Catherine Eliza “Beth” Connell, PT, DPT
Bodies in Balance Physical Therapy | Wilmington and Hampstead, North Carolina | Years in practice: 24 | Bodies in Balance started 11 years ago | 3 locations | 30 employees
What is your favorite vacation spot? I love to travel and explore new places. My favorite trip was to Vancouver, where we, my husband and I, went heli-hiking. We hiked seven hours along a mountain range near Squamish, coming and going via helicopter, it was awesome!
How do you like to spend your free time? I really enjoy the beach, spending time with friends and family, paddle boarding, cooking, gardening, and playing tennis.
What do you like most about your job? Having a great business partner is definitely the best part. My business partner, Michelle DuPree Zumbro, and I share specializations in orthopedics, lymphedema, and vestibular rehab. We feel this variety keeps us interested in our patient care over the many years of practice. That being said, patient care is one of the best parts of my job. As our clinic has grown what I like most about my job has evolved. Lately I’ve enjoyed being a part of providing an environment where so many therapists of various years of experience can provide excellent patient care. I enjoy watching our employees develop new skills, apply new knowledge, and share and teach these ideas with their coworkers, students, and patients. Eleven of our PTs have become board certificated. We have dry needling certifications for eight of our staff. We have added specializations in many areas including Parkinson’s, concussion, sports, and chronic pain.
What do you like the least about your job? Keeping up with the ever-changing regulations, especially the ones without clear guidelines, is the most frustrating part of my job. One example was last year when the MIPS guidelines for qualifying clinics were released. Our clinic employed 16 different therapists during 2018 (15 and under is considered small and did not qualify). Our clinic apparently was considered small, as we did not have over 15 therapists at one time. Still waiting for this to be interpreted differently.
Your contributions to the community: We have therapists that speak at various support groups including Parkinson’s and Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT). We participate in events for cancer, cystic fibrosis (CF), multiple sclerosis (MS), and pregnancy, as well as sponsor marathons and bike rides. We sponsor youth athletic teams as well, and have had free sports screenings.
Describe your business tactics: We are clinicians first. We are very patient focused, and emphasize the importance in staying up to date, listening to our patients, and doing our best to make a difference at each visit. We track more numbers than we used to, and we do more marketing in forms of social media. But the large majority of our growth is from word of mouth. Our patients do the large majority of our marketing. We put most of our efforts into providing great care.
Culture is very important; we strive to cultivate a positive, compassionate environment for our staff and our patients. We work as a team, and don’t allow drama. We make sure to do some team building, maybe go and play volleyball, or rock climbing.
We also lead by example. Michelle and I work as one of the staff, we will add patients on and pitch in however is needed. We all respect and care for one another, and this creates teamwork.
What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? As many people will say, the networking amongst the clinic owners is invaluable and absolutely one of the best parts about being a member of PPS. To sit and share ideas about hiring, choosing new locations, or what is the best clinic size, is really interesting and has been incredibly helpful.
We have attended so many great courses that have given us some great direction including best metrics to help monitor/measure our viability; specifics on what best practices do; updates with regulations, payments, compliance, etc. We have implemented many ideas including incentive pay and profit sharing, board certification exams within three years of employment, to name a few.
Mentors: My parents, they are both hardworking, successful people. My father is a successful businessperson, teaching, financial counseling, and for the last 20 years, he has operated opiate addiction rehab clinics. So he has also been a great resource for business and pain science. My mother was in health administration; she opened a primary care center and a tri-county regional hospice. Both have sat on state boards, and been resources for others in their fields. I am really proud of them and they have great advice.
If you could start over, what would you do differently? I would want to hire a great practice administrator early on. We tried this a couple of times without success. We have spent a lot of time on administrative tasks, creating systems, processes, etc… It would have eased some frustrations and inefficiencies. I have also considered if we would have started much earlier, we perhaps could have expanded to have many more locations. We get phone calls asking if we have locations in other states and love to think how great that could be. It would be great to have a clinic closer to my family in the Chattanooga area as I know there is a need for some of our specializations. But as we remind ourselves, bigger is not always better, and things are probably best the way they are. If we would have gotten that big, I would not be doing patient care near as much as I am now.
What are your goals for the next year? Survival! Honestly, we are training an office coordinator with hopes of growing her into the role. We will hope to open our fourth location, have our chronic pain program fully implemented, and still have time to play and travel!