Paul Gough

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How to Get the Confidence to Restart Your PT Business, Even After Financial Hardship

Keith Sullivan | Body Works Physical Therapy | Edina, MN

Keith Sullivan has been in business since 1998. Now he owns a thriving clinic, and has just enjoyed his best month ever.

Thanks to the 4% Club, Keith has been able to reshape his outlook, and, from a position of strength, he can see the huge improvement he has made.

He admits that being part of Paul’s World has kept him laser focused and on track throughout the last 24 months.

It’s not always been this way on his journey, but with this fully supportive community there for him, Keith can look back and reflect on his ride.

He said: “The Wednesday 4% Club calls have been a time for me to reset and refocus. In the early years with PG, my takeaways were tactical. Now they are more inspirational. I usually find a couple gems in one of Paul’s rants that resonate with me, and keep me moving forward.

“Watching other people in the group continue to grow and be successful really helped me keep going through some dark days. My 10-acious Accountability Group was always there for me too.

“My patient visits have gone up each month in 2021, with April being my best month so far at 85 visits – all cash. My current marketing is mostly through email broadcasts and from building out our fabulous website.

“I recently had a patient write a testimonial about the results she got from doing a week long “Intensive” with me. I saw her twice a day for 5 days in a row. Her testimonial really opened the floodgates with other people wanting intensives, or purchasing package deals.

“I even had a local landscaper purchase a Year Of Care plan for his employees!”

Learning The Lessons About Bad Marketing

Keith, who graduated from PT school in 1988, spent his first 10 years in acute care and sports medicine.

But in a mill-type sports med clinic, he felt that patients deserved better care. Determined to improve, he put his money where his mouth was and opened up a small solo practice in April 1998.

Within 6 months he enjoyed a 6-month waiting list, and hired a first PT, regularly expanding the business with staff or new premises.

He said: “Then in 2010 I had the typical entrepreneurial seizure and the “If you build it, they will come” idea – and I built out a beautiful 6500 square foot clinic.

“We had grown to a staff of five PT’s and one PTA, along with in house billing, marketing, front desk staff and an office manager. My goal was to add a PT a year over the next 5 years of our lease, but at that time I really had no clue about marketing.”

Then came his first lesson in marketing. A bad one at that.  Keith hired a friend who had done marketing for a Fortune 500 company, but he was focused mostly on branding, which was the wrong fit for a small company. Keith said: “He was with me for 2 years, and I can honestly say I don’t think he actually brought in one patient in that time.”

Lessons Learned from Paul

Enter Paul Gough to put him on the right track. He was no longer wasting money on marketing.

Keith added: “My office manager and I had seen Paul at Nitin Choda’s mastermind event in 2016. The business was losing money, so I decided to fire my friend and put the money from his salary toward marketing and learning from Paul.

“I enrolled in PT Business Growth School in February 2017, and Accelerator that October. It was mind blowing stuff, and I had some initial resistance. Like with Discovery Visits. You want me to give away my time? Really?

“By this time I was way in debt and had no real money to put toward the great ideas I was learning from Paul. I was actively trying to get out of my big clinic and move into a smaller space to cut overhead. We finally moved into a smaller space, which was to help get us back in the black, but in 2019 we hit a snag.

“One of our third party payors, who represented 40% of our business, outsourced all of their PT to an outside management group. They slashed us by 69%, and I just couldn’t survive any longer.

“I had to close the clinic I had spent the last 20 years building, liquidate everything and let my incredible staff go. What I found out was that all the other private practices in Minnesota were in the same boat. They were either going to have to close down, or sell out to a national chain or local medical group.

“The one company I was interested in did sell out to a national chain. When I met with the new owners, they totally low-balled me.”

Rebuilding With A Steely Focus

Keith pressed the reset button, adopted a steely determination and went for it.

“I still had 1200 patients in my Infusionsoft list, so I turned down their offer and started up again as a cash-based practice. To paraphrase Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce: I will fight the insurance companies no more, forever.”

“I found a local chiropractor who had a back room to rent, sent out a couple email broadcasts, set up my massage table and got back to work. I had calculated that if I saw at least 10 patients a week I would be making more money than if I had taken the job from the national chain, so that was my first target.

“After sending out another email broadcast or two, things were building back up: then 2020 and Covid-19 hit. I had to decide whether to transition over to Telehealth or focus on getting people to come in. As a manual therapist, I went with the latter option.

“I really doubled down on GAS calls, emails, etc. My new goal was to get to 20 one-hour patient visits per week, and then I would raise my rates (I know Paul would say I should have just raised them anyway!). This finally happened a couple months ago. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the sales skills I have learned from Team Paul along the way.”

Keith concluded: “The biggest challenge facing me right now is time management. I tend to negotiate away my non-negotiables, and I have learned this has to stop. Being a one-person shop means I am wearing all the hats again.

“But being part of the 4% Club helps me stay focused on what things I need to prioritize. People ask me if I’m going to try to ‘put the band back together’, but I’m not sure. I kind of like being ‘small’ again.

“My current plan is to just keep raising my rates, and to focus on refining my Perfect Patient. I just want to thank Paul and everyone on his staff for their support. It has meant the world to me. If it wasn’t for this incredible group I would probably be slaving away at a national chain.

“More than anything, the 4% Club has given me direction on how to stay true to myself and the vision I have for my business. Thanks again!”


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