From Near Bankruptcy to a $2.2 Million Practice In Six Months

Having served and now retired after 21 years in the U.S. Army Reserves (3 years active) as a Lt. Colonel, and having received his MPT from the prestigious Army/Baylor PT program, Bill is a no nonsense guy.

Bill loves fishing for king salmon, halibut, and albacore tuna along the Pacific Northwest coast. In case you’re wondering, he’s a physical therapist in private practice in Olympia, Washington.

Bill was on the verge of bankruptcy in February 2012, and in fact, consulted with a bankruptcy attorney. The bankruptcy attorney told Bill to stop paying all of his bills and mortgages for the next 6 months, then file bankruptcy. Bill had always paid every bill and couldn’t stand the idea of not doing so for six months.

Facing not one but two new 5,000 sf POPTS facilities from a local 16 member Orthopedic group who had provided 60% of his referrals in past years; and the local hospital buying up nearly every physician practice in town, Bill got mad and decided he wasn’t going down without a fight. Many sleepless nights entailed, but a plan began to emerge. He had less than a month to turn things around.

Boy, did he. And how.

Today, he has four clinics and 21 employees and is on pace to do over $2.2 million dollars in revenue. In this audio interview, I asked Bill to reveal everything he did to engineer one of the most incredible turnarounds in physical therapy private practice.

Be prepared to take a lot of notes, because you’re about to get a lifetime of insight in one simple interview. You’ll rarely hear someone speak as candidly as this, and for that, Bill deserves appreciation from everyone listening to the interview. If you liked the interview, post a comment below and let Bill know how thankful you are.

I am extremely happy to report that Bill is now able to rejoin our Mastermind Group in September. He had joined nearly a year ago, but had to drop out. When I spoke with him in February, he was in dire financial straits and I completely understood his need to discontinue with the group.

Now Bill and his partner and staff are on a roll. Bill knows that he and his staff have lots of work to do now and in the future. Bill, along with his partner and three other key staff members will be attending the Private Practice Summit in Las Vegas in September. Bill says he’s moving fast and adapting on the go. He realizes that what worked just six months ago for referral generation doesn’t anymore. He and his staff are eager to learn the latest tactics and strategies that will allow them to make changes quickly, in order to run circles around the big conglomerates he is now facing and in the future.

We need more instances of sharing like this in our community. Let’s talk about our scars and our triumphs so others can learn, and we can grow collectively as a community. Bill turned his life around, and you can do the same. Listen to what he did, and the attributes that made him emerge from a deep hole that most would have crawled under.

Here are some of the things that Bill managed to overcome:

  • A group of 16 doctors stopped referring him
  • Was ready to throw in the towel and migrate to Ecuador
  • Consulted a bankruptcy attorney who said “You can’t pay your overheads anymore”
Here’s the Full Interview

Not only do you get to listen to the entire interview (which is pretty entertaining by the way), I’ve also provided you with a detailed synopsis of the nuggets from this call below.

With a never-say-die attitude and a great inspirational line from one of his favorite movies, “Animal House”, William Linnenkohl a.k.a Bill reminded himself of something John Belushi asked his fraternity brothers…

Did we get down when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? NO!

Well, perhaps Belushi’s character failed history class, but he did inspire his fraternity brothers (and Bill, who served as a lieutenant colonel in the United States army) to stand up and fight on, no matter what the odds were.

Embracing new techniques and ideas from both his past military lifestyle and the breakthrough strategies he learned from my programs, Bill engineered a transformation in his Washington based private practice that can only be described in one word.

Spectacular.

Here’s a synopsis of the interview I did with Bill, and the things that will help your practice right away.

Think Outside The Box
When all looked lost, Bill decided to change his referral generation strategy completely. He approached primary care physicians instead of specialists for referrals. Why? Family doctors were quicker to send a patient directly to his physical therapy clinic instead of opting for surgery first. I’ve often said that thinking outside the box is what is going to set you apart from the rest; and Bill proved it with this approach to local private practice physicians as a referral source instead of typical “post-surgery” specialist. Patients got better without invasive surgery and downtime.

Stay Positive No Matter What Happens
A technique that’s reiterated over and over in all my programs is to approach your problems with a positive attitude and ask yourself “What’s the best thing I can do in this situation?”

Bill did just that. He didn’t put down his competition – he took a far more effective and authentic approach. He set out to demonstrate to patients why his clinic was a better choice and that they, as consumers and patients, had the ability to make their own choice as to where they wanted to go. His clinic was the best, so why go anywhere else? He used positive techniques to impress new physician resources instead of focusing and worrying about the physician resources he had lost.

Always Be Willing to Work Hard
Bill instituted on-call weekends & extended hours in his practice. If you want to grow your clinic, (especially when your back is against the wall), you need to be present when the patient needs you, not when it’s convenient for you to be there. While other physical therapy practices were open during the traditional 9 am to 5 pm, Bill decided to go the extra mile. If a physician wanted the patient to get daily care, his clinic was open to perform the job. Once the patients came in and saw the high tech facility along with the exemplary service they received, they were hooked to his clinic because he was available and truly did give the best service possible. As I tell all my mastermind clients, if you are not willing to work hard to be the best then you may as well walk away from my programs now, because it takes hard work and ingenuity to be the best and stand out above the rest.

Leverage the Power of Social Networking
Bill started utilizing the LinkedIn site/group that I manage and began to take away little “gems” of information from others on the site that shared their insight as to what was working for them. Using social media is a great way to get your name out there, but more importantly, it helps you tap into the collective insight of the community and discover strategies from other successful people who are like-minded and willing to share.

Network With Others Like You
Networking outside of his local area to gather a wealth of knowledge gave Bill a level of insight he had never thought existed. As one of the attendees at my private practice mastermind last October in San Diego, Bill had some breakthroughs that set the stage for his massive turnaround.

Bill said he felt at ease and noticed the same thing with the other attendees when it came to talking to each other. Why? If you’re at a gathering of local PTs you are going to be on your guard. You’re going to be in stealth mode to protect your knowledge, your patients, and your potential patients from the others ‘just like you’ in the same room, working in the same place. Attending a conference outside of his area, he noticed each of the attendees were quick to relax and share ideas; something that PTs from the same area simply do not do. That’s where my conferences and summits come in; offering you exactly the ideal environment to relax and share information without hesitation.

Expand Outside of the “Norm” & Think “Future”
When most think of expansion they think adding on physical therapists, more staff, new buildings, and/or equipment. However, when you’ve experienced one of my seminars you learn to think outside the box and figure out where are the people you haven’t been able to reach yet? Bill immediately thought of “expansion” as taking the PT to the patient instead of the patient coming to the PT. Dealing with elderly or those who are very immobile would benefit from having the PT come to them. Growth would be exponential without ever having to add a single square foot of office space, just more PTs to do the job! Once the home therapy is completed and they can make it to a facility, you know where they’re going to go.

Become a Visionary
Taking the words right out of my mouth, Bill commented that you have to be a visionary; but a visionary that looks into the future and realizes you have to move forward. “What worked 6 months ago isn’t going to work now.”

Do What Others Would Hesitate To Do
Bill calls this ‘Act like a Ninja’. One of my favorite sayings that I use is to “be like a Ninja”… move quickly and quietly, taking action to make changes as soon as you need them. Bill does just that. He says, “If your competitors are open from 9am to 5pm then you open at 7am and close at 8pm.” Figure out what patients want. If you’re losing patients because home healthcare starts working with them, then you make some stealth moves in the delivery of your service and actions that your competitors simply aren’t prepared for or expecting.

Use a ‘Hook’ or You Don’t Exist
Bill uses what he call’s “The Nitin Chhoda Technique” as he calls it and creates a “hook” that draws interest to lure the client in. Advertising that impresses patients and leaves them wanting to know more brings more prospects in. Physical therapy is positioned as an option instead of surgery or before surgery, so they either strengthen themselves to the point where surgery and recovery is often easier or sometimes not even needed at all. Targeting particular surgical procedures and helping patients prepare for the surgery, while offering a comfortable atmosphere and a wealth of information and preparation; Bill once again is a step ahead of most of his competitors.

Become a Master of Motivation and Delegation
Initiating a program where Bill has a partner that he trusts fully, he has learned how to delegate work among each and every one of the staff members at his facility. Doing this has allowed patients who would get a 30 to 45 minute program at most clinics to get as much as 2 hours of constant care in a step by step series of programs handled by different staff members at his facility. They love the attention and the extended length of care and Bill and his partner are doing part of the work. This is one of the big things I teach at my conferences – learn how to delegate work to those you trust 100%; knowing that the job gets done and done well.

Master Patient Ascension = Prospect > Patient > Human Billboard
A term that I use in my Referral Ignition program often, which means basically that each patient you work with ends up being more than just a patient, is one of the main techniques Bill used to engineer his transformation. Each and every client becomes a human billboard, referring other clients to you, and those clients refer others, and so on. Realizing how well this technique works Bill instilled a patient referral program that encourages others to share their experience with his clinic. About 50% of his patients are referrals or return patients.

Thank Those Who Refer to You, Especially Physicians
Something as small as a thank you card and small gift can speak volumes in telling the referring physicians that you truly do appreciate their referrals. We as humans like to be rewarded, whether with words or gestures, and doing so will help in getting them to continue the act.

Use More Testimonials!
I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. People trust other people and there is nothing better than people telling the world about the results you have been able to get for them. Bill utilizes this technique continuously and never has to ask twice for a client to give them a testimonial or referral. His clinic provides amazing services and his clients can’t wait to tell others about their success.

Use Free Consultations More Often
If you can bring someone into your clinic as quickly as possible to get an analysis of what you can do to help them get back to 100% productivity, they’re most likely going to come to you for the program you suggest. Instead of waiting for the other clinics to fit them in, Bill offers walk-in service that gets them in the door and gives them suggestions of what they can do to help. Taking a pointer from one of my events, he realized that when you offer someone something they really want and make it easy for them to get, chances are they’re going to jump at the opportunity.

Hire The Right People
I tell my peers all the time that the best way to run your clinic is to be able to not run your clinic; have people there you can trust and count on them. This allows them to take responsibility and gives you the chance to step away. Bill had an ‘A-ha moment’ at one of the seminars where he realized that with the people he had on his team he couldn’t do that. He knew he had to be able to step away and in order to do so he had to make some changes. That meant having to let some people go and hiring others that had a better fit with the team and the clinic’s needs. Don’t waste big money on salaries for people whom you can’t trust to run the ship while the captain’s away!

Self-Belief is the Key To Success
In a changing environment, it’s important to be innovative since things keep changing. We need to believe in ourselves as private practitioners. We have to realize that we can provide more than what a physician-owned physical therapy practice can provide. We have to believe that we are the best by being the best that we can be. Bill has mastered this art just like all my other private practice mastermind clients who’ve succeeded in their practice.

6 Comments

  • Arthur Demascus PT says:

    A lesson in the power of conviction. Bill, thank you for inspiring us with your story. I love what you did with the physicians and extending your hours – it's one of the easiest ways to set a clinic apart, and yet so few of us consider it. This was a great read!

  • Zach Barnes says:

    Whew! It's a lengthy post but I have to finish reading it. It's all too much to take at once so I bookmarked this page and listen once more to Bill's story.

    Anyway, I'm hooked. I'll be attending the September event to experience first hand this free exchange of ideas.

  • Ted Simms says:

    The threat posed by buy-outs and mergers of hospitals with healthcare providers should be taken as a challenge by small practitioners like us. Like Bill, we can focus on what we can do rather than be paralyzed by fear over what these mergers would do to us. The need for physical therapy services is on the rise according to industry forecasts.

    I know the power of getting the opinions of like-minded professionals. Some of their techniques might work for me and some might not; but it's nice to know there's a wealth of knowledge and experience available I can count on.

    Your event in September is something I'm looking forward to. The investment would really be worthwhile.

  • [...] is an action taker, and his story, just like Bill’s story of transformation from near bankruptcy to a $2.2 million practice in six months is an inspiration to private practice owners across the [...]

  • Nicky Gordon says:

    Bill thank you for sharing. I am starting out with my very 1st PT practice, and as overwhelming as the process can be, its great to have key pointers to having a successful business. In the near future I am planning to attend your course Nitin360.

  • Thanks to all of you for the very kinds words. Since this interview, my partner and I have thought up some more great ideas that will set us apart from the OPOPTS and the HOPTS! It's working and seriously, I can't wait for Vegas to listen and share with other private practioners who are on the front line (we also are going to do some white water rafting in the Colorado River on Monday Oct 1st, and fly out by helicopter, so gotta have some fun once in a while too! I wonder if they bring along a fly fishing rod or two?)
    Haha

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