Many people have given up or temporarily set aside their formula for success when the pandemic hit, putting a halt to their professional growth. But even with such a huge obstacle in front of you, should you really stop moving forward? Adam Robin, PT, DPT is proof that you can achieve your goals even when faced with a pandemic that threatens to derail your business. Adam recognized early in his ownership that he needed help and guidance to become a better owner, and so he focused on getting a coach and implementing the things he read about in business books. Since then, he's moved out of treating, hired more people to implement his procedure, and looking forward to expansion. In this discussion with Nathan Shields, learn how Adam's constant desire for progress allowed him to make a successful career transition.
My guest is Adam Robin, physical therapist, Owner of Southern Physical Therapy in Picayune, Mississippi. Thanks for joining me, Adam. I appreciate it.
Thanks a lot, Nathan. I’m super excited to be here. I’m looking forward to the conversation.
I brought you on because you've had a ton of success over 2020, especially in spite of the pandemic, you've been able to achieve a number of goals. Not necessarily because in your area you haven't had been hit by the pandemic, but in spite of being hit by the pandemic, you've been able to still do what you wanted to achieve in 2020. I want to pick your brain a little bit about it. What are some of the successful actions that you had, some items you can share because the whole idea behind the show is to be a resource for other PT owners? Maybe you can be an inspiration and support for the readers. Before we get into that, Adam, go ahead and share with us a little bit about what got you to this point in your professional history? How long have you been an owner?
I’m thankful to be here, Nathan. I don't know if you remember, but the first few weeks in our coaching relationship, I remember telling you, “I'm going to be on your show one day.” I put it out in the atmosphere. Here we are. I live in Picayune, Mississippi. I'm from New Orleans, Louisiana. I love to work. I'm a hard-working guy and graduated from PT school in 2017 through my passions for health and fitness. After PT school, I hit the ground running. I wanted to do more than the average bear. I didn't know what that meant at the time. It meant work harder.
That's what I did. I worked harder. I had a full-time job. I picked up a home-health job on the side, working as many hours a week as I possibly could. That work ethic carried me through to eventually opening up Southern Physical Therapy Clinic in late 2019. It was two years after graduation. After about a year into that, I quickly realized that I didn't know how to run a business. I had to work hard, but I didn't know how to gain control over the chaos that is business. A lot of my fears and insecurities built up to a place where I didn't have an option. I had to reach out and get some help. I found you through the show and the rest is history.
You've been a coaching client of mine. What was interesting about you is number one, you started early. There are very few owners that I've come across that get coaching as soon as you did into your ownership lifespan. Usually, it takes a number of years for people to get their feet underneath them and they're working hard or maybe they get to the point of burnout, a decade or two into ownership or they say, “I can't keep doing this. I want to do something else.” The cool thing about your story is that you reached out for a coach early on. Maybe you knew it from reading the show before, but that is the formula for success.
You recognizing that number one, you need to reach out and get some help. Number two, you need to get step out of treating full-time in order to run your business and number three, start networking. Since you started that path, that's when things started to align for you and you could achieve your goals. Reaching out and getting a coach, was that something that you had thought about even before getting into ownership that, “At some point, I'm going to need some guidance,” or did it take some rough patches in your ownership to recognize that you needed help?
Definitely, some rough patches. I wouldn't say they were rougher in my head than they were because everything's rough and you don't know what you're doing. You're wandering around like a chicken with your head cut off, don't know what's going on. Everything's overly dramatized. You don't have that clarity and focus that control that you need to stay composed and make strategic decisions. I was an anxious mess and I knew that I couldn't sustain it. I have a good friend of mine who is a nutrition coach. I reached out to him initially. I got his perspective on coaching, and this and that. His mentorship on that subject along with my understanding that I needed to learn more, those two things combined led me to give you the call. I called several coaches and lead to our relationship.The growth of any company is directly related to personal growth and understanding. Click To Tweet
What are some of the most successful things you've done to help you achieve your goals?
My goals have changed in 2020. I used to think that money equals success and that has been a huge mind shift for me, but I can boil it down to two things. Number one, stepping out of treatment to have a little bit of quiet time to be able to think and work on the business was helpful, and being willing to trust that process. Also, embracing the understanding that the growth of the company was going to be directly related to my personal growth and understanding. Diving into learning more about business, leadership, and developing a team, those were the two biggest things if I had to break it down.
Let's back up a little bit because I want to delve into the mindset there. What was it that changed? I’m cut from the same cloth as you are that the money is what equals success. What helped you change that mindset that you had thinking, “If I had more money then I will be successful,” and where are you now along that?
A lot of books, a lot of reading. When you and I first started, I wasn’t into reading. I listened to a lot of podcasts, watched a lot of YouTube, but I didn't grasp the power that reading books could have on your mindset. That is the biggest influencer and being intentional about placing quality information like that in front of me on a consistent basis. Over time, shifted my mindset in a way that gave me a lot of peace, clarity, focus, and understanding. Reading books was the big one.
Were there 1 or 2 books in particular that you recall being impactful?
Getting control of my team was a big one. Leadership and Self-Deception was a huge leadership book for me. Crucial Conversations was a huge leadership book for me. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The E-Myth Revisited. I can go on and on. I've read all these books. Those were huge.
Think and Grow Rich, was that on the list? Did you read that one too?
That was an older one that I've read before. Those other books helped me tie it together.
It gave you some things and tools to work with, and recognize that leads into where your personal growth equaled company growth. The episode prior to this one is a conversation with Jenna Gourlay about how to have hard conversations with your team. That's not something that we typically learn anywhere. You don't necessarily learn how to have hard conversations in college. You have to read the books, you have to find the coaches to help you have those hard conversations. Having hard conversations can be one of those things that if you improve on that personally, as a leader, then your company is going to improve within. You're addressing the important aspects of the company that needs to be addressed.
People need to be held accountable, need to be taught, need to be buy-in. You have to align purposes and values with those conversations. Your conversation here reminds me of that conversation there because as we grow as leaders and having important conversations is one example of that. Our company will grow as well as we have those hard conversations. Was that something that you had to learn how to be a leader? Is that what you gleaned from a lot of these books and how to act better or did you think that was something that came naturally?
You could call it naturally, but it wouldn't have happened without the reading. You mentioned conversations with other people, but those books also teach you how to have conversations with yourself. Those internal conversations and conflicts that you have with yourself help you organize them, prioritize them and enter your day with a level head, cool, calm, collected, and with an understanding of what you need to accomplish. Having those relationships with your team further develops the culture of your organization. It's a powerful thing.When you start to implement change, not everybody on your team will be on board with it. Click To Tweet
You said one of the other things that you realize is pulling away from treating so that you had the time to work and think about your business. That quiet time became important to you and something that you recognized that you needed. What there something that you noticed that was dramatically different in your thought processes when you weren't treating full-time? I’m wondering if there was a light bulb moment where you said, “Now that I'm not treating it. I'm thinking about these things or I have the time and energy to consider blank.” Did you have any of those light bulb moments?
It was a series of light bulb moments. Being comfortable, stepping out of treatment and quiet time takes practice. The first time you step out and you're sitting in front of your computer with a blank piece of paper, you don't know what to do. You're like, “Now what? I'm sitting in here by myself and what do I do?” Developing that skill takes practice and like anything, the more practice that you have, if you want to be a great PT, you have to practice. You have to go in front of patients, you have to fail, and you have to learn from that, stepping away from treatment and being strategic with your admin time. You have to get in there. You have to be unproductive at first. As you start to learn and develop new skills, you become exponentially better over time, especially when you use that time to learn how to leverage your team. A series of light bulbs. I still have light bulbs. Every week I'm having light bulbs.
Was there ever a time that when you were going into patient care, “Thinking this is a waste of my time?”
I wouldn't say a complete waste of my time, but I did feel that it wasn't quite aligned with my true purpose at times. I love treating and I love helping people. That is why I ultimately decided to go into business for myself. I do know that if you want to be a business owner and your purpose is to truly make a large impact, something that's larger than yourself, that you can have a sense of burnout and mental fatigue when you have too much treatment time on your plate. You're not fulfilling your purpose when you're sitting there one on one with somebody. It's fun. It's not something you want to lose contact with, but you can't truly make the impact that you want if you're stuck in that bubble.
What were some of the hardest things you had to deal with in achieving your goals in 2020?
I had to go through a few things. A lot of change in the way that I led and the way that we organized our efforts as a team. One lesson that I had to learn is that when you start to implement change, that not everybody on your team is going to be on board with it. You're going to lose people and that's a hard thing to do. I had to go through that about 2 or 3 times over the course of six months, but like everything, the more you do it, the better you get at it.
It reminds me of the old adage, “The people that got you here are not the people that are going to get you there.” The people that you have at this time served a great purpose and you appreciate them, but as you change and implement you grow and as you start implementing policy and procedures, I've seen it time and time again, it weeds people out for one reason or another. Either they act up or you find out that they're not a fit and they have to move on. As you get more clear about how you do things, and as you start creating that culture and refining it, and becoming clear about your purpose and living to the values, some people start getting weeded out, but you start attracting the right people.
Those people are the ones that are going to get you to the next level and who's to say, if they're going to get you to the next level beyond that? They're going to get you to the next level of where your company needs to go. It's an inevitable part of changes that you're simply going to lose people. Some people don't like the structure that might be put into place. They want to say, “We're becoming too corporate. You're too focused on the numbers if you start bringing up data and looking at your statistics,” but it's in the best interest of the business. Therefore, you have to remember that and move forward. I've seen it time and time again. It happens all the time. Once you become clear on your purpose and values, and you start pushing that, once you started implementing procedure, implementing structure and statistics, inevitably people start falling off that wagon. You've noticed, as you becoming a better interviewer and a better recruiter, you start finding the right people.
You found understanding and whatever it is that you're working on at a time, whether it be numbers or whatever, then you can immediately implement that in your new hire. They become exponentially better than the one that left you.
That's their normal, they don't know any different. Is there anything that you would have done differently in 2020? You achieved all these goals. You did some great things and we didn't even allude to the goals that you have achieved in 2021, but what would you have done differently?
I hadn't sat back and thought in-depth about that. Stepping out of treatment sooner is always good. “Get out of treatment. You got to.” I was a little bit resistant in that regard, finding a coach sooner.It is a huge thing to identify your biggest problems and create systems that solve them instantaneously. Click To Tweet
You can do it quickly, to begin with.
It's been such a transformation in 2021 for me and in the business that it's hard to imagine me doing anything different because it's been so rewarding. All I can say is that I wish that it would have been sooner.
You stepped out of patient care. Before we started the show, you started telling me some of the issues that you're having, pandemic related, and people falling off the wagon. Without your issues, it's not blue sky, easy sailing, but what is your focus on where you're at?
To paint a quick picture of where I was before, I was treating in the clinic full-time with a PTA. I was completely overloaded with treatment, overwhelmed, and didn't have much. I am not even on the schedule anymore. I have hired 2 PTs full-time, 3 PTA's in the clinic, 2 front office admin staff, and we're looking to hire a third. It’s a huge transformation. I work from home a lot. I work remotely. I meet with my team and my focus is on empowering them in whatever it is that they're trying to accomplish. I help them understand some of the things that I've learned to understand so that they can be better at what they do.
What does that mean to empower them? What exactly are you doing to empower your team? I agree, the next step to most people's growth as they're stepping out, developing policy and procedure, and developing leadership teams is the next step, if that's where you want to go. If you want to expand, if you want a bigger clinic, that's not dependent upon you, or if you want another clinic outside of the place where you exist, you have to get the right people in place. What are some of the tools that you're using to empower them?
Policy and procedure are huge, dialing that in and becoming obsessed with your policy and procedure to understand that's your problem-solving template, period. Identifying the biggest problems that there are in the company, the ones that give you the biggest headache, and creating systems that solve that instantaneously, is huge. Also, instilling that understanding into your team that this is the policy and why it's the policy, and then providing tools, whether that be checklists or systems or reports that they can utilize to hold themselves accountable. All the while, you’re helping them understand the purpose of why we're doing what we're doing. That is empowering the team. They become more efficient and more effective. They have a fulfilling place to work and they enjoy their work more. Results come.
I still remember that from an episode with Roland Cochrun. He is a guy in Oregon who travels the world, still checks in with his physical therapy clinics, and they are successful because his sole mindset is to create a foundation for which his employees can succeed. Whatever he does is for that purpose. That is policy and procedure, reports, statistics to monitor and what to do when they're going up, what to do when they're going down. He's got this all dialed in. It is all meant to empower his team.
That’s exactly what you said there, empower other people to do it, and the effect you can have in doing that becomes multiplied exponentially. Your effectiveness as a provider is one-on-one and it's that one patient that you work with every 30 minutes, but now if you empower a number of providers, now you've multiplied your effect. You've multiplied your purpose beyond yourself doing the work. That's the next step. Do you have them reading some of your same books as well or are you sharing YouTube snippets and inspirational things like that?
With some of the members of the leadership team, we talk about books and ideals, some of that we want to hold true to the company that is from the books. I do a lot of teaching and coaching, especially when there's a problem that I helped them solve. I use the principles that I've learned in the books. I don't necessarily reference that directly to them, but that's my understanding.
That's part of it. Empowering them is coaching them like you needed a coach, they need coaches as well. Younger and older business, the team members, the employees on your team value that. They look for someone who's going to be a mentor in one way or another, whether that's a mentor from a physical therapy standpoint or a mentor from a leadership standpoint. They want someone who's going to help them learn and grow. No one wants to stay still and continue to do the same thing they were doing, hoping that someone recognizes what they're doing and no place to go if there were any issues or concerns. That's one of our jobs as leaders is then is to focus on coaching our team underneath us. Looking forward, are there any books now that you're reading?
It makes it easier. It gives you a step-by-step process. You can into any meeting and you can ask this set of questions, almost resolving any problem that comes up against you by using that little template. The Coaching Habit is great. Thanks for sharing your time with us. Anything else you want to share with the audience?
If you're not just a physical therapist, but a young business owner, if you're feeling overwhelmed or there's something that you're missing, I would highly recommend a coach. I would highly recommend investing in your education, find somebody who has done what you want to do, and that knows more than you do, and seek their guidance, and you will come away a much happier and fulfilled business owner.
Reach out, step out, network. That's the formula. If you got it done, you would achieve some great things in 2020. Congratulations. I look forward to seeing what you're able to achieve in 2021 too because I know you have big plans. I see great things from Southern Physical Therapy. Thanks for your time, Adam. I appreciate it.
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