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Learn How Community Involvement Can Improve Your Business

 

Absolute Therapy is a clinic in Victoria BC, home to an amazing team of fifteen talented practitioners and a collaboration-based treatment environment that epitomizes the ideals of client-centered care. 

However back in 2010 during our humble beginnings, I was the clinic’s sole practitioner – it was just me. With a brand new lease in place and tenant improvements complete, it was time to sink or swim. 

I knew I loved being an RMT, but how would I fare as an entrepreneur? How would I succeed? Well, there’s that old saying: it’s not what you know but who you know.

Anyone who has spent any time in Victoria will tell you that despite its size, it behaves very much like a small town, so to me, just getting out and getting involved seemed a good place to start.

Getting Involved In The Community

I started by offering free educational opportunities (about injury prevention, stretching, workplace wellness – you name it!) to any group keen to host me. 

I did casual talks for office groups in my area, banks, local fire halls, or sometimes more formal engagements such as ProD workshops with schools – I was happy simply to chat about wellness and provide education that would make massage therapy more accessible. Initially, much of my motivation with these talks was of course to promote my practice and business, but the more time I spent with local groups made the larger impact I was having become evident. 

Not to mention the support I was receiving for my business was inspiring. The more connections I made, the more motivated I became to find new and different ways that I could engage with and provide value to this community that was supporting me in my own entrepreneurial journey.

That same year, a friend of mine suggested I join a local business networking group (Business Networking International, or BNI), and it was through this group of connections that Absolute Therapy became involved in its first on-site fundraising gig. One of the members of my group was married to an organizer for Turf Burn, a local soccer tournament. 

The second year of the event was being planned and the organizers were excited about the opportunity to have a couple of RMTs present to provide short treatments for participants (by this time I had one other RMT working with me). We agreed to provide the treatments by donation and, in return for the exposure and the marketing we received, we would donate all the proceeds back to the tournament to go towards their fundraising initiatives. 

And so it began.

 The model of “help-us to help-you to help-them” was officially adopted by Absolute. (Side note: we had our 10th consecutive year with Turf Burn this past Summer; it has grown into a much larger tournament with a great following and now fundraises big bucks for local non-profits – so cool!)

I began researching other local events in which the participants or people involved could benefit from on-site massage therapy and reaching out to the organizers to pitch our “in-kind” sponsorship. We soon became involved in the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, another event that we would end up sponsoring for many years to come. The Victoria Dragon Festival Society has been a long-standing supporter of the BC Cancer Foundation, and the participants were very appreciative to have the option of pre and post-race treatment. 

The resulting donations we collected on behalf of the VDBF for the BC Cancer Foundation were sizable, and I was once again filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be included in such an amazing local event and awed by the fundraising potential of our involvement.

Building A Reputation By Helping

Event by event, and year after year we gained more notoriety as a clinic passionate about being involved in local events and fundraising initiatives. We became more established in Victoria’s healthcare community, and through our events and other marketing endeavors, garnered a large client-base able to sustain new practitioners on an ongoing basis. 

Throughout all of this, I volunteered with a number of event committees, which of course led me to know other event organizers, which led to more events. As a clinic we have been lucky enough to work with so many local organizations over the years; groups like MEC who tirelessly fundraise for non-profits like Power To Be, or the Victoria Goddess Run who have raised countless dollars for groups like the Victoria Transition House and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. 

Trust me when I say that in the amazing community we live in, the opportunities are endless.

I am immensely proud of the efforts that the Absolute team members contribute each year at our on-site events. They come out to events on Saturdays and Sundays in the middle of Summer (when I’m sure there’s a part of them that would much rather be at the beach!) and provide treatment after treatment – and they do it with smiles on their faces.

Sure, we make it fun; we have good snacks, and we goof around and we treat each other during the downtime – but I do not want to minimize the amazingness of how much this team gives. It is part of OUR community – our clinic culture. When I am considering new practitioners for our team – we talk about this. I always endeavor to be clear that this is not a clinic where you can come in and do your daily treatments and leave; we expect greatness, but the personal and professional support one can expect in return from simply being a part of this remarkable team is pretty great too.

I asked our friends at the Victoria Foundation (a registered charity that funds hundreds of initiatives large and small, both locally and throughout BC and Canada – if you don’t know them please look them up) to help me summarize the important part that local business plays in Victoria’s community:

“The Victoria Foundation has a vision to make our community stronger, and our shared quality of life better now, and for the long term. We’re inspired by the shared commitment of the local businesses we’ve worked with to help make this vision a reality, and by their passion to make positive changes in Greater Victoria and in communities across B.C. and Canada.”

-Sandra Richardson, CEO

In short – just get out there and get involved. Your clinic will receive recognition in the community, your practitioners will thrive, massage therapy as a profession becomes more accessible, events have more to offer, and local non-profits and charities receive more support to continue doing all the awesome things that they do! Everyone wins.

Articles Of The Week November 4, 2018

 

We shared a similar story last week and this one is just as important. There is a movement taking place for a push towards evidence-based practice within manual therapy. It looks like the change is going public as some chiropractors push back against their peers. This should be happening in all aspects of manual therapy and I hope to see all of our professions following suit.

“Chiropractors At A Crossroads: The Fight For Evidence-Based Treatment And A Profession’s Reputation” – Paul Benedetti and Wayne McPhail

Sometimes putting yourself out there and writing blogs can be a pretty scary thing. The author of this post did a great job of putting this post together to explain what massage can do. It’s definitely worth the share.

“What Can Massage Really Do?” – Leyla Rsk

We learned breast massage in college and the topic has come up several times in practice. I’ve never done breast massage in practice and would probably refer out to someone with more experience in this area. This is a great discussion on some of the issues related to doing breast massage including safety, consent, and respect.

“Examining Issues Related To Breast Massage” – Nick Ng and Rachel Scott

It is always important to consistently market your business, but sometimes it’s tough to come up with new and effective ways to do so. This is a great quick article outlining why with the holiday season coming up you should host a charity event to increase business and give back to your community.

“Quick Tip: Why You Should Host A Charity Event This Holiday Season” – Lou Schuler

There are many obstacles we have to overcome to be successful in business. Quite often some of these things are out of our control, so we just have to try and figure things out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go well. This post shows some examples of how things don’t go well and one of our colleagues ends up shutting down their practice. There are certainly some things to learn from this one.

“Why I Left Massage Therapy After 14 Years: The Career That I Loved!” – Massage Therapist And Body Worker

Articles Of The Week October 21, 2018

Richard is always great at putting educational resources together for our profession and he’s at it again. Here is a long list of educational resources for you to use and share with your network about the benefits of massage therapy.

“Open Educational Resources For Massage Therapists” – Richard Lebert

Review is always a good thing right!? This post was done way back in 2014 but we stumbled across it this week. It’s a great review of a peripheral nerve root, which helps us understand how they work just a little bit better.

“Anatomy Of A Peripheral Nerve Root” – Diane Jacobs.

Ever wondered how much you should increase the load or training demand when doing rehab with a patient? Well, its always a variable, but the 10% rule is a good place to start and this article sums up nicely how to implement that.

“When Progressing Training, Not All Load Is Created Equally” – Tim Gabbett

Sometimes research is done to try and prove what we “think” we are doing, as opposed to trying to prove a theory wrong, or prove what’s “actually” happening. Unfortunately this happens a lot in manual therapy. In this post some bias’ get challenged and research shows what is “actually happening” with some of our treatments.

“Model Issues” – Sam Jarman

This is a VERY important article to share because it could happen to ANY manual therapy profession, and SHOULD happen to every manual therapy profession. The College of Chiropractic here in British Columbia is telling all chiropractors to remove any advertising there is no acceptable evidence to support, or face discipline. Kudos to them for making their practitioners accountable to the public and pushing for evidence based practice.

“Chiropractor Crackdown: College Gives Ultimatum On Misleading Health Claims” – Bethany Lindsay

 

 

Making Win-Win Decisions And The Value Of Relationships

In the past, we’ve had several posts talking about the importance of building relationships and business.

While this is a crucial part of the therapeutic relationship with our patients, it’s just as important in our communication and in building our practice with other practitioners.

However, not everyone sees this or treats it with the importance they should.

With this post, I’ll go into why it’s important and two different circumstances where this has made a massive difference in my life, and in my practice. If spending time building relationships with patients and other practitioners aren’t something you’ve been focusing on, I suggest you start.

Here are two examples where this has helped me in the past two years.

The Job

Back in 2009, it was my third term of massage therapy college.

I knew from the start, I wanted to work with athletes and teams. I was fortunate enough to have a friend from my hometown playing for our local Junior A hockey team, so I asked if they had a Massage Therapist working with them. They didn’t, so he helped get me in touch with their head trainer, and my start in hockey as a therapist began.

The first game I was introduced to the team chiropractor, he instantly started getting players to get treatment from me. I was astounded at how supportive the medical staff was.

For the next seven years, that chiropractor and I worked together on the team. Once I was certified and in practice, we referred patients back and forth. A year or two into my career, I looked at the schedule and half of the people booked in with me one week were referrals he had sent.

There are patients who I’ve been seeing for the past seven years of my career (obviously only when they need it, not weekly or anything) because they were referred from that chiropractor.

About three years ago, he referred another patient to me, and the relationship building with that patient started. He spoke fondly of our chiropractor friend every time he came in. As our relationship built, I mentioned how I was a volunteer firefighter and hoped to get a career job one day. He immediately told me about one of his best friends who worked at one of the fire departments in town (and it was the department I really wanted).

Skip ahead a year and that department started a hiring process.

My patient got a hold of his buddy and said: “you gotta help this guy, he’ll fit in perfectly.”

Then the text messages started. His buddy was giving me advice on what to study, how to get ready, exactly what steps to take. As the hiring process unfolded, he texted me every step of the way with advice on what to do. The advice was invaluable and helped me with the process in ways I can’t even explain.

AND I HAD NEVER MET THE GUY! However, based on his friend’s recommendation, he was willing to help!

After volunteering for 16 years, applying to several departments, spending thousands of dollars on hiring processes, this past June, I was the first person hired off the hiring list and started a career that I worked so hard to get.

None of that wouldn’t have happened if nine years ago, I hadn’t started building a relationship with my chiropractor buddy, or with the patient he referred.

The Win-Win

Back in 2005 a good friend and I invested in a franchise business for repairing dental equipment.

Whenever people bought a franchise, they would have to go down to Oregon to receive training on how to repair the dental equipment and learn the business etc. The man who owned the parent company would always have the new franchisees attend a two-day workshop that was basically a self-improvement kind of thing.

We honestly scoffed at the idea initially, but it turned out to be a pretty good two days. One of the key messages we learned was that whenever we made decisions both personally and professionally we would always try to make the decisions a win-win. Each decision had to be made so it would always be something that would benefit us both.

We worked that business together for two years until we came to the realization it was only going to make enough money to support one of us. After some discussion, we decided he would buy me out, and that was what paid for me to go back to college to become an RMT. The decision was truly a win-win as he still runs the business, I’m clearly enjoying my career, and we’ve remained good friends ever since.

Fast forward 11 years to 2016 and I was faced with another business decision.

Do I take a chance and move on to another clinic to pursue my interest in exercise with patients, or continue with the clinic where I was given my first real chance to build a practice. Part of the difficulty for me was the stories I’d heard about people leaving clinics and there being a fight over patient clinic files between the owner and contractor. Plus the clinic owner and I had built a solid relationship and a great friendship over my five years there, how was that going to work out?

Over a three day period, I kept trying to ask her to grab a coffee or go for a drink or something so we could chat about it, but our schedules didn’t work. On the third day when I tried to arrange something, she looked at me with a smile on her face and said: “are you breaking up with me!?”

When we actually sat down and talked she said it would never be held against me for chasing after the career I wanted and to make sure and email all my patients so they knew where I was going so they could find me and book in.

Since then I’ve referred patients to her clinic, she refers patients to me and there has never been an instance where a disagreement occurred about a patient file. In fact, I still have access to all of the files for when the lawyer requests records for one of my patients.

Even better, that clinic owner refers her family members to me and comes to me for treatments herself (and yes she gave me permission to write that, so I’m not breaking confidentiality). So, when I hear those rumours (I hope they’re just rumours) about owners and contractors bickering over patient files, I can’t help but wonder WHY!?

Why is this an argument?

The patient has the right to choose where and to whom they go for their treatment, it’s not up to the practitioner or the clinic to decide that. I get there might be an instance where there is a monetary value to the file if a lawyer or insurance company etc requests the file, but it’s not so great a value that is worth ruining a relationship over. There are many patients who followed me to the new clinic when I moved and just as many who stayed behind and continued at the old clinic because all of them had the right to choose. The most important thing in that whole experience is the relationship that remained between myself and the clinic owner. Because the decisions made between us were done on a win-win basis, the patients win, both the clinic owner and I win, and our relationship has never been better. And to be honest, that relationship is far more important to me than the monetary value of a file, or whether a patient followed me. 

 

 

Articles Of The Week September 2, 2018

This is a great start to our articles from Greg Lehman. The words and language we use with patients matters and some of the language has to stop! The article generated a lot of discussion on our facebook page, so hopefully, it will get more therapists thinking about their communication with patients.

“Watch Your Mouth, The Nonsense Is Breaking Many” – Greg Lehman

This is another article attempting to dispel some myths, however, its about strength and conditioning. Fortunately, some of the topics are still applicable in manual therapy as well.

“10 Strength And Conditioning Practices That Are Overhyped” – Carl Valle

This one is actually a podcast and its a quick listen, so worth your time listening. One of the points I loved, is how the term “pain science,” has taken on its own life when in reality it’s just science. What matters is understanding how to help people who are in pain.

“Massage Therapy Now” – Eric Purves

We all have to prepare for the unknown. Whether it’s an injury, retirement, or just simple issues that could come up with our practice, we need to be prepared. This article shares some ideas on how to prepare, but also some ideas for extra income, or career shifts.

“Who Knows What Is In Your Future” – Sinead Kelly-Barber

Massage is a valuable healthcare modality, but it for some reason when it comes to the financial cost of getting a massage, some companies are undercutting prices, and in turn the value of our profession. This article shares some ideas on how to give your patients an experience they will value enough for you to charge appropriately.

“The Value Of Massage” – Julie Onofrio

5 Ways To Build A Referral Relationship With Chiropractors

 

Coming out of school I was fired up to help people.  I attended lots of conferences, did evening training sessions with veteran chiropractors, worked with athletes, sports teams, and everything else I could think of to be as good as possible.  

Like massage, chiropractic yields good results and it feels amazing to help people get better. However, I wasn’t always successful which was disheartening. For some patients, I tried everything I knew, but it wasn’t enough.

Looking back, I can see that my ego was getting in the way of what was best for the patient.  

After being in practice for 13 years now, I realize that no practitioner, no matter how good, can help everyone.  Referring a patient is sometimes the best option, even when it feels frustrating that chiropractic treatment didn’t get them where they want.  I think it’s best to refer to therapies you trust or have had good experiences with. For example, I’m happy to refer to things such as massage or acupuncture because they’ve helped me with my health.

I have found that referring a patient isn’t always easy. Medical professionals should consider the practitioner to whom they are referring.  

The most important question any practitioner should consider is: “Do I trust the person I am referring my patient to?”  Ideally, there would be a relationship between the two practitioners and trust built therein. You want to feel comfortable that your profession won’t be denigrated, or you, for that matter.  

You also want to be comfortable enough to have a conversation with the practitioner to ensure the patient is not getting contradicting information which puts them in the difficult position of not knowing what to believe or who to trust.  We all have our patients best interest at heart but if two practitioners are saying different things, it can diminish the patient’s healing process. If I trust the other practitioner and know they are professional, and good at what they do, it makes it easy to refer.  

Sometimes this still might not work because that practitioner may already have a professional in your field they are more comfortable with. It’s optimal to be in a reciprocal relationship where you refer to them and they refer to you. It may take time to find that person and to build trust with each other.  

Don’t expect referrals to come right away; build relationships and get to know practitioners both in your field and others. Remember too that patients move around, so knowing practitioners in other communities can be of benefit as well.

5 Keys To Building A Relationship

Building trust with a chiropractor may be more challenging than you think.

I’ve received dozens of phone calls, emails and even had RMT’s come to the office to drop off business cards. Honestly, very few, if any, have turned into meaningful referral relationships. Many of the healthcare practitioners I trust the most and have the best relationships with have taken time to build.

Typically this has happened through working on sports teams with them or trading services. Having a common interest with another practitioner such as a chiropractor can be very helpful. An example might be working with athletes or specific types of injuries or even specializing in children or pregnancy. Trading services is another fantastic way to build trust because you both know exactly how the other person treats and the way they work with patients.

As a huge benefit, you both stay healthy so you can help more people and enjoy life.

Here are five keys to excellent referral relationships: 

  1. To get referrals you need to refer.  Recommend your patient see a practitioner in another field when you feel it’s needed.  A good time may be if the patient asks about other therapies or if they aren’t progressing as quickly as expected.  If you refer the patient, it is likely they’ll have a better outcome and it helps build professional relationships. I know when I receive a referral from someone I’m more likely to reciprocate.
  2. Follow-up with referrals by thanking the other professional.  This could be in the form of a call, card, letter, or email and it doesn’t need to be lengthy or overly formal.  In situations where you know the professional well and have a good working relationship, a text may be appropriate.
  3. When you disagree with another practitioner diagnosis, don’t share that with the patient.  Often other professions look at things differently and it doesn’t make them wrong. Treat them the way you feel is right.  You can have your interpretation or diagnosis, but it doesn’t help to discredit the other professional. If appropriate, have a conversation with the other practitioner to understand their reasoning or point of view.  This will build the relationship and educate you both. If you do decide to have a conversation, it is important to make sure you are approaching it from a position of learning rather than defending or arguing.
  4. If the patient gets relief from your treatment and it is appropriate, be sure to send them back to the referring professional as needed or for co-management.  This is important because if the patient doesn’t return to the original practitioner they may feel that you have ‘stolen’ their patient.
  5. If you are struggling to try and find practitioners to refer to, it may be time to build your professional network.  There are many ways to meet chiropractors from networking groups, meetings, seminars, etc. Be friendly and genuinely inquisitive about the other person’s business.  Find out what types of patients or conditions they like to treat and how and where they practice. Be sure to exchange business cards and follow up.

If you had a rapport with another professional, even if it is in your own field, it is well worth your time to maintain contact and build the relationship and trust.

Unexpected Benefits to Referring

Another reason I was reluctant to refer out early in my career was because I worried that if I didn’t help the person get relief and someone else helped them, that they would think poorly of myself or chiropractic.

As a result, I tried to be a ‘jack of all trades.’

The problem with that is I found myself worrying about patients getting results and I started to spread myself thin. I found this stressful and it made my practice not very fun. I know now that patients don’t expect miracles from their healthcare provider, just results and an honest, competent and caring demeanour. They understand that one healthcare professional can’t fix everything. The beauty of referring a patient to someone else with a different expertise is that it takes the pressure off you, patient’s get better results and they know you have their best interests at heart. I hope you’ve found this helpful and wishing you a wonderful career!