By Terry C. Brown, PT, DPT
One of the single greatest resources that can make our practices go from good to great is having a dedicated staff that believes in the practice and are with us for the long haul. Every practice owner knows that the people with whom they surround themselves play heavily into the practice’s success or failure.
Most of us are people persons and we can get someone in the door. We understand the need for a competitive salary structure and benefits. We are good at getting them on board, then spending time and money training and molding them into productive team members.
However, how many of us have a comprehensive retention program? Being good at getting folks in the door has nothing to do with keeping them as a longtime faithful employee. Why is this? I think many of us have a misconception about what factors matter for retention. Most of us built our businesses believing that salary, benefits, and incentives would keep our employees satisfied . . . when in reality the drivers go deeper into the human psyche to the actions and attitudes that make employees feel successful, secure, and appreciated.
As private practice owners, we must strive to engage all employees to feel as if they have ownership in the practice. We need to treat them as partners in our endeavor and ensure we meet their needs. I believe there are some core areas that we could all look at to make our employees feel like owners.
First and foremost, remember that communication is a two-way street. Listening and communicating your vision are equally important. Structure your communication to inform, emphasize, and reaffirm to employees that their workplace contributions have an impact. Properly done, communication with your staff will provide you with the insights you need not only to run your business better but also to know how your employees feel about working for your business. Employees need the chance to be heard and recognized.
Empower your employees to do their best. This requires having measurable objectives for each employee and providing steady feedback to them. Studies confirm that people have a deep desire to feel they are succeeding and that their talents and capabilities are being used in a way that makes a difference to the business. When people sense their actions are fulfilling this desire, they begin to develop a sense of belonging and a feeling that your company is their company.
Next is putting your company in a position of competitive advantage. Set yourself apart from the competition. People want to work for a winner. Be active in your community and engage your employees in those activities you support. Build loyalty by earning trust, respect, and commitment from your employees as they work along with you in volunteer efforts to better your community.
We as private practice owners should provide the place for young entrepreneurs to come and build a home that provides them with opportunity for success in the way that each of them defines it. I hope this issue of Impact helps you develop your staff as a competitive core of “business owners” that are providing top care in your community for years to come.
Make recruitment and retention part of your marketing plan.
By Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS
If the first marketing goal for every physical therapy practice is to bring in new patients, the second goal should be focused on the recruitment and retention of both clinical and administrative staff. Each of these goals informs the other. Consider these six marketing and public relations tips to ensure your staff recruitment and retention strategy is successful.
1. Define and promote your culture. Determining if a candidate is a “cultural fit” is extremely important for recruiting and retaining candidates that are best suited to your practice. Social media provides the perfect opportunity to share the culture of your workplace. Post photos and videos that truly represent the kind of people you would like to attract. Dress-down days, company sports teams and clubs, celebrations—choose what represents your culture. Staff will organically begin sharing posts, and continuing to spread the word about your practice’s culture.
2. Seek opportunities to promote that your practice is a great place to work. Seek local awards that celebrate and promote the best places to work in your community. Receiving such awards provides credibility that your practice is in fact a fun and rewarding working environment. Preparing the application engages current staff—and hopefully provides you all with a reason to celebrate. Employee engagement promotes retention, and employees certainly love to celebrate together!
3. Reward your staff’s effort to market your practice. We encourage and often reward our patients for telling their friends and family about our practices. Similarly, you should encourage and reward your staff for recommending your practice as a place to work! Rewarding staff with a gift card, bonus, or public acknowledgment will reinforce this positive behavior and further develop his or her personal connection to your practice.
4. Market your current staff. Staff bios on your website, social media posts, and press releases announcing staff accomplishments will not only help current staff feel valued but will also message the type of clinicians and the clinical opportunities that exist in your practice.
5. Develop relationships. Marketing is about developing relationships. LinkedIn, your local American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) chapter, physical therapy programs as well as other community-based organizations and boards provide endless opportunities to develop relationships with potential employees as well as those who may recommend your practice as a place to work. Practice leadership is often challenged by the amount of time required for relational activities but unless the effort is made, the practice of recruiting will be limited to more passive methodologies.
6. Advertising a position is marketing your practice. When the time comes to advertise a position, carefully consider the wording and information provided. Just as a standard description of your physical therapy practice will likely not entice a patient to choose your practice, a standard description of a position you have available may not entice a person to apply. What makes your practice different or unique?
If you clearly define your workplace culture using these tips offered, you are likely to have the right people on the bus—and a satisfied workforce leads to satisfied patients. It is a win-win!
Michelle Collie, PT, DPT, MS, OCS, is the chair of the PPS PR and Marketing Committee and chief executive officer of Performance Physical Therapy in Rhode Island. She can be reached at email@example.com.
By Paul Martin, PT, MPT, CBI, M&AMI
In the current outpatient rehabilitation market, growth is not an option. There are multiple companies acquiring businesses across the nation and rapidly growing in their local markets. One of the best ways to grow your business is by establishing new clinics in contiguous markets. The challenge in most cases is finding therapists who can treat and manage these new locations.
We recommend building a program to mentor your existing staff to become those next clinic directors. Develop a career ladder in your business that points to a staff therapist growing to become a manager. Then create a training program that helps a therapist build those skills to become your next successful clinic director.
We work with some of the best rehabilitation businesses in the country, and one of the key attributes to these companies is a strong bench of therapists who can be called on to fill a need for a new clinic director.
Paul Martin, PT, MPT, CBI, M&AMI, president of Martin Healthcare Advisors, is a nationally recognized expert on health care business development and succession planning. As a consultant, mentor, and speaker, Paul assists business owners with building value in their companies. He has authored The Ultimate Success Guide, numerous industry articles, and weekly Friday Morning Moments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 2: Engage your target audience
By Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA
Last month, we covered the notion that physical therapists hate selling.
We also discussed that selling is something that can—and should—be delivered naturally by physical therapists, and many of the preconceived ideas we have about sales are wrong.
Selling can be fun. And, if we believe in what we are selling, it could be argued that it is our ethical responsibility to sell.
The five easy steps of selling are:
- Awareness. Before all else, the target of your sales efforts must know you exist.
- Engagement. Once aware, you must engage their interest, or be forgotten.
- Education. Once engaged, you have the opportunity to share your value through education.
- Conversion. Once educated, you can comfortably make “the ask,” converting the sale.
- Amplification. Once the sale is made, you can now amplify sales through new relationships.
Last month we discussed Awareness, acknowledging that before we can sell to someone, they have to know we exist. For the math nerds, this can be quantified by something like:
1 great message x 0 listeners = 0 listeners who have heard your great message
And awareness is where it all starts.
Once your customer (or customer segment) is aware, however, you are still not ready to dive in and make the sale.
You can try—and sometimes you will get lucky—but if you are playing the odds, you need to engage your audience before you can ask them to buy from you (and by “buy,” I am referring to scheduling an appointment, making a referral, or anything else that is going to benefit you).
Think of the last time you took someone’s advice.
Was it from someone you knew? Likely.
Someone you trusted? Hopefully.
A perfect stranger? Never (Remember “stranger danger”? Well, it applies here, too).
When you are selling, you are giving your prospective customer some advice. You are advising them to buy from you. And you cannot advise a stranger.
So you have to engage.
Engagement brings you one step closer to your prospective client. It takes the awareness you have created, and molds it into a friendly and trusting resource which—at some point in the future—can provide the advice: “Buy from me.”
So how do we engage? Lots of ways.
Here are some examples that can be used to engage your audience, building a foundation that will allow you to eventually gain the trust of your potential clientele.
Examples of how to engage the community at large (businesses, consumers)
- Like or Follow the social media accounts of businesses you wish to target. Comment on their posts, share their posts with your network, and provide value by sharing information your target businesses may find useful.
- Demonstrate your value to the local consumer market through free screenings, educational sessions, and guest lectures for synergistic businesses. Take the time to engage with your audience during and after these opportunities, and follow up personally (via email, phone, or other) with every contact made with a potential customer.
- Make your contact information publicly available, and respond in a timely way to pings via social media, email, or phone. Consumers are on the constant prowl for resources to help them, and they will reach out to those they find most readily engaging. It will be you or your competitor.
Examples of how to engage professional referral sources (physicians, health care professionals)
- Strike up a relationship with the office staff of your target referral sources. These are ambassadors who—once engaged—will help you immensely as you try to work toward referral decision makers. Know there is no relationship that is “beneath” you, and forming engaging relationships with office staff is often overlooked by your competition. Use it.
- Collect and document personal information about your professional referral sources and use it in your conversations with them. It is not creepy—it is smart. While your competition is boring your target physician with details about their education and background, you should be asking about their spouse and children by name. It will win every time.
- Use personal channels to communicate, such as email, handwritten notes, and social media. Personal channels are, well, personal. They stand apart from the networking luncheons used by your competitors. It allows for a level of engagement that will distance you from others vying for time from your target audience.
There are many, many ways to engage your audience and a good rule of thumb is “What works on me?”
We are all the target of many a salesperson and the information we use to determine from whom we buy is useful in our own engagement tactics. Dissect the last time someone actually made an inroad with you that led to a sale, and see if that could work for you as well. It probably will.
Next month, we will tackle step three, the concept of Education. You do it every day, but are you using it as a tool in your sales toolbox? We will find out next month.
Until then, find me online at @tannusquatre and let me know how you are engaging your target market. You will find that I do as I say—I will engage you.
Tannus Quatre, PT, MBA, is a physical therapist and entrepreneur dedicated to improving the profession through innovative business and marketing solutions. His work can be seen in such projects as PT Pub Night® and BuildPT.com, as well as through numerous speaking and authored contributions to American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and Private Practice Section (PPS). He is president of Vantage Clinical Solutions and can be reached at email@example.com.
Sean Flannagan, PT, DPT, Cert. SMT, Cert. DN. is the founder, owner, and director of One Accord Physical Therapy, in Casa Grande, Arizona.
Practice specifics: 4 locations, 13 employees, 12 years in private practice.
What or who is the most influential book/person/event that enhanced your professional career? Outside the gracious support of my wife, the first person who comes to mind who continues to impact me daily is Brian Klemmer who died in 2011. Everything he did was about building up others. He wrote the book If How-To’s Were Enough, We Would All Be Skinny, Rich and Happy! He never feared competition, and I actually sat in a meeting with Brian where he helped a competitor become better and more profitable through his guidance. He truly practiced the philosophy of building people up, because when you do, they will build your business. He said most owners build a business and fill it with people, they remain unapproachable, they do not trust, they fear competition, they fear employees going beyond them, and they fear that there is not enough out there for them. I would rather have a great employee who wants to open a practice one day, than one who just wants to punch a clock. I feel honored to be part of their story and their success presently and in the future.
Describe the flow of your average day. Do you treat patients and how many hours a day/week? When do you perform management tasks, answer emails, market? I’m currently treating about six hours a day, with a lot of my management responsibilities done early in the a.m. Over the last three years I have been heavily involved with continuing education (www.MPTAlliance.com), so I have to balance that passion along with my business pursuits. My family is the most important aspect of who I am and what I do, so I attempt to respect and balance my family time. I have had to learn to turn off the seduction of the entrepreneurial spirit within me. It is easy to get drawn into what I equate to an affair with your business. If I push, it grows and if I rest, it rests, and it does not directly point out my weaknesses unless I inquire. The business can become an addictive escape from actually growing and staying connected at home. Home requires you to be real, it requires you to be present, and it requires you to grow. I equate marriage to Lifelong Personal Development 101, kids are 201, and business is 301. You should never stop growing and learning.
How would you describe your essential business philosophy? We purpose to build a culture that builds people, inspires growth, encourages risk, and does not hold people back from their professional pursuits. We emphasize the patient experience before money, yet value profitability. Always make your employees think beyond you and attach to a bigger vision. I personally lead by example and put family and God first, and I encourage my employees to always keep family and personal growth a priority.
How do you motivate your employees? Employees are what I enjoy most about business. We have some creative hiring processes that allow us to get a true sense of the person we are interviewing and if they will fit within our culture. If I am going to spend more time with you than I do my wife, then let us agree to play big together. Personality assessments are a big part of that process, but I think how we use them is unique. I tell interviewees, “If you are here to just punch a clock, then we are not for you.” We have a rich learning environment that challenges us all to question our outcomes and clinical reasoning, as well as to balance professional and family life. As a group, we embrace students and enjoy working with those that will be the future of our profession.
How did you get your start in private practice? I worked both for a private practice and for corporate physical therapy prior to going into private practice. Being around people like Brian really sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in me and I wanted to invest in and develop people, as well as have the freedom to spend time with my wife and kids.
How do you stay ahead of the competition? In the beginning it was just to survive, then it grew to being able to become profitable; now we are working to develop staff and create freedom. A large part is our employees and their dedication to our patients. I am humbled by how hard they work. They describe our company as their second family, and truly it is their efforts and dedication to their professional growth that keeps us ahead of the competition. I wish we had a great marketing system, but we have not needed one. Our word-of-mouth marketing from our patients has kept us consistently growing, but that only happens because of the culture we have developed that puts employees first, so they truly serve our patients.
What are your best learning experience/s (mistakes) since inception of your practice? I am still learning daily; it never ends. We are always where we need to be to grow . . . it is hard sometimes to know that the struggle and challenges are our shortcuts to growth. I failed at asking for help early on, failed at searching out mentors, failed at being humble enough to admit my weaknesses. I think the best thing a business owner can do is find a coach and mentor. I did not early on and it is cost me, both professionally and personally. If you want to limit your struggles, then engage other private practice owners through the Private Practice Section or even other business owners who are willing to share their expertise and give you honest critical feedback about where you are weak and need to grow.
What is your life motto? You are always exactly where you need to be, to become who you are called to be. Your current trial is a shortcut to becoming mature, complete, and lacking nothing.
What worries you about the future of private practice/what are you optimistic about? I believe in every market there is opportunity and that we will survive, but we must adapt with others with a similar vision and culture.
What new opportunities do you plan to pursue in the next year? We are revamping how we measure success and approach profitability. Yes, I have a new mentor for this pursuit. With thinner profit margins and a commitment to improving our outcomes, we have to really redefine our practice model. In addition, we are focusing on our residency program and our continuing education company. It is going to be imperative to collaborate and grow with those who have a similar vision for the future of our profession.