Another “Lessons Learned” edition of PT Business Corner brings us Charlotte Anderson, the owner of Alpha Health Services and co-owner of Physiologic PLUS. She is also the Education Lead for the Private Practice Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association and a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. Alpha Health Services is a clinic which strives to offer the best care and treatment for clients, utilizing a holistic approach to rehabilitation, in order to achieve client goals. We were fortunate to have to chat with Charlotte and discuss topics in healthcare and entrepreneurship.
With years of experience working in healthcare and business, Charlotte had plenty of information about her journey and shared some valuable lessons with us. You can listen to the full podcast HERE while we provide you with a summary of the top 5 lessons.
Lesson 1: Evaluate Your Passion for Business
Charlotte provides valuable insights to new graduates looking to open up their own clinic. She states that one disadvantage of opening your own clinic is that as a physiotherapist, you still have a lot to learn. She notes that when starting a new practice as a fairly new graduate, it was important for her to make a conscious effort to continue to improve. She reached out to physiotherapists in the community as well as faculty from U of T, in order to receive the mentorship required to excel as a physiotherapist. Charlotte remarks that when she opened up her clinic, she didn’t have a house or children and was able to take on more risk. Even though she had to develop a new caseload at the start of her practice, Charlotte enjoyed the opportunity to be a leader and bring change to the physiotherapy community. For new graduates, Charlotte stresses that you cannot go out on your own if you don’t have complete and utter devotion to your business. While your own practice can be a highly rewarding experience, she states that individuals have to be introspective to determine if they are fully invested in growing their business.
Lesson 2: Support is Vital
Charlotte acknowledges that each individual’s journey to opening a physiotherapy clinic is unique. There are some lessons that you can't be taught in theory but learn as you dive into the experience. However, along the way it is important to ask yourself the right questions to ensure you are on the path to success. Charlotte found that her greatest supporters were individuals who were already practicing in the field or those who owned their own clinics. She was able to use the guidance provided by these established individuals and utilize the advice to steer her clinic in the right direction. Charlotte also encourages open dialogue with individuals who are not physiotherapists, including small business accountants, lawyers and real estate agents. This is important to gather a comprehensive understanding of the different aspects of the business. While you may have a strong understanding of the clinical requirements of opening your own business, liaising with the aforementioned individuals will help to paint a complete picture to bolster the success of your clinic.
Lesson 3: Know Your Limits
For Charlotte, opening up her own clinic was a goal she had since the first year of physiotherapy school. Accordingly, she had saved up enough money from her first year of working as a physiotherapist for this venture without requiring a loan from the bank. By crunching the numbers, she was aware that she needed to start off small to avoid the risk of a big bank loan. Charlotte emphasizes that this process is different for each individual looking to open up their own practice, but one thing to always keep in mind is the numbers. Be aware of your starting costs, the number of patients you’ll need to see per week in order to pay rent and be aware of your limits. You don’t want to be constantly burdened by loans and financing. Charlotte also states that banks provide startup business loans with a lower interest rate. Therefore, options do exist for individuals who are looking to start their own clinic but lacking the funds to do so.
Lesson 4: Hiring Challenges
In Charlotte’s entrepreneurial journey, the biggest challenge she faced was hiring other individuals to work with her at Alpha Health Services. Her goal was to hire people who truly bought into the value system of the clinic and demonstrated the teamwork required to form a cohesive team. Being a younger entrepreneur, Charlotte sometimes found it difficult to hire as she was younger than most of the employees at the clinic. While it might not matter to some individuals, occasionally Charlotte found there would be an interesting vibe that resulted from this gap in age. It is extremely important to grow a team that is cohesive, positive and hardworking all in one. When hiring, Charlotte stresses the significance of transparency during an interview. It is crucial to see if potential employees will be able to work with the current value system and meet the expectations outlined during an interview. Honesty and being upfront about the clinic’s mission values and goals is one way to ensure that you have a team that contributes to the success of the clinic.
Lesson 5: Effective Marketing
Charlotte highlights that as a business owner, it is crucial to understand the advances in technology, and adapt accordingly. Given the increasing importance of technology in healthcare, Charlotte made a strong effort to invest in the required software, computer programs and infrastructure to cater to the clients' needs. She notes that individuals have to improve themselves in all aspects of owning a business. For Charlotte, this involved learning the necessary web marketing and search engine optimization in order to market Alpha Health Services effectively. With online marketing, Charlotte says that it is a process that takes time, as you cannot simply pay your way to the top of the Google rankings. However, while online marketing is important, Charlotte mentions that the primary way individuals are referred to clinics is through informal means such as word of mouth. Therefore, clinic owners should be aware of the various avenues to utilize for effective marketing. Other ways of marketing like sponsoring events in the community can also help to promote your clinic and reach more potential clients.
These were some of the great lessons from Charlotte! For a full interview, you can access it HERE.