Lessons Learned with Kyle Whaley

Updated: Jun 26, 2018

Welcome back to another “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 Kyle Whaley!


Kyle is a graduate from the University of Toronto’s Physical Therapy program and the current owner of Propel Physiotherapy. Propel is a clinic that caters to individuals with catastrophic neurological injuries and complex orthopaedic injuries. Kyle is the former co-owner and director of Balance Physiotherapy West, a clinic which he successfully grew for 5 years before restructuring it to create Propel in 2016. He has extensive experience with manual therapy, vestibular disorders, acupuncture, chronic pain and the Bobath concept. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to chat with Kyle and discuss entrepreneurial success and excellence.


With many years of valuable experience founding and developing clinics, Kyle had plenty of information about his 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: The Importance of Implementing Systems


Propel Physiotherapy doesn’t run in a typical top-down hierarchical system seen in many clinics. Instead, all employees are empowered to make key decisions and cooperate as a team. Kyle has an office manager and a clinic manager, two individuals who are crucial to the success of his business systems. One of the key systems in place is keeping track of metrics. These metrics can be tracked on a weekly, monthly or even yearly basis. Kyle believes that “soft skills” are often overlooked and ensures that all patients assessed at Propel Physio receive a gift bag. By making this deposit with each patient, Kyle knows that it will pay dividends in the future. This system has worked really well for Propel. Another key system in place is based on the client experience. Each individual who comes into Propel is warmly greeted while the front office staff take notes on the client’s visit, a vital step in catering to the patient’s needs.


Lesson 2: Empower Your Employees


The unique business model in place at Propel is based upon Kyle’s firm belief in empowering the therapists. This allows the therapists to establish their style as independent contractors, which involves controlling their own schedules and running their own marketing ideas. Kyle understands his role as a facilitator and as one piece of the overall puzzle, which allows his therapists to operate at their best. Kyle goes into the clinic to make occasional adjustments. However, by taking a step back and having a hands-off approach, the therapists are given an opportunity to shine and succeed. Kyle finds that the skill set possessed by these therapists includes excellent communication skills, thinking outside of the box and the ability to develop a strong therapeutic alliance.

Lesson 3: Transitioning from a Clinician to a Business Owner


Kyle stresses the importance of networking and talking to individuals who have taken the leap from a clinician to a business owner. However, it’s important to remember that the circumstances which allowed one individual to succeed may not be applicable in your situation, so be mindful of the advice you receive. Kyle knows that as a leader and a clinic owner it’s important that your employees are able to relate to you. If you’re going to be mentoring your therapists on treating clients, you have to treat clients yourself. Otherwise, you may find that your approach is disconnected and your advice is not received well. Ultimately, it’s important to develop your newfound skills as a business owner, but also to ensure continual improvement as a clinician as well.


Lesson 4: How to Build Capital


If you’ve developed a business plan (and hopefully you have), then Kyle says the most important aspect is identifying how much capital you need to get your plan started. To acquire this initial amount, you may have to grind relentlessly. The pursuit will be well worth it in the end! In today’s market, Kyle emphasizes the importance of finding your niche. While working as an employee, Kyle was able to observe how other clinicians operated their businesses and analyzed their systems. Based upon this, Kyle was able to formulate an idea of how his future business would run and how much capital he would require to fund his startup costs.

In terms of today’s market, Kyle says that ideally, your initial investment should be at low risk and low cost. While this strategy is not always feasible, it is crucial to remember that you can spend a great deal of time and money investing into your clinic and lose it all very quickly.


Lesson 5: Do You Need Business Partners?


When Kyle first partnered up to start Balance West, he was relatively risk-averse and lacked the capital to start his own business. His partners were doing well in this market already and Kyle figured he could help them improve further. He stresses that entering a partnership is one you should take great care to consider. After all, he says a partnership is just like a marriage. You should strive to make sure that your partner(s) complement your skillset and together, you are able to manage through stressful situations. Your relationship with this individual is a key factor in predetermining the success of your future business. Kyle highlights that it is important to bring on a partner who adds value to what you are doing, shares your vision and goals, but also shares your work ethic. Miscommunication can undermine your business from the start. It is important to establish roles with your partner and communicate your strengths and weaknesses in order to develop a successful working relationship.


These were a glimpse of some of the great lessons that we took away from Kyle! For a full interview, you can access it HERE.




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