Did you know that there are four types of private practice owners? Each of these owners has their own particular characteristics, and if you are able to identify which type of owner you are, then you will be able to identify your own strengths and weaknesses as an owner. All too often, physical therapy private practice owners struggle to succeed, and surprisingly, it’s usually internal influences holding them back – not external.
Too many practice owners get easily frustrated because things don’t go as expected or take longer than they should or worse yet get miscommunicated. This all stacks up and ultimately has a negative impact on one’s outlook and basic mindset toward approaching staff and problems in general. Justifications and reasonable-ness sets in as a mechanism by the owner to make sense of the fact that things are not proceeding logically forward as planned and this is a bad thing. However, if you can step back and realize that it’s only because you don’t know all there is to know about that area of practice management then you can start to make effective change. One big step in that process is identifying which type of practice owner you are and knowing where your shortcomings lie so that you can play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses by outsourcing or taking on additional training.
The Four Types of Owners
The Innocent Owner
This owner is often a very good therapist. As a result of this, opportunities for physical therapy private practice ownership tend to fall into their lap. They usually blindly move forward with these opportunities without giving it much thought. These types of owners are kind-hearted, well-liked and open-minded people willing to listen to others. They are bright and capable but lack the awareness of what it takes to be a successful practice owner. They almost always have the incorrect estimation of the time and effort necessary to bring about the results they are looking for so that in itself becomes even more frustrating. They will try to make up for their shortcomings by doing what they know and working harder and longer on that alone. However, they quickly realize that this is not the answer because they will see themselves rollercoastering up and down with the same or similar situations presenting themselves over and over again.
The good news for them is that they are typically very easy to work with and are receptive to taking in help with very little pushback. Once they come to the conclusion that their struggles exist only based on what it is that they don’t know, they are usually pretty eager to avail themselves to the help source and make the changes they need to make based on what they learn. As their toolbox of understanding grows so does their confidence and their effectiveness in business. Their success is almost exclusively based on trust. If they trust the source of knowledge coming to them then they take it a run.
The Go-Getter Owner
This owner is typically more entrepreneurial in spirit. They go into private practice after creating on their future in their mind first while still an employee. This owner is typically one who is consumed with the image of being a successful practice owner. They will take initiative to seek out help prior to even starting up their clinic because they know in advance what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to admit it and go after this knowledge. They do not shy away from investing time and money in themselves because they have confidence in their own capabilities to apply what they learn. They live by the mantra that knowledge is power and power breeds business success. They won’t shy away from seeking financing and taking on debt to get ahead because they understand that it takes money to make money and they are not emotionally connected to money which is an extremely good quality to have when going into business.
As a result, they will get out of the gate quicker and be more profitable sooner thus allowing them to grow and expand at a better pace for their staff and the community they serve. This owner will usually seek out business training with open arms and will tell you exactly what they don’t know and why they are there. They are like a sponge while in training and will soak up all the personal and professional training available to them so that they can grow both personally and professionally. Honestly, they are destined for success and love the process of learning and developing as a practice owner. Based on years of observation I would say my only pull back on them is that from time to time they can become distracted and want to get themselves into too many things creating a dispersion of their attention to the point that they are spread too thin and it becomes impossible to juggle all the balls they have in the air all at once. “Focus” is the keyword to keeping them successful.
The Caregiver Owner
This particular group of owners go into private practice with a “clinician mindset.” Every decision they make is based on what’s in the best interest of the patient with little to no regard to the other key elements necessary for running a successful practice. This owner takes a lot of pride in patient care, and as a result, falls passionately for their practice; you may often hear them refer to the practice as “their baby.” These owners often skip paying themselves or will take a lower salary that they would offer to others to do the same amount of work they are. They wear the brunt of the pain themselves during difficult times.
However, to make matters worse, their patients and at times, their doctor referral sources, will praise them repeatedly for what they are doing, further solidifying their “caregiver mindset.” This may sometimes strengthen this owner’s assumption that treating one patient per hour is a superior treatment model – which could not be further from the truth. When these owners FINALLY seek help, they are usually unwilling to take a hard look at themselves or their current systems of operation. They hone in on the symptoms of their problems rather than the root cause of them.
They will justify numerous ways to support their feelings about the reasons why what they are doing is right for them. But, no matter what they say, it always boils down to the fact that they are practicing failing strategies and their practice statistics will show that clearly.
By taking on this martyr role, they suffer a poor work-life balance and only when the pain gets too high will they finally confront the real situation. The only way I have found effective in breaking through to these owners is to say: “Well then, are you suggesting that all the rest of the 40,000 PT private practices out there that are not practicing high-quality care and getting the same results you are?” Or, I’ll ask: “Are you living the life of a practice owner that you have always envisioned for yourself?” Trust me the top 10% of practices owners nationwide are passionate caregivers and only want the best for their patients just like you.
I’ve been in so many offices and had one myself that won practice of the year in 2011. I can tell you that based on surveys, their patients would say they are the best caregivers out there and yet other owners are not treating one an hour or underpaying themselves. So I know first hand, that you if you are way out exchange with your physical therapy staff and your patients, it would be no different than if you came home one month and decided to say yes to everything, every day with your spouse and kids for the entire month. No, you don’t have to go to bed. Yes, you can have chocolate cake for dinner. No, you don’t have to pick up after yourself. By the end of that month, you’ll have chaos.
This is what they are breeding within their practice and they don’t even recognize it. They are too caught up in the ideals of the things they have said and done instead of focusing on the practicality of what it takes to have a two way street of exchange in abundance for all involved. This means you have to learn how to say no and stick by whats the greatest good for all involved, not just one side. This is an easy situation to correct once the owner comes around and takes a look at the fact that the top 10% of clinics are in the top 10% not because of their gross income, but because of the standard operating procedures that support the well being of all involved – including themselves.
The Know-It-All Owner
This owner is the last to reach out for help during any point in the business cycle. This owner will likely seek help only after their staff reaches out in search of information on how to bring about change. The owner is usually a road-block – or at a minimum – disinterested. It will take the efforts of the staff members to get an expert involved. Funny thing is, at one point in time this owner has usually done very well on their own. Because of that, they have a false sense of security and believe there is no reason to consider anything new.
In reality, they have fallen behind on successful strategies and lack the tools necessary to meet the current challenges of managing a private practice. In order to change their mind, things are usually so bad that there is nowhere else to turn but for outside help. Even then, they go about reaching for it but will have resentment in their voice and a know best attitude. What I recommend is that this type of owner be acknowledged for the great things that they have accomplished and then get them to talk about the great things they want to accomplish in the future. Immediately following that discussion, I would then ask: “ok so now tell me about how things are going right now in the practice?”
- Get them to confront the current situation HONESTLY.
- Don’t allow them to justify the current scene and make them acknowledge in their own words, the shortcomings that exist right now in the practice.
- Point out to them that all the success they have had was based on the knowledge that they had at that time and they did wonderful with that, but where they are now, requires a new set of tools and strategies to fight with.
There is no doubt that once you put the right weapon back in their hands, that they will possess the ability to wield it and get the results they are looking for they just need a new set of weapons. Bottom line is if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve got.
It’s been said that you can not get to where you want to go in life unless you can fully appreciate and acknowledge where you are starting from. It’s this self-reflection that I think makes all the difference in the world. If you are going to be honest with yourself about taking responsibility for your patients, your staff, and your community then you must start by holding yourself accountable. Get to know your own strengths and weakness, and understand that you are only as effective as the people you surround yourself with. In some respects, we tend to hire those that are a mirror image of ourselves, when in fact, we need to hire those who compliment us and bring greater value to our team. If you invest in yourself and your staff in ways that allow them to grow both personally and professionally, then you will be well on your way to creating the company culture that yields the greatest results.
Brian Gallagher, PT is the founder and CEO of MEG Business Management, LLC. He has more than 27 years of experience in the field of rehabilitation and 19 years in business and specializes in Physical Therapy practice management and executive coaching nationwide. As a licensed business management consultant, Brian has helped hundreds of business owners nationwide improve their business operations through proper restructuring to achieve improved systems of efficiency and productivity as well as marketing and sales with effective public relations which have proven results for double-digit growth year-over-year with businesses around the country.