do you think some of the successful actions had been for you in terms of expanding your numbers?
I would say there are two pieces. One is getting more new patients in the door. I would sum that up as saying like marketing and promoting. Both internal and external things and how we look at and how we address a patient from the time they start to the time they finish, getting them to what I would call a successful discharge. Those are the two pieces where every year we'd rather bring in more new patients. We've expanded that way and/or we've tightened down our systems and made a much better process. We improved the process to make sure that we're keeping patients all the way to a successful discharge. Those two things have been the biggest driving factors in our expansion, especially over the last several years.
I love what you said there that you added tightening up the processes because many times, I find that many clinics if they're going through some tough times don't necessarily need a lot of new patients. What you find is that they have holes in the bucket, holes in the ship, however you want to analogize that, but they don't have the structural integrity to maintain the patients to get them through their full plan of care to a successful discharge. If you can shore up those holes and maintain the integrity of your system so there are people getting through to discharge successfully. You don't meet a lot of new patients, but when you do start getting new patients, you start seeing tremendous growth. That's what you see that you shored up your systems. I do have to put a plugin here. Your wife has been on the show before, her name is Dee Bills. She owns Front Office GURU. I recommend you go back and read her episode and when she recognized that she spent more than a year in fortifying the front office systems in your clinic to do exactly what we're talking about.
I am glad you mentioned that. I was going to say that in the year 2014, we had five fewer new patients came in the door in 2014 but it’s when we implemented and instilled all of the processes that she now teaches people out in Front Office GURU. We grew 31% in the year of 2014 both in collections and patient visits because we shored up all those holes. That's a great point to the fact that you don't need more new patients all of the time, you need to be sometimes look at improving your systems. We had fewer new patients over the course of fourteen from the previous year thirteen. We grew considerably because we shored up and plugged all those holes with all of the things that she now goes off and teaches other people. I'm lucky enough to be able to have learned that along the way with her. We continue to put it into play now.
I can't imagine how much money, how well that hit your bottom line, your net profits in that regard because your expenses were probably about the same. I did a show with Heidi Jannenga and they do their annual WebPT State of Rehab Survey Report. They found that the average small clinic loses about $150,000 per year in gross revenue. They haven't shored up their systems in there and patients essentially aren't completing their plans of care successful.
Think about it, you need to get a patient that finishes two visits, finishes themselves, two visits before they should have. You multiply that by however many patients there are. That's a ton of visits. It's a ton of money that we're losing as business owners.
What I want to talk to you is you've focused on and all of us are out there, “I need to get physician relationships, visits and referrals.” Those are super important. It's important to have those relationships with the doctors in the community, but you've been successful with your internal referral programs. Do you mind sharing with the audience a little bit about that and what you do?
We have done a good job in my opinion. We've done a good job of building relationships with patients that are current and how we get them to refer patients. You can call it a patient referral program, but anybody can give out a card that says, “Refer a patient or I'll give you a gift card to target if you refer me a patient.” I live hard on this philosophy of people who don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They perceive how dedicated you are to what you do. You talked about the culture before. You're creating a culture where patients want to share that with their friends and their families. It goes a lot into educating the patient. In Virginia, we have some loose direct access laws, which do help us. I would tell you, I'm working with a client in Texas that has some restrictive direct access laws. This is working gangbusters for them.
If you educate your patients on when they can come to you, how they can refer their family, friends, and you teach your staff how to have the right conversations, that program comes into play. I'll give you an example. If I'm working with a patient and I am talking to him about, “What do you do for work?” “I work around the corner at Oracle.” “Tell me something about the guys that you work with.” “We all sit around in these cubicles all day. We're all on our computers all day.” Let's say this guy is here for his knee because he hurt it running, but I will start to ask questions like, “Anybody at work ever complaining about their arms hurting them, their elbows hurting them, their necks hurting them?”
He was like, “We were having this conversation. We've got to figure out some way because at the end of the day, on Friday, our necks are always stiff and sore.” There's a light bulb for me. I'm going to educate him on what he should be saying to those five guys that he sits in a cubicle with. Before you know it, 2 or 3 of them have become patients in a short period of time while that guy that I was treating is still here. It's a matter of how do I educate him to go back to the office and educate those people so that the internal referral is walking in the door before that guy has ever been discharged. He's replaced himself 2 or 3 times over. That cycle keeps ongoing.Train, drill, and practice. Click To Tweet
I love it because that takes it to another level. I love it because you're basing it upon your higher purpose. Whereas our internal referral program in the past, it was a little bit more like, “Who else do you know that's in pain?” Inevitably you might know somebody that has some issues with this, that or the other. It was surprising to me how many patients would sit there as we're working on their knees and they'd ask us, “Do you guys work with low back pain?” That's 75% of my patient load. Patients still don't know what we do essentially. We have to educate them on how we can provide value to them. For those patients who are coming with their knees, you ask them, “Are they having issues with their backs? Tell us about your family or whatnot.” You look for opportunities where you can instruct not only them but also instruct them on how they can help or guide their friends and family over to you by the value you provide.
I realized that it's a matter of I had to change my mindset that it was okay for me to tell them what type of patient to send me and when to send me that. If I'm having a conversation with a parent and they're like, “What'd you do this weekend?” “I was with my kids. My kid had this soccer tournament.” “Does anybody ever get hurt on the field?” “All the time.” “Here's what I want you to do.” I had to change my mindset. “The next time somebody gets hurt, I want you to give them this card. We're going to write your name on it because I want you to get credit for it. Once you give them this card, I want you to tell them about the experience that you're having in therapy. What do you like about therapy right now?” “I liked the fact that every time I come in, you guys remember my name and you remember what we did last time. You always want to know things. You're progressing me.” “I want you to share that with that child's parents.”
It helps that process of I'm educating that patient on what to do because they don't know that we treat backs because they're here for their knee. They don't know that somebody else can walk in off the street because they came to us from a referral from a physician. All of those points where we can educate them on, it might come into play when they're in therapy. It might come into play a few weeks from now, but we all are going to come in contact with somebody that's in some level of discomfort. I want them to be able to go, “I had a great experience. You should go see those guys.” For us, that was a big part of it.
That's a great example of how you're not handing over the card saying, “If you know anybody, you can get a free movie ticket if you pass them along to us.” I love how you give them the words, the verbiage to use when they're in that situation so that they do feel comfortable. Maybe they don't use the exact words, but they know the feeling that you're trying to portray it. Through them, they can express that feeling in those words to someone who needs physical therapy, honestly. What have been some of the benefits of that? Have you seen a significant amount of growth simply by pushing the internal referral program?
Yes, we've tracked a lot of different statistics. The ones that we track is how many of our new patients on a weekly basis are coming from what we call patient referrals, which would be that internal referral program. On an annual basis up through the end of the third quarter, after the end of September 2019, about 38% of our new patients had come from referrals from other people, which is only second to new patients coming to us off of the internet, social media. It's three times the amount of referrals that we get from physicians, we're getting patients referring family, friends. It's been successful. When you look at it if I used to get three new patients from that, let's say 27 is what we had. If I get 27 new patients from patient referrals, then let's think about how much that's going to help things to expand. It takes us back to the previous topic we were talking about.
If I referred you to someplace, you're going to go with you're already sold. I don't have to sell you on your plan of care. You're going to want to stay because your wife said it was a great place. You're going to do what I tell you because your wife said that. It helps that process much easier. I always tell my staff, “Wouldn't you rather treat the friends of the patients that you liked, then roll the dice on that guy that walks in off the street and you don't know anything about him? You already know that patient because they work with Joe at Oracle. You already know things about them. You already have things in common.” It's much easier to treat that patient. Put that energy into educating them on how to refer somebody.
You use the words well and I'm sure you established a great referral program. How do you get the other providers on your team to do the same thing, to have the same words, to use the same energy? It's one thing to do it as the owner because you own that program and process, but how do you get that to extrapolate into the rest of the team, even the front desk?
This is the message that when you ask me, what is the one thing that's been most successful for you across all aspects of your business? It would be what I call drilling or training. We drill and we train all the time. I'll use it as an analogy. The World Series is finished. Washington Nationals, I'm not a Nationals fan even though I live right here in Washington DC. Let's say I was, I'm a Yankees fan, but nonetheless those guys train year-round. They'll take a couple of weeks off, but even on a day where there's a game, they're in the batting cage before the game. Why? They're going to get 27 pitches or so over the course of the game, but yet they're still practicing that. I take the same philosophy with my clinicians, with my front office staff.
We need to practice. I have to recognize that I didn't get good at having a patient referral program in the first few years I was a clinician. I probably was horrible at it back then. As the business owner, I've perfected that skill, which is what helped me to be successful as a business owner. As to help my staff, all of them, you have to be as successful as that. It comes to training. We train, drill and practice. How would you ask me for a referral? I wouldn't say, “Do you know anybody I know?” I would train them, drill with them, and practice with them how to have that conversation so that it flows They want to get those referrals. They don't know how to go about the process. They'll be like, “Have this referral card and bring it.” They'll get back to whatever they were doing because the conversation doesn't flow naturally. It's practice.
To get into the weeds a little bit, are you doing this one on one? Are you doing it as a group? I mistakenly immediately went and said that you're training this with the providers, but you're dealing with your whole staff. The entire staff should be on board with this internal referral program because they know the value that Loudoun Sports Therapy provides to the community. You shouldn't be holding that back. How often are you doing these drilling or training sessions?
I'll try to break it down for you this way. If we're talking about the referral program, it starts on day one. If you are a new employee, you're training and drilling on the referral program every single day. Whether you work at the front desk, you’re a tech, you’re a PT. There's some semblance of drilling on that every single day, five days a week as part of from day one of starting. Even my people that had been here from 5 to 8 years, they're still drilling a minimum of one time a week for 30 minutes on that one aspect.
We do drills on a lot of different things, but that is the key thing that everybody does. No matter what you do, everybody's drilling on that a minimum of 30 minutes a week, at least one time a week. There may be other things that you're drilling on. Every staff member for us drills a minimum total of 60 minutes a week. That's the inside of their 40 hours a week. It's not an addition. If you're newer, more of your 40 hour week is going to be on drilling. If you're older, you've been here longer, it's still that minimum of an hour and 30 minutes of that hour is always on the referral program.
Do you do that over the course of a year? You guys have become experts then at getting referrals from patients.
Yes, it’s the same thing. Think about the baseball players. They're still in the batting cage all the time. It's funny, we're having this conversation. My youngest daughter who's sixteen, who still is in high school, she's the only one that we have left at home. She is interviewing for a job here. She's going through the same process. She's worked there since she was eight, but she's still interviewing for a job. It'd be a position at the front desk. She came home, she had the interview process. She's like, “I won't say their name, but I might want to drill with Sally a little bit more because she wasn't as good at talking about the referral program as I think she should be.” There's always been a joke. My daughter has always said that she's the Deputy CEO of Loudoun Sports Therapy. It was interesting to see how somebody who's grown-up seeing that and to be able to see. She’s somebody who's been here for a couple of weeks and that's a new employee that she was talking about. She’s somebody that flows well but still has room for improvement on that.
You guys will not only train on the internal referral programming. Essentially, the goal with the training then is to get the referrals from the patient or to pass along the card simply. What is the goal of each training session?
The goal of the training session would be that they have an increased level of confidence in being able to help the patients to have a realization of somebody that's out there that maybe we could help. We're not looking for them to give us their name and their phone number. That's not the process we're following. If that's what somebody is doing, that's perfectly fine. What we're looking for is for them to have the realization. I dragged my trashcan down to the street and I was talking to my neighbor. He's like, “My knee has been bothering me.” What I want is for that patient to realize that's somebody that they could refer to us.” It's drilling with the staff member to have that conversation, help the patient to have that realization, and come to the conclusion of, “I don't have to send them here, shouldn't I? Do you guys do these?” “Yes, we do.” “Do you have something I could give them?” “I have this card. You could give them the card” We have a card that says referral card on it. We'll write the patient's name on it so they get credit for it. We'll send them a thank you, but we don't do anything else.The goal of the training session is to have an increased level of confidence in being able to help the patients. Click To Tweet
You say you're getting 38% of your patients from this internal referral program. I'm assuming that with all the physicians on physical therapy clinics in your area, you don't get a lot of physician referrals. What's your percentage there?
It is 11%.
Where are you getting a majority of your patients from at this time?
If we look at beyond the patient referral program, what I would classify to be like social media, the internet. It's social media, internet, and the patient referral program tied together. We have an expectation that every patient who successfully completes therapy is going to give us a success story. Do an online review for us. We average about 13 to 14 online reviews a week between Facebook and Google. That's hard. It's an extension of that internal review or referral program. They give us that review.
The discharge patients give us that review so that somebody out in the community sees that, has that reality with it and reaches out. The majority of our patients, we've been successful in building the use of that direct access through that patient referral program. Patients come to us off the street, they'll see something that we put up on Facebook or an email that we send out or something that we mail out. It’s a whole own separate entity. That's the number one driving force. The number two driving force for new patients is the patient referral program.
Physician referrals have declined over the course of a number of years. The study, a couple of years ago, it declined 50% between 2010 and 2018. It's dependent on us to change our marketing strategy. Don't forsake your physician relationships, those are valuable. You always want to be able to the physicians that these patients are saying, but you’ve got to consider direct to consumer marketing is the way you need to go. If you're outside of the internal, the patients are already there. I'm assuming you've got emails or newsletters that are going out to past patients and you're constantly mining that group because that's an ever-expanding group. You've got the internal referral program that gets you some immediate patients based on the patients that are in the clinic. When it comes to social media, are you doing some Facebook ads? Are you simply having those patients post on social media?
We're doing both. For example, that patient that is discharged now, they'll do an online review for us. They'll put their success story up. We'll share that. We'll like that. They'll share that and like that with their friends with that piece. We are doing a whole semblance of things online. We do run ads on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Most of what we're doing is unpaid. Most of what we're doing is I would term to be organic. It's not following the organic definition of Facebook. We post five things a day on Facebook about different problems. It falls back to the notion of if I educate people that there is a problem, how the problem is affecting them, that there's a solution for it, they're going to be much more likely to take action because they understand what it will do for them to take action.
It goes back to that mantra of people don't buy what you're doing. They buy why you're doing it. I'm constantly putting out content that helps people to see that it's not normal at the age of 45 to have knee pain, despite where we might think in society. In society, we think, “It's okay because I'm getting older.” It shouldn't be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. “Here are some things you might be having problems with going up and downstairs, sitting to watch a movie. There's a solution to it.” After they see that a certain number of times, they will start to take action. We'll tie that success story into it. “Here's Joe who had knee problems. He came to us and here are his results.” That's part of that whole process.
The majority of what we're doing when it comes to getting new patients off of social media, internet, isn't down that paid avenue as much as it's down the continue to educate them and give them good content and information. They will make that decision to take action in a relatively short period of time. I hadn't changed my mindset. I used to think, “One post a week was enough.” Now, I said, “We do a minimum of five a day and a minimum of two emails a day.” That's a minimum. If we just hired a new clinician and we're trying to fill their schedule, then it's 7 to 8 things a day and 4 to 5 emails a day. I had to change my mindset, but following that same philosophy.
Who's creating all that content?
We have all of our clinical staff create all of that content. We do all of our own social media stuff in-house. It's a requirement. It's an expectation. If you're a clinician that works for us, you're going to produce one blog every three weeks and one vlog every five weeks. We're constantly creating that content internally. I have full-time promotions, people that work for us as part of our staff. They're employed here, but that's her job as she does social media stuff. She's taking those blogs that she's getting, she's turning them into content, throwing a picture with it, putting it up online, deciding what to do with it. It's getting that stuff out, but all our clinicians are producing all of that.
Do you find you're getting a lot of patients that say, “I found you guys on Facebook?” Are you getting some of that?
When we look at it if I were to turn around here. If I'm looking at my referrals that came from online, 63% of our new patients came to us of some form of online, internet, social media.
I haven't talked to a lot of successful PT owners that have had as much success as you have when it comes to the internet and social media work. Do you attribute that sheer volume on the consistency of your posting?
It comes down to three things. One is the volume. It is the quantity of things that we're putting out. Number two, it's the quality of what we're putting out. We're not putting out, “Come to Loudoun Sports Therapy.” We're putting out, “Here's a problem. Here's how therapy can help. By the way, at Loudoun Sports therapy, we treat that.” We're telling a story to the patients that they come to have a realization that there's a problem. There's a solution to it. The third thing that I'd say that helped us to drive that as that I've spent a lot of time. The benefit of me being able to truly be an owner and not have to worry about being a physical therapist is I've been able to dedicate my time and hire staff who have the same desire to learn a lot about that avenue of marketing and promoting and using social media.
I've become a pseudo expert in marketing and promotion. That's one of the things that I do with Measurable Solutions is helping to pass that information on to other practice owners so that they can have the same results. It is something that's been successful for us. I talked to a lot of practice owners who tried it but it didn't work. I'll say it's because they didn't put their full attention and energy on it. They were paying somebody that's also marketing for the restaurant down the street, writing a blog for them about something. It's always driven towards, “Come to Loudoun Sports Therapy.” That’s a no-no. “Go to physical therapy. By the way, Loudoun Sports Therapy does the things that we're talking about.”People need to see something an average of twelve or more times before they take action on it. Click To Tweet
That's one thing I know about myself is that I'm not the creative type, content creation is like nails on a chalkboard. Inevitably you probably have somebody on your team that would probably love to have that responsibility to do that. You have shown by the fact that your providers are doing content creation, have created a culture, and a group of people that are willing, wanting and anxious to provide that.
I'd say it's a lot later. Back to the drilling on teaching a patient how they can refer to others. A lot of times, we'd get very all worked up about a blog has to be this big fancy thing with a lot of stats and a lot of stuff. It's making it simple for that staff member, “If you were standing in line at the grocery store and the person in front of you kept rubbing their neck, what would you talk to that person about for 2.5 minutes? Go write that down. That's a blog. Making it something that's much simpler because that's the type of relationship we should have with our potential patients. Don't be all fancy and super-duper hyper stuff. Be simple and basic.”
They will have that realization if they see it enough. You've got to have stuff out there and enough content. The same thing with the patient on the patient referrals side, the internal referrals, you can't mention it one time. You've got to be like, “When you went back to work, did you talk to any of those guys that were complaining about their neck pain?” “No, I didn't.” You're like, “You have to keep coming back to that point.” It's the same thing. It's everything in quantity will give you what you're looking for later on.
I love how you brought that back around full circle to the internal referral program. The one-time conversation isn't sufficient. There need to be followups, there needs to be, “As you walked around, have you noticed other people with a similar condition? What are your friends and family like?
I might've been talking to you about the guys you sit at work with you had lunch with, but then you're telling me about the soccer game. You're talking about raking leaves with your neighbors. All of those things are opportunities where I keep ingraining in you. I keep having this relatively same conversation, but I keep ingraining in you how you can refer to other people. I don't just have it one time. It's like a shoulder that's frozen. I don't mobilize it one time and it's all better. I've got to mobilize it twelve times and it starts getting better. It's the same thing with getting somebody to refer, getting those referrals in. A lot of times we get wrapped into, “I tried that. We tried it three times over the course of three months.” You have that conversation twice with a patient on day five. On day fifteen, they didn't do what you needed him to do.
I read a study that said, “On this day and age of social media, we need to see something an average of twelve or more times before we'll take action on it.” It changed my mindset. If I'm putting out a blog a week, a couple of weeks from now, maybe somebody will go, “I should do that.” The reality is if they're only seeing it once a week, they forgot about it by the time they see it next week. The same is true for patients. If I had a conversation with you about referring your wife, but I don't ask the next time, “How's your wife doing?” You forgot that we had a conversation. I’ve got to have that conversation with you multiple times for you to go, “I'm going to have the conversation with her and get her off my back at a minimum.” You’ve got to hear and see something twelve times before you take action on it.
That changes my mindset hearing you say that. It's understandable because, in the past, my refrain growing up was that someone's got to hear it three times for it to sink in. If you consider the decreased attention span of people nowadays and how easily distracted they are. You tell me once and I'm going to forget that by the time I scroll up to the next thing on LinkedIn or Facebook. If I see it a number of times and especially, more than three times over the course of even a couple of days, then it starts sinking in. I can see where twelve is coming from.
If you watch football games, if you watch an NFL game in a span of 3.5 hours, how many times do you see the exact same commercial? Not the commercial for Bud Light or for Ford trucks. It's the exact same commercial. It's the same philosophy. You've got to see it many times before you're like, “I need that truck.” That's the society we live in.
Thanks for sharing so much about some of the successful actions that you're doing with your clinic. It's evident in the numbers that you have now and the growth that you guys have seen. If someone wanted to reach out to you to pick your brain, ask about Measurable Solutions, even get in touch with Dee, how would they get in touch with you?
That's the point I love about where I am in my career now is that I get a chance to help other practice owners. I am so much about helping the private practice owner to survive in this day and age of big corporations. Anybody that wants to reach out to me, I would love to sit down, chat and help in any way I can. The best way to get in touch with me is to send me a text, shoot me an email, or leave me a voicemail. I'll give you my cell phone number. It's (703) 470-5995. One of the great things about me, having built this business to my clinic is I've been able to give back to Measurable Solutions that was helpful for me.
They taught me a ton of the basics of these things that I've applied and talked about. I've been able to join their team. I'm the President of Measurable Solutions now. The best email to reach me at is my email for them. That would be Mike@FortisBusinessSolutions.com. Send me an email. I'm happy to figure out a time that we could talk or anything like that. I am always about being able to help people because I want private practices to survive. I do not want us to get eaten up by physicians and corporations. I'd love to help anybody that's out there that wants more information.
Thank you for your time. I appreciate it, Mike. It was great. There's a ton of value. Thank you.
You're welcome. Thank you.
Mike Bills is the Owner and CEO of Loudoun Sports Therapy Center in Sterling VA. He started his practice in 2005 and did everything: answered the phone, treated patients, billed the insurance, etc. Since that time he has grown his practice by over 10 times. He now has a staff of well over 20 people, including 14 clinicians and a facility size of over 10,000 square feet. It was always Mike’s goal to have the time and ability to manage his business and not work in it and he has fulfilled that goal as he is the true CEO and no longer treats patients. Another goal Mike had was to be able to help other PT’s have the Freedom they deserved from their practice.
Mike was a client of Measurable Solutions where he learned how to truly manage a private practice and where he learned how to truly be the CEO. This is where he learned the basis for all of the systems that he uses in his practice that have helped him to be so successful. Recently Mike was named the President of Measurable Solutions and is now able to fulfill that goal of helping other private practice PT’s have the same success as him. If it weren’t for the perseverance and drive over the years to build a successful business this never would have been a reality for him. Marketing is one of the most important pillars of a private practice and I have worked hard to develop systems that continuously help my practice to grow and thrive despite the time of year or whatever else is happening in my community. I am happy to be invited onto the podcast to share just a fraction of what has helped us be so successful.