M. Shannon O’Kelley, PT, MPT

M Shannon O'Kelley

M. Shannon O’Kelley, PT, MPT, is a PPS member and owner of IRG Physical & Hand Therapy, headquartered in Mill Creek, Washington.

Practice, location: IRG Physical & Hand Therapy; headquartered in Mill Creek, Washington

Size of practice (# of locations, employees): 40 clinics; 450 employees

Years in practice: 30 years

Most influential book: Dick and Jane (This is how I learned to read. Now that’s influential!). Once I got pretty good at reading, though, I particularly enjoyed Good to Great by James Collins and Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose.

Favorite movies: The Man from Snowy River, Forrest Gump, and Lonesome Dove

Favorite vacation spot: Lake Cavanaugh, Washington, and Big Sky, Montana

How do you like to spend your free time? I like to be outside when the weather permits either gardening, fishing, or skiing. When I’m not outside, I’m in my shop working on various woodworking projects.

What do you like most about your job? I enjoy the opportunity to help people grow in both their personal and professional lives.

What do you like least about your job? Paperwork; audits; increased regulatory pressures.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned? I’ve learned three important lessons throughout my career. I’ve ranked them below:

3. If you’re not marketing, you’re not growing.

2. It’s okay to not know the answer and ask for help.

1. Take care of your staff, and the numbers will follow. (People are your greatest asset in business. Our strength at IRG is our human resources. It’s not the box you rent, it’s the people you put inside.)

Describe your essential business philosophy: Always, always, always put the customer first!

Describe your management style: Surround yourself with a team that compensates your weaknesses, and empower them to be creative and innovative. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun.

Best way you keep a competitive edge: Constantly brainstorming and thinking outside the box; thinking about sustainability; being ahead of the health care pendulum.

How do you measure your success? We measure success by the legacy we leave and the community we create. The number of friends, family members, and employees that refer patients to us is always a good measure of our success.

Goal yet to be achieved: Develop a robust management services/consulting company.

Best decision: Centralizing operations and utilizing that infrastructure to manage our clinics. Developing LLC partnerships has also been very successful for us. There’s nothing more powerful than an owner/operator.

Worst decision: Going against my gut and getting talked into a business decision that I knew wasn’t the right one. Trust your instincts.

Toughest decision: Having challenging conversations with employees about performance. As a PT I’m built on compassion and positivity, and it’s hard for me to call out the negative.

How do you motivate your employees? We always try to take opportunities to recognize hard work. That said, everyone is different. Finding out what motivates each individual is the key. Some appreciate financial rewards; others are motivated by relationships. At the end of the day, a “thank you” always goes a really long way. If you could start over, what would you do differently? It would have been super helpful to really know and understand our brand at the outset, 30 years ago. This would have helped in consistency with acquisitions of clinics. Right now we have three brands that we manage under one umbrella. Everyone is going to make mistakes in business. The key is to be open to change and constantly try to improve.

Describe your competitive advantage: Our storefront locations and niche services menu help us compete in a saturated market. I try to provide opportunities for our clinics and directors to be creative, and I’m always open to new ideas. This helps us stay fresh and diversified while empowering our team to grow and take on new challenges. Having a centralized business office allows our clinicians to focus on treatment and not worry about regulatory demands or get too bogged down in the minutiae of running a clinic.

Describe your marketing strategy and highlight your most successful action: Our marketing strategy is to listen to our patients and deliver services that support their needs. We are constantly refining and tweaking, and we recently rebranded our company to reflect who we are and the direction we’re heading. A few years ago, I started recording health segments with our local radio stations. This has provided outreach to new patients throughout our region while giving us an opportunity to develop relationships with physicians and experts in the field, inviting them as guests on the show.

What unique programs do you offer that set you apart from the competition? We offer diverse services from Women’s Health to Nutrition, Industrial Athlete to Holistic Care (at our Ballard clinic). We make it easy for our patients and our clinics with centralized registration, convenient locations, and convenient hours of operation. I like to say, “We have you covered, and we’re in your neighborhood.”

What are the benefits of PPS membership to your practice? PPS membership provides opportunities to network and talk to practitioners from across the country. We can all relate to one another and understand our diverse challenges. This connection provides validation that you’re on the right track as well as opportunities to listen in a circle of peers that you respect and admire.

What worries you about the future of private practice? Overemphasis on regulation, audits, and paperwork. I worry that we’re moving away from patient-centered care with all the additional requirements and restrictions placed on our profession.

What are you optimistic about? If we’re innovative, flexible, and nimble, we’ll be able to be out in front of the health care pendulum as it shifts (i.e., from fee for service to value-based payment systems). As a profession, we will survive! The respect the profession is getting as movement specialists is very inspiring. In addition, as someone who interviews all PTs that we hire, I am very impressed by all therapists coming out of DPT programs.

What are your goals for the next year? I would like to increase my public speaking engagements and grow my business management/consulting group.

Where do you see the best opportunities for your practice in the future? Movement, Prevention, and Wellness. “Prehab is the new rehab,” as they say. Our workplace wellness and injury prevention programs will likely see the most growth in the near future.

What do private practitioners need to do to thrive in today’s health care environment? Be nimble and innovative, and ask how technology can enhance efficiencies and processes. If we’re open and willing to accept change, we can adapt to anything that comes our way. Don’t forget what made us PTs—our desire to be caring and compassionate and to help care for and heal the human spirit.

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