Dream of Being Your Own Boss?

Why Being a Therapy Entrepreneur Makes Sense

Remember the good old days in physical therapy? Therapists counted on a stable industry with positive career growth and mobility.  PT graduates were paid a competitive salary that allowed them to pay off reasonable school loans in a realistic time frame. Being an entrepreneur was unheard of.

Good jobs were abundant in choice locations and specialties. Skilled therapists were allowed the necessary time to develop their craft as patients made substantial progress.  Therapists had the environment to deeply connect with patients which often led to a meaningful experience for both parties.

By in large most therapists loved their work and encouraged the next generation to consider a career in the therapy profession. 

Well, times have changed. An over emphasis on cost containment is eroding away the very heart of the physical therapy profession. There are lots of therapists who are unhappy with their jobs. And apparently therapists are not the only ones.

recent poll by Gallup reported that only 13 percent of the world’s workers are “engaged” in their jobs. The other 87 perscent feel disconnected from work and more frustrated than fulfilled. Similarly, only 54 percent of physicians said they would select medicine as career if they had to do it over again.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you. When a coworker tells you that she hates her job or runs down her supervisor, we aren’t shocked. We’ve been conditioned to think that’s the way healthcare is now days. Just get used to it they say.

However, don’t be mistaken that this dissatisfaction is being missed on the next generation of would-be therapists.

Why go to graduate school and rack up huge amounts of school debt when the payoff is no longer a certainty? The best and the brightest are looking for alternatives. They want more than your average factory PT job. They don’t want to put off their dream jobs while they “work for the man” for twenty years or so just to pay off their school debt.

For many therapists, the answer is entrepreneurship.

Go to an university campus today and you will come across entrepreneurship programs and centers encouraging business start ups. You’ll run across more aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs than aspiring pre-med and pre-PT students, even though healthcare was supposed to be a no-brainer for success.

Entrepreneurship promises new graduates a career that combines personal autonomy and a financial upside. They can have a corporate culture that appeals to thier values and be their own boss. Who can blame them for opting out of traditional medicine with it’s big business mentality for an unconventional line of work.

Unfortunately, real entrepreneurship has very little to do with the glamorized version that has captured the public’s attention.

My story as a therapy entrepreneur begins even before I went to PT school. As a child I had a creative imagination. My mother encouraged it even though it was at times mischievous.  You could hear her say “What will he dream up next?”

I watched my father as a small business owner for over 30 years work seven days a week to provide for his family and put his children through college. He had to reinvent his business several times to survive against big box stores. The longer I live the more I realize how he impacted how my approach to work and my desire for independence.

For as long as I can remember I’ve had an inner urge to create something. It’s part of my DNA. I’ve always loved the challenge to take an idea and see if I can make it work.

I was an entrepreneur before and during PT school. I knew from the onset of my career as a PT that I wasn’t wired to work for anyone else.  I didn’t see being a entrepreneur as a way to be rich and famous but more a form of self expression.

I became an entrepreneur because it chose me.

Your story may be different from mine. Maybe you didn’t expect to be an entrepreneur but you got laid off from your job.

You need a way to pay the bills.

Perhaps you’ve reached a stage in your life where you’re ready for something different. You want to practice your craft and live differently than you have in the past. Some of you might be still in school and want to pursue your dream practice on the side while you have a ‘regular’ PT job..

Regardless of how you’ve developed your interest in therapy entrepreneurship it’s important to have a realistic knowledge of it. In the face of all the hype from the glamorized version of being entrepreneur you’ll want to think long and hard about dipping your toe into the entrepreneurship waters.

If you are considering becoming your own boss in one shape or another stay tuned to the EIM blog. This post is the first in a series on lifestyle therapy entrepreneurship. I’ll help you understand what to consider starting a practice from scratch. In the weeks ahead I’ll cover:

  • What Does A LifeStyle Therapy Entrepreneur Look Like?
  • Five Reasons Not to Quit Your Therapy Job (Just Yet)
  • Three Essential Resources For Therapy Entrepreneurs
  • How To Know When To Go All In

From the outside being your own boss can be appealing. Who doesn’t want to pursue their dream practice? Who doesn’t want the freedom to do the work they love, when and where they want it?

But the reality is, entrepreneurship can be a lot of hard work, long hours with little payoff in the beginning. But it’s worth exploring so if you’re interested join in the conversation on the merits of therapy entrepreneurship in the weeks ahead

Paul Potter is a physical therapist and mentor who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, who is also a therapist. They have four daughters. For more than 35 years he successfully managed his own private practice. He now shares his knowledge and experience through teaching and mentoring therapists who want to have their own practice. 

He has authored On Fire: Ignite Your Passion with a Cash Therapy Practice and the Cash Practice From Scratch Course. His website PaulPotterpt.com and his podcast Functional Freedom are dedicated to helping therapists achieve professional and financial freedom. Connect with Paul on his website or on LinkedIn paulpotterpt. You can also get more free resources at CashPracticeFromScratch.com



On social media or in the comment section, share your thoughts on the value of therapy entrepreneurship in today’s healthcare economy.

3 responses to “Dream of Being Your Own Boss?

  1. Jack Miller says:

    This is a very timely post for me because . . .
    Today is my 36th year anniversary as a Physiotherapist!

    Of that, 34 were in private practice in a “cash-based” style practice. Some of those were as the sole charge practice owner of a clinic in New Zealand, some as a shareholder in a large group of practices, some as a partner in a medium sized partnerships in Canada. I have now opened 15 clinics in my time and personally put up the treatment bed curtains and/or assembled the Ikea shelving for everyone of them.

    Being the “boss” has meant having to hire and to fire, to clean the floors and the toilet, to be the first to show up in the morning and the last to leave at night, to wake up each day and wonder if this is the day the day the bank will call in their loan and to celebrate each end of day when they didn’t.

    Still after all that time – I can honestly say –
    “I have the best job in the world and I would not change a single day”

  2. Paul Potter says:

    Happy anniversary Jack! You’re a finisher. I’ve cleaned quite a few toilets as an owner too. Wouldn’t change it for the world. Would you mind sharing your big “why”? What motivated you to stay with ownership all these years?

  3. Jack Miller says:

    Thanks Paul
    There are probably multiple reasons some are bad (ego, narcissistic-like hatred of being told what to do) – some are good (pride in ownership, being able an agent for positive change in the profession).
    In the end it certainly was not for the money!! so it probably comes down to a desire to be at the the helm of the ship and not just a passenger.
    PS I woke up this morning and I did not HAVE to go to work – I GOT to go to work.

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