Choosing a Business Coach for Your Physical Therapy Practice
From growing your skills to addressing challenges in your practice, a business coach can help get you to the next level.
By Joshua Bailey, PT, DPT
In the world of private practice, there is no singular way to run a successful practice.
If there was, wouldn’t we all just do it? One of the greatest strengths of the physical therapy profession is the opportunity to stand out in the crowd by demonstrating stellar or unique practice, treatment, and leadership styles. Most of us ventured out on our own to express ourselves in one or more of these ways as we believed that it could or would make health care better, even if only on a small scale.
As our businesses start to grow, we find ourselves needing to develop new skills in management, leadership, business development, marketing, financial planning, organizational structure, exit strategies, and more. As these needs expand, we often decide to seek out advice, guidance, or outside perspective. Enter a business coach. A business coach’s role is to assist the owner(s) in moving a business from where it is currently to where the owners want it to be while maintaining the key mission and values of the business.
WHERE DO YOU FIND A BUSINESS COACH?
The first place to start is our very own Section, whether at the PPS Annual Conference, through webinars provided by the Section, or by reading Impact magazine. The community that PPS has created offers open, honest discussion with others who are, or have been, in your situation. One of the great attributes is that everyone has a passion for private practice physical therapy. Simply start up a discussion about business coaching at a PPS social event and opportunities are sure to be presented.
Other options may also exist within your local area. Some cities offer business coaching or mentorship through business alliances. Many of the coaches offer time for free or a reduced charge for startup businesses in health care or related industries. It has been my experience that there are many retired business leaders who willingly share their years of expertise merely to help a new business succeed. Just because one is retired does not mean that they no longer wish to provide value and teach others what they have learned. It is a great opportunity to learn from those outside of our field.
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH COACH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
There seem to be two key ways to determine which business coach is right for you: you either prefer a business coach who aligns more closely to your mission and values or a coach who demonstrates strengths where you have perceived weaknesses. The perfect coach is one who has the unique ability to offer both. To determine what a coach has to offer, you must interview them much like you would interview a new employee for your practice. Ask open-ended questions and review previous experience to determine with whom you most closely align. Certainly, targeting coaches who have experience in the field of physical therapy can be helpful, but don’t overlook coaches who have a more well-rounded level of experience.
A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
When my practice set out to find a business coach, we had a very targeted goal that pertained to business management versus clinical care. We were interested in finding someone who understood the dynamics within physical therapy but our preference was that our coach not actually be a physical therapist. Possibly it was naivety, but we wanted to be very protective of the way that we provided care. We held great pride in the quality of services that we offered, and we were not interested in any adjustments that would put that in jeopardy. Our goals were focused on how we could scale our business, streamline our organizational structure, and improve communication internally and externally, as well as develop greater value for our organization. We were lucky enough to find a great coach who was able to deliver exactly what we needed. Admittedly, we did not always agree, particularly in the beginning. Over time, we learned to trust our coach and we slowly adopted most of the changes or updates that he suggested.
Ultimately, our coach guided us through a complete overhaul of our organizational structure, which allowed us to grow and serve more patients with the type of care that we felt they deserved while improving communication with our staff. What we needed was an outside perspective to help us learn how to effectively grow our organization without losing the attributes that made us, from our perspective, a great place to work.
Although there were major changes that occurred in our organization, all of the updates occurred within a six-to-eight-month time frame. We still keep in touch with our coach but we no longer have a structured working relationship as we did in the beginning. One of the reasons we were able to have such a short tenure was that our coach facilitated our organization adding an outside board member from our community to continually provide a similar perspective as our coach. This allowed our business partners to focus on quality physical therapy and our outside board member provided his experience from other realms of health care and financial management.
There is no right or wrong timeframe for coaching that is appropriate for all physical therapy businesses, and some may seek a longer-term arrangement while others may need short-term guidance, as with our experience. We can all benefit from learning from others’ experiences and insight. Invest time in researching business coaches, then take the next step to engage with them and watch your practice soar!
Joshua Bailey, PT, DPT is a certified orthopedic clinical specialist and certified pedorthist, and is President and CEO of Rehab Associates in Central Virginia. He may be reached at Josh.firstname.lastname@example.org.