There is a myth that is strong as much in the business world as in the medical care and physical therapy worlds. That myth is that you cannot beat the big corporate offices and that the little guy will always lose out. The natural assumption of this myth is that it is better to own and operate a very large practice than to run a small PT practice and that it is the goal of any small PT practice to become a much bigger operation.
There are good reasons this idea is a myth because it is simply not true that you cannot compete with the big practices running an efficient small PT practice. In fact, with the right strategy, you can enjoy significant success and have a very rewarding career keeping your PT practice relatively small. The strategy for success for a small PT practice is to recognize your strengths over your larger competition and then to leverage those strengths to carve out your niche in the patient base and to keep it.
Actually, the fact that you operate a small PT practice is one of your greatest competitive advantages. There is an economy of scale when it comes to how success is measured for a small PT practice compared to a very large corporate operation. For a small PT practice, the increase of a dozen patients can represent a huge increase in business. For a large corporate medical practice, that same level of growth is measured in hundreds. You can operate a much more cost-efficient operation as well. Because a small PT practice can often operate out a small suite of offices, your costs are lower and it is much easier to control those costs as well.
A small PT practice can be much more flexible with patients and employees and “lighter on your feet” to make adjustments to how you run your practice. That means that if you need to change things to stay up-to-date, it is easier for you to do that because your practice is essentially you and a small, but dedicated, staff. If there is a policy or procedural change, you can review it with your staff over coffee in the morning and have that change in place in hours, not days or weeks as often happens in very large medical practices.
Time and time again, it has been demonstrated that customers prefer a small PT practice over a large corporate operation. They prefer the atmosphere of warmth and the personal touch you can bring to their physical therapy needs. Your staff can greet customers by name and ask about their families. That kind of informal relationship with clients will discourage a client leaving your practice because their loyalty to you is stronger. You are no longer just their physical therapist, you are a friend. It also encourages referrals which is the life blood for growth for any PT practice.
Part of the myth about the superiority of large PT practices is that they have access to better technology. That may have been true at one time, but not anymore. With the advent of Internet-based, networked PT practice documentation management systems, even the smallest PT practice can automate patient documentation processing from registration of the patient and management of treatment right down to billing and reimbursement and it can be done economically so that the technology saves you far more than it costs.
The strategy of any small PT practice is clear. Play to your strengths. Build those personal relationships with patients and reinforce that sense of personal connection and warmth that they feel with you and your staff. Little things like learning names, sending out birthday cards and keeping friendly people working for you is a brilliant strategy that will keep your clientele happy and coming back for years. If you also make it a point as part of your strategy to stay on top of the new advancements in PT practice documentation management, you get the best of what the big guys have at their disposal without giving up what is great about running a small PT practice. That is a good strategy for any business or PT practice in this modern marketplace.
“Thank you for the incredible product and service you all provide. You have made my life so much easier since I came on board a few months ago.” Ben F., PT clinic owner, Colorado