If you’re interested in going into business to create the kind of clinic that continues to see growth, to have an environment you and your team enjoy being in, and to feel a sense of deep appreciation for creating the kind of life you love living - then listen up, we’ve got just the right expert to share tips on how you can have all that and more!
After 12 years in business and now taking on an additional HR staff member, successful clinician and business owner Jeff Walsh is growing, streamlining, and focusing on bigger and better things to come.
This is our third interview in the ‘Clinic Owner Interview Series’ - a series where we’re learning insider tips straight from the experts themselves. It started with Gordon McMorland, from National Spinal Care, a successful multidisciplinary clinic, sharing his tips and insights into growth, taking risks, expansion and more. Then we had Kim Hall, from Physio2U, giving us a sneak peak inside her business and how she’s managed to make it such a huge success in a short amount of time.
Now, in this third segment, Jeff Walsh, BScPT from Nova Physiotherapy, reveals key points about how to be a working clinician while at the same time growing into multiple locations, knowing when it’s time to delegate for business growth, and creating an environment that matters to both patients and yourself.
Jeff Walsh, along with business partner Robbie MacDonald, own 4 clinic locations in Halifax Nova Scotia with over 21 team members. With a special interest in Sport Physiotherapy, Concussion Management, and 3D Gait Analysis, the clinics are quite deeply involved with the sporting community around Halifax and have built strategic relationships that have helped grow their clinics.
Nova Physiotherapy are the proud winners of the Consumer Choice Award 2010-2016.
In this interview, Jeff offers incredible insights on how to build, live and love a business [and life] that’s worth all the effort.
Take a look Inside the Life of Jeff Walsh...
1) Tell Us About Your Practice
What inspired you to own your own practice?
Shortly after graduation, my first employment in private practice wasn’t the most enjoyable experience and more importantly, due to the clinics time demands and schedules they created for me, I didn’t feel like I was giving people the treatment they deserved. The owners were not physiotherapists and were only concerned with numbers and not patient care. I quickly realized I wanted to create an environment for myself where I could provide quality care, make people feel like they were taken care of, and keep them wanting to return for more.
How long have you owned the clinic?
I opened my first clinic with my business partner Robbie MacDonald in 2004, one year after graduating from UWO.
What made you decide to have a business partner versus being sole owner? And how do you manage responsibilities and decision making?
Rather than be a sole business owner I had decided early on to partner with Robbie as we’d created a relationship in our first week of knowing each other, which we knew was unique. Robbie was my CI in one of my last clinical placements when I was a student. We shared the same values regarding the direction we wanted to see our careers head and so we kept in touch over the next year while we built our first business plan.
The responsibilities and decision making really evolved over time as we grew. Our first few years in business, we were the clinicians, the cleaners, the secretaries, and the bookkeepers. Over time we slowly realized our own, and each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and determined what areas each person would take care of. Now, we still make all the decisions together but each of us handle different aspects of the business operations.
What makes your clinic different?
I think we are different because we not only own and operate our locations, but we still treat patients 75% of the week and all patient care in our 4 clinics are completed only by Physiotherapists…(sorry Kin and PTA). We are also very involved in the local sports and running community and feel we have built a good brand with locations strategically placed around Halifax Municipality.2) What do you do to build culture at your clinic?
We try to acknowledge good performance and efforts that staff have done to improve clinic operations and treatments. We like to create a great, happy working environment that people love to be a part of daily and I think we have been successful at doing so.
3) What is your biggest business accomplishment in the past year?
We have grown this past year to having 4 successful clinic locations around Halifax. This growth put the business in the need for a clinical coordinator and has created a job to help improve our clinic management, HR, and improve our systems.
As clinic owners, you always try to keep up with doing all those tasks to save that extra salary but at some stage it grows beyond you and you have to make a jump. The leap of faith to take on a new staff member was well worth it. We feel it has been an essential part of our success in the past twelve months. We’re very lucky to have Andrea as a new addition to our team and she has lifted a lot of weight off Robbie and I.
What advice would you give to multi location clinic owners on WHEN to add your 1st management team member? What should they look for in that person?
I think it came to a point where we realized we were stretched beyond our abilities and realized we couldn’t accomplish what we wanted due to our limited time and resources. When you do make the leap, it’s still a big step to pass some responsibility to another employee. Even after a full year this is still a work in progress.
We are still quite involved in the treatment of patients and knew HR and marketing needed some help to get us to the next stage of our growth. Trust was the biggest thing that we knew had to be present. We needed someone to have the same passion as we have in our business….that isn’t easy to find and it can be even harder to establish in an interview.
4) What is your biggest mistake and lessons learned in owning a clinic?
I think the biggest mistake we have made was holding onto employees that weren’t a great fit for our company.
We’ve had some good workers that just didn’t fit into our philosophy and we tried so hard to make them buy into our beliefs. In the end though, there was no changing that and we realized after they have moved on how much better our working environment ended up being with the right personnel.
5) What's something you've recently learned that you're really excited to implement?
Stay Interviews - We’ve had performance reviews for our staff but are going to try stay interviews with everyone and see what we can all learn from it. We want people to want to be a part of our team and not feel they are just there for a pay cheque.
We are going to aim to do stay interviews once a year in place of our performance review. The types of questions we’ll look to include are:
- What are some things that you love about your job that keep you coming back?
- When was the last time you thought about leaving our team?
- What prompted it?
- What can we do to make your experience at work better for you?
6) If you had to spend $500 marketing this month to get new patients, how would you spend it?
I have no doubt, our money would be best spent on SEO and improving our Google rankings. We are currently working hard to improve our mobile presence and website responsiveness.
7) What do you do to learn more about business and leadership?
We are always trying to gain insight from other business owners in the community and we try to apply some of their successful strategies to our service industry.
We have a small group of local entrepreneurs that get together from time to time to pick each others brains and try to gain valuable marketing and operations information.
8) What is currently your biggest waste of time and how will you fix it?
I have and probably continue to waste time researching the best, most cost effective ways to market our clinic and get more patients.
We’ve tried everything and have finally decided to really focus this year on SEO and online exposure. We have decreased our print and mail marketing as an experiment and feel we are really benefiting so far with our new vision.
9) What strategy do you have for work life balance?
As we now have family commitments, we have been able to leverage our time better, moving from 65 hour weeks - 13 hour days 5 days a week (first 5 years in business), to now working 30 hours a week in patient care.
We still continue to take on more than we should but are very lucky to have fantastic women by our sides that are very understanding of the extra work we do to keep our business competitive. Even after 12 years in business, we can definitely work harder at improving our work life balance.
10) What is your daily morning ritual that gets you energized to go to work?
Giving my little guy a hug before he goes to daycare really helps get me ready for my day. The little guy is just a great reminder that all the hard work we do is to build a great life for our families and to create a work environment we want to be a part of everyday.
A good dark roast coffee is also important, too.
11) What is the book you’ve most often gifted to other people?
I’d recommend Kelly Starrett’s book Ready to Run.
We work pretty deep in the running community and this is such a great functional book to help people with improving their knowledge of movement.
12) Best advice for yourself in your 30s
As important as work and building a business may be, don’t forget about your family and make them your number 1 priority!!
There are so many great takeaways from Jeff Walsh in this interview.
Here are a few you can use to implement in your business (and life) starting today:
- Go into business to create the kind of business you want and the environment you want to be in
- Go into business with people who share the same core visions as you
- You can be a good clinician and business person at the same time
- Learn to delegate and trust others to do tasks and when you begin to feel too stretched, bring in new team members to help grow your business to the next level
- Don’t hold onto staff members who aren’t 100% right for your business because your work environment depends on it
- Try using stay interviews to develop a deeper understanding about why staff members want to be a part of your team
- Focus on SEO, Google rankings, and your website presence because it’s the most effective form of marketing in this day and age
- Have gratitude and appreciation for your accomplishments
- Most importantly, don’t forget about your family and make them your number 1 priority!!
Did you learn something else equally as valuable?
Go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments below and be sure to subscribe to the blog for the next amazing post in this clinic owner interview series.
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