The Five Things I've Learned as a Cash-Based Physical Therapy Practice Owner
By Aaron LeBauer, PT, DPT
What's the greatest number of patients you've treated in one day? My record is 43. I treated 43 patients one day, as a student. That's more than four people per hour during a 10-hour workday.
In that environment (and business model) I wasn't able to spend any quality time with my patients or treat them the way I thought was most effective. I wasn't able to work out, go to yoga, or even spend time with my wife. It was insane.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
Fast forward from my days as an exhausted student to today, where I am the proud owner of LeBauer Physical Therapy, a 100% cash-based practice in Greensboro, North Carolina. We help active people stay fit, healthy, and mobile without medications, injections, or surgery. And we do it without the time-consuming hassles from CMS or third-party payers who seem to constantly want to pay less for more.
For me, starting a cash-based practice wasn't a lifelong dream. I started a cash-based practice because I really did not feel that I had any other options.
I knew I was going to live here in Greensboro, and I looked around and thought, "Where can I get a job?" I didn't like working in a hospital; I didn't like skilled nursing. I knew my strengths were using my hands, doing soft tissue work, mobilization/manipulations, and spending time with patients to learn their stories and educate them. I didn't see a place here that was going to employ me and allow me to spend 45 minutes to an hour, one-on-one with patients, doing the type of physical therapy I wanted to practice.
My practice gives me the freedom to treat patients my way. It gives me freedom in my schedule. It gives me freedom to choose the quality of life I want. I get time! I can spend Monday and Friday afternoons with my family. I pick up my kids from school, hang out in the backyard, and grill some steaks.
Along the way, I've learned a ton and made plenty of mistakes. Here are five (of many) things I've learned as a cash-based business owner:
1. Mindset Is everything
To be successful, you've got to have the right mindset.
You are no longer worth what you earned for your salary or what the patient paid in copays each visit. You have to decide what you are worth, and then ask people to pay you that much. How much did it cost you to go to school? How much do you need each month to live and to operate your practice? What is the going rate for PT services? Be careful about charging too little or underselling your services. Find a price that's a little above your comfort zone and start there.
Once you start to change your mindset from a person who provides a treatment directed by someone else to a primary care provider who decides on the treatment, you will begin to thrive.
2. Low Overhead Is Key
It's important to have a low-overhead practice to minimize your expenses, especially when starting up, but also to maximize your profits in the long run.
The less you spend and the more you collect, the larger your profits. It's as simple as that! As a startup cash physical therapy practice owner, there are many ways you can leverage your dollars to get quality services in the creation and operation of your practice.
For instance, you can spend hundreds to design a logo and get business cards printed, or you can get 250 free business cards from VistaPrint and your logo created for $5 at Fiverr.
3. Give to Get
You've got to give in this business; when you give other people something they value first, especially if it's something they aren't expecting, they will feel compelled to give back to you.
Give your knowledge to others by creating educational programs and providing valuable resources such as newsletters and instructional videos. When you position yourself as the expert in your community by creating something of value that helps your "referral partners," potential patients will begin to seek out your advice and services when they need help, are hurt, or are injured.
But remember: Don't give anything when you expect something in return. Just give and watch what follows.
4. Live in Abundance
I'm going to say this right now: PTs need to stop putting each other down. We need to work together to lift everyone up. There is more than enough (money, land, patients, etc.) for everyone to succeed. It's known as an "abundance mindset," and it's crucial to our profession.
5. Market Directly to Patients
To have a successful practice means you need to market directly to patients. Patients are the consumers of our services — not physicians, insurance companies, or hospitals — and we have to connect with them.
Instead of spending money on traditional brand advertising, spend time and effort writing online articles and updating the content of your website to let patients know exactly how they will feel and what they will experience when they come to your office. Patients want to know what's in it for them, and they are searching on Google to find answers. You can be the one providing those answers.
Your patients should be the ones making the decision to come to you, so make it easy for them.
There you have it! Those are five things I've learned as a cash-based business owner. I hope you were able to see that opening a cash-based clinic isn't as daunting as it sounds. I did it first and made the mistakes so you wouldn't have to.
Aaron LeBauer helps physical therapists scale their time, income, and impact without relying on insurance. He's the host of The CashPT Lunch Hour Podcast, author of The CashPT Blueprint, and founder of The CashPT Nation Facebook group. Contact him at www.AaronLeBauer.com.