Today’s episode of “Lessons Learned” of PT Business Corner features 2 of the founders of Therapia, Dr. Jas Chahal and Joon Nah! Dr. Chahal is a fellowship trained orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at Women’s College Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital with an interest in shoulder, hip and knee arthroscopy. He has worked as a team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox and he has completed his MBA at Rotman and the University of St. Gallen. Joon is a highly experienced physiotherapist and co-founder of Cornerstone Physiotherapy in Toronto. Joon has received his certificate in vestibular rehab through the renowned Emory School of Medicine and has been treating dizziness disorders since 2006. Therapia provides in-home physiotherapy and patients are able to indicate their area of injury and select an appointment time. Therapia then matches them to a local physiotherapist suited to treat their condition. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with Jas and Joon!
With many years of valuable experience working with healthcare and business, Jas and Joon had plenty of information about their journey and shared some excellent lessons with us. You can listen to the full entertaining podcast HERE while we provide you with a summary of the top 5 lessons.
Lesson 1: Conduct Market Research
Joon admits that conducting market research when looking at expanding a company is a complex, multifactorial issue. It can often be difficult to identify every relevant area, but some to focus on include demographics, growth rate changes, the number of physiotherapists in an area versus the number of referrers in an area and the operational complexity of the environment. Dr. Chahal notes that expanding in Canada vs the United States is entirely different as a result of the insurance, billing and legislative landscape. For the physiotherapists considering expansion, market research reports are a good starting point and often an easily accessible resource, which provide a wealth of data. Joon highlights that before expanding into a certain area, they will physically travel to that region in order to get a sense of the characteristics of that location rather than simply relying on Google Maps.
Lesson 2: Target Your Market
Joon states that the growth of the "Baby Boomer" generation was a big factor in starting Therapia. Jas and Joon identified a group of individuals that usually need more rehabilitation and have the means to pay for services, which has provided success for Therapia. Jas explains that catering to a target demographic also involves operational changes, a key detail that clinic owners can learn from. Sending email reminders tends to be the norm for millennials, but for an older population, phone calls are the preferred method of communication. As a result, Therapia provides intensive offline support to adapt to the needs of their customers and deliver optimized care. Joon stresses that it is important to discriminate between individual bias during product development and the reality. The Therapia founders thought patients wanted their care delivered and organized in a particular manner. The reality was different which resulted in extensive market testing. In general, it is important for physiotherapists and clinic owners to occasionally evaluate their approach to patients, in order to ensure that their beliefs are congruent with patient beliefs.
Lesson 3: The Unique Marketing of Therapia
Joon was able to utilize the knowledge he gained while growing Cornerstone Physiotherapy and implement it in marketing Therapia. Some of the traditional channels used in clinics are also applicable to Therapia, such as networking and website development. By networking with key medical professionals in Toronto who refer patients for physiotherapy, Jas and Joon were able to create awareness regarding Therapia. Additionally, search engine optimization (SEO) has been a valuable aspect of marketing. By using advertisements online and placing ads in social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Therapia has found success. The takeaway for physiotherapists and clinic owners is to invest in multiple avenues of marketing. As Dr. Chahal states, it is important to identify scaleable, cost-effective online and offline marketing strategies. Online strategies include social media ads and search engine optimization, but it’s also crucial to develop offline marketing through building a strong network of individuals who can refer patients to your business.
Lesson 4: Characteristics of Successful Physiotherapists
Joon remarks that successful physiotherapists at Therapia tend to have common characteristics. The first is that they are driven and are willing to embrace the changing landscape of providing care. Providing physiotherapy through a platform such as Therapia is different than the typical model utilized at a clinic, but the physiotherapists who have the courage to step out of their comfort zone find success. Secondly, physiotherapists need to be flexible to work in an environment such as Therapia. While some tend to work at this company along with working full-time in a clinic, the ones who find the most success are the physiotherapists dedicating a large amount of their time to Therapia. Finally, Jas highlights that they are willing to work hard and put in the necessary effort to provide excellent care, a notion applicable to all aspects of life. However, these characteristics are not limited to Therapia physiotherapists, as the desire to work hard and adapt to changing environments are ideals found among accomplished clinic owners and physiotherapists alike.
Lesson 5: The Work-Life Balance Conundrum
Dr. Chahal emphasizes that eliminating the noise is crucial in order to be able to work full-time while creating a start-up and still having time for a social life. By filtering out the irrelevant things in your life and putting them in the background, you create valuable time to invest in important aspects. Secondly, learn to say "no" in order to maximize your time. It can be difficult to reject a proposed night out, but sometimes sacrifices are needed in order to focus on your priorities. Joon states that he was able to use similar ideas and energy, but implement them in different ways through Therapia and Cornerstone Physiotherapy. Another crucial detail is to focus your energy on one task at a time and to carve out specific time for certain needs. Joon notes that by budgeting and allocating your time to focus on endeavors, you prevent yourself from being distracted by an email here or there, which can end up wasting far more time than you anticipated.
These were a glimpse of some of the great lessons that we took away from Jas and Joon! For a full interview, you can access HERE.