I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist since I was a freshman in high school. I started volunteering at the local hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and remember my first patient as a volunteer. The first patient that i ever saw as a volunteer, was a burn patient that had lost both of her legs. I can still smell the burnt skin to this day. Our job was to progressively sit her up because she had been on her back for two weeks.
I’m in the background watching a physical therapist and physical therapy assistant slowly bring this patient to a seated position and then that is when she passed out. I remember the nervous energy in the air and the adrenaline rush that I got. They broke open one of the ammonia packets and put it under her nose and she came to almost immediately. Now this was a scary moment for me as this was the first hour of my experience but it was also exciting as well as challenging. This was scary yet kinda cool at the same time. I even remember them giving me my own ammonia packet to put on the back of my volunteer badge. I felt the same adrenaline rush and energy that I would get from playing sports. From this experience forward I knew I wanted to see what else was available to learn in the physical therapy arena. I continued to volunteer in the summers in different settings. Neuro, orthopedics, pediatrics and sports medicine. As an athlete myself, I found a passion and familiarity with the sports patients. I knew what they had to get back to doing in practice and in games and this made me comfortable being around them and getting the opportunity to work with them so this is the direction that i started focusing my energy and experiences around.
Also going on at this time, there were people trying to put me down. I remember people telling me it was too difficult to get into physical therapy school. I remember them telling me it would be too difficult to play sports and to make the grades needed to get into PT school, both in high school as well as in college. So that just drove me even more to make the grades and focussed me even more to make sure that I was doing everything I could to get into PT school. I double majored with honors of Cum Laude on my way to applying for PT school. Out of 450 applicants they only took 22 of us. I had finally achieved 1 of my goals.
During PT school I knew that I wanted to start my own practice. My goal was to learn everything I possibly could to try to start my own practice. I spoke to my advisors and they recommended that I at least go out into the field for at least five years in order to gain some experience in the clinic. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear but I did take the advice of my fellow advisors and that is what I did . In my initial tenure in an outpatient setting I had wanted to learn as much as I could. I was still so raw. I didn’t communicate well. I didn’t understand the psychology behind working with others or with other people. I had the mindset that it was them and not me if something did not go as planned. As I started figuring out some of my flaws and putting more responsibility on myself rather than others, the world started opening back up to me. I began reading with a different mindset. Not to learn if for a test, but to learn it so that I would understand it and could use that information for the betterment of my patients, myself, my family and my community. I began learning more clinical skills, communication skills, learning how to work alongside other people including medical doctors. I partnered with others in writing a book and writing a peer reviewed journal article to gain experience in something that I thought I could never do. As i was checking off the boxes that I thought i needed to start my own practice, opportunities began knocking on my door. I turned those opportunities down and I began looking for a partner. But just like high school and people trying to tell me that i couldn’t become a PT because it was too hard, i had similar experiences with people telling me that I couldn’t start my own business. Again, this just drove me and pushed me to succeed.
I partnered with a friend from high school and PT school. It was 2007 and the housing bubble had just burst. Banks were not loaning money for startups and we needed to come up with a solution that was cost efficient. So we went old school and started a concierge house call business. As the business began to grow we had to LLC in 2008 and began hiring more staff. We were still working 60-80 hours a week. We were doing everything in the organization and it depended 100% on us. This is when we realized that we had no idea how to run a business. We thought the only way to grow our business was by seeing more patients. By seeing more patients we had to hire someone to run the practice. This proved to be a huge mistake, especially without any processes or procedures written down. Or anyway to track how the practice was doing. So we hired a practice manager. We had a practice manager that we completely trusted and empowered to run our practice while we saw more patients. This methodology ultimately did not work as it almost sabotaged our practice. A lot of he said, she said was going on. There were items that were not getting completed and tasks that were completely falling off. So this led us down the road to start studying how to run a business and after 2 years of studying (really still studying and looking on ways to improve) we started pulling out of practice and working on becoming more organized. We started creating systems, writing them down, creating policy, creating procedures to match those policies and started keeping statistics to help with managing the practice. Years later in 2015, we ultimately won our local chamber of commerce’s small business of the year award for a medium sized business. Then we started to grow even more. This had its own challenges as we started adding more clinics and even more staff. More chaos started to ensue. We always thought…if we could just duplicate ourselves, then things would run more smoothly. So we started training our staff with the mindset and framework that we were operating on. This worked and didn’t work. Through trials and tribulations we ultimately were able to re-create values and a culture that we all wanted to operate around by engaging with our staff to help us come up with values. This propelled us forward once again and started attracting people that could once again take us to the next level and that wanted to grow the organization in order to help more people. Now we have a full function organization with everyone working on the same mission, vision, have the organization’s values, and are working towards a common goal of helping people.