Practice What You Preach

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How strategic planning will help maximize resource utilization and grow your practice.

By Holly Dorr, BS

A strong case can be made that owners of private practices in physical therapy all have common goals, ideals, and maybe even (yup, I’m going to say it!) treatment methods.

So what sets these thousands of private practices apart? Why are some thriving and increasing their take-home profit, while others are treading water month after month with a constant decrease in their profit margin? The difference is simple—successful clinics strategize their plan for success prior to even opening their doors. And, once their doors are open, they continue to practice what they preach so that they can ensure a successful outcome.

Scenario time: An experienced and energetic physical therapist has finally decided to step out on her own. She has already acquired a location for her clinic, hired her staff, and purchased equipment. She is motivated and believes that she will offer the best physical therapy services to her community. In her mind, how could she not be successful in her new venture? She opens her doors to the public and goes all-in with one strategy: to set her clinic apart by providing the most amazing, comprehensive skilled care. She might do a little bit of marketing here and there and post on Facebook once a week, but is this enough? Will her clinic succeed and become a profit-building business? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of physical therapist is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than all other health care occupations (16 percent).1 Therefore, it is highly unlikely that she is the only practicing physical therapist in her community. If she held the entire market share for physical therapy services, her clinic’s outcome might be different. Unfortunately, it is a competitive market. Other clinics offer the same services and utilize the same strategy.

Success and goal commonalities among private practice owners exist because of a deep-rooted desire to truly help people return to a life full of potential and happiness; we are all the same in this regard. Constantly we preach the same fundamentally important standards to maintain in our practices: quality, empathy, motivation, hard work, growth. If ever there was an idiom that we in private practice should take literally, it is “Practice what you preach.” This involves integrating a standardized approach to reach (and exceed) our goals. How do we integrate such an approach into our practice? The answer is strategic planning, and it’s not as hard as you might think.

Strategic planning for your private practice helps define the direction you want your clinic to take, and how you plan to allocate your available resources to help you succeed. The benefits of developing a strategic plan are neverending. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Proper utilization of resources
  • Minimization of financial risks and threats
  • Clearly defined goals
  • Increased profit margin

How to Create Your Own Strategic Plan

1. Establish your goal

It is important when developing a strategic plan to stay away from listing your clinic’s goals in a broad sense. Break them down. Don’t say: “Our goal is to be successful and offer the most comprehensive care available to our community.” Instead, say: “Our goal this quarter is to incorporate our knowledge and skills into a strategic plan that will help us increase our productivity and profit margin, minimize financial risk, and maintain a strong presence throughout our community.”

2. Outline secondary goals

Brainstorm how you’re going to meet your goal. What specifically needs to be done? Examples:

  • Expand marketing presence
  • Decrease expenses
  • Increase self-referrals

3. Define strategies and tactics

This is where it gets fun! How do you meet those secondary goals? Examples:

  • Expand marketing presence and increase self-referrals: Advertise in local newspapers, dispense T-shirts to clients who complete their plan of care, increase presence on social media, attend community events, dispense special treats to patients (chocolate milk!), and increase donations/sponsorships to markets that may push your brand.
  • Decrease expenses: Designate an allocated monetary fund for marketing and donations, emphasize productivity techniques (cut back on downtime), and designate a budget for the clinic purchaser.

4. Assign team members to specific tasks

It’s easy to simply say, “This is our goal, and this is what needs to be done,” but unless someone oversees the strategic plan to ensure efficiency and designates specific tasks to individuals for completion, the plan is worthless.

5. Check-in and evaluate

Make sure to schedule periodic reviews of your strategic plan. Are the strategies and tactics easy to complete, or should you make changes? This is the time to make changes if they are needed.

While having a strategic plan is helpful, it should be noted that your strategic plan will not be properly utilized unless your whole clinic is on board. Utilize your greatest and most proficient resource—your staff—to assist in reaching your goal. Don’t be too secretive as a clinic owner. Is it truly a detriment to your success to be honest with your employees regarding your specific goals, and in that regard, the steps needed to achieve them? Maintain an open playbook so that your most important resource may assist in implementing an organized game plan. Implementing a strategic plan in your private practice will help create the structure required to establish a healthy clinic, and it will allow for a strong foundation for your business to build upon. Remember, practice what you preach!


Holly Dorr

Holly Dorr, BA, is a PPS Administrator’s Council member and the clinic/business manager of Gillette Physical Therapy in Gillette, Wyoming. She can be reached at hdorr@gillettept.com.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

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