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Successful Physical Therapy Startup With 3 Locations In CT
David Bostic PT, Orthopedic Manual Therapist and Founder of Connecticut Physical Therapy Specialists (CTPTS), spoke with Innovation Destination Hartford Website Curator Nan Price about his evolution from working at a small private practice to working for a larger company and then ultimately opening his own orthopedic manual physical therapy (OMPT) practice with three locations in Connecticut.
NAN PRICE: Did you always know you wanted to open your own Physical Therapy practice?
DAVID BOSTIC: Yes, I did. However, when you train as a physical therapist (PT), no one teaches you how to create and then manage a business.
There has always been a small portion of therapists in private practice. What has changed now is that it takes seven years to become a PT. Many of the young people who are coming out are more entrepreneurial and want to practice at what I call “the top of their license.”
Students now graduate with a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). Certainly, you can get a job working in a hospital or working for someone else, but many therapists now prefer to practice more autonomously. They want to have input into the type of care they are delivering. They want to have options like being able to teach. They value work/life balance.
Physical therapy has increasingly become corporate-owned. My experience is that when something is corporate-owned, frequently the focus on quality goes down and the focus on quantity goes up. I worked for a company that had such high productivity requirements that it didn’t allow the PT to provide quality care. And who suffers? The patient.
About seven years ago, I felt the need to open my own freestanding practice so I could practice the way I wanted to, based on my many years of experience, my education, and my advanced clinical training. In 2006 I completed a fellowship program in OMPT.
I opened my first practice in Granby in 2011. I chose Granby because it was a small town and I already knew several physicians who were practicing there.
In 2013, after two years in Granby, I opened my second practice in Uncasville. The type of therapy we provide is unique. I was asked to expand to that part of the state because it was underserved.
I opened my third practice in Hartford in 2016 for similar reasons. I’m from Windsor and I want to bring the quality of physical therapy that we deliver to this area.
Our Uncasville location is a satellite clinic that’s open three days a week. Granby and Hartford are open five days a week.
NP: Do you plan to open additional locations?
DB: The plan is to have influence in the Greater Hartford area: Granby, Simsbury, Windsor, Bloomfield, Hartford, West Hartford. We may open another practice in the Windsor/Bloomfield area in 18 months or so.
NP: Tell us about your involvement with the MetroHartford Alliance. Why was it important for you to become an investor?
DB: When I came to Hartford, I knew I needed to get in front of as many people as possible, so they could learn about the level of care CTPTS provides. My belief has always been that it’s better to attract than to promote. But now I know it’s necessary to self-promote in order to grow your business—especially in this time of social media and the crossover of roles between personal trainers, chiropractors, and alternative practitioners.
I joined the MetroHartford Alliance because I didn’t know many business people here in Hartford—and I think making connections with other business owners is very important.
I support local businesses. For example, I use local printers, painters, carpenters, caterers, and electricians. Also, I partner with other companies with similar visions, like Boundless Performance Systems. Owner and Founder, Antwan Harris and I collaborate to provide unique experiences in physical therapy and performance training.
NP: In addition to collaborating with other local businesses, how are you connecting with potential clients?
DB: We’re a service profession, so it’s imperative that we give back. For example, we have a plan called “Give Back Jack.” When someone comes in based on a referral from a current patient, we put a gold dollar coin in a jar. Once we get $50 or $60, we donate it to a local charity. We also support local high schools in the towns where we practice.
Getting involved and giving back is not only a core value of CTPTS, it helps us meet people who are also doing good things. Then, when they need our service, they think of us. It’s an organic, authentic way of networking.
NP: Do you use any other vehicles for marketing? Social media?
DB: Yes. Part of my growth strategy is to develop a more robust online presence, but I’m mindful to not over market online. I don’t want to inundate people with constant emails, for example. I don’t think that’s the way to grow a PT practice. I think it’s better to engage with the community, do good work, and grow slowly.
NP: That’s good advice for this type of industry. Do you have any other advice?
DB: Finding work/life balance can feel almost impossible as a business owner. It’s easy to work more than you play. Business owners need to take care of themselves, eat right, exercise, and get enough rest. If you are not well, then you can’t be the therapist, or the leader, or partner you need to be. That’s probably the first thing I would say.
The other thing I would tell someone starting out is to find a mastermind group. Reach out to people who are already doing what you want to do—and ask questions! People who are successful in their business love to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to ask.
NP: Do you feel like you have a good support network?
DB: Absolutely. That’s one of the first things I developed before I opened the doors. Most entrepreneurs succeed when they understand that you don’t have to do it alone. There’s help out there, you just have to go after it.
Successful entrepreneurs are lifelong learners. You have to look at ways to elevate what you’re doing—but don’t throw away the classic, tried and true methods in your effort to be trendy. Trendy can be temporary. It’s better to have substantive, steady growth and to put down good roots. Roots that will serve your patients, your staff, and ultimately your community, for many years to come.
NP: You have a clinical background—and you now have three practices and 13 employees. Tell us about your experience learning to manage employees and to run a business.
DB: I approach it the same way I approach a physical therapy problem. I assess what I know, I figure out what I don’t now, and then I use best practices.
For example, when I decided to open my own practice I knew I needed to rent office space. I’ve never done that before, so I researched leases and rental properties and I talked to people who were already business owners with PT practices. I was able to leverage their knowledge to help my learning curve become less steep.
NP: What makes your practice innovative?
DB: Well, number one, I’ve had the good fortune to recruit, hire, and train extraordinary people. They help me deliver OMPT at a level even I didn’t realize was possible. They are compassionate, industrious, motivated, and entrepreneurial.
Number two, we understand true evidence-informed practice. We built our practice for people who have been to other therapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists but are still in pain. They have had all this care that was not evidence-informed and as a result have not experienced good outcomes.
As a privately owned practice, I decide what type of care is delivered. I believe what sets us apart is the evidence-based approach that guides our clinical decision making. We take our clients’ beliefs, values, and opinions about their pain and capabilities and blend that with the therapist’s experience and the information we glean from clinical studies. In other words, our treatment plans have to make sense to the patient and to the therapist and they must be based in science.
And three, we have specialized tools at CTPTS. For example, the Redcord Professional Workstation, which is a suspension-based corrective exercise system. No one in Connecticut uses this except us.
Redcord is a highly innovative approach and one of the tools I used to create my practice. It’s just one of many our services that makes us unique and gives us our competitive edge.