Joe Palmer is the co-owner and vice president of Active Life & Sports PT. He can be reached a.

Practice, Location:
2 locations in Baltimore, Maryland; 10 therapists; 4 years in practice.

What or who is the most influential book/person/event that enhanced your professional career and brief description of why?
I have been blessed with great mentorship early in my career as a physical therapist and business owner. My business partner, Mike Wah, PT, DPT, OCS, has certainly had the greatest influence on my development to this point. As a young therapist, I had a passion for private practice and I was very clear with my expectations and goals when I joined Active Life & Sports PT in the summer of 2011. Mike was open minded and worked to teach me not only how to be a well-rounded therapist but also how to manage a private practice. With Mike having more than 30 years as a therapist, I continue to see in him a passion for the profession and for learning that is inspiring. He openly shares his experience and values my opinion as a peer and partner.

What is the flow of your average day?
I find the balance of clinical versus management versus personal life to be one of the most challenging aspects of private practice. Currently, I treat patients for 36 hours per week with 8 to 12 hours per week being devoted to various management tasks. I cohost a podcast, Therapy Insiders, for an additional 1 to 2 hours per week. I find that mornings are my most productive time for management project planning activities.

How would you describe your essential business philosophy?
We believe that, in their essence, people get great satisfaction from doing something that they are good at every day. Additionally, they want to be part of something bigger than just themselves. Our philosophy is to establish challenging goals for learning and providing very personal and evidence-based care. We strive to build a culture of teamwork and learning through structured mentoring, encouraging and supporting specialization and certification, keeping production requirements at reasonable levels, and making strong customer service a priority.

What have been your best/worst/toughest decisions?
Our best decision has been to expand our practice and our practice offerings. Increasing product lines has helped us minimize the impact of decreasing reimbursement. The worst decisions are the ones you do not make or delay making. Our toughest decisions often revolve around staffing and finding people that fit our practice and our culture.

How do you motivate your employees?
Employee motivation starts with our hiring process and the ability to find people who are high achievers, learners, and hard workers. We look for people who inherently share our high standards and commitment to the profession. We then give them the tools they need and the space to grow. Keeping employees happy, putting them in a position to use their strengths, and fostering a team atmosphere creates an environment where employees can consistently exceed expectations.

How did you get your start in private practice?
I started as an employee at Active Life & Sports when I graduated in 2011. Early in my career, I made my ambitions known, and with some luck and good timing, Active Life & Sports was presented an opportunity to expand to a second location. At that time, I was invited to enter into a transitional ownership model.

How do you stay ahead of the competition?
We stay ahead by consistent innovation, always looking for a better way to do things. We force ourselves to get uncomfortable when we start to feel comfortable, we push ourselves and our employees out of their comfort zone, and we make a plan, go at it, and adjust as necessary. Continuing to place emphasis on the patient experience allows us to produce a product that establishes brand loyalty.

What are your best learning experience/s (mistakes) since inception of your practice?
My best learning experiences have been in working on our hiring process. Continuing to fine-tune our candidate search, interview procedure, and onboarding process has been challenging and rewarding. There is nothing better than a great addition to our team.

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice?
The programming and networking experiences that are created with PPS membership are extraordinary. Each year I make friends at the PPS Conference that provide me with more insight and mentorship into the world of private practice. We are all in the same industry, facing the same obstacles and threats, so we are uniquely positioned to collaborate and share ideas.

What is your life motto?
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

What worries you about the future of private practice/what are you optimistic about?
I’m concerned about the trend of large hospital institutions attempting to keep physical therapy care “in house.” I am optimistic that physical therapists will continue to be crucial medical providers in our health care system. We are positioned to become a larger part of preventative medicine if we can demonstrate our value to both insurance providers and end user health care consumers.

What are some new opportunities you plan to pursue in the next year?
We are developing an organizational Moodle learning environment to help standardize care and promote sharing of advanced clinical skills among our therapists across multiple locations. We plan to increase our direct to consumer marketing by improving our branding efforts.

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