Of all the nametags physical therapists wear on a daily basis—teacher, learner, coach, healer—the one we’ve always been least comfortable with is, indisputably, businessperson. It’s an interesting quandary, because I believe that, for the most part, we understand the value we provide. But when it comes to putting a dollar amount on that value—and requiring our patients to pay that amount in exchange for our services, just as they would for any other product—we often feel a twinge of guilt, especially if we suspect the patient is struggling financially. But failing to collect payment for our services—or allowing ourselves to accept partial payment—simply is not sustainable. And closing our clinic doors isn’t good for anyone—least of all the patients who need our care. Essentially, we have a love-hate relationship with capitalism—at least, capitalism as we know it.
In the traditional corporate paradigm, the only true stakeholders are at the top. And we often pigeonhole those stakeholders into executive stereotypes. We think of them as money-hungry CEOs kicking back in their leather desk chairs and collecting obscene profits at everyone else’s expense. And I think that picture is the root of why we, as PTs, feel so at odds with the concept of business. We don’t want to be that executive—that business owner who achieves success (i.e., wins) only because everyone else loses. But business doesn’t have to look like that. There’s another model—one that, as I recently discovered, is gaining some serious momentum in the business world at large. It’s called conscious capitalism, and I think it could be the resolution to the inner war business-averse PT private practice owners experience on a daily basis.
I know; it sounds a little highfalutin and jargony, but bear with me. I can assure you that this isn’t just another passing fad that some expert invented to sell a few books. In fact, I’m very proud to say that my company, WebPT, put this idea into practice well before it had any type of label. Four main tenets form the foundation of this concept:
- Make everyone—from executives to entry-level employees to customers—a stakeholder.
- Demonstrate conscious leadership.
- Consciously build and maintain culture.
- Embrace a higher purpose and common core values.
As the Harvard Business Review explains in this article, businesses that exhibit conscious capitalism reject the mainstream organizational model, which places a company’s only real stakeholders at the peak of the pyramid: “Conscious businesses are galvanized by higher purposes that serve, align and integrate the interests of all their major stakeholders including customers, vendors, partners and shareholders…[they] have trusting, authentic, innovative and caring cultures that make working there a source of both personal growth and professional fulfillment.” Basically, conscious business leaders not only know their companies have a higher purpose, but they also cultivate universal buy-in to the vision of fulfilling that purpose. And if you ask me, PT practices are ripe for the implementation of this mode of thinking. After all, healing society is a pretty honorable higher purpose, don’t you think?
Here at WebPT, we’ve always been dedicated to—and united behind—a common mission of empowering rehab therapists to achieve greatness in practice. That has been our rallying cry—the charge that gives meaning to our work and inspires us to put our hearts and souls into doing right by our members every single day. As we’ve grown, that vision hasn’t changed. What the WebPT leadership realized early on, though, was that our true differentiator had nothing to do with the innovative solutions we brought to market. Don’t get me wrong—our technology was obviously a huge part of our success. But the element of our business that really set us apart from the rest was—and still is—the people. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to preserve and nurture the culture that developed organically back when we were just a scrappy startup.
But our culture is so much more than the set of established core values on which we base all of our hiring and personnel decisions. It’s the passion we have for what we do. It’s the feeling of being part of something bigger than ourselves—something great. It’s the environment we’ve created in our building—one in which every individual not only matters, but feels personally invested in our overall vision. To me, that’s our greatest innovation. And it’s one that every single business—regardless of industry—can apply within their own organizations. Aside from WebPT, the list of companies that ascribe to this philosophy is quite impressive: Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Patagonia, and Whole Foods Market are just a few examples of other conscious capitalism trailblazers.
The reason I wanted to highlight the recent publicity and attention surrounding this model isn’t just to toot my own horn; it’s mostly to open your eyes to a different way of thinking about business—one that, in my opinion, is much better aligned with PTs’ motives for going into business in the first place. So, flush out all those mahogany-and-leather visions of corporate greed, and replace them with visions of what you—and your business—are actually trying to achieve. And remember that every time a client cashes out at your front desk, you’re one step closer to bringing that vision to fruition.
About the Author
Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, Founder and COO of WebPT
As Chief Operating Officer, Heidi leads the product strategy and oversees the WebPT brand vision. She co-founded WebPT after recognizing the need for a more sophisticated industry-specific EMR platform and has guided the company through exponential growth, while garnering national recognition. Heidi brings with her more than 15 years of experience as a physical therapist and multi-clinic site director as well as a passion for healthcare innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent small businesses, speaks as a subject matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. Heidi is a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice physical therapy clinics.
Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a life-long fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a BS in Biological Sciences and Exercise Physiology, went on to earn her MPT at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and recently obtained her DPT through EIM. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.