Who Is Sitting on Your Bus, and Why Is It Important?

a bus with balloons floating out of it

A look into hiring for success

By Morgan Weinzapfel, PT, DPT

Your organization has been very successful, and you’re considering expanding. What steps should you take next? Often, physical therapy companies will, first, select a location where they think the clinic will be successful. They may research an area where their competition doesn’t have a clinic yet, or they may consider the big city next door as a good place to start up next.

Although location is a necessary consideration, these organizations will be missing a key component and the first step they should be taking. Instead of asking “where,” they should be asking “who.” Who is going to be employed at the clinic?

Good to Great by Jim Collins has been referenced many times in the past few years for this “bus” concept (I was even assigned to read it in physical therapy school) and for putting the “who” question above all else when it comes to hiring.1

Imagine potential candidates as passengers at a bus stop who can help your bus get to your destination safely and efficiently. Some important things to consider are how to get the right person on your bus, how to put that person in a seat where he/she can succeed, and how to make changes if you put someone in the wrong seat.


The interview process should look like the following: Asking questions that give you good information about how successful they will be in your specific organization, calling references to address any “yellow flags,” and looking closer into resumes and applications to identify community and extracurricular involvement. An article published by this magazine in March 2020, by yours truly, reveals questions that help you determine a person’s personality fit, performance capabilities, and team skills.2

Another tool at your disposal is seeing your potential employee in a clinical setting. Asking the interviewee to observe for a few hours in your clinic is a great way to get them around other team members and see their response to your current treatment style. We like to call this the “airport test.” If you had to spend 24 hours in an airport with this person, would your relationship be better or worse afterward? You should ask this question to yourself and each of your employees who spent time with the candidate during the interview process and clinic observation to gauge how your team feels about that person. If a candidate excels in the interview and observation processes, you may or may not choose to call references. If there are any mild concerns (i.e., “yellow flags”) then references should be contacted. Try to use references to further assess the candidate’s ability to build and maintain good relationships with coworkers and patients.

Something else you may want to include, as you are looking through a candidate’s resume and application, is community involvement. This could be pro-bono services through his/her former university, holding a leadership position in a club, or volunteering time at local events while in physical therapy school. According to an article published in 2020, we are seeing less than 20% of the roles posted are requiring GPA minimums. Recent data has shown that performance and GPA are rarely correlated, so we need to be looking elsewhere on applications and resumes.3 Community involvement will give insight into the candidate’s ability to multitask, work as a team, and give to something bigger than themselves.


The interview process not only allows you to see if the candidate is a good fit for your organization, but it also allows the candidate to make sure your organization is a good fit for her/him. To succeed as an organization and make sure that your new hire can help you do just that, there are a few things you need in place. According to Daniel Coyle’s Culture Code, to have a great group of people who succeed together you need to build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose.4 Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs demonstrates, employers should make sure work environments are safe zones for sharing ideas, challenging the status quo, and accepting feedback. Employees should clearly understand the purpose of the work they are doing.

Your organization should set clear expectations, so your employee knows what the goals are and the WHY behind them. These expectations should be attainable and realistic, connected to clear metrics, and reviewed regularly with the employee.

This is also a good time to assign a mentor for your new hire. Mentorship, aka socialization into your organization, can result in employee job satisfaction, internal motivation, and commitment to work.5 In practice, my organization has focused on the first month of mentorship on developing a personal relationship between the mentee and mentor. Eating lunch together, talking about the local area and community, and getting to know one another. Then, the relationship can evolve into clinical education and professional development guidance.


Most of this article has been focused on the first two points because if you do those well, hopefully you won’t end up here too often. A key component of this step is communication. Communicate the reason you think this person has not been put in a position to succeed, then review expectations and make an action plan for elements that are not being met. Set a date to reach these goals so everyone is on the same page moving forward. If goals have not been achieved within that timeframe, then you should move forward with staffing changes. This could be moving someone from a position like clinic director to staff therapist or removing a leadership role. Finally, if you think the person should no longer be on your bus, you should communicate this with them quickly and concisely. Then, evaluate if there is someone else on your bus who could do well in that role, or if that seat will remain empty until you find the correct passenger to fill it.

When you’re driving the bus and don’t know where you’re going yet, it can be scary. Just like when you’re starting an organization or expanding one, you may not know all the steps you need to take. Remember, putting the right people in the right seats is the most important thing you can do. Together, you will steer your organization in the correct direction. Utilize tools like the interview process, extracurricular involvement, and mentorship to make sure you put all your passengers in a position to succeed.

action item

1Collins J. Good to Great. HarperCollins; 2001.

2Weinzapfel M. “How do you Know if You Hired the Hero or Just a Person in a Cape? The Guide to Hiring Slow and Firing Fast.” Impact. 2020;3:26-29.

3Maurer R. GPA Minimums May Be Spoiling Your Diversity Goals. SHRM. Published June 24, 2020. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent- acquisition /pages/gpa-minimums-may-be-spoiling-diversity-goals.aspx

4Coyle Dl. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups. Bantam Books; 2018.

5Kotter JP. “The Psychological Contract: Managing the Joining-Up Process.” California Management Review.1973;15(3):91-99.

Morgan Weinzapfel, PT, DPT

Morgan Weinzapfel, PT, DPT, is a co-owner and director of recruitment with Rehabilitation & Performance Institute in Newburgh, IN. She can be reached at mweinzapfel@rehabilitationperformance.com or (812) 518-3246.

Copyright © 2018, Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. All Rights Reserved.

Are you a PPS Member?
Please sign in to access site.
Enter Site!