Case Study - I'm a PT Business Owner That My Children Are Proud Of

Case Study – “I’m a Business Owner that My Children are Proud Of.”

Theresa from Ohio has a truly unique story about opening her practice after getting laid off from what she considered her “retirement job.”

Not only was she was able to accelerate the growth of her practice by using proven business systems and marketing automation.

She’s also witnessed the positive impact that running a successful business has had on her family.

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Chad:               Hey, everybody. Chad Madden here, and here with a very special guest. I should've asked you how to pronounce your last name before I did this, but I think I got it right. It's Theresa Pavlovic? Is that right?
Theresa:            No, Palkovic.
Chad:               Palkovic. Okay.
Theresa:            There you go.
Chad:               Great. So, we won't even edit it. We'll keep that in, Theresa. But the reason that I wanted to do this call with you, Theresa, is because you're a practice owner with a unique story. You definitely had some challenges, and I love what you have shared with our owners in the past, so thank you for doing this and being here.
Theresa:            Thanks for asking me.
Chad:               Great, so can you fill in the gaps there in the intro? Where's your practice at? When did you start? How man years have you been in business, etc.?
Theresa:            Okay. I started my practice in 2013. It's Valley Rehab Center. It's in Bellaire, Ohio, which is a small town along the Ohio River in the tri-state area. West Virginia, Pennsylvania, are all within like 20 miles of us. I originally was never planning to be in private practice. I got laid off at age 55 from what I thought was my retirement job, but because of the cuts that were being made with the Affordable Care Act, I was in a home health position as an area specialty director, and they laid a lot of us off.
Theresa:            So, I needed a job. In the area that we live, jobs were very scarce, especially any kind of management job. I was at the top of my pay scale. I had already had 33 years of experience in physical therapy. They were looking for younger, less expensive therapists. My husband had a business established here so we really couldn't pick up and move, still had children in college, and so I had to do something.
Theresa:            So, I ended up setting up an arrangement with a chiropractor friend of mine to rent his space and his equipment when he wasn't using his office. I started my clinic basically two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday from seven to three, Friday afternoons from one to five, and then we grew from there in 2013. For 2013 to 2017, we actually operated our business out of an old Victorian home that had two stories and 13 steps, and half my treatment rooms were upstairs in bedrooms.
Theresa:            So, that's how we started, and we just grew from there. I think I took on a part-time therapist in 2015, and then went to ... I had a part-time and a full-time therapist in 2016, 2017, and we've grown consistently from that point.
Chad:               Great. So, when did you come into the fold here at Breakthrough and we started working together?
Theresa:            I started Killer Marketing in November of 2017, anticipating that we were moving into new space. So, by the end of 2017 we were kind of rim-locked. We couldn't grow anymore than we had already grown where we were. So, we decided to go into an actual [inaudible 00:03:31] clinic atmosphere. So, I had rented space, and they were finishing that space out for me for a clinic that was going to be about 2600 square feet.
Theresa:            So, I was anticipating growth, so I got the call, or got on one of those things with practice promotions, and Chad, you were a guest, and heard about Breakthrough and kind of got in touch with you. So, I started Killer Marketing in November of 2017, went to my first bootcamp in Atlanta in 2018. So, I've been to the Atlanta Bootcamp, the New Jersey Bootcamp, and then I took myself and two staff members to the Orlando Bootcamp, and then I have all my staff coming with me to Chicago Bootcamp.
Chad:               Sweet. So, just to fill in the gap there, you started Killer Marketing. You were growing. You wanted to fill space. It was about 2600 square feet, so you were leaving the Victorian home.
Theresa:            Yeah.
Chad:               Right? With the treatment rooms upstairs. Can you talk a little bit about what practice life was like before you started going direct to the consumer, before you started putting the marketing systems in, whether it be Killer Marketing or Product X? Can you talk a little bit about what life was like then?
Theresa:            Well, it was very stressful, for one thing, because where we are is a small town, and there's one major hospital player, and they have probably five outpatient clinics. In fact, one is directly across the street from my clinic that I have now, so it was a very competitive market in that, because they pretty much owned the physicians and the referral sources.
Theresa:            So, there were people that, fortunately, knew me as a therapist, so that's what had started ... my original referrals came from them, and we had started doing, tried to do some workshops ourselves right before I started with Breakthrough, but they were kind of local advertising and through my newsletters. So, we would get two or three people, maybe, and we were doing those, but we weren't really getting a steady flow of referrals. Our referrals were running around 20 to 25 a month.
Theresa:            Now, last month, I just finished May stats, we had 56 referrals.
Chad:               Nice. So, you've doubled.
Theresa:            Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chad:               Great. So, what I heard there is life was a little bit stressful. You weren't exactly sure where your new patients were coming from.
Theresa:            Right.
Chad:               Like many of us, you had physicians that were networking for the hospital system. They were likely not allowed to refer to you, or at least not the extent that they did five years ago, and you wanted to replace those referrals, and you've actually doubled the number of new patients coming through. So, great work to you and your team.
Chad:               Can you talk a little bit about what life is like now? Like, what that did for you and your business, having that certainty of being able to control the new patients, and then also once you do that, what it means for you as a person as well? Because I know you're a mother and a wife, and lots of other things.
Theresa:            Well, before Breakthrough, I was a practice owner, but I was really a clinician working in my business. I was more a clinician than an owner. I didn't really understand a lot about managing my business. I didn't understand, because Breakthrough's been more than just marketing. It's been an education for me. It's taken me through the whole process of becoming a business owner.
Theresa:            So, life before was treat patients for 10 to 12 hours a day, and then I just was talking to my office manager here a few minutes ago about the fact that we used to just ... money came in and money went out. Money came in, money went out. We didn't manage anything. I didn't know what my cost per visit was. I didn't know any of that stuff. I was just a rookie, but yet I'd been a therapist for 38 years. So, I was a rookie at being a practice owner. I could be a really good clinician, but I wasn't really good at the management part.
Theresa:            So, being with Breakthrough has helped me to make that transition from a clinician to a business owner, so it's changed my perspective on how I look at things. It's also given me some more freedom. Probably the first four or five years of my business, I only took maybe two weeks of vacation ever.
Chad:               Total.
Theresa:            Right.
Chad:               That's not two weeks a year.
Theresa:            Right. To leave my business meant to leave money on the table because I'd be closing my business, because I didn't have any strategy in place to cover. I was also afraid that if I was gone, then I wouldn't be able to ... something would happen. We wouldn't get referrals, or there would be something. Actually, last year I took three vacations, so I had about three weeks of vacation in 2018.
Theresa:            This year, actually, I had a daughter who had a baby, and she was born premature in February, so I took five weeks off and left my business for five weeks, and went and stayed with my daughter and helped her. I'm actually planning now through the rest of the summer, plan to go at least one weekend a month for a long weekend to spend time with her, because she's just starting to get back to work and that kind of thing. So, I wouldn't have had that freedom before. I didn't have that freedom before.
Theresa:            So, at least I know now that I can leave my business and it's going to still run, and we're not going to take a big dip. I'm not going to come back and have no referrals for three or four weeks because Theresa's been out of town, and so I haven't been in contact with anybody. All the patients are getting taken care of. We are learning. We're working on our systems and getting our systems down better, and the workshops definitely help.
Theresa:            The workshops have, with the Facebook marketing and everything, that has really put us out there. People didn't know that we existed before, and I make it a habit of every new patient, asking them, "How did you hear about us?" A lot of them will say, "Well, a friend of mine had told me about you, but when I saw the Facebook marketing, I thought, you know, maybe I'll give them a try."
Theresa:            So, we had a good reputation word of mouth, but we have an even better recognition now that we're doing the Product X marketing. I think, too, when people come ... having the workshops in the clinic, when they come into the clinic, they get a feel for what they can anticipate when they come here for therapy, and I think that that's helpful for people. I really do. I think it makes them feel comfortable coming, and because the workshop kind of gives them a preview of what we're going to do for them, what our knowledge base is, for one thing, and then how we will proceed, because we talk a lot about what are their options for treatment and that kind of thing.
Theresa:            We're fortunate. We have the LightForce laser. We do dry needling. I've been to Dan's course on ... and want to get my staff. So, we do a lot of manual therapy, so we have a lot of good stuff going on here. When people come to the workshops and they hear about that, then they come here. I've had people come into the workshop and say, "I'm getting therapy down the street, but what do I have to do so I can get transferred over to you?"
Theresa:            Just to go back to your question about referrals and that situation, actually, last October, in October of 2018, I got a phone call from my main referral source whose office is in the hospital building that's our competitor. She told me that she had gotten a visit from the hospital administrator and the director of physical therapy wanting to know why she was referring people to Valley Rehab Center and not to their clinic, to the hospital clinic.
Theresa:            She said to them, of course, ethically, she has to refer people where they request to go, and that people had been requesting. So, obviously, they were data mining and figuring out that people were not coming to Wheeling Hospital Physical Therapy, and they were choosing Valley Rehab Center. Then, after that, found out from a couple of my patients who were referred after that point that they got a phone call from the local hospital wanting to know why they chose Valley Rehab Center instead of Wheeling Hospital.
Theresa:            So, definitely the exposure, the opportunity to let people get in the door and know a little bit about us before they even have treatment makes a big impression, I think, on people. They know what to expect, and they're also learning that they have a choice, too.
Chad:               That's awesome. I'm going to read into this a little bit, but basically, if we take your full story at 55, 2013, being laid off, to where you're at today, how does it make you feel knowing that the intentions of the hospital, or, we'll blame it on the hospital administrator, but probably the hospital, was to take your retirement, basically take it away from you and make it their own, but yet, in the end, patients are speaking up and saying, "We want to go to Valley Rehab. We want to see Theresa and her team instead." What does that do for you?
Theresa:            Well, I mean, it's very rewarding for me to know that, but I think it's more so I love what I do, and I think that as therapists we have a lot to offer. I think that we've watered down our profession in some of these big box type facilities, and if we want to flip the pyramid, people need to know what we really can do as physical therapists.
Theresa:            And, also, people need to be educated that they do have a choice. I think all too often people just take the word of what their doctor says, "Do this, do that, do that." I think we as physical therapists can offer a lot of education to people and help them to see that there's a different way.
Theresa:            As far as, for me, another thing that I've shared with you guys in the past is that before Breakthrough, and before owning my own practice, I guess, for sure, but before Breakthrough, as a working mom who put in a lot of hours to her profession because I love what I do, and my kids always understood that, but still, I was a mom going to a job. And now, I'm a business owner that my children are proud of. So, they view me differently. I'm not just a mom going to a job. I'm actually somebody who's built something and who is changing the environment in this area with regards to physical therapy.
Chad:               That's great. How many children do you have?
Theresa:            Four.
Chad:               Four, all right. I know you had a crucial conversation with your son, and I promised not to get too emotional here, but can you share some of that crucial conversation that you had with him, and just what that meant for you?
Theresa:            All my children are grown now. They're all adults, and my youngest son in particular has a very entrepreneurial spirit. So, being involved in business now, we've connected in a different way. He'll call me, "Hey, mom, you need to read this book." Or, "You need to listen to this." Or, "Hey, I'm sending you this link for this." So, we've connected on a different level, and it's really opened up, or changed our relationship for him and I in sharing those things.
Theresa:            Also, it was very rewarding for him to say to me ... it was right before I came, while I was in Harrisburg, actually, the night before I was going to film for the shoulder workshop, and we were talking on the phone, and he said to me, mom, how proud he was of me, and everything that I had accomplished. Again, as a working mom, you think you just go through the routine. You work, and you work, and you work, and you keep running through the cycle, but you always want to be proud of your children. So, to have one of your children say they're proud of you certainly makes an impact on your life.
Chad:               I love that. Thank you for sharing. I'll try to compose myself here, but I really admire what you're doing, not only in your area with Valley Rehab, but also what you're doing in terms of helping other private practice owners. So, thank you for doing this, Theresa.
Theresa:            Thank you. Hey, I just want to share one more thing.
Chad:               Yeah.
Theresa:            Our goal was to be at 600 visits. Not 600 visits scheduled, 600 visits seen, and we only missed it by six visits in May.
Chad:               Nice.
Theresa:            So, it's 594 seen with a 93% arrival rate.
Chad:               That's great. Congratulations.
Theresa:            So, if we could've been at 95% arrival rate, we would've had those other six patients.
Chad:               That's great. Thank you, Theresa.

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