In this case-study, Lee reveals how:
Watch the video below to find out how he's doing it!
If you'd prefer to read the transcription, rather than watch the video, check out our conversation below…
Chad: Alright everybody, welcome to the show here. I'm your host, Chad Madden. Today we have a very special guest. This gentleman, a private practice owner, was nominated and elected as Private Practice Owner of the Year for BPTM in 2016 by his peers, his colleagues, fellow practice owners within BPTM Nation and his name is Mr. Lee Sowerbutts. Welcome to the call, Lee.
Lee: Hey, thanks, Chad. Thanks for having me on. I'm looking forward to chatting.
Chad: Hey, I think that I just screwed up the introduction. But is it Mr. Lee Sowerbutts or are you DPT?
Lee: I am Mr. Lee Sowerbutts. I'm an MSPT. You are good.
Chad: Ok, great. Nonetheless, Lee, can you fill in the blanks a little bit for us? Tell us exactly where you are from? Where your private practice is at? How you got your start? How long you have been in private practice?
Lee: So I am in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We have actually 2 clinics now. We started our first clinic back in 2003 and then recently expanded to a gated community about 20 miles north of our home clinic here. So it has been going great, 2 years here.
Chad: What year did you start?
Lee: I graduated PT school in 94 and then went into private practice in 2003.
Chad: Cool, so I know when you were on stage at BPTM Boot Camp in Orlando, you were talking about what life was like before when as a private practice owner, you saw a little dip in your business. Can you walk us through that? And what exactly your thought process was there?
Lee: Sure, the first, probably 10 years, things were going great. Then in 2013 or so we started to see a gradual decline in our referral base.
Basically, what was going on was one of my primary…you have had this story where a doctor starts his own practice…one of my major referral sources went in-house with his own PT clinic.
It cut our referrals by 60%.
Then just different things happened over the next several years where the hospital system really cracked down on all of the primary care physicians and started buying up their practices…you know how that goes they start driving their referrals in-house, trying to keep everything in-house.
I kind of came to a point where I just pretty much ignored the problem for the first, might have been a year or 6 months or so, something like that.
Then we eventually, we just started to ramp up like what do we need to do?
I was taking doctors lunches, doing that sort of thing like a lot people do.
That would kind of spike us up a little bit. Then we would crash.
We were just kind of doing that cycle.
I got tired of doing that and we just started delivering Subway cookies. Those things are amazing if you didn’t know that.
Then they were just asking, “Hey, Lee, come by and bring us some cookies.” It wasn’t really, they weren’t sending us patients but if I ever bumped into them at Walmart or Lowe’s that is kind of how it went.
So anyway, I pretty much band-aided the situation. Tried to alter it by…I knew I had to supplement the income at some point. So I ended up doing some PRN home health probably for 2 or 3 years.
I came to a point where I started hearing about things that you guys were doing at BPTM.
Chad: So you kind of skipped over this a little bit and I just want to make sure that everybody understands you were struggling to the point of the band-aid on the situation was you started not only treating in your outpatient clinic but also in home health?
Chad: Then eventually you reached some sort of breaking point where you said I really need to handle the problem here and the situation. Like can you walk us through that thought process? Like did you do anything other than going out feeding physicians? Had you tried anything else to try to ramp up your marketing?
Lee: Not really. We had had kind of a jaded experience early on in our practice. We had signed up for kind of a marketing seminar weekend.
That didn’t really go well. I felt like it was basically $2,000 down the drain. I learned how to decorate my bathroom pretty much. That was the take away from that deal.
As a private practice owner, you are getting bombarded by different gurus out there so I was just kind of standoffish I guess.
Anyway, should I go into the Virtual Assistant deal? Should I go there?
Chad: Yeah, go ahead.
Lee: Ok, you were the only one that kind of reached out to me and I come to find out it was like a Virtual Assistant somewhere.
You liked my Facebook page, my business page and so that just kind of sparked. I was like, “Hey, this guy is different from all of the rest.”
So then through the course of 3 or 4 months, Carl had been sending different emails and that sort of thing.
I just came…I remember the one email that you sent out for a video about the 4 levels of private practice. That really resonated to me.
That was kind of the tipping point I think. At that point, I was like man, I really need to kind of get out of this rut and jump in and see what these guys are all about.
Chad: So, right now I know that you have learned and implemented a ton. What is working for you the best in regards to marketing?
Lee: Well, I would say probably the 2 systems, actually, there is 3.
The patient newsletter has really helped us reactivate our current patient list and past patient list. Because when I started BPTM, I didn’t even know what a list was.
So we were like Ground Zero, no emails. And now we are like over 1,000 emails in 18 months.
The other thing that has been huge is the Greatest Promotion Ever and the workshops of course.
Probably the workshops to answer the question. It has definitely been the number one.
Chad: Just because this hasn’t come up on any other of the Practice Owner of the Year interviews, you talked about newsletters, I know for some of the listeners out there who are owners, they are thinking, “Hey, I know all about newsletters. You slap your newsletter on an email and you blast it out to everybody.” Is that what you are doing?
Lee: No, it is a little bit more focal and intentional. We are pretty much using the model that you teach us where you have the irrelevant content. Then we always make sure that there is some kind of call to action with some sort of insert in there. That just helps us track how effective each month that the newsletter is.
Chad: Cool, and you still have a very nicely decorated bathroom, correct?
Lee: Oh yeah. We have changed the paint color a couple of different times but yeah.
Chad: So you talked about PT workshops and that is working for you as well. I know that you have 2 very unique stories. Can you just tap into the first one about how you filled the 3 workshops for $2.50 or whatever it was?
Lee: We had gone through the Direct Access Marketing solutions. There is so much to implement that your head is just spinning at times. So we had decided to hold off on doing the workshop. Actually, I think the Killer Marketing course that we were in, that was kind of a Bonus Module. So it really wasn’t part of the…I think that you have changed that now.
Lee: So we waited 6 months and I had a past patient, it was her husband that we had seen in the clinic, she reached out to me about doing a workshop or something of that sort with her at this fitness gym that she ran or managed.
So I had met her back in March and we ended up doing this about 6 months later. Those things are great but I didn’t really know…I have been asked to do those things in the past but never knew how it would really benefit the company or the business.
We would just kind of give them the information but there was no real call to action. The system that you got is really gold on how to make an impact for us. You are not just wasting your time.
But back to the story, we ended up implementing this.
We sent it out on goldenrod…I don’t know if we have one around here, I should have one framed. I'm going to do that. I'm going to put that on my list…we sent out this flyer using the copy that you had shown us pretty much verbatim.
We had a testimonial in there, dropped them off at the workshop, sent out an eblast which your team helped us craft that.
We sent that out and by the next morning, we had like 25 sign up. This was probably like 3 weeks out from the date of the workshop.
So I reached out to the BPTM community asking them what should I do? Should I just pack all of these in? So I got some advice there. We ended up capping it.
Originally it was 20 but we ended up making it 50.
We ended up, I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but we had 47 that showed up for the first one, 25 of those did screens and then 20 converted to 97001s.
The same thing in December. It was a little less attended but I think that is part of the season. We still had like 40 registrants, 23 signed up and we got 18 plans of care out of that.
Chad: Yeah pretty good for $6 in goldenrod.
Lee: Heck yeah.
Chad: Awesome. So now that you are part of the BPTM community and your peers selected you Private Practice Owner of the Year because of all of your contributions… I can share some of the things but in general most of the comments from the other owners and you were the only one that had write-ins and you had 3 write-ins specific with here is the reason that Lee is Practice Owner of the Year.
It was that you reach out, you give endlessly, that you are extremely active within the community helping other practice owners succeed as well and you do it, I'm thinking shamelessly but that is not the right word. You do it selflessly.
But for you, what is your favorite part of being part of the BPTM community?
Lee: There is several benefits of being in there but I think just at the heart of each Physical Therapist we are just in it to help people. I mean that is why we get in that profession.
What you and Carl have cultivated… what is the term?
That culture is just where everybody is just trying to help each other out.
If you know we have an idea that we are going to roll out, we will throw it out there to the group and let them look at it. They will critique it and love.
So you know kind of the heart that they are not just being hateful, “Hey you need to look at this.” Then we work it and when we have successes, we are willing to share what worked.
And when we bomb, we throw it out there just to debug it and find out what we could have done better.
So everything is just a learning process there which is great.
Chad: Cool, yeah to me the big thing is culture. We have very carefully gone in, looked for the right type of practice owner who is feeling like they are all alone but they are looking for solutions and they are willing to contribute where it is a 2-way street. It is just not people in there who suck, who only pull and don’t give. So you are the leader of that so thank you for doing that.
Lee: Appreciate that.
Chad: So right now it sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on marketing. I know you and I have talked on a personal level about the next level of private practice problems.
Can you just in reflecting on what life was like 2 years ago versus now, can you go through some of the key differences and in particular note not just the business but also within your personal life?
Lee: I’ll try to hit it. If I don’t get it just probe some more.
Just clinic-wise basically what I'm trying to do is just break down our clinic to where someone would want to come in and buy our practice.
I'm not saying that that is going to happen but I just want to be ready to walk away.
So I’ve pretty much just tried to break down each system within our clinic whether it is marketing, the patient care, the billing and front desk. We have just pretty much just gone through or are trying.
It is a work in progress. We are not there yet.
Clinically I feel like we have got a good flow of how we treat our patients. We are getting good results there.
Then now we are getting with the strategies that you have showed us, basically I haven’t run a workshop since October.
Actually, this month, I have our number board right there, we almost broke a record for referrals in January.
So it is just the systems and most of those are past patient reactivations and then they are referring their family and friends. Was that…are we good?
Chad: Yeah. So your business is running much more smoothly because you can control marketing.
You are putting processes in place.
I know you and I have talked about you are in the process of bring other people in now, hiring so they can execute your systems.
Now what does that mean for you, Lee Sowerbutts, the individual? Not Spa City Therapy.
Lee: Well, I'm not there yet so it is still me. I have a PTA and a contract PTA.
One of our issues right now that we are trying to work through is trying to get a handle on our billing, Accounts Receivable.
One of my biggest fears or self-limiting beliefs is bring someone in here and not being able to pay for it, pay them their salary. We have kind of got that solution in place and on track.
So hopefully in the next couple of months we are going to be able to look at that and know that we are fine now and we are ready to start implementing.
Actually, this weekend I have just hammered, taken action, reaching out to all of the area PT schools and everybody I know that is a PT just trying to blast them with some of our needs as far as clinicians as far as what we are looking for.
I'm really looking forward to that. Just reaping that effort there.
Right now, I'm still cranking out a lot of hours. I was just talking to Becky last night, “Just hang in there. Just hang in there. Another 3 or 4 months and it is going to be a lot different.”
Chad: Bring that first full-time PT on board will be a big change for you. You are not doing home health anymore?
Lee: Nope. I haven’t done home health for probably about 2 years right around this time is when I stopped.
Chad: Internally there is a joke and we call Lee, Pooty. It is the acronym for Practice Owner of the Year. Nonetheless, any parting words of wisdom for BPTM Nation out there, Lee?
Lee: The big thing is just to implement.
I still kind of scratch my head when I hear of people who have gone through the training and they just kind of sit on it.
I just don’t get that. That is not me. Maybe it is just the mindset of the individual but just get in there, do it, learn from it. It is not all going to be perfect but once you implement, it just gets easier.
Chad: Great words of wisdom there. Thanks for being on Lee.
Lee: Ok, bud. Take care.
Look out for my next blog – I'll be sharing another practice owner's success story and secrets… If you're interested in more information visit our Physical Therapy Marketing Resource Center