Continuing on from PART 1 Ben shares how he became a business owner and the elements of success...
PRIVATE PRACTICE IN ADELAIDE
When I returned to Adelaide, I worked privately from 1999-2001 in several practices and had a range of experiences. I undertook some clinical teaching as my education experience had motivated me to give back and teach physiotherapy students.
In practice I learnt about good and bad customer service, poor treatment experiences such as lack of privacy, over reliance on passive therapy and poor treatment planning. This allowed me to see the difference. I was fortunate to work with some great physiotherapy mentors who I looked up to with regard to their knowledge base, skills and patient interaction.
I still found myself frustrated at times, when some of the business practices didn't seem to run as efficiently as they could. In my eyes, I felt they could be more successful. This is where my initial interest in going into business stemmed from, but before taking the plunge I wanted to firm up support from the relationships I had developed over a number of years and upskill myself.
Within six months of being married I took full advantage of a working wife! I returned to study full time and completed my Masters of Physiotherapy – Manips in 2002.
It was the injection I needed to upskill my knowledge base; clinical skills; have the support of mentors; and be supervised with patients – to refine things further. The experience of meeting and studying with several international physiotherapists was also valuable and I have maintained these friendships to date. I was also fortunate to win both prizes in the Masters program, which helped confirm that I wasn't a fraud and gave me confidence to move forward in my own business.
RUNNING A BUSINESS
At the end of my Masters in 2002 I opened my first physiotherapy clinic in the Grange Golf Club. I’ve always had an interest in golf, thanks to my grandfather. The opportunity to practice golf and combine physiotherapy techniques to golfers was a special interest I continue to deliver to this day.
Unfortunately my plan to play more golf quickly backfired, due to the high interest in golf specific physiotherapy and my new busy schedule!
In January of 2003 I opened my second clinic in Tynte Street, North Adelaide in a retired general surgeon’s space in the North Adelaide Medical Centre. Initially I worked two days per week – North Adelaide in the morning and Grange in the afternoon. I also worked for other practices and at the University clinic for three days. I had no admin for the first three months, which kept me on my toes.
I was embarking on a quick expansion as my openings coincided with three surgeons I worked with at the RAH all returning from their fellowships overseas and commencing practice in Adelaide. This meant they all started doing trauma cases at the same time. Within three months I had to drop other work and went from 2-4 sessions at North Adelaide per week to full time by the end of the year.
It was a quick learning curve as I had at this stage no business plan, no overdraft account and little experience in running a business, including the employing and training of staff. Clearly I had a lot to learn! I would work by day and thankfully Michelle would do the books by night and tax statements on the weekend.
We spent two years in the medical centre before expanding to bigger rooms on Tynte Street, where I took on new staff members – I needed help! We were now a team of four: myself, Michelle, our admin person and one part-time physio. We spent eight years at that location and grew to six staff members. Yet our business kept growing with increasing demand for our hospital services.
My frustration during this period was not offering everything we could for our patients. We knew we could offer great physiotherapy care but with ever increasing evidence-based research looking at active programs and active management, to complement passive therapy, we were limited in our capacity to implement these new methods.
It was at this stage that I gained my first business mentor who opened my eyes to the world of ‘business’ and the possibilities moving forward. After a long period of searching and looking at other models of physiotherapy businesses, we committed ourselves financially to moving forward. We developed our own brand, policies, procedures, systems and eventually our own purpose-built clinic with a gym and pilates studio in Prospect. This would increase our capacity to provide continuous best practice and therefore best outcomes.
This put quite significant stress on my family both personally and financially, but it was ultimately so we could provide the best care for our clients and attract the best staff into the future. It was also to strengthen our brand and detach me personally from everyone that came into the business.
The key elements of The Physio Clinic’s business model have been driven by my previous experience and influences:
Provide a high standard of care both customer service and physiotherapy care.
Ensure all clients feel special and build relationships through personalised care to help them achieve the best outcomes.
Give clients a plan and address their goals to ensure long-lasting results.
Convenience. Look after all aspect of a patients’ care and rehabilitation and provide all services under one roof.
Have passionate and committed staff who are focused on client outcomes, evidence informed practices and place a significant emphasis on education and learning.
Do the simple things well.
Build ongoing relationships with clients and referrers.
The above translated into our business motto, simply as:
"Convenient times, personalised care, long-lasting results"
Through building relationships and sticking to a solid model of care, The Physio Clinic have now expanded to three main sites: Prospect, Marryatville and Blackwood. We currently employ close to 20 staff including casuals.
Running a business remains a great challenge but we remain committed to achieving high standards for our clients and staff, contributing to the health industry and being recognised as dedicated leaders in our profession.
Ben Corso – Founder of The Physio Clinic