This is a 10 minute ‘read it over lunch’ or ‘absorb it with your favorite beverage’ blog.
Part 1 of An Interview with Ryan Michael Smith, DPT, Owner of UMove Physio.
Not only do I have a Millennial son and daughter who have taught me a lot, I have had the great fortune to work with, mentor, and learn from many driven #FreshPTs and #DPTstudents within Therapy Partners, on Twitter, and in the leadership classes I have taught in physical therapy schools at the U of Central Arkansas, Texas State U, Southern Cal, U of St. Catherine, and U of Minnesota. As I talk to PT students and young PT graduates around the country about engagement, leadership, teamwork, professional growth, and private practice, one of the most common questions I get is,
“So Jim . . . How long do I have to work after I graduate until I can open my own practice?”
Hmmm. I suspect few medical, dental, optometry, or chiropractic students ask the same question? So why do young physical therapists feel they have to wait to start their own business while many other professionals jump right into independent practice? Well . . . in most professional schools, business ownership and practice management are key aspects of their curriculum, and the delivery of their professional services is typically via an independent practice setting. In most physical therapy schools, however, entrepreneurship and business management are not emphasized.
Thus, most physical therapists enter their careers as an employee of a large institution or someone else’s business. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Employment in a top-notch practice with talented mentors can offer a great opportunity to learn and grow. My advice to young physical therapists who want to some day take on the risk and extra work of business ownership – attain a role in a respected private practice owned by physical therapists with whom you share the same values, and learn the business aspect of physical therapy from a good mentor.”
But what if you are anxious to go out on your own right after your graduate. Is that possible? It’s not very common, but you can do it. Let’s hear from Dr. Ryan Michael Smith, a trail-blazer Millennial who started his physical therapy practice just a few months ago – right after he graduated from THE Ohio State University Physical Therapy School. He is not only a talented young clinician . . . he is a Self Starter and Big L Leader! (For those of you who have engaged in our Leadership Edge program, you know exactly what I mean by those terms). Ryan started to prepare to open his own practice even before he graduated from PT School, and he has generously agreed to share his story with us.
Today, in Part 1, Ryan tells us about the entrepreneurial aspect of his business . . . getting started. He shares with us his vision and preparation leading up to taking the Big Step of jumping into the world of entrepreneurship and business ownership.
Hoyme: Hey . . . Thanks for agreeing to get together and talk about UMove Physio, Ryan! It’s going to be great to hear your story. Although we have only met once – at CSM in Anaheim last February, I feel like I know you really well after all of the sharing we have done on Twitter. Before we jump into your UMove story . . . I was just wondering . . . was I supposed to put Ohio State University in all caps, too, or am I ok with just THE?
Smith: Haha, absolutely not. You don’t even have to include THE. I’m a bit impartial to that level of hype for a school.
Hoyme: OK. I will just go with Ohio State University On the subject of the B1G (In case that looks like a typo – that stands for THE Big 10 Conference) . . . You were a big time University of Wisconsin fan who ended up in Columbus; you are my all time favorite Badger-Buckeye. As a die-hard fan of the Minnesota Gophers who struggle for mediocrity in the high profile sports, I am jealous because you can claim official fan status of 2 of the top B1G performers in athletics.
So who do you pull for when the Badgers and Buckeyes match up?
Smith: Badgers hands down. I was actually at the B1G football title game a few years back when the Buckeyes beat the Badgers 68-0. I was wearing all Badgers gear… in the Buckeyes traveling fan section. Needless to say I went from getting harassed by the Buckeye fans to them just feeling pity for me by the fourth quarter when I was clapping whenever the Badgers got a first down. Really what you should know is that I wanted badly to attend your beloved University of Minnesota for PT school but I didn’t get accepted nor to Wisconsin so Ohio State was kind enough to let me in.
Hoyme: All I can say is . . . That’s the Gophers’ and Badgers’ loss, and you’re a big feather in the cap for the Buckeyes’ PT Program. OK … enough about the Big 10. Let’s get down to business . . . Your UMove Physio business.
So you just graduated from PT School last spring and you are already 4 months into owning your own business. Tell me about your dynamic new practice – UMove Physio.
Smith: I am located in Columbus, Ohio, area. Specifically, I have two locations – a Crossfit gym in Hilliard and a Strength & Conditioning gym in Lewis Center. I provide physical therapy and athletic training services. That’s it. I thought about personal training, mobility sessions and the works that most of you have probably seen around the country. At the end of the day though, I will always go into an evaluation of a patient or coverage of an event with my physical therapy and athletic training hat on. To have to look at it any other way doesn’t seem to be in my wheelhouse so I just choose to keep it simple.
Hoyme: Every success story starts with a Dream. Before you ever started UMove Physio – what was your Dream . . . Your ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goal’ ?
Smith: Haha! Well, I can’t claim to be a success story yet, nor am I sure what my definition of success may be on any given day. But I’m happy in my career, and there is a story behind UMove . . . that’s for sure. My dream was always to create something bigger than myself. I think that’s something very rare in this world and it has always been my dream that my business creation would leave a legacy of sorts. Initially I thought that was going to be a business model that was going to change healthcare…now that has changed a bit.
Hoyme: Keep reaching for your dreams, Ryan. You will get there. I bet you have either read Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, or watched his famous TedTalk – How Great Leaders Inspire Action – or maybe both. What is your “Why” . . . What ‘gets you out of bed in the morning’?
Smith: I have read and seen both, and I’m glad you brought this up! My “Why” is quite simple . . . “to show every person what they are capable of in terms of a fulfilling, healthy lifestyle and then show them how to maintain that lifestyle over time”. So often we point out the weaknesses in people and rarely do we acknowledge their strengths. Inspire people to find their strengths, educate them to understand their weaknesses and you will find that people value this approach a great deal… in any profession.
Hoyme: Hey . . . I really appreciate your thought process, Ryan. Focus on and grow your strengths and your patients. You are hitting the foundation for our leadership and teamwork approach at Therapy Partners – StrengthsFinder theory. When you focus on people’s strengths, they become more engaged. Highly engaged people are more likely to produce at high levels and achieve their goals. Speaking of which . . . What are your Top 5 StrengthsFinder Strengths?
Smith: I am glad you asked that as well, Jim. My top 5 are
I put them to good use in my business. I am a creative, strategic thinker (Ideation, Strategic) who likes to gather a lot of information (Input) to help me make solid decisions. As you know, in business things change, and my flexibility (Adaptability) keeps me nimble and able to adapt to things I didn’t predict. I look at each person as a unique individual who has specific needs and expectations (Individualization), so I can be flexible and creative in how I deliver my care (Adaptability, Ideation).
Hoyme: That’s awesome Ryan! Strengths-based entrepreneurship! Now you are hitting on my hot spots. Engagement-Leadership-Teamwork are critical these days, and I think you have a great foundational recipe. You are obviously an entrepreneur . . . what or who inspired you to open your business before you got out of PT school?
Smith: First off, thank you. I’m not quite sure if I even believe that I am an entrepreneur yet! Haha. As bad as it sounds, more than by anything else, I was inspired by all the ways I saw problems in school, healthcare, and other aspects of life not being solved because of pre-conceived restraints. There are a boatload of people out there who have inspired me as well, but that initial “why are we doing it this way” was what really inspired me.
Hoyme: I can see your “Why” came from a desire to help solve a problem in how health care is delivered. We definitely need that.
Did or do you have some mentors you would like to recognize?
Smith: Oh yeah. Definitely. 6 people come to mind. Sarah Haag and Sandy Hilton, owners of Entropy Physio in Chicago (www.entropy-physio.com); Jeff Moore of The Institute of Clinical Excellence (http://instituteofclinicalexcellence.com); Gene Shirokobrod of UpDoc Media (https://updocmedia.com); the manager at the wine bar where I work; and a clinic manager I had at a practice in Columbus. I also have 2 mentors I meet with regularly. I highly recommend everyone find a mentor to help you learn and grow in an area of interest.
Hoyme: Great advice on the finding a mentor, Ryan. I completely support that learning approach. I also have high respect for Sarah, Sandy, Jeff, and Geno.
Ok . . . enough of the soft stuff for now. Let’s talk more specifically about hard core business considerations. Did you write a business plan before starting?
Smith: (Crickets chirping) . . . Not exactly. Actually . . . no, I didn’t. One of my mentors here in Columbus had me fill out an outline business plan, but I never ended up writing a full one. I felt that a lot of things get planned, a lot of hype gets talked about but not much action is ever taken. So I didn’t sit down and write a formal business plan. I just did it, which led to a load of mistakes, but in the long run, I feel it was the right choice.
Hoyme: Sounds like you took the Bo Jackson-Nike approach . . . “Just Do It!” I have heard of others who defy conventional wisdom and jump right in and learn as you go. No sense in waiting, right?! That’s an Activator for you – Decide. Act. Assess. Change.
How did you fund your start up business? Did you take out a loan? Did you consider a business partner to share the financial risk with you?
Smith: No. I did not take out a loan, but I did consider a partner. I couldn’t find anyone, though, that was willing to share the risk. It just didn’t make sense. My start-up costs were about $3,000. I funded it by working 2 other jobs and saving my money. In fact, I am still working both jobs ‘to make ends meet’ until I start making enough with UMove to cover all my expenses AND be profitable.
Hoyme: Wow! Interesting. Your business model certainly lends itself to a very low cost of getting started. Nevertheless, though . . . lots of hard work to have 2 jobs and save the money. Kudos to you for rolling up your sleeves and going for it.
Did you set certain benchmarks or productivity goals prior to starting?
Smith: No, I didn’t really set detailed benchmarks, and I haven’t acquired enough data to look at my stats. I basically had 1 simple goal in getting started– acquire one patient per month buy what I call an “Investment Package” – an evaluation and 4 treatment sessions for $380. That is enough to cover my expenses.
Hoyme: Tell me a little bit about your “Investment Package”. How did you come up with a fee? Do set a consistent frequency of which you have the patient engage in those visits?
Smith: I established my $380 fee based on information I gathered from cash-based physical therapy in other parts of the country and what other cash-based medical providers charge in Columbus. The patient pays the fee up front on the initial visit and can spread out the remaining 4 visits as they like. Most come 1x/week.
Hoyme: I am sure some people reading this blog will think that $380 is a lot of money, but people all over the country spend more than that on personal training, massages, facials, and other services. I have no doubt that your patients get a lot of value for that small amount. Let’s face it –lots of people will spend a lot of money to be able to do what they love to do even better.
Let’s talk about your space briefly. How did you come up with your specific locations, and what is your lease arrangement?
Smith: Pretty simple. I landed on my two locations because a ‘friend of a friend’ owned one of the gyms, and I worked out at the other one. I asked the owners of the gyms if I could lease some space from them for my physical therapy clinic. The agreed. I worked out the arrangement with them with the help of my attorney. It didn’t seem to make sense to lease with a more traditional per square foot arrangement, and paying a percentage of revenue was a little too risky. So we agreed on a flat per month rent – ‘dirt cheap’ – $100/month. I also provide monthly workshops and hang out in the gym to answer questions the members have. So far it works great, and at some point we will likely work out a different deal. Building a reputation and establishing value takes time.
Hoyme: Nice deal on your rent. Hard to beat that. Would you come and negotiate some space for me up here in St. Paul?
Nothing comes without some rough waters. What do you feel were the biggest challenges or obstacles you faced prior to opening your business?
Smith: That is a great question. I would say the biggest challenges are uncertainty and lack of confidence. You know what . . . When people tell you countless times that because of “such and such” you shouldn’t take the risk of starting your own practice; you should wait at least five to ten years. Well, that ‘song and dance’ begins to wear on you, but you do begin to wonder if those people are right. “Maybe I should wait. Maybe I’m not ready.” Thankfully I had enough people in place who supported me and showed confidence in me. They never told me what to do or what not to do, but rather, they gave me sound advice and help… allowing me to make my own decisions. That did a lot for my self-confidence.
When I realized I was hitting certain checkpoints in their guidance, I knew I was on the right track. Ultimately the biggest challenge was, “How can I do this in a way that minimizes my risk yet allows me to see my start-up business through . . . whether it ultimately succeeds or not.
I found that I could minimize my financial risk by having two other jobs (neither related to PT) to pay the bills; having an amazing team of legal and financial help; and having family, friends, and mentors whom I continue to lean on when I feel like the world is going to crash down on me. Oh . . . and by the way . . . the world is still holding up and has not collapsed on me yet.
Hoyme: A Dream. Self Confidence. Simplify. Act. Support. Persist. All are SO critical to starting a business. Your comments, Ryan, bring to mind some words of leadership wisdom I heard from former NFL great and UNC Business School graduate, Jeff Saturday. One of the principles he emphasized was that all great leaders must “survive the storm”. Occasional failure is going to happen, and when it does . . . learn from it and keep going. Failure defines and event, not a person.
Well, Ryan. Great stuff! Thanks for sharing. I know our readers will enjoy your words of wisdom and hopefully you have inspired more young physical therapists to open their own practices.
In Part 2 of this blog, Ryan will tell us how things are going since he opened his doors last spring. In the meantime –
Keep Learning . . . Keep Leading!
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