Welcome to the “Lessons Learned” edition of PT Business Corner where we provide the most important points we learned in discussion with our guests. Today’s guest is Judy Boivin, VP of Ontario Clinic Operations for Lifemark Health Group. She is a registered physiotherapist with over 30 years of clinical experience. She joined Lifemark in 2008 when she became a Lifemark clinic director after the company purchased her two clinics in Milton. Judy has a special interest in cancer rehabilitation and created a National Cancer Rehab working group to educate others on how to improve the well-being of individuals with cancer. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with Judy and discuss healthcare and entrepreneurial excellence.
With years of experience working with healthcare and business, Judy had plenty of information about her journey and shared some valuable 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: Make Your Clinic Attractive
Judy remarks that in order to be able to sell your practice to a larger company, your clinic needs to develop a strong reputation within your community. Lifemark grows through acquiring clinics and then encouraging the owners to stay on as clinic directors. To appear attractive to a potential buyer, Judy notes that your clinic needs to have strong referral sources and a demonstrated ability to excel. In addition, Judy had to prove that her clinics were successful and profitable, as no company wants to acquire clinics that are in financial trouble. Another key aspect of her clinics being acquired was their geographical location. Judy highlights that Lifemark looks for clinics in areas that will be beneficial for future growth. Bringing the Lifemark name to clinics located in smaller cities allows the company to develop and promote their brand.
Lesson 2: Why Sell?
Selling your practice after spending years of working on it is often a challenging decision. For Judy, her goal was to sell her clinic to pursue a different career trajectory while her co-owner wanted to network with other like-minded individuals. By selling to Lifemark, Judy emphasizes that they were both able to achieve their goals. In addition to the intrinsic reasons for selling your business, there are often advantages to joining a large company. Judy explains that as a small clinic owner, you may face challenges with recruiting competent individuals to join your staff. When joining a larger company however, they are able to make the recruitment process easier and they are able to relocate staff as well. Also, Judy feels as though smaller clinics tend to have difficulty with their efficiency and ability to develop their operations effectively. By joining Lifemark, clinic owners can take advantage of the strong systems in place and focus their efforts on providing excellent patient care.
Lesson 3: Advice for New Graduates
Judy emphasizes that for new physiotherapy graduates, it is important to find a practice where there are clinicians available to help mentor you. However, to advance your career as a new graduate, it is vital to seek opportunities to continually grow rather than becoming complacent. Judy mentions that if you as a new graduate notice that your clinic is lacking in a certain aspect, rather than complaining about the situation you should be proactive. Present a solution to your manager and help offer to fix the problems instead of sitting back and letting others handle it for you. Proving that you are willing to go the extra mile demonstrates to employers that you are a go-getter and have strong leadership potential. Judy also stresses that new graduates should be members of professional associations, whether the OPA or CPA, as it opens the door for networking and promoting your personal brand and values.
Lesson 4: How to Market
Marketing today has changed greatly from when Judy initially opened her clinic over 20 years ago. However, there are still some aspects which tend to be cornerstones, one being friend and family referrals. If you’re providing excellent patient care then patients will promote your brand by discussing your physiotherapy prowess with others, which is a highly effective marketing tactic. In the modern world, Judy acknowledges that marketing needs to focus more on the digital aspects, including patient satisfaction reviews on websites such as Google. Especially nowadays when patients are focusing more on becoming educated consumers, it is important to tailor marketing for them. For example, some patients may be looking for specific treatment techniques or programs in your advertising such as concussion rehab, rather than generic physiotherapy treatment.
Lesson 5: The Greatest Challenge Faced by Many Clinics
Judy has extensive experience acquiring clinics for Lifemark as well as running her own operations and she notes one area private practice owners struggle with is time management. Especially if your clinic is constantly busy, it can be difficult to juggle clinical duties as well as concurrently revamping business operations. Judy explains that in their attempt to see as many patients as possible as well as manage a clinic, some owners tend to lose track of developing therapeutic alliance with their patients. As a clinician, it is vital to be efficient in managing your time and to be mindful of the therapeutic alliance at the same time. If patients feel as though they are being rushed, they may not trust you or adhere to your care plan. Therefore, it is important to establish systems in order to have a practice running as effectively as possible. This will allow more time for clinic owners to spend on growing their relationship with their patients.
These were a glimpse of some of the great lessons that we took away from Judy! For a full interview, you can access HERE.