Now that, it seems, the worst is behind us and many owners have recommended some much-needed financial aid, PT owners are looking forward to ramping up again and getting back to “full steam ahead.” In order to give you some guidance, Nathan Shields decided to bring on a frequent guest to the podcast, Jamey Schrier, PT, to discuss what he is telling his clients and how he is encouraging them to make the most of the current situation. Essentially, owners need to expect to make changes in their business, down to their foundation (“purpose”), and build successful systems and revamp their business to not only survive but thrive and attain their dreams. It starts with the proper mindset.
Listen to the podcast here:
How To Ramp Back Up Successfully From COVID-19 Lockdown With Jamey Schrier, PT
I’ve got a frequent flyer guest coming back. I’ve got Jamey Schrier, Founder and CEO of Practice Freedom U. I’m excited to bring him back because we’ve got some similar ideas on the effects that COVID-19 and Coronavirus has had on the PT industry and about the issues that PT owners are having to deal with. I’m excited to bring on Jamey because he’s got a great backstory. If you haven’t read the prior episode with Jamey, make sure you go back to that. He was an earlier guest, but I’m excited to bring him back, especially during this time and this change in our industry. First of all, Jamey, thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Nathan. I appreciate you having me back on. Especially during this crazy time that we’re all going through.
It’s amazing what’s happening to the industry outside of our control. I’m excited to bring you back because from your past experience, you had a similar issue where you had to shut down and then ramp back up. There are nuances that make that different than what a lot of PT owners are going through. You’re one of the owners that I thought about. If someone has gone through this before, it’s probably Jamey Schrier. Share with the audience your story, what you learned from that, and then your thoughts about what you’re telling owners nowadays.
Several years ago, I was coming home from a weekend getaway with my wife and my newborn son. I got a call from my father-in-law. He said, “Jamey, your building is on fire.” I’m sitting there driving on the highway. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” I finally just had a two-day vacation, the first one in three years. I drive and pull up to my building and I can’t go in my building. I’m not allowed to go to my office. The fire chief is holding me back, saying, “Jamey, you can’t go in there. It’s unsafe.” There’s smoke coming out of my building. There’s fire. There are flames. There’s charring.
My equipment is being thrown out the window, my computers. I’m like, “Are you kidding me? Is this happening? Whose place burns down?” Who knew that several years later, I would have some experience of what it feels like to have your entire business halted. Relying on and looking back on some of those experiences of what I did has been helpful to not only myself and my own business, but also helpful in giving people how I went through that to become better when I was able to relaunch my business several months later after we rebuild. It’s a crazy parity of what’s happening.
You were forced to shut down. Some clinics across the country might have had to shut down as well. Now as we’re looking at this, maybe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe some states or county might open up. Based on that experience, what are you talking to people about in terms of ramping up? What are you telling them now to get through this time? How do they take advantage of this time so that they can start ramping up?
Because things are happening so quickly, the message is changing. The initial message that I was sharing with people is what I learned when your equipment is being thrown out. You know very well that you’re not going back into your office for weeks upon weeks. The initial is shock and you want to react. You want to be like, “What am I going to do? How am I going to make money? How am I going to pay my bills?” All of those emotions, fears, worries, and whatever you’ve had prior to that is amplified in those moments. As successful entrepreneurs and business owners know, that is not the time to react. It’s the time to take a deep breath and let those emotions simmer and die down.Now is the time to double down on your clinic - create systems, get coaching, update marketing,processes, and personnel - whatever was keeping you back from creating the business of your dreams! Click To Tweet
Start to lean in and embrace what you’re feeling, but don’t make any rash decisions. Many people in the beginning that I talked to closed their practices. This was before the paycheck loan came out. This was before any of the other stuff. They immediately reacted. They closed their practice and sent all their people furloughed. All of a sudden, these loans started coming out and they’re like, “Guys, you can come back now.” Even though that trust was damaged a little bit. That relationship they built up for over the years is damaged. Initially, it’s about making sure that you check in with yourself, checking with your own emotions and with your own greatest fears, which for all of us is going to revolve around financial once our own self and family are safe.
This is where you start to explore, “What are my resources?” That’s how I was coaching people right at the beginning. Once your self is taken care of, now moving into your team and checking in with your team because they’re human beings. They have fears, worries, and concerns. They have their own families. We know as business owners that the greatest asset we have is our team. Checking in and showing up as that concerned person that we all are, and being that leader. It’s not from, “What can we get them doing for us?” and “How to ramp up business again,” but to be with them and hold space with them is so important.
The third thing was to check in with our patients to see how they’re doing. These are our current patients. If you’ve closed your practice, you would suggest, “Do you want to continue our sessions virtually?” That was the initial message that was going out. For some people that’s still the message that’s going out depending on where they are in the country and what level they’re at. For most people that I’m talking to at the time of this conversation, this is becoming the time where you want to start looking at that future again.
You want to look at it with a different lens. You want to look at what is the reason that I started this practice? What is it that I want from this business? Why did I choose to take the risk, to put up the money, to dive into the unknown of wanting to work for myself and help and serve other people? Now’s the time to start revisiting that and getting that picture back. Looking at what it is that you want and start asking yourself, what will that look like in this new world and in this new way of operating? It means you have to acknowledge the old way of doing business, the old way that all of us did business is going to change on some level.
Just like it did in 9/11 or after the great recession of 2008 or in any major crisis that’s happened in our world, things change. Things adapt. It’s like when the internet came along. Some people adapted to the internet. Unfortunately, Kodak did not. Unfortunately, the taxi cabs did not adapt. They had every right and ability to adapt, they chose not to. Uber adapt. There are going to be people who adapt and people who aren’t. Getting you to think about your business and getting you to think about how you may adapt to that is the most important thing that you can do.
You want to start looking at your business a month ago and before. Start asking yourself, what wasn’t right with my business before this whole pandemic? Where were the cracks in my business? It could have been in your marketing or financials or maybe some of the other systems and processes of how you hire. Looking at your business, all the stuff you never had time, all the stuff that you were so busy, but you had it written down in some post-it note that was somewhere on your computer and your desk that you wanted to do if you ever had the time to do it. You want to start revisiting those things.
The third thing is start prioritizing what you can start fixing now, while you have time. That’s going to help you put together a business that is not only going to help you through this time, but it’s going to be something ten times better than what you had before. That is going to help you get what you want from this thing. That’s the conversations I’m having. I could not have that conversation before. People weren’t mentally there. Now, people are starting to see that, “We’re going to get over this hump and things are going to start to slowly open. We’re essential so we can pretty much open whenever we want. What is it going to start to look like?” Here’s the thing that I am concerned with many of my colleagues. Are you going to go back to the same habits? Are you going to go back to doing the things that were not getting you what you wanted in your business before this pandemic? It’s so easy to do that.
That’s what we know. I’m saying the same thing. This shouldn’t be a pause in your business. This should be a complete reset. Push the reset button versus pause or stop or whatever you did because it’s the perfect opportunity to revisit the foundation and your values and then consider your ideal scene. What do you want out of your business? Do you want to be treating patients 60 hours a week and then running your business on the weekends and not having vacation time or seeing your family? You and I have both been there and done that. That’s not what we wanted and we had to make a shift in our mindset. If there was a time to do it, now is the time to do it.
If it’s a book that you follow, start implementing the business book that you read. Whether it’s The E-Myth Revisited or Traction or something like that, maybe put those things into practice instead of reading more books or with the coach that you have. If you don’t have a coach, now is the time to get a coach. You need to double down on that person. It’s not an expense line you should get rid of to save money. It’s someone that you need to coach you through this period of time. It’s a great opportunity. I even interviewed a client of mine and he shared this with me on the show. I think it’s okay to share it out. He got Bell’s palsy a few months ago.
It forced him to stop treating patients. Prior to that, he was treating patients full-time. He physically could not treat patients and his team rallied around him. They saw the patients. They didn’t drop in numbers, hardly at all. It gave him the opportunity to look back now. He took advantage of the opportunity to come through that and now he’s not seeing patients. He’s looking to double his square footage. He’s bought a new office space that he’s going to remodel. He’s got many things available to him. He’s not treating patients anymore. He’s finally living that ideal scene, but it took a stop like Bell’s palsy to force his hand. This has been forced upon us. If we’re not taking advantage of it in some way or another, you’ve changed how you do your coaching. I’ve changed how I’m doing my coaching and marketing that and whatnot.
If PT owners aren’t doing the same thing, they’re wasting a golden opportunity despite the issues that are going on around us and the health scare that is prevalent. Now is the time to look back on your purpose. Are you fulfilling it? Are you living the dream that you want to? Now is the time to strategize and game plan for how I’m going to go back and do that. Am I going to bring back the same people? Am I going to do things the same way? If we fall back into what we did before, it’s unfortunate. The world is going to pass us by. The companies that got passed by. Our individual clinics can easily get passed by. Part of ramping back up, how do you recommend that people bring back their prior staff and build the business back up with the employees that they want?
Whether we realize that or not, and hopefully we realize it now, the greatest asset we have is our team. It’s our employees because the only way we call it freedom, other people will call it running a business- like clockwork or running a self-managed practice. You’re running a business that can operate day in and day out without you doing everything. You have your role, whatever that role you want it to be. For many people that I’ve spoken to, that role is usually not so much treating. They want to reduce patient care or sometimes eliminate it all together.
The only way you can do any of this is with your team. It’s not only important to reach out and connect with your team and reinforce what you believe about the work that you’re doing. Reinforce, why you’re doing this work, why this is important to you, and how working together and coming together is going to help the people? A lot of things that we have been talking about is how do you work remotely? You can’t just yell across the room and say, “Claudia, can you get me that file?” You can’t do that anymore. You can’t yell, “I’m going to be seeing Ms. Smith three times a week, two weeks. Make sure she’s scheduled.”
You have to start putting in the infrastructure to communicate remotely. That’s going to give your team the ability to do the work that they’re doing. That’s step one. Step two is, you definitely have to now adapt some of the things that you were doing before. You have to choose what needs to be tweaked. Maybe something that you can’t do it all. You need to start revisiting or somebody calls it tracing back the breadcrumbs of what you were doing well before. Most people are focusing on money, and how do we get patients and revenue? My question is, how were you doing it before? Let’s say your marketing was word of mouth. That might be an area you need to fix and put a little bit more of a clear strategy in.Because things are happening so quickly, the messages are changing. Click To Tweet
Did it work? That wasn’t working for you. If they’re not on social media or direct to consumer type of marketing, now is the time to do it because physicians aren’t sending new patients.
It even goes bigger than that. Most people, if you start deconstructing their marketing, it has always been and will always be the creating, sustaining and nurturing of relationships. Whether that’s done digitally, in person or through an email, that’s what marketing is. It’s creating awareness with your audience. The question is asking yourself, how did you do that prior to this? What can you do that you can easily adapt to this situation? One of the simple things that we’re teaching people, the first thing is, why don’t you check in with your patients? Why don’t you ask them how they’re doing?
Why don’t you give them a call and say, “How are you feeling right now? How’s your family?” What they’re going to do is ask you, “How are you doing?” This is your time to share with them what you are doing, what you believe about the work that you’re doing, and offer some solutions to them. Tell them, “We’re not seeing patients in person but we’re doing virtual visits called telehealth. It’s working tremendously well. Would that be something that you’d be interested in? It’d be very easy to do and we can help you with whatever your problem is.”
The solution you offer is the solution you offer. Patients don’t want physical therapy. They never have. Nobody wants physical therapy. I’m sorry to say. They don’t want chiropractic. They don’t want to take a pill. They don’t want surgery. None of us want any of it. What we want is a solution that can help us get out of pain, move better and help us get what we want. Starting to look at what we provide as a solution, not getting caught up in all the weeds and the details of the specific way that we provide it, helps you start to realize that you can pick up the phone, call ten people, get five on the phone. I guarantee 1 or 2 are going to be like, “If this helps me relieve my back pain, sure, tell me what to do.” We over complicate it. It does not have to be that complicated. It works every time.
If you take advantage of it and use the telehealth opportunity here, it doesn’t have to be a Band-Aid that gets you to the next stage. If you take advantage of it because this is where physical therapy is going and this epidemic has forced our hand to do so, those people who take advantage of the telehealth services are going to implement it. They’re going to talk to their patients on the very first visit at the initial eval and say, “You might not be able to come into every visit either because you have to stay at work or your kids get sick or heaven forbid, you get sick or your car breaks down or there’s a weather issue, you can’t get on the roads, whatever.”
When that happens, “We’re going to switch you over to a telehealth visit so we can maintain your care and do what’s best for you and get you where you want to be and achieve your goals.” You start discussing that from visit number one. How powerful is that? This is how we’re going to better serve our patients. The providers that take advantage of it and look at it that way will have patients that are like, “Do you mean I don’t have to bust my butt if my boss keeps me late to get out of the office and get to your office?” That’s a great opportunity to implement something simple like that.
If I had another two hours, I could talk about what I think about telehealth because people are scrambling to do telehealth like it’s some savior. How long has telehealth been around, Nathan?
Maybe a couple of years as far as I know.
What is telehealth? If we deconstructed what is telehealth, it’s a medium in which to provide your solution to people. That’s all it is. It’s another medium. In-person is one medium, it’s one way. Virtual is another way. In other industries, this has been going on for years and years such as the coaching industry, which you and I are in. I’ve been doing coaching virtually for years. There are many people that were doing coaching in forms of consulting and flying all over the country to people’s practices. That’s fine but the problem is now that has to be adapted. Physical therapy is not about telehealth. You don’t want to sell telehealth because that’s just the medium.
It’s like you’re selling an in-person visit. What you’re always selling is the results of your visit and the benefits of what you’re doing. What it does now is it gives you flexibility. It gives you flexibility to treat a certain percentage of the population that maybe could not come in, that would choose not to come in and still get paid. Here’s the beautiful part. Don’t think of telehealth as another form of getting paid through third-party insurances. Offering virtual services can be expanded to non-third-party insurances, also known as cash-based services.
You can start using all of this fantastic knowledge you have and you can start packaging this knowledge. You can sell it to people that will buy it and not be limited by those pesky insurance companies that are trying to reduce your rates. It protects your business and makes it even a better asset and more secure business. Our industry as a whole has been very slow to adapt. People use this as a wake-up call for those ready to go back to doing business the old way. You were going to be left behind by running a business in the new world using outdated old systems and old ways of thinking.
This is an amazing opportunity if you begin to think about all of the possibilities you have now that you didn’t have a few months ago. All of the foundational cracks you can fix, all the system things, all the employee things. You talked before about you’ve always wanted to maybe reduce your patient care or not treat patients. You’re not treating patients now. Will you go back to that same habit of treating patients 40 hours a week or will you create a business that allows you to deliver amazing services but you personally don’t have to be the one that delivers them? You get to choose how you come back to this new normal and you can decide right now and start building the company that will support that kind of business. You can get your loan, get people operating for the time being and then when the doors start to open, go back to the same habits you had before and unfortunately, be getting the same results or less than you were. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There’s so much that can change about our businesses if we take advantage of it. Choose to do something differently. We have to simply make the choice and have a mindset in place that I’m going to do things differently and force yourself to do so. I want to revisit though, as we’re bringing people back on and ramping back up, how are you recommending your clients bring back team members judiciously? This is a great opportunity that if you had some C and D players on your team. What are you telling people? How are you instructing them to bring back the A and B players?
Let’s pause on that thing that you said because that’s important. If you’ve had people on your team that were never on the team, they’re the ones that gave you the headaches, talk behind your back, and low producers, now is a perfect time to get rid of them. It’s very easy to do. You’ll look good doing it. That’s step one. Step two is it depends on your situation. If you’re able to secure a paycheck’s loan, you have to bring back your staff. I wouldn’t necessarily bring back the bad ones, but bring back the good ones. You’re going to have now a minimum of eight weeks to then get them ramped up again, which then requires you to give them direction. This is where the vision comes in. This is where you’re getting clear on what you want to do.Whether we realize it or not, our greatest asset is the team we've built. Click To Tweet
If you don’t have a vision, how are you supposed to give them direction of what you want them to do? It isn’t business as usual. If part of what you’re trying to do is use the successful marketing that you were doing before or perhaps implementing a marketing strategy to fix your previous marketing, you can use your staff to help you do that, which then helps them fill their own schedule, let’s say it’s PTs. It’s the same thing for the front desk. If you’re going to bring back your front desk, they’re now operating in a remote world. You need to make sure you have the tools in place. I’ve done some webinars where I teach people how to bring some tools. Some of the tools are Slack. It’s a simple communication tool that you could communicate with your staff and they could communicate with each other. It’s like an instant Messenger type of tool.
A software like Asana helps you start utilizing an area where you can use and capture your SOP, which is Standard Operating Procedures, your policies and your systems. You can start putting them in place and using it as a way to follow it like a checklist. You go to Asana.com. We’ve been using Asana for years and there are other ones like it. That’s going to help you not only direct your team and give them new capabilities and skills, but it’s going to help you manage them versus email, phone call, and doing a lot of verbal managing. You can’t do that because you’re not in-person and that wasn’t a very good way to do it anyways. It’s not sustainable.
Those are a couple of ways to begin bringing back your team. Depending on your financial situation, but assuming you get the loan, to bring back your team and help them adapt to a new way of operating and getting the lifeblood of any business as referrals. How do you generate referrals? What is the simplest way that’s proven that has worked in your business in the past, that’s not expensive? Even if you’re paying money as long as you can replicate it now if it’s going to generate referrals, I would do it. Assuming it’s something you can do that’s not expensive. How can you do that right now? Capture the process of how you’re doing it and communicate with your team so they become responsible and then measuring what’s happening.
This is a principle that should have been happening before. Everything that you have people do has to have some type of desired outcome and some type of measures, so you know whether it’s working well or not. You get to do that. If you weren’t doing that before, what a perfect time to start incorporating some key metrics. You create accountability with your staff. Your staff is operating even better than they were, less confusion and you’re doing it out of the living room of your house. Imagine what happens when you’re brick and mortar place opens back up. If things are going well, you can continue to operate in this manner, which many people do.
I love the recommendation to use Asana or Slack because many times you’re going to tell something verbally or send an email that might get lost in the shuffle. It gets forgotten or it’s like, “That’s right. You asked me to do that. I didn’t get to it.” Let’s bring our businesses into the 21st century.
Nathan, as you know, these are things and tools that people should have been using. The only reason they’re not is because most practice owners were so overwhelmed before this pandemic. They were overwhelmed treating, dealing with insurance, answering endless questions from their staff. They were working five days a week, working the weekends, coming in early and staying late. That’s why you didn’t necessarily think of this stuff. Now is the time to start thinking of it, putting it in play, begin to utilize your team and direct them. Continue to follow-up and support them as they put this in place. That’s where people should be moving towards as the owner begins to continue to get clarity and what the focus should be in your business.
The focus should be building and fixing the foundation, fixing your infrastructure so that you can continue to grow starting right now, through this pandemic, through the reopening and the relaunching of your business. It’s better and I call it future proofing your businesses so you never ever again will be a victim of the circumstances that happen ever. Now is the time to do that. You have the ability to do this. There are tools out there. There is guidance that can be had if you’re not sure. You have to make the decision. It’s up to you as the owner. It’s your decision.
You have to make a conscious decision that a slowdown like this will never significantly affect you and cause you fear going forward. You have to make that conscious decision that I will never put me, my household and my business in this predicament again, where I can’t make the next paycheck. I’m always going to have blank number of weeks of paycheck available to me at any given time and having the financial cushion. Whatever the structures in place so that you can withstand anything that comes up against your business in the future. Making that conscious decision and putting the effort into it to set that in motion. Now is the time to do it.
We all have the ability to do it.
There’s one other software tool that came to mind that a couple of my clients have used and that’s Loom. I don’t know if you’ve used Loom in the past. You can record video of your screen-sharing. I’m thinking if you could share KPIs, key metrics, whatever you want to call them, with your team via Loom. You could record that from your bed if you wanted to and say, “Here are the stats that I’m looking at. These are the ones that are down. Let me know what you guys think on how we can improve these statistics,” or follow-up with me on the projects that we’re doing as you’re screen-sharing. Loom is another resource that people out there are looking at.
Here’s another way you can use Loom as well. You can use Loom to create your process. Let’s say you’re showing something how to troubleshoot metrics. You can grab Loom, voiceover the Loom video as you go through troubleshooting metrics, what they mean and what you should do about them. That goes in as an SOP under how to troubleshoot cancellations. It’s a simple technology that helps you reinforce SOPs and gives your staff support, which then reduces the number of questions you’re going to get and helps create a business that is replicatable and scalable.
Using these technologies and there are tons of them. The owner has to make the decision of what you want and whether or not you’re going to make it happen and not spend so much time figuring out how you’re going to do it. The how always comes after the why. As Simon Sinek says, “You start with why.” You start with what you want, then you start to ask the questions of how we can do it. I can’t tell you that the problem that stopped me for so long was I wanted to figure out how I was going to do it before I took step one. It never works like that and it creates me standing in place. You have to have the leap of faith to say you want it and then you’ve got to figure out how.
How can people get in touch with you if they want to talk more?
If you want to reach out to me, I’m happy to talk with you. I’m doing a lot of that. It’s a free, no hype, no obligation strategy calls to talk through the business. You can reach me at Jamey@PracticeFreedomU.com. I’m happy to set up a time there. Other than that, you can visit PracticeFreedomU.com and explore around there. There are lots of resources there that you can use to help your business out.The focus should be on building and fixing your foundations. Click To Tweet
Thanks again for taking the time and sharing your wisdom based on your experience and what you’re sharing with your clients nowadays. It’s valuable beyond words for our audience. I appreciate it.
It’s my pleasure, Nathan. I appreciate you and honor you for the work that you’re doing, for being that voice out there to help calm people’s fears, give them some direction, and give them some help in how to get through this. Thank you.
- Practice Freedom U
- Jamey Schrier – Past episode
- The E-Myth Revisited
About Jamey Schrier, PT
Jamey Schrier, P.T. is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Practice Freedom U, a business coaching and training company. He’s an executive business coach and leadership trainer. Founder of Lighthouse Leader®, Jamey helps physical therapy owners create self-managing practices that allows them the freedom they want and the income they deserve. He is the best-selling author of The Practice Freedom Method: The Practice Owner’s Guide to Work Less, Earn More, and Live Your Passion
A graduate of The University of Maryland Physical Therapy School, Jamey specialized in orthopedics and manual therapy. He was the sole owner of a multi-clinic practice for more than 15 years.
Jamey’s passions are basketball, tennis, golfing, and reading. He and his wife, Colleen, and there 2 kids live in Rockville, Maryland.
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