Here’s what to do when a team member leaves

I want to give you a hint – this article is based on the old adage “don’t shut the gate after the horse has bolted”.

Most of us clinic owners have had the generally unpleasant experience of having a valued physio leave our clinic. Sometimes this happens suddenly, sometimes with the benefit of hindsight you could have seen it coming a mile away, and sometimes you view this as a good thing at the time.

Usually in the short term you won’t see this as a good thing, as it takes away stability and creates disruption and change both in your clinic and also within your mindset, which is hard.

The one area that physio staff turnover creates the greatest disturbance is in the patient caseload. We all know patients are loyal creatures, and by virtue they are almost always more loyal to the therapist they see than your clinic. But surely we can understand this if we put ourselves in our patients’ shoes, given the amount of time they spend with our physios getting to know them one on one.

I decided to measure my biggest loss in transitioning from one physio to the next. After measuring this loss part of me wished I hadn’t! Simply from going from one very well liked a loyal physio to the next physio who was a great physio but not a great private practitioner, my clinic took a $120 000 hit in the 12 months following the departure of the high performing physio.

Based on this and other analysis I have done when my team members have turned over I can honestly say the best business strategy I can recommend to you is being able to keep every high performing team member on your team for as long as you can, and as long as they want to stay. The flip side of this is that the quickest way to dig a big hole for yourself as a clinic owner is to have a high turnover of team members.

On the Ultimate Physio Clinic Owner’s facebook group a recently survey showed that the average length of time a clinic owner keeps their physios is between 2 and 3 years. You may rationalise this stat in a number of ways:


“It’s a gen Y thing, they like to move around” (Devil’s advocate response: they will stay for purpose and having their values fulfilled, and for a great mentor not a boss who micromanages them)

“Physio is a profession without much career progression” (Devil’s advocate response: 90% of people say they got into physio because they loved helping people – I would be fairly sure you said this yourself – sometimes doing what you love trumps career progression??)

“They left to start their own clinic or for a better opportunity or to move closer to the city” (Devil’s advocate response: why didn’t you give them a better opportunity?)


But you have done your best, and one day you get (generally) an email from one of your key people with the subject line “I’d like to have a quick chat with you”. This is their way of saying they are leaving.

So now you have 3 options:

  1. They leave, and you do nothing. As soon as they say they are leaving you run around like a chook with it’s head cut off, get an ad up on Seek, and start to organise a panicked transition. The alternative to this is if you already have your next physio waiting in the wings, in which case you give them a call and arm yourself with your best offer, which you know they are going to push you for, as they are already happily employed and know that the fact you are initiating this call means you are desperate, and it is their time to strike. Hint: the only real time employees get better pay and conditions in their career is when they upgrade to the nest job – and they know this
  2. Do Option 1, plus an exit interview. Whether you do this face to face or electronically, you now know why they left, and this gives you some valuable info to implement with the rest of your team and also your new hire, to try and make this not happen again. But people are all different – what are the chances that your next team member who leaves will have the same challenges and opinions as the last person who left? I am all for this option, but don’t believe that it will be a band aid and prevent this same situation from playing out in either 6 months, or the average 2 years.
  3. Do Option 2, plus rewind the clock back 6 months and do a 6 monthly “stay interview” with each of your key team members. Find out why they are happy with your clinic, and why they hang around. Whatever they say if likely going to help you write better job ads in future. The team member is either going to be very happy at your clinic, and you will know what it is that you are offering them that keeps them around, and performing well. On the flip side, if something is up, you will be the first to know about it. This will allow you to put the feelers out, and let that physio waiting in the wings you may have something coming up for them, and then you are the only in the power situation, simply because you don’t actually need them right now. I like to be in this situation, not option 1.


So which option do you choose?

My business coach taught me a valuable lesson years ago. I didn’t want to hear it at the time, now I can’t forget it.


Everybody’s leaving, it’s just a matter of when.


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