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Clinical Solutions Blog

Clinic Owner Interview Series: #4 Darin Cohen - Why I decided to have business partners

Posted by Rick Lau on Jul 5, 2016 11:00:00 AM



As a clinician, your goal is to work in the type of health business that helps you grow as both an individual and a professional. You want the type of work that doesn't feel like work at all but makes you feel alive. 

Most of all, you want work to be a place that hosts a team that inspires you, with mutual respect and support to help you achieve those goals. Well, today's story may just lead you to your ideal destination!

This is the fourth interview in our ‘Clinic Owner Interview Series’ - a series where we’re learning insider tips straight from the experts themselves. It started with Gordon McMorland, sharing his tips and insights into growth, taking risks, and expansion. Then we had Kim Hall, 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. Recently we featured Jeff Walsh, with insights on creating it ALL in business and life.

Now, in this fourth segment, Darin Cohen, from Expert Physio, is here to share how he manages to achieve amazing business and life goals every single day. Goals that most physios dream about!

Being in practice more than 10 years, Darin Cohen, along with business partners Lisa Price and Darby Honeyman, own 2 clinic locations with more than 12 team members. Like most clinic owners, Darin still spends majority of his hours treating patients.

In this interview, Darin will share:

  • How this new grad became a clinic owner in 8 years
  • Why he decided to have business partners
  • Creating roles and responsibilites with business partners 
  • Why the clinic switched to JaneApp
  • Why he only works 30 hours clinical per week
  • And the one thing that can change company culture and business outcomes

Ready? Let's take a look Inside the Life (and Business) of Darin Cohen...

1) Tell Us About Your Practice

I’m a 1/3 partner at Expert Physio with Lisa Price and Darby Honeyman. Expert Physio runs out of 2 clinics, one in North Burnaby, the other in Central Burnaby and we currently have 12 physiotherapists, 1 certified hand therapist, and 1 dietitian. 
Expert Physio offers most of the usual physiotherapy services (manual therapy, acupuncture, IMS, etc), but we also have pre-season injury screening assessments for soccer players, vestibular rehabilitation, craniosacral therapy and women’s health/pelvic floor rehabilitation.
What inspired you to own your clinic?
I started working at Expert Physio as a new grad in 2006 and absolutely loved it there. Like most new grads, I also did plenty of locums at other clinics. No matter what, though, I always felt there was no other place I’d want to work permanently.
As a clinician, I wanted to grow as an individual, and as a professional. After completing the post-graduate courses I wanted, ownership seemed like the next progression. Fortunately I had the opportunity to become an owner within the business I loved being a part of.

How long have you owned the clinic?

2 years now.

What makes your clinic different?

Experience sets our clinic well ahead of our local competition. 
In our practice, there are many clinicians with high levels of experience, which makes it a great place to work as a physio, and provides powerful strength and credibility to the entire team. If a patient is coming in, they may see a newer grad. But you can be assured, if there are questions, the new grad will be able to find answers quickly and rely on the guidance of the team.
What made you decide to have a business partner versus being sole owner?
It was a decision based on risk aversion and fortunate circumstances.
I never wanted to start a clinic from scratch, and I wanted to work at the Expert Physio 8 Rinks Burnaby location where I had built my caseload and referral sources. I knew with near certainty what the early returns would be. I also happened to have tremendous respect for the 2 other physiotherapist partners.
A stroke of luck and fortunate circumstances allowed me to become an owner when the 3rd partner offered me a chance to buy his share of the clinics, which I happliy accepted. What made the deal even better (for all) was his desire to stay on as an associate at the clinic.
2) What do you do to build culture at your clinic?
We finalized and revealed our 5 core values that drive Expert Physio to our vision: To deliver a “wow” experience.
We are encouraging everybody to use those 5 values when making any decision while at work.

Our values are:

  1. Kaizen (continuous improvement)
  2. Wellness
  3. Service
  4. Teamwork
  5. Community

To bring our core values to life, every shift we have each member of our admin team record a "wow" experience they delivered for either internal or external customers.

We also have a team member of the week where the past week’s recipient is to hand out the team member they worked with the most.
Developing these core values positions our business ahead of the competition because core values are often intangible things that other companies can't emulate.
What do you do to celebrate WINS or build culture outside of the clinic? 
1) We high five because science has shown it works!
2) We have yearly dance parties with live music to celebrate our year.
3) Every week somebody in the clinic has to nominate their team player of the week. It gets sent out in an email, and it rewards the weekly winner with a Starbucks gift card, and outlines what values the team player exemplified to win their nomination.
4) Twice a year we also have a pub night, with craft beer and food, where everybody can come and catch up.
 Follow @thericklau on Instagram
See my journey as I help clinic owners build kickass businesses #clinicaccelerator 



3) What is your biggest business accomplishment in the past year?

Creating a leadership team. 
We used to have the 3 owners meet weekly and divide up the tasks for the week. We’d all have tasks pertaining to marketing, accounting, HR, and so forth.
Now, along with the 3 owners, we have our clinic coordinator, and our accountant on our leadership team, which has allowed us the opportunity to create 3 specific departments and accountability for our leaders (eg. accounting, therapists, administrative team).
This has made us much more efficient as a business, allowing us time to focus on our strategic planning and ‘big picture’ items. 

4) What is your biggest mistake and lessons learned in owning a clinic?

To make assumptions on what the staff may want, which has happened more than once. And the decisions, which are based on assumptions, are made in, what is considered to be, 'their best interest.'
The lesson learned is to ask the staff for feedback PRIOR, and find out what they would prefer before making a policy change.
Not only does this save time, but it enhances team experience.

5) What's something you've recently learned that you're really excited to implement?

That changing our software will transform our practice.
We are streamlining our systems and processes, switching our billing (Smart series) and scheduling (Schedulicity) to one program called Jane. We are doing this in preparation to our change over to EMR in the next 12 months. We need a system that runs our practice in an efficient way. We believe, after months of deliberation, that we have found it.
We are in the process of finalizing our software system. After the initial stress of the changeover, it will make life easier for the owners, admin staff, therapists, and most importantly, the customers.

6) If you had to spend $500 marketing this month to get new patients, how would you spend it?

I consider my budget for marketing in terms of time AND money. I would take ‘$500’ as 5 hours of strategic relationship meetings.
What this means, is I would identify our biggest referral sources, and potential referral sources, and spend 5 hours nurturing the relationships.
I also think that having difficulty answering this question likely means I need to spend more time learning about effective marketing for physiotherapy.
What's your current digital marketing strategy?
Currently our digital marketing includes Facebook posts, blogs, and follow-up emails to patients.
At this stage we have not investigated Adwords, but are looking into it within the next 2 months to help improve our Google search and online presence.]

7) What do you do to learn more about business and leadership?

I read blogs, follow ‘leaders’ on Twitter, and have my next book ready to go. I alternate between business books and personal interest books. They often end up overlapping.

As for specific blogs and books, I always mention this CSC blog to other physiotherapists. I also follow Ken Blanchard and Tony Robbins on Twitter because they often provide useful links for quick reads.
The top 3 business books I recommend are:
1. E-Myth by Michael Gerber
2. Start with Why by Simon Sinek
3. Traction by Gino Wickman

8) What is currently your biggest waste of time and how will you fix it?

Missing an opportunity to delegate.
I will continue to critically analyze the tasks I perform. I’ll consistently question if I restarted them, if there is somebody else that could have done the task as well, or better, than me.

9) What strategy do you have for work life balance?

I would correct the phrase of "work life" to "work leisure." 
I feel like I am living my life when I am at work.
Having cleared that up, I have been committed to maintaining a 40 hour work week. Since becoming an owner, I have cut down my clinical shifts to 3.5. I try and spend the rest of my time at the clinics, finishing my tasks.
As an estimate, I spend 26 hours with patients, another 4 hours managing my caseload, and 10 hours on business. I would be fascinated to find out what the totals truly are if someone were to record me during my typical week.
One thing I need to monitor more is the time spent at home responding to emails. If I tracked it I’d probably be ‘plugged in’ to work much more than 40 hours. This doesn’t translate to being efficient for those extra hours.

10) What is your daily morning ritual that gets you energized to go to work?

For 4 out of 5 days of the week, I start work at noon, which gives me plenty of time to have a morning ritual!

I have a new born baby boy, so my mornings have become a tad busier. I have been able to find time to exercise for an hour before most shifts. This may mean getting to a yoga class, or going for a run (with the stroller). 

I have never been able to establish a meditation practice, but feel that my 1 hour of exercise gets my mind sharpened for the day. I enjoy both running and yoga, as the former allows my mind to work through scenarios, while the latter forces me to clear my mind.

11) What is the book you’ve most often gifted to other people?

The New Good Life by John Robbins.
"Where the old view of success was measured in cash, stocks, and various luxuries, the new view will be guided by financial restraint and a new awareness of what truly matters.
I have read it 3 times.

12) Best advice for yourself in your 30s

I am 35. But if I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say "spend even more time traveling."
I have been on numerous travel adventures and have always ended up coming home with more clarity and appreciation for my life at home. While I did travel a fair amount early on, I would have liked to have done so much more. Now, being a Dad and business owner, I don’t think I can replicate those experiences anymore.

Key Takeaways

Here are some great takeaways from Darin Cohen's interview.

Try translating these insights toward your life and practice:

  • Having an experienced and constructive team, along with specialized service or assessment offerings can set you apart from the competition.
  • Finding a work situation that fosters both personal and professional growth is the key to achieving work that makes you feel alive.
  • Consistently evaluate internal systems and processes, along with personal actions to continually improve business and life efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Developing core values is worth the time and effort because it dramatically improves your practice, productivity of your team, and the customer service you provide.

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.

Topics: Owner Interviews

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