This is our 5th awesome interview so far in this clinic owners interview series. If you have a story to share, please get in touch, we want to share your inspiration with others, too.
I absolutely love sharing the stories of successful clinic owners because people’s journey’s always reveal so many powerful insights.
Today is no exception. We have the honor of sharing a young woman’s journey to success.
Meet Charlotte Anderson, physiotherapist and owner of ALPHA Health Services.
In just 3 short years Charlotte has built a team of multidisciplinary experts and ALPHA is set to soar to even greater heights in the next 12 months to come. Not only has Charlotte been busy building a business, she has also been undergoing a PhD in an area of physiotherapy that is lacking research, an area she hopes to expand as a specialization for physiotherapists far and wide. Awesome thing is she is less then 30 years old and only works 10 clinical hours per week.
Here’s some of the insights you’ll gather:
- How she manages to only work 10 clinical hours per week
- How learning to trust your gut and the process builds a better business
- Why she decided NOT to have partners and go solo
- The power of referrals and what type works
- Why she is switching over to Jane App
1) Tell us about your practice
Why did you name your business "ALPHA Health Services"?
It took me a long time to come up with a name for the clinic. It was something I thought about over several months. Starting out, physiotherapy was the only service offered. But in the long term I knew I didn’t want to limit the services the clinic could offer by having physiotherapy in the name. I also wanted to make sure the name gave information to the reader about what the clinic catered to.
ALPHA is an acronym that stands for Active Living, Peak performance, and Health Aging. We provide health services related to these three concepts.
Deciding on the name was not an easy task!
What inspired you to own your clinic?
I always had a clear idea of where I wanted to practice, the type of patient I wanted to work with, and how I wanted to practice. I grew up in a family of business minded people, so perhaps the notion to own and run a clinic was in my blood!
I was motivated by the challenge and the end goal of starting a clinic that I thought provided effective, comprehensive care. I wanted to start a clinic early in my career, as I knew I needed time to build and develop it properly. After graduating as a physiotherapist, I worked for a year in another private clinic before going out on my own.
How long have you owned the clinic?
ALPHA Health Services opened in October 2013.
What made you decide to be a sole owner versus having a business partner?
I consciously made the decision not to have a business partner. I had worked hard and had budgeted for the start up, so didn’t need to partner with anyone from a financial perspective. At the time, I had a clear idea of the type of clinic I wanted to run, the values guiding it and the objectives driving it. For these reasons, I decided to go solo.
I also had conversations with other clinic owners, and had heard some of their stories about partnerships gone wrong. I realize this is not always the case, but it turned me off even exploring the possibility of having a partner.
I do not regret going solo, but there are days where it would be nice to have a partner and someone who gets the ups and downs of the process. At the same time, it forces me to take ownership, be independent, and work to achieve a goal.What makes your clinic different compared to your local competitors? Your super power?
The therapeutic relationship with every client is what differentiates our clinic from others. There are a lot of private practice clinics in the area, catering to a similar demographic, so we put a great deal of emphasis on building relationships.
We ensure that every appointment is with a registered healthcare professional, and that each patient has access to that practitioner via phone or email between appointments.
We form relationships with other professionals working with the patient to ensure the best and most comprehensive care. Every appointment is one on one, and the time for education and conversation is built into every appointment.
We feel strongly in this model of health care delivery, and it is the foundation of ALPHA Health Services.
Can you talk about your team and the services you offer to patients?
At ALPHA Health Services we have a team of like minded individuals, each specializing in a specific service. We have created a clinic of specialists - neurological, geriatric, pelvic floor, orthopedic and concussion.
It creates a really great dynamic, because each practitioner has their niche, and specializes in an area. It means we have experts and there isn't competition between practitioners. It also means we have experienced and knowledgeable staff!
This was not my original business plan, at all. I had never envisioned a clinic of specialists catering to a specific demographic. It has morphed over the years, as I have seen what patients want, what is needed, and the individuals I have worked with.
It has been an interesting process for me - to be adaptable and flexible, while being decisive and driven. It can be a struggle, but I have learned to trust the process.
2) What do you do to build culture at your clinic?
Building a clinical culture was very important to me as the number of practitioners started to grow. I felt that a strong, cohesive, and hard working culture led to satisfied practitioners, and positive experiences for clients.
I also learned that creating such a culture required work, focus, and awareness. I carefully interview everyone who works at ALPHA. I look for people who want to work in a team, who are willing to go above and beyond for clients, who seem to be a good “fit” with ALPHAs objectives and values.
Expectations in terms of teamwork and patient care are made quite clear. I find that with the right group of people, and positive dynamics between all practitioners, the culture evolves and develops. It is putting together the right group of people, which I have found to be the most important and the best indicator of the culture of the clinic.
Compiling such a group is not always easy, and I have had to be aware of personalities, goals and motivations. I have made mistakes, but it has helped me further develop my vision and direction of ALPHA Health Services.
3) What is your biggest business accomplishment in the past year?
No question, the biggest accomplishment has been building the current team we have working at ALPHA.
I feel very lucky to work with a team of such driven, hard working, fun, and caring individuals. This past year I have put a lot of work into building the right team at ALPHA, a team that makes our clinic special, and a team that works together for a common goal.
We have a really special group of people, and it has definitely been the biggest accomplishment this year.
4) What is your biggest mistake and lessons learned in owning a clinic?
The biggest mistake I have made is not asking enough (or the right) questions in the early days of starting a clinic, and not always trusting my gut.
There are a lot of people who are involved in starting a clinic (lawyers, agents, banks, etc) and a lot of my set backs (and causes of stress!) have been when some of these people didn’t follow through, or perhaps led me down a wrong path.
I have learned that you must be your own advocate, and that it’s ok to ask questions or challenge someone for clarity. I also learned that trusting your intuition and your gut in situations where you think something isn’t quite right, is usually wise.
However, these mistakes I’ve made are part of the process, and build character, resilience, and coping strategies to mitigate them from happening again. I have learned a lot, and am much more aware of asking questions, or seeking second opinions.
5) What's something you've recently learned that you're really excited to implement?I recently heard of a new scheduling software from a colleague that we have decided to implement.
The change over from our current system has been onerous, but in the long run it will be worth it. Having a system for charting, billing, revenue and so forth, will be a real asset to the practice.
We switched from ABEL med to JANE. We made the switch because ABEL med did not have a great user interface, nor was it accessible online. JANE is amazing!
I was worried about back up for an online system, but they have a central backup for all users. JANE allows everything to be in one spot - billing, revenue, charting, scheduling and more.
6) If you had to spend $500 marketing this month to get new patients, how would you spend it?I would put that money towards meeting with direct referral sources. Our referrals are mostly from other health care practitioners, mainly doctors, in the area and word of mouth referrals.
I would use this money towards connecting with new direct referrals, as well as continue to develop the relationships we have with our current referral system.
7) Are you currently using google adwords, if not, what is stopping you?We do use google adwords!
We are still figuring out the best words and ways to advertise through google adwords, but we are signed up for it.
8) What is stopping you from doubling your profit in the next 12 months?
I hope we do double our profits in the next 12 months!
Since the majority of our business is through referrals, we are always looking to build our referral network. Most of our relationships for referrals have been built upon patient’s word of mouth referrals. I would like to continue focusing on this method of referrals, because it means we’re doing a good job.
9) What do you do to learn more about business and leadership?
I always want to learn more about business and leadership, and I often seek out opportunities to work on these skills, or learn from others.
I am part of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s, Private Practice Division, and as a member of the executive team I have the opportunity to learn from others in the private practice field. Furthermore, I have taken leadership courses for healthcare professionals, which have contributed to my skill set.
I also read books (E-Myth and Scaling Up have been two that have taught me a lot), have monthly meetings with mentors, and read frequent blogs (like the CSC Clinic Accelerator Blog!).
I am genuinely interested in learning more about business, so I enjoy seeking out learning opportunities. I find a lot of my learning has been from being immersed in the challenge of owning and operating a business, and I have learned a lot from the mistakes I have made.
10) What is currently your biggest waste of time and how will you fix it?
Facebook. Facebook is hands down my biggest waste of time!
I have not opened social media to staff, I manage it. We probably haven’t embraced the social media world as much as we should, and it is something I should look into further.
11) What is your strategy for work life balance?
This is an area I need to improve on, and I am aware of that.In the early stages of building a business I would say I didn’t have much balance. I worked every day, and even when I was not “working” I was thinking about work.
Now that the clinic is established, I find I am working differently. I work every day, but I also have times in the day when work isn’t consuming me. I really enjoy what I do, and like the challenge of being pushed and striving to reach new goals. I feel lucky that I have responsibilities beyond the clinic, such as committees, research work and coaching, which allow for diversity.
12) How many hours do you work each week?
Good question! Every day is a bit different. I would say, on average, I have 8-10 hours of clinical work, and then quite a bit of management and admin work after hours.
I’m also in the process of completing my PhD, so that adds a few hours in the week!
What inspired you to pursue the path of getting a PHD?
Through the process of opening the clinic, I saw a real gap in the system in terms of concussion management. My PhD focus is on rehabilitation post concussion and the educational component for students wanting to pursue the concussion field.
I want to continue to learn and specialize, and conducting research in this area will help accomplish this - there is very little formal research in this area. I think the field of concussion management could be an area for physiotherapists to thrive, and I would like to see it become a part of the academic curriculum for students, and for physios to have a more formal (and proven) role in concussion management, treatment and care.
13) What is your daily morning ritual that gets you energized to go to work?
The gym! I will go to the gym every day before work, and if I don’t, I notice my day is not as productive!
14) What is the book you’ve most often gifted to other people?
The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.
It was given to me when I started thinking about opening a clinic, and it was an interesting read. Some of the concepts I learned through reading this book have been more and more evident to me as I continue to learn and develop a business.
15) Best advice for yourself in your 30s
I’ll let you know when I get there! I am not 30 yet…hopefully I will have some advice when I get there!
Here are some great takeaways from Charlotte Anderson's interview.
Try translating these insights toward your life and practice:
- Focus, clarity and motivation are the keys to continuous forward development in business
- Building relationships with a focus on comprehensive care is a great model for success
- Finding like minded people to join your team is essential
- Setting expectations with the team about your business objectives and values is critical
- Being adaptable and flexible is necessary but so is being decisive and driven
- That the busiest people always seem to manage to excel by way of inner passion, goals, and long-term commitment
- Always ask questions, it’s the key to business success in all areas because it helps you learn, and opens opportunities you may not have been aware of
Did you learn something else equally as valuable?
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