Sarah Talley, PT, DPT

Sarah Talley

Sarah Talley, PT, DPT, is co-owner of Carolina Pelvic Health Center, Inc., In Raleigh, North Carolina.

Practice, Location: Carolina Pelvic Health Center, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina

Size of practice (# of locations, employees): 1 location, 4 employees

Years in practice: 6 years of practice co-ownership and 22 years as a physical therapist

Most influential book: When I read it’s usually fiction or true crime, or the Times to stay current with what’s happening from day to day.

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with a beach, people I love, and a place to run.

Favorite movie: The Princess Bride

How do you like to spend your free time? I’m a runner, so most often you’ll find me training for a marathon or taking our pup Georgia for a run. If I’m not putting the miles in, I’m on my yoga mat or enjoying time with my husband, family, and friends.

What do you like most about your job? Truthfully, I still love being a clinician! There’s nothing more rewarding than empowering someone with the ability to resume activities that are important to them, particularly when there is such a stigma around pelvic health issues. We have also cultivated a fun work environment—it’s great to show up and know that there will be some laughter and levity with staff and patients in any given day.

What do you like least about your job? I’m not a fan of the day-to-day paperwork, whether it’s documentation or the other necessary components of running a business. Fortunately, my business partner Emily and I work together to shoulder the less enjoyable aspects of ownership and share in the fun parts as well.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned? Saying yes to what matters, and no to what doesn’t. I’m really goal oriented and I have lots of interests, which has led to the trap of the endless pursuit of “what’s next” without being truly present. I’ve learned to prioritize things that I enjoy and set my schedule—both work and personal—such that what I am saying yes to is consistent with my personal, professional, and family goals.

Describe your essential business philosophy: Provide excellent care with an emphasis on compassion, empathy, and a high level of customer service. One of our primary missions is to provide a valuable service not only to our patients, but our staff and community as well.

Describe your management style: I like to be direct and timely with feedback, and am naturally more hands-off once the basics are mastered. Emily and I have different styles and use this to approach management as a team, focusing on fairness and providing a supportive environment for staff to develop.

Best way you keep a competitive edge: We are a small, boutique practice surrounded by lots of other in-network pelvic health providers. Our website, online visibility in social media platforms, and focus on excellent customer service has set us apart from others in the area. As a direct-pay (cash) practice, we thrive by demonstrating value to our clients. And our service extends to people who need or prefer in-network care as well; we refer to our colleagues in the area who do excellent work to make sure that they get good care even if we are not providing it.

How do you measure your success? Technically, we look at our overall numbers, our retention, patient satisfaction survey data, and the percentage of actual patients to the total referrals—all important metrics. But informally, our success is best noted when our patients are happy, when they feel supported and cared for, and no longer need us because they are too busy living life!

Goal yet to be achieved: I think there will always be a new goal on the horizon as we are closing in on others. A long-term professional goal of mine is to partner with our community to provide the same level of care we offer here to those who cannot afford direct-pay services, whether through grant funding or other resources. And personally, Paris is on my bucket list.

Best decision: Taking the leap and opening the practice with a partner I trust in business and as a clinician.

Worst decision: We made some hiring mistakes with our administrative staff in the early days, which cost us in more ways than one. We’ve learned from this, and thankfully we now have a dynamic duo running the front office and we’re already seeing the benefits of having the right team in place.

Toughest decision: We made some changes in our practice that resulted in letting go of one of our staff members. While the changes were necessary and ultimately a profitable decision, it was difficult due to the ripple effect on our staff.

How do you motivate your employees? We intentionally seek people who are intrinsically motivated, who are looking for the type of environment we offer, and who have a strong work ethic. To keep them engaged, we bring them in on our clinic goals, brainstorm as a team and define each person’s role and performance expectations. When the clinic meets its objectives, we share in a quarterly bonus system with all staff.

If you could start over, what would you do differently? Knowing what I do now, I would have opened the practice sooner.

Describe your marketing strategy and highlight your most successful action: Our website is our greatest asset, not only for prospective patients but our current patients and other providers in the community. We are currently amplifying our social media presence and increasing video content for our patients, which are among the most popular items on our site.

What unique programs do you offer that set you apart from the competition? I’m in the process of obtaining my certification as a Professional Yoga Therapist, and I integrate Medical Therapeutic Yoga into practice with my patients regularly. My sweet spot is working with people who need modifications and want to build the strength and confidence to attend a community class.

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? Impact is an excellent resource, and one of the few publications I read cover to cover, earmark, take notes, and pass on to my partner. I appreciate the advocacy of the PPS leaders and support not only of large-scale practice ownership but of small private practices like ours.

What worries you about the future of private practice? I’m concerned about the shrinking market for the small private practice owner. Over the past several years in our region, many private practice locations have sold to larger hospital or private corporate entities.

What are you optimistic about? On the flip side, we also have an increasing number of small, direct-pay practices in Raleigh alone, which is encouraging! Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy when determining how to spend their health care dollars, and physical therapists are getting better at demonstrating value for their services and increasing visibility in the community.

What are your goals for the next year? Our clinic goal is to bring another therapist on board to allow us to reduce our clinical hours and devote more time to business development and to our families. Personally, I’ve got my sights on requalifying for Boston!

Where do you see the best opportunities for your practice in the future? We are currently developing more wellness arms for our practice and are looking at the possibility of expanding into other locations and telehealth as well.

What do private practitioners need to do to thrive in today’s health care environment? Integrate research into practice, embrace technology, and listen to your patients. And remember to have a little fun along the way.