In these challenging times, one of the questions that go over the mind of every business owner is how to thrive in the post-COVID market. Blaine Stimac, PT of Health Rehab Solutions was one of Nathan Shields’ first guests on the podcast two years ago. Now he's back to share more wisdom! At the time of their first interview, he had just over 20 clinics but has since expanded to over 30, with more clinics to open in 2020 despite COVID-19! The pandemic did have a short-term impact on his business, but now, three months later, almost all of his clinics are back to full-scale operation. The slow-down gave him and his team the opportunity to "reset," reconsider how they were doing things, and improve their systems, teams, and marketing programs. Now, they're stronger than they were prior to COVID and are ready to expand while other clinics are still ramping back up. Today, he shares the three areas in which owners should consider making significant changes to improve their business.
I've got a returning guest from way back at the beginning of the podcast. He is Blaine Stimac, CEO of Health & Rehab Solutions. He shared his story in how he grew from one clinic to over twenty clinics at the time, and he's continued to grow since then. I'm excited to bring him on and to not only share about his growth and what he's done but also to break down how they at Health & Rehab Solutions got through the pandemic and what they've done to come out of it to be super successful. Thanks for coming on, Blaine. I appreciate it.
Thanks for having me. It’s good to be back.
Share with everybody a little bit about what you've done over the past couple of years with Health & Rehab Solutions. If this is the first time for anyone reading about Blaine, I recommend you go back and read his story because it hasn't always been rosy pictures, dandelions and butterflies for him through the years. He went through his own challenges for sure. Bring us up to speed. What has happened over the last couple of years?
We’ve built HRS and started it in 2012 with the intention to partner with physical therapists, either existing and/or aspiring with the idea of bringing together their passion for physical therapy with good business practices. As we know, being a great physical therapist does not guarantee success in private practice. Our intention in having been one of those early practice owners in having gone through that, and battled the first handful of years in private practice, it became our intention to try to increase the success of private practice owners in general. We're definitely big champions of the whole private practice, being owned by physical therapists and even doing things a little bit. We liked the entrepreneurial spirit, so we're trying to build and grow that. That was the intention of HRS. As you said, when we spoke last time, we had around 20 or 22 clinics or so. At this point in time, we've added a handful more partners.
Each one of our partners themselves has a growth strategy and is expanding. We're also expanding with new partners. Some with de novo startup situations and another good acquisition with a partner. In the meantime, since HRS went through its own growth phase as any company does, we've been able to put a stronger corporate team around us. We've been able to put stronger training, lineups, methods, and different ways that we work with our partners and our whole team that invest in their growth, their success, and things we didn't have in our early days. We've been building this with the idea that we could continue to partner with more physical therapists and accomplish our intention of helping along those lines.
You're in multiple states. Which states are you in now?
We're in Colorado, Arizona, Washington. Montana is our original state where our corporate office is at.
First of all, congratulations. That's great to hear the growth and the continued growth and success that you have with other partners and PT owners.
Thanks, I appreciate it.
I want to make this relatable to the standalone PT who has his 1 or 2 clinics and another PT at a smaller scale. Number one, how did you guys survive through the pandemic? Also, share with us what some of the struggles and what you've done successfully to come out of the pandemic situation to make sure your clinics are successful?
Every difficult situation has a silver lining to it. I certainly would never wish that we would ever go through a pandemic again. However, it does create moments to look for areas of improvement. It also creates a moment for you to take a look at where your practice might not have been strong and what does it take to succeed going into the future? I've almost been doing this for many years and when things went down a path that I didn't either see coming, none quite like COVID, but nonetheless it's a moment where it exposes an area of needed improvement.
I'll use the term weakness because I don't think weaknesses is a negative thing. I think it's an opportunity to strengthen and to grow. In any area where we have a weakness is an area that we could get better at. Not from a negative thing, in the way that it might define someone or make them less, but it's an opportunity sometimes for us to look at that and realize how to get back and grow from that. We see that and tried in athletics. It's applicable in business. There are silver linings in this whole thing and there are things that a practice owner and maybe some of your readers might find that, “What do I do from this point?”
It's already happening and we can't change it. These are things that had in place on the front end. Most certainly, you would have made it through better and have made it through stronger, but that's water under the bridge at this point. The key becomes, how do I move my practice into that kind of position now and coming out of it as things start opening back up? How do I position my practice to be able to deal with challenges? It's going to make it stronger and good times and it's going to make me get through the bad times a little bit better because there are always going to be some challenges somewhere.
No one could have seen this coming and there are still questions as to whether or not we're going to see more spikes that lead to more full-scale shutdowns. I know states are starting to close bars, theaters, and the gyms back down again as they're seeing these spikes. Who knows what's going to happen once the winter comes around and the next virus comes out? There are a lot of unforeseen things out there, but there are things that we can do as owners to prepare for those unforeseen events. Take advantage of the opportunities that we have. That's why I'm excited to bring you on. I want to know what you guys at HRS are looking at.
Every one of us goes through certain growth cycles as a practice owner, as a leader, as the key manager executive of that company. I think the key thing that practices and owners need to look at this point in time is when you're coming out of this and rebuilding back up is to look at the strength of your team. I've definitely gone through multiple times when I've had to look at this myself at various stages in my time, growing and trying to get better at doing what we do. I’m realizing that if your company is made up of a bunch of below-average people, the net result of your company is going to be below average. Sometimes, we, as practice owners and business owners, don't realize that we have to invest a little bit more on our team and we have to be able to address the quality of our team a little bit more. What also happens is the last strong the team is, the more it overloads the owner as well, which, unfortunately, it has secondary effects in other areas of the company, like marketing and other areas are not as good.
It has a negative result. As we take a look at that and look at what was the quality of the team before, and what is the level of the team that you need to win going forward? What is the level of the team that would make you excited again? It has to do with not only the people you hire but then also, “How well do I train them? How well do I invest in them when they come in?” One of the other key things in that area too is not only, “Am I investing in them?” One of the areas that we see with practices and I'm sure you see it a little bit in the time that you've been in the role of a practice owner as well, the number of practices and in your coaching role, where it's so critical for owners to learn how to make good clean expectations with their staff about what's needed. I have a tendency that when we hire someone on average, they're going to do about 80% of what you need them to do. The old classic 80/20 rule.
If you do nothing, they will come in, and very rarely they are going to come in, nail it and do everything you need them to do. If you expect that they're going to come in and only do 80% of what you need them to do, then it becomes our job. The more skilled we are as being leaders and in a good sense of not just managing people, then we can get that other 20%. We must first define it well with them, explain to them what's needed and wanted, help them get the skills and training needed to do it, and then expect them to do it. That's the hard part. One thing as PT that I always say is it's a double-edged sword. We're suckers. We care so much about people that we usually will bend over backwards in a way that doesn't always help us. It's that pure care factor and that desire to help that also is what's special about what we do.
I love with our partners and the people we partner with is they’ve got a huge care factor. It also though, makes them a little bit of a sucker over here. It makes it a little bit as they get to a second that they have to learn. That cool thing is you can't make someone care, but I can teach them or we can grow in these other areas. I'd much rather be a little bit on that end, but generally speaking, that's a key area. As owners, we look at the outside of the other side of this and go, “How do I strengthen that? Could I do better myself as far as making better expectations?” If we expect people are going to come in and nail it and then they don't, we're upset. If we expected him to come in and only do 80%, then we are prepared.
I had that same conversation with a coaching client and I said, “You're looking at a new graduate. A new graduate expectation probably shouldn't even be at 80%.” He's looking at a new graduate coming in. I'm like, “What can you tolerate? Could you tolerate if he eventually got to 75% to 80% of what you do?” He's like, “He never gets 100%.” I said, “I know he's not going to be the owner and run all the departments, but productivity-wise, seeing patients, could he do 75% to 80% of what you could do?” He's like, “He could do that.” I said, “That's a reasonable expectation. You shouldn't expect that he's going to come in and do 100% of what you, as the owner has personally and financially invested in the business will do.”What are you doing differently in your business because of COVID? Click To Tweet
Keep your expectations relatively low initially, but then focus on trying to squeeze out the other 10%, 15%, 20%. In some cases, those typically end up being your future leaders, if they're able to get to a high productivity level. We had that exact same conversation. To go to your care factor point, we have so much compassion for these people that there's a lot of fear and holding them accountable, and it ends up being that they tend to walk all over us. They are like teenagers. If they find out that they can do something that is in the gray, then they'll push that boundary a little further and that adds more stress to the owner.
It's hard from a coaching perspective and I know you do this in your role, as well as you're working in developing CEOs, is to help them recognize that that person's taking advantage of you. I hope you understand that they're taking advantage of your niceness and they're coming in late every day because you haven't held them accountable ever. Even though that's in your policy and you have a disciplinary procedure, you haven't done anything about it. You should expect it because you're not doing anything about it. It goes back to our desire, our compassion to want to help, be kind, and be seen as this charitable figure when, unfortunately, the team members will take advantage of that.
That's where I use that term sucker. I don't know if that's a good word necessarily to do it, but we get caught in that and we want these people to win so we typically try. One of the things that helped me a lot too, I tried many ways sometimes to help my staff to strengthen them and I was missing it. I usually get it by making up for what they weren't doing thinking if I led by example and did all this extra work. It bringing them along versus being better at communicating. You start to understand this as a parent where help isn't always doing it for them. Helping is equipping them to be able to do it for themselves.
By making better expectations with our staff and expecting them to do it, but giving them the tools and investing in their ability to do, but at the end of the day, they must do it. I can't be the one that does that for them. I can only give them the opportunity. Help is more defined in there and it falls from your traditional saying, “Give a man a fish or teach a man to fish.” It's that concept. At some point in time, that became real to me as a practice owner. I shifted a lot of how I was doing things. I started to realize that the real way that I'm selling people is by making them more competent, more successful, not by making up for what they weren't doing.
You talked about three things that you recommend that owners look at as they're coming out of the pandemic and some things that you guys are focused on. What's the second thing that you guys are looking at as you are talking to CEOs and partners, as they’re coming out of this?
Before we bump that second one, I think it's critical that you evaluate the strength of your team. I want to comment on that that involves in my opinion. Three key areas which are, the silver lining behind this is a little bit of an opportunity to get what we sometimes will refer to as a reset button. Things haven't been great. Whether I've furloughed some people and I'm bringing them back, or some people didn't make it with me, I'm going to be hiring some new people. Either way, when people come back, I have that ability to look at, “Who am I bringing back? How am I bringing it back? If I find back out into the market, who am I looking for and what do I want on my team?” It's the ability to assess that.
Number two, when they come back, can I make super clean expectations or good expectations about where we're going? Not because I'm going to lay down the laws of manager, but because it's what it takes for the company and ultimately for them to succeed so that their success and the company's success should be hand in hand. Ultimately, if the company is succeeding, they're succeeding, it all comes down to what we originally set out to do, which is we're helping our patients and we're probably helping more patients. If I have a goal and a purpose of helping people, I don't want to help one. I want to help as many as I can.
I want to do this because most of the people we know if they're not in our office, they're probably in an office that's not doing the kind of PT we do. The majority of the time, they're not even in a PTs officer, and attire was starting to massage his office. They're taking a lot of anti-inflammatories, using creams and do all other things. I know, if that person's in my office, we're going to help them more than these other places. I do everything we can to get them in our office. If I lay down those expectations in a good, positive winning manner with my group, we can then win. Everybody knows what's needed to succeed.
I’ve got to hold that in place. I've got to represent that. Even though I can work twice as much as everybody else, that isn't the goal. Sometimes we think it's the goal, but my goal is to get my group to raise up to maybe not exactly where I'm at, but at 80% zone of getting into what we do. No one's ever going to do what you do as an owner and that's fine. I set that up. I do that. Thirdly, how can you strengthen in training and investing in your staff in a way that when they come on, they understand the expectations? We're going to help them gain the skillset for whether that's your PTs, some of it's on the clinical side.
How can I help them or even give them or give them opportunities or certification tracks, different stuff that makes them a better therapist, but also in the productivity side? That's what we need. We need them to be productive. Not in a way that oftentimes people have a tendency to make production and quality of care incapable of existing together, which is completely not true. I'll show you some of the top therapists out there that everybody pays money to go to their classes. Those guys can treat twice as many patients. This idea that being productive means a lower quality of care is not true, but it does take learning how to correctly manage a caseload, learning how to operate in a way that is well- balanced. Those are the three things that bringing on stronger people, better expectations, and better training.
I like what you say in that regard because most clinics have time. If they're a little bit slower and they have a ramp back up to the pre-COVID-19 levels, they have time. When I talked to some of them, I said, “Are you having your meetings?” They'll say, “No, we don't have our meetings because we don't have a lot to talk about in terms of the patient load.” That's wasted opportunity because those are times that you, as an owner, can train the team on, you name it. Any policy and procedure that you need to train them on. Train them on how to increase compliance, train them on how to address a patient when they first come in the clinic, what their first visit should look like. Start doing a training on anything that has to do with your clinic so it's out of your head and out there for the team to understand. It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the time that we have.
It's exactly what we talked about because we have the old school coaching concept of either get better or you get worse. You never say the same. We always said, “We're either making our company stronger and better and we're expanding or we're contracting?” Obviously, during COVID, you're not going to expand your numbers. Our clinics across the board siding work from 25% to as high as a 50% decrease in our volumes. Almost all of them are back to pre-COVID numbers. During that time, we focus on each partner of ours, “How do we expand during this time?” It came down to exactly what you were saying, we can get stronger here.
We can use this time for training and work on things that we have been able to. We can book better organization in. We can strengthen areas that we were not as tied in policy or systems, getting our staff up, building our directors better. We took that as our opportunity to get better to expand during this time. Expansion doesn't always mean just in money, the gross income of the company and/or the PVs, it can be in other ways like, “We're doing this better, we're tighter here. We're better here.”
Are there some things that you see that your company is doing better post-COVID than you did pre-COVID?
Each one of our companies had their areas to work on. Across the board, every one of them has used this as a moment to definitely set better expectations with the team, figure out who's on board, who they want to play ball with, who is going to contribute to the winning ways for our patients, for the company and themselves have that attitude too. I get excited when everyone's winning. It's like you're getting great results with your patients. Whether you're looking at that through NPS Scores or through the level of compliments you're getting, stories you're getting, the different stuff there that gets you juiced up.
We look at the same ways, is our staff winning or our staff appreciates? Have we provided as much as we could to them? We're looking at our practices succeeding well enough to be on the other side of this and be a leader. That was our goal. We will get on the other side of this and we will come out of this like all of our companies have. We've kept that positive attitude through that and I think our company has done that well.
Step number one, improve the quality routine, strengthen that up, train them up. I love what you're saying about setting expectations because a lot of times that conversation doesn't quite happen and the owner can get frustrated. If a provider on their team isn't living up to their expectation, but if it's not out there for everyone to agree upon, then it's simply an owner's frustration and that's as far as it goes. Are you ready to move on to number two of the recommendations for coming out of this stronger?
The second piece that I would look at if you weren't prepared for this on the frontend is to be better financially prepared. If I had been well financially prepared on the front side of this, especially short of any grant money or PPP money that people might've gotten. All of our companies were prepared to make it through without any of that. We are able to do that. That's not always going to be there. Sometimes the thing that smacks you as a COVID were getting government assistance and there are programs out there to try to help solve businesses. Sometimes, it comes in other forms of where we don't always have that assistance. I think when we look at that, it's like, “What could I do to be better prepared? Can I build a little bit of a reserve fund?”
If my team's performing better, that nicely feeds into my ability to prepare myself. I can set aside a little bit of money that I truly use the financial discipline to not touch except work. When I put it in that account, it's a goner. It is not part of what we look for in distributions and in investing back into the company. That can go a long way there, but I got to know that I can operate with enough of a margin to do that. That should be a focus of owners to make that a necessity where I think up to this point because none of us had any idea that we could get rocked this hard.A weakness is nothing but an opportunity to strengthen. Click To Tweet
Everybody has the idea that a rainy day could come, but not the idea it would be like this. We typically run our companies with a very strong, finished mission and I even felt like we could have been better prepared for this. We could have been, “I had no idea what we were preparing for was not anywhere near what happened,” but we were still able to very well scrambled through, but I would have liked to be stronger prepared looking back on it right at the time. We were at where we were and at the same time, I felt like there was room for improvement there. For a lot of practice owners, we did under-think, what we might have to be prepared for here and we're making it through the week to week, month to month, whatever it might be. I think we need to build in that little preparation piece there.
I was surprised at how many owners I talked to didn't have a line of credit established, even if they hadn't touched it. It was always my understanding that you should at least have access to a line of credit just in case, but that it wasn't a line of credit as your reserves. It was your reserves plus the line of credit that it provided the stability. I was surprised how many owners didn't have that line of credit out there. It reminds me of an interview that I did with Joe Simon in New York, he was the loan partner, that was like, “We need six months of reserves going on here.”
His partners were like, “You've got 2 or 3 months. Why do you need six? Things are going great, the economy is awesome, we are humming.” Lo and behold, we’ve got a hit by COVID. They're like, “Now we understand what you're talking about, Joe.” It's important that we have that money set aside. I don't know about you, but we always tried to keep at least 2 or 3 months of fixed expenses in reserves for each of our clinics. Is there a guideline that you follow usually that you want to share?
We follow the same concept for 2 to 3 months. Six is something you hear, it's a lot. If you have a strong line of credit and you don't have debt, then I think the line of credit gives you that another layer. It takes time to build that up. For the readers and the others that you don't do that overnight, it becomes part of a financial plan that you execute on every month. If you're running a strong business, every month, you can put a little bit away. The other thing is sometimes for some of these practices is the first point should be to take your successes and pay off your debts. That's another way of increasing your financial position because then you should be able to get that line of credit.
Your goal is not to touch it sometimes like a credit card and children are improvident, which means we don't necessarily prepare for the future, “If I want that toy now, I buy it,” “I have no concept of that can stop me from paying my rent later.” The idea of being provident means I can plan for the future. When I have that access and what we know, and then our credit card oriented by on credit world, it's very easy to tap into credit lines when I shouldn't be. You got to have that financial discipline also to know that, “No, that's only for this and I try my best to truly not use it.” I don't use it when “It'd be nice to get new plans,” “We don't have the cash, but we do have our line and I touch it.”
That's not what I would recommend if you are doing that. There are times when you have to utilize your line in the early days of starting a clinic or you're expanding a little bit and there might be sometimes there, “I should attack that debt fast.” That could be a great plan for some practice owners to attack the debt. Get some strengths in your team like we talked about it. A little better performance out of your team and step one and then use those successes to strengthened by either handling debt, then building some reserves and be realistic about not expecting it to happen overnight.
We went into quite a bit of detail with Eric Miller or Econologics on a previous episode and he talked about a number of different accounts that you can set aside money into. The overarching theme was, if you are better prepared financially, it changes the entire complexion of your position in the world and in your business. People who are prepared and in regards to that we're talking about are in a position of power. They're not affected by these vast changes in the economy. They're not blown by every wind and downturn. They're able to stay steady throughout. Those are the companies that are going to stay afloat and thrive going forward.
Not companies that are brand new that as we're already planning on potentially opening an additional office in 2020. Probably six of our companies are on the other side of the pandemic. Their numbers have returned and we're already targeting another office. It's exactly what you're talking about. We have multiple companies that are already planning to open their next location. That's exactly it. When you're in that strong financial position, it allows you to do things that you couldn't do. That doesn't happen again fast, like to be realistic.
Sometimes, in our society and in our world, we get a little bit too much of immediate gratification. We don't realize the timeline it takes to create that. We get frustrated early. We don't stay on top of it. I think if we have a more appropriate timeline, we're more apt to be successful. Eric Miller is a great guy. He has lots of great advice and these all lead into the third piece that we'll talk about, but you're spot in that. The stronger the position, it oftentimes takes advantage, try to strengthen and be able to do things you might not, you wouldn't have definitely been able to do.
I love what you said as you work with your partners, a lot of this stuff has nothing to do with how you treat an L5 facet. You tell your CEOs that, “No longer a PT. When you own a business, you have to essentially take off the PT hat and put on the business owner hat and do what's best for the business. Not what's best for your patients first.”
Those two things don't ever have to necessarily be in conflict, but you must understand that you are running a business. No matter how much you care about your patients, if you are financially in the red, it doesn't matter. You can't care your way out of the red. You have to run your business well enough. The care has a lot of strengths to it, but you still have to understand that another piece. It's the exact thing I went through as a practice owner. In the early days I thought I could be a spectacular PT and then of course I still want to do that, but I realized at some point in time that wasn't going to fix my company.
It's imperative to get some business acumen because of course we're trained PTs. We don't have our MBAs typically. We usually haven't run businesses before. It's imperative to learn some of these business techniques and gained some business acumen to be able to weather in a situation like we're going through.
That's leads perfectly into my third point. We talked about in the second point being strengthened your financial position. Make that a priority in your planning going forward and then the third piece is to improve your business knowledge, your business acumen. You must strengthen this side of your knowledge base. You can't strengthen your clinical skillset and ignore this side. I think that's an area that a lot of practice owners would look at. It ties back and we can talk about the variety of ways in which practice owners can do that. I've evaluated probably 40 or 50 different practices. I've obviously partnered with a lot of practices we've evaluated, some we haven't. I've spent time in a consulting role a little bit before that. One thing, my partner, Ryan Robinson and I talk about typically when we go to a practice that's struggling. They're not doing anything crazy way off in that field. It's lots of little things not being done that add up to low margins, a lot of stress and demand on the company. It isn't because they don't know what to do in a treatment room. It isn't because they aren't able to kill it as a therapist. It's what happens outside of the trigger of it.
We know when we talk about a business, there are many facets to learn about, whether it be your personality, the HR side of it, marketing, finance, team building, a variety of different components. If I understand that, I can learn and start building that skillset, then certainly I'm going to be better prepared to go into the future. This is one of those moments where I might not have been willing to confront that, but I think when I understand what happened, it could make it a little bit real the need to build my knowledge base there too.
I think, unfortunately, PTs don't make that mindset transition when they open up their own clinic and own it going forward in that. They are taking on so many more hats than just the PT hat that they experienced for many years in which they've been treating under someone else's roof. You rarely see them fully take on the ownership hat and an executive hat to the point where they let go of the PTL altogether with the benefit of the business. We talked a little bit about that. It's imperative that they recognize that they have to get some business acumen somewhere and others because they're not going to get better over time without gaining some knowledge.
This is the thing that partly probably why we have that mindset, there was a day when you could be an amazing clinician and not know much about running a business and because reimbursement was a lot higher and the cost to run a business was a lot lower. I could make a lot of mistakes and still be okay. In today's world, as we move forward and depending on what part of the country you're in. Even more so, the cost of businesses up reimbursement is down. Therefore, my margin for error goes way down my window, yet it's much narrower and I have to know what I'm doing. That's the same with any activity. As the game goes up, your weaknesses get exposed and you've got to strengthen. The game went up here not because of growth, but COVID put us to the test. It's like, “Where am I at? How do I get stronger in this area?” There was a day when we could be an amazing clinician and get by, but I think in today's world, that's not there. Especially, when we realize that this could happen, I think it puts a little bit more urgency on the need to be stronger in this area.
It's a great opportunity. I talked about before, if you do have some time and you're not back to your pre-COVID levels and you have a little bit more time and not only is training your team a good idea and take advantage of your meetings to do so, but training yourself to be a better leader, a better owner will pay off huge in multiples that are unpredictable, but it's hard to get owners out of that mindset that investing in their knowledge, their acumen and their improvement as a leader, not just by reading a book and I'm not going to help in gaining some knowledge, but by getting some help and support in gaining that knowledge and essentially paying your tuition to understand what it takes to run a business.
For the readers to think with that, I see these three different ways in which this can be accomplished. One, you got to pay your tuition, invest in it. Typically, you're going to go through some training. That's not a weekend course. You're not going to learn how to run a business in a weekend course. I love PPS at the conference and we go to it every year, but you're not going to learn how to nail your business in a two and a half-day conference with hour-long sessions. You've got to invest in a much higher level of training and there is a multitude of different training, opportunities out there that people can go with.
The hard part about that is it is slow. It's the route that we went along. We took years of investing money, time, and a timeline that takes a long time. No different than if I were to go to school and get my business degree, it's a multiple-year cycle. It's going to cost you six figures plus. Those are just the facts. The irony of it is we think we can't do that, but it does come back and multiples. That's a hard thing to understand, but it is true. One can go down the route of looking at going through formal education. There are different consulting firms that offer great educational opportunities. There are AM tracks and other educational tracks that are available for each person to look at.
The other piece is to do a lot of in line with what you do which is to get a business coach. It's something you started doing, which I think is spectacular. You certainly have the knowledge base to share with people. You know how to make your practice successful, you've done it and that's something people have to be willing to pay for and connect up with the right people and a business coach can go a long way. Accomplishing that is another very viable route to increasing your business success as well.
I both recognized the value of investing in that. Going back to your story that you shared a couple of years ago, it takes some school hard knocks to get you to the point to pay the money to finally invest in some consulting. It didn't get quite that far with us, but I knew in my head, I was saying, “We've got to do something different.” That's finally the time when Will and I opened up our wallets to get some coaching and consulting. That's when we started making changes in our business.
It's not an easy thing to face.
We had to get to a certain point before we were willing to change that mindset.
I had the exact same thing. It was like, I was at a spot where I was about six years in and I burned out right on the whole thing, which is crazy because my original goals and were always there the whole time. I just wasn't how to get them. I was running up against challenges and barriers. I wasn't able to clear and I had that same thing. Something's got to change. I even told my wife, “I’m going to figure this out or I'm going to quit.” She knows me and she’s like, “Don’t ever quit.” I probably wouldn't have. What I was serious about is I'm grinding here and I knew there had to be a better way.
I had one of those moments and I talk about this in our first episode but I said, “Blaine, you're a good PT but you did not know how to run a business.” At that point, I knew something needed to change and I wasn't going to keep doing what I was doing. I was six years into the game and I started my practice straight out of school so I was very young. I knew I had a lot of years in front of me, “I'm not going to keep doing this.” I was ready to start a family and I decided that same point where I knew something needed to change.
You guys are doing something a little bit different for people that want to get some support.
The third thing, and this is exactly what we were trying to talk about. I was going to say it’s a true strategic partnership which is exactly what we do. We partner with practice owners and therapists to specifically bring the business expertise in. Not only do we have the practice models completely dialed in, but the way we train and invest in our partners’ growth is what I think makes our model special. I know there are a lot of partnership models out there, but a lot of them are truly built to invest in partners’ growth. I think it's important, for your readers, if they're going to look at a partnership as a potential option and be very aware of the different types of partnerships. There are very few that do what we do. Most of them are going to be backed by private equity groups, which is a little bit of a different model. I think there are some uniqueness inside of that zone that is probably much better than other groups, but they're not designed to invest in the partner. They're designed to build a large group.
It's a lot different than what we do. We are truly wanted to partner with people to build a great company. Our target that our partners will become very competent and stud CEOs. They will know how to run a practice. The practice ill still provides the quality that's known in the mom and pop shops, not in the big corporate world, but yet has excellent business practice. We have it all dialed in and the systems and how we bring people on, how we help them grow, and invest in them because to become a high-end competent CEO takes years. It's not something you can do in a couple of years. You can't become a top clinician in a matter of two years. It’s years of the process that you've got to have. That's why you can't just take a weekend course, and you can't just read a book.Sometimes you have to take off the PT hat and put on the business owner hat and do what's best for the business. Click To Tweet
You need to connect up with someone who's going to work with you over the long run. Our model was designed to exactly handle that because it's what I experienced. I looked at what I saw practice owners didn't have. That was what we built this company to do, is to try to target that exact thing because most of these guys and girls, practice owners wise and their clinics represent the upper end of the PT market. Compared to the hospitals and the corporate groups, they are the top tier and I want them to succeed. I want them to make it. I want them to be the leaders out there driving private practice in our profession. You can't do that with the clinical skillset. You need the business side to go along with it. We all become part of the system.
I love your partnership model because you and I had been approached by a number of different individuals and companies about buying our practices for a number of years before we finally did sell. In each situation, they wanted a piece of our company and they'd simply told us, “You keep doing what you're doing.” They were going to expect productivity levels out of us in terms of treating patients and leadership roles that we would stay in and whatnot.
None of them offered what you're talking about, and that is to give us a platform to improve our leadership skillset and training on top of what we had already received. It is different about your model compared to most out there that are going to say, “No. We want to be built a partnership here.” That is, you guys have the training set in place to develop your partners as stud CEOs, great leaders in the organization that the men and women, that partner with you are going to get even more training, more learning and more support to become greater and greater leaders and expand as much or as little as they want to.
We were trying to target what we didn't see existed out there. It was exactly why we built it the way we did and we knew because we were met with some of those groups as well. In the early days, I was studying a lot of those models. Honestly, I was unimpressed with what they had to offer. There’s so much more we can do. That was a lot of the impetus to what HRS became in how and why we built the way we built it. What it was designed to do was to close that gap. We talked about the need to change our mindset.
There’s another important mindset that has to be changed because somewhere along the way, we think, being a strong business person, having business success, somehow is in conflict with being great clinicians and providing great care. It’s not because the stronger you are as a company, the better you know how to run your company. If your purposes and your intent is to provide a great PT clinic, the stronger you should be able to do that. If a company is struggling, as much as that owner cares about their patients, there's no way that they can do the same things as if they were doing very well; investing in their staff, giving them great contact. We have tracks in our companies where people can get their manual certification and dry needling certification.
We even have fellowship tracks where we will contribute and pay for people to go get their fellow. There are things that we can do that I could have never done in my earlier days. Not even remotely close to operating what we can offer and how we can continue to look for our opportunities to strengthen, not only right as a business, but clinically across our group. It's one thing to get yourself into the upper 10% to 20% compared to our peers, but you got to get good 10 or 20 therapists in your company into that zone, it is an impressive feat. It's something to be proud of. That's making a difference more than the 60 patient visits a week that I might be seeing as an individual practitioner.
Your level of influence expands so much more as you're able to improve, help others, and create a platform for other people to grow and expand.
On that third point, I think there's a variety of ways that people can make a commitment to getting that business knowledge through their own. Committing to an educational track themselves, investing in a mentor and business coach, or an appropriate strategic partnership. I would add in the strategic partnership side and make sure it's well-vetted out. Understand what that partner brings to the table as far as investing and training in that person like you're saying. We've always made it a focus to work on all aspects of that business and that general ability to be a leader or the great team be a competent executive. If a person can come out of this and make that move, a couple of years down the road, they're going to be pretty happy with the changes that have happened where the company is at that point compared to where it is.
Unfortunately, there's no magic wand. At times, I also even looking for that myself and tell you, at some point in time, you realize that doesn't exist. At the end of the day, those that when they did it right. It's a harsh reality. It's a very valuable reality to apply to yourself when you can say, at the end of the day, and even when my intentions are to do it right, I still have to figure out how to do it. If I do, it will show up in a more successful practice. If I don't, I struggle.
Is there anything else you want to speak to?
We have the goal of seeing practices and private practice succeed. I think there's room for a lot of practice, not our partners and we want to see people making that move into private practice. If they're young, aspiring people with some energy. For existing practice owners, we want to see them strengthening their practices and winning. I hope people can read this and use it as a platform to go forward, hold it back up, or strengthen their practice wherever they're at. One of my biggest concerns with this is to see that people never give back or they don't come back out of it. They don't recover and that to me would be sad. I believe private practice needs to succeed in our profession to maintain what I believe is special about it.
If private practice goes away and it's either the corporate model and/or hospitals, what I admire and find motivating about physical therapy probably is not as much there. In modality and system. I want to encourage people along that line and let them know that there are routes towards success and in a way to be able to deal with what has been a very challenging time. When you're in it, it doesn't always look that way. Sometimes you're like crap. When you said, in your early day, something needed to change and I told you a little bit of quick story about where I was at. I wasn't enthusiastic about it.
I wasn't like, “This is going to be amazing.” When we partnered with people, it's mostly like, “It's going to be amazing. We're going to kill it.” We’re high-fiving. I wouldn't like that when I did it. I was crap. I wasn't even confident the route I took was going to work out at the time I did it. I knew I had to do it. I look back and I thought, “I'm glad I did that.” I didn't know it right at the time. I know there are practice owners out there in that position. I want to encourage them that I guarantee you with that effort, there's probably more business resources, other business coaches, and more help out there than ever before.
That's what's the cool thing about today's world too. There are more avenues. What you're doing, Nathan, with your coaching and the number of people that can lend a hand there and help some people, it is bigger than ever before. I want to get back to finding what is exciting again and getting back to hopefully pulling back to that original burning goal of doing something better than what was going on out there. That's why most practice owners got into it. They didn't want to do it the hospital's way. They didn't want to do it other people's way. They want to do it this way. It's cool when you can get back to that original excitement point and look at things with optimism, as opposed to, “Am I going to make it through? How the heck do I do this?”
If things weren't going the way that you wanted them to and if you weren't living that life as an owner and a leader that you would envision to begin with, it's a great opportunity to reset and create that for yourself.
It's not always easy. As you and I back and forth that, hopefully, that message gets a few people out there and they can start to see things from a more optimistic position again there. You brought up a thing earlier too that we have to be realistic. This isn't may not all be all the way done. Being a past Arizonian, Arizona was one of the ones that shut down their bars, gyms, theaters, and fortunately, not the physical therapy side of it. Either way, we're not all the way out of this. Hopefully, we can all find it together. It's also a very divisive time for other things. I want to see people coming together for positive reasons and for making a difference. Hopefully, practice owners will do that still.
If people want to get in touch with you and talk to you about strategic partnerships, how would they do that?
Our website is HealthRehabSolutions.com. You can reach me at BlaineS@HealthRehabSolutions.com. When you're looking at a good partnership, there are a lot of things that have to be, it's a marriage of sorts. There are a lot of things to work out and understand to make it a good fit and not every fit is the right one, but either way, even in spending time talking with us, it will be educational. It will hopefully lead people down that route of finding what is right for them, or if it is not right, but it's a good opportunity to do that. Getting in touch with you and with other people and understanding what's out there will be helpful and educational. In that process, some things will hopefully come clear. It will look like clarity will become a little bit more vivid on what is the best route for that person.
They can check out our website. We rebranded. We lease that out and refresh our brand. Our original logo wasn't built with some of our original intentions. We threw it together when we were in the early days. I was like it, but we put some time and energy into this to represent us. It was a cool process. There's so much science that goes into branding and some of the stuff that I was always aware of in the early days. I found it a fascinating and enjoyable process. I’m excited we relaunched that, try to get more of our partnerships and some of our partners' successes offer so people understand, and we can differentiate ourselves for a lot of the other partnership models that are out there.Now is a great opportunity to create the life that you envisioned as an owner and a leader. Click To Tweet
Congratulations on the new brand, on the growth and on all your clinics ramping up. I don't think there are many clinics out there that can say they're back to pre-COVID levels. You've built something awesome. It's great to have you and share a little bit of your wisdom with us. I appreciate you coming on.
Thanks for having me. I enjoyed it.
Blaine grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and earned his Master of Physical Therapy from the University of Montana. With an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make a big impact, he made a bold move launching his own private practice immediately following graduation. He was on a mission to make a difference in people’s lives through physical therapy; however, he quickly encountered the common challenges facing private practice owners.
Realizing an outstanding clinical and provider reputation would not alone create a great practice, he committed to learning how to run a business. Soon after Blaine acquired and merged his existing practice with another large private practice in Kalispell, Montana, he was able to drastically improve the performance and grow the quadruple the company’s performance. This inspired him to help other private practice owners overcome the barriers they face and build successful businesses, and became the impetus, vision, and core of HRS. Blaine has also been active in the American Physical Therapy Association on a statewide and national level developing a passion for private practice advocacy and entrepreneurship.
Outside of work, you’ll find Blaine with his wife, Britney, and their three boys enjoying the mountain lifestyle. Often skiing, navigating the abundance of lakes and rivers in the valley, or hiking the mountains, they take full advantage of Montana’s wide-open spaces. Blaine stays active coaching his three boys in lacrosse and is a dedicated fitness and health enthusiast – particularly enjoying CrossFit.
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