The Automated Practice
Success Secrets for Working Less and Earning More
By Dr. Jamey T. Schrier
Reviewed by Susan Nowell, PT, DPT
In 2004 Jamey Schrier was facing the soul-crushing challenges of private practice ownership: trying to grow the business without sacrificing his family, income, or time. Then his practice physically burnt to the ground in a three-alarm fire. Recounting the aftermath of this calamity, he writes, “Life laid two choices in front of me: I could do what I knew, work over 60 hours a week with little money and time for my family, or I could completely change my practice and working methodology.” In the years following, he created the Practice Freedom Method, a leading approach for private physical therapy (PT) practitioners to achieve greater productivity and life balance. The Automated Practice outlines the most important concepts of this methodology as it guides you through its three parts: the Inspiration, the Foundation, and the Quantum Leap. The personality and authenticity of this book make it stand out as a unique and earnest guide to greater private practice efficiency and freedom.
The structure of a physical therapy business is different from the delivery of patient care, though mindset and goal-setting are vital to both. According to Schrier, the majority of private practice owners are “committed clinicians” and “overwhelmed operators” working in a reactive state, unable to work on their business vision with “proaction,” or forward intention. Traditionally, there are three primary aspects of business that most owners and aspiring owners consider: marketing, management, and money. The fourth and the most important aspect according to the Automated Practice is mindset. Mindset is the guiding aspect to all the other components of the business. Our working mindset is derived from our belief system, a system that can inhibit our growth or catalyze amazing possibilities. When our belief system is in alignment with our business vision, we are in a positive state of searching for solutions rather than blaming external factors such as declining reimbursement and increasing competition for our lack of success.
Business should be grown and nurtured in a way that is in alignment with “unique abilities.” When we honor unique abilities, we come closer to what is recognized in performance realms as “flow state.” Honoring this state allows for the growth of a successful practice while maintaining authenticity and passion for the profession. With this underlying theme, the book presents alternative ways to increase doctors’ referrals through building rapport with front desk personnel and tangible ways to implement positive mindset strategies through active appreciation, celebrating progress backwards, and sharing small successes with staff. If you are only seeing your practice vision as a distant marker on the horizon, you will risk not celebrating previous and current accomplishments in your business. By acknowledging milestones and celebrating wins, business vision and ideas for growth can be maintained while keeping confidence high and momentum moving forward.
Why do most physical therapists start their own practice? It usually comes down to three primary objectives: more time, more money, more freedom. The reality is that simultaneously having more time, more money, and more freedom typically proves to be an enormous challenge. The reason for this is simple: Most of us graduate with the tools to treat patients, document their care, and solve people’s physical problems, but not with mastery of the art of hiring, marketing, management, and cash flow. In the Foundation section, Schrier presents two simple truths that keep practice owners from mastering business skills: (1) “We don’t have enough time,” and (2) “PT owners are terrible at delegating.”
“Time is the only nonrenewable, nonreplicable resource we have.” What PT private practice owners need to master is “time ownership.” The author asks, “Do you own your time or does it own you?” Time bundling, which includes breaking weekly activities into major categories of focus (treatment days, administrative days, and free days), and the Practice Freedom Method “Delegation Exercise” are tools provided in the book that can help steer you toward greater business mastery and freedom. Effective delegation is more attainable when a practice owner has a clear view of the type of person he or she would like to hire (“right fit hiring”) and views employees as investments rather than expenses.
Another powerful tool provided is positive mastery of Pearson’s Law: Whatever is measured improves, and whatever is measured and reported improves dramatically. Schrier expands on the concept that “all progress starts by telling the truth” and proposes a solid system of practice success measures. This system includes a list of simple metrics and ways to troubleshoot and understand what causes these metrics to move up or down.
The Quantum Leap
Though we live in digital times, word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the most effective ways to grow a business. In health care, we need to remember that, first and foremost, “We are here for our patients.” In the Quantum Leap section, Schrier shares his strategy for generating word-of-mouth referrals through TLC marketing, using the concepts of organic, current, and active communication with clients and staff. TLC marketing begins by setting the stage of a positive patient experience with intent listening and active patient engagement. When you ask questions with an interested mindset versus an interesting mindset, you’ve given your client more of a reason to come back. Continue giving your patient reasons to come back at each session and make sure your therapist, aides, and front desk personnel reinforce the importance of continuity. In the words of Jamey Schrier, “There are more people who need your services than there are people to provide it to them. Make it easy for people to refer to you.”
Additional marketing tools described in the Quantum Leap section include live event marketing and digital age marketing. For all modes of marketing, it’s important to go beyond merely giving information to possible prospects; the real reason to communicate directly with a client, host an event, or post information on a website/social media is to engage with your clients.
The Automated Practice is an excellent, on-point guide for private practice owners who are seeking greater practice freedom while maximizing the growth of their business and vision. Through the author’s personal accounts and stories of trial and error, lessons learned, and ultimately greater success than previously imagined, you can’t help but feel inspired to implement these ideas into both your life and your work. This book leaves the imprint that there is deeper meaning to the profession of physical therapy and that life balance need not be an elusive concept for private practice owners.
Susan Nowell, PT, DPT, is a PPS member and founder of Endurellect Therapies, practicing physical therapy in San Francisco. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Receive a FREE copy of the best selling book The Automated Practice by going to www.thepracticefreedommethod.com.