There is a private practice leadership boom about to happen. Are you on board?

There is a leadership boom about to happen in the world of private practice physio – why you should get on board

So this post is a long and drawn out rant so maybe get yourself a coffee while you read it.

The context is twofold- the first piece of context relates to discussions I have been having with physio clinic owners Australia wide.

The second piece of context relates to general correspondence (nothing specific) between the APA and private practice owners, and in Inmotion and emails from the APA over the last couple of years, as well as feedback from private practice owners. The general sentiment goes like this:

“we need more leadership in the physio profession. we want the public to realise the full benefit of physiotherapy (the APA’s 2020 vision)”

…but we don’t want to spend alot of money on marketing or promotion (my opinion only, not a quote from anyone – and I can’t imagine any of us stumping up the cash for a profession wide campaign or even APA increasing their annual fees for this).

So how can leadership result in increased recognition of the physiotherapy profession Australia wide? What does this look like? How can you get involved from the relative comfort of your practices? Why should we have to do this ourselves and not rely on the APA to do it, as the medical profession seems to do through the AMA?

Let’s start by having a look at what leadership is, and where it is present in your life. As stated about these are just my opinions – some are valid, others are completely worthless. A wise philosopher once said “opinions are like a certain part of the posterior anatomy – everybody’s got one”.

What is leadership to me?

Leadership is taking true ownership of everything that happens to me in my life, both good and bad.

What does this look like as a practice owner?

Something goes wrong in my practice, it is my fault. Something good happens in my practice? I had a part to play in this as well.

Unfortunately today I would like to focus on when things go wrong. Common things that are going wrong for many of us as clinic owners include:

Our staff not doing the tasks we ask them to do
All of the patients wanting to see us (the owner)
Us working too many hours, and being on the edge of burnout
Losing physios and having to panic hire
Working within unprofitable models of clinic operation
Having our market share decreased by competition, both within and outside our profession
Not being good at stuff (“I’m no good at marketing, I just can’t find good people, I don’t know how to get my staff to do anything else than treat their patients”)

Now I’m going to call you on this. And believe me I have called myself on this in the past and had multiple mentors, including my business coach, call me on this stuff as well.

All of the stuff happening in your life comes back to you! The fish stinks from the head down. The problems in your life are of your doing, and nobody else’s.

Sorry for being harsh, but we need this sometimes. Because the enemy of great is good.

I used to suffer from a condition called “fat and happy”. Basically this means things are ticking along OK, life is good, business is profitable, my people are doing a good job but I don’t want to upset them by asking them to do stuff they might buck back against (“he/she is micromanaging us, oh, no he/she has done another course – I wonder what they are going to ask us to do now?”.

The problem with fat and happy is eventually the s..t hits the fan and you don’t know how to deal with it – because we have been taught that problems are bad.

2 good resources for you at this stage – the first one is a book called Extreme Ownership, the second is a book called The Obstacle is The Way.

So in life many of us believe problems are bad. Many of us want to be successful and make a real impact during our lives – I know I do, and many of the clinic owners I have spoken to do as well. When I read about and watch the most successful people on the planet I see 3 common themes in their lives:

1. the desire to make a massive impact
2. the vulnerability to acknowledge that all the stuff that happens in their lives is their fault (no blame)
3. the ability to view problems as just part of life, and keep moving through and past them (great Winston Churchill quote – when you’re going through hell, keep going)

So the above 3 points are what I consider true leadership to be.

Our profession needs true leadership. Guess what? The people in this community are the true leaders of our profession. It takes a unique person to put everything on the line and be fully responsible for everything that happens in your life. I believe we as clinic owners are those people.

So to summarise the first element of becoming a leader is about mastering yourself and all the stuff going on in your head that you tell yourself about why you’re not good enough. I know I have had this stuff in my head before.

Let’s talk about the second element of leadership.

Think about some of the true leaders of the past – they all had followers (teams). Being a follower is not bad, as long as you are doing it by choice, and are inspired by your leader. One of my favourite movies is Schindler’s List. It nearly gets me in tears at the end how the Jewish people that survived because of Oscar Schindler place rocks representing their lives on his gravestone at the end of the film. That is called legacy.

The way in which I intend to leave a legacy on this earth is through the people I positively influence. This includes my family, friends, team, patients, community and physios (hopefully worldwide).

I believe we are blessed to have these wonderful people working under the roofs of our clinics. These people are our teams and our followers.

Through our teams we can have the greatest impact on our communitites (our patients). Through inspiring your team you can help more people in your community than it is possible to do by yourself in many lifetimes.

How do you inspire your team?

1. Be a leader (3 points above – impact, ownership, busting through problems)
2. Have a vision they can get behind (this works best when related to something called a “third level goal” – my clinic’s vision is for Redcliffe to be the healthiest and best place to live in Australia)
3. Find out more about who your people really are. What are their highest values? What are their fears? What things in their head are holding them back? What do they really want in life?
4. Lead – help your team members achieve their dreams

So what are the results of this process?

1. A high performing environment where people love coming to work daily, are super productive, and don’t need to be micromanaged
2. A genuine desire from your patients and community to get on board – they are inspired by your vision, they want to be in your environment, and they will support you, as your team supports them
3. You will be free from the shackles of being the only leader in your clinic as you are turning each of your team members (should they want this) into leaders
4. contrary to what you may believe this only makes them want to stay with you as you are their leader, rather than the fear based mentality of not wanting them to become leaders for fear of them becoming our competition.

This sounds hard. How do we do all of this? Where do we start?

We need to change.

My business coach actually taught me a mathematical formula for change, check out the picture of it at the start of this post when you’re done reading. The variables are vision, dissatisfaction, first steps, and resistance.

Now here’s the kicker for why now is the right time in our profession for us to become the leaders we need to be.

Many of us are dissatisfied with the status quo. We want to be making bigger impacts in our communities and we want more in our lives. This to me sounds like dissatisfaction.

First steps – many of us are learning more and more about business. Learning about business is the step before learning about leadership. Once you know the fundamentals about how to run a good business, the logical next step is to take your business from good to great. The way to do this is first become a leader, then teach your people to become leaders.

This is my favourite. Resistance. Fat and happy.

Within our profession collectively the resistance is breaking down. Private practice is the most dynamic and ever changing sector of our profession, which now employs 2/3rd of our graduate workforce. Obviously we have some rules and regulations in place but we also have massive scope to create positive change.

This is where we are leaps and bounds ahead of many other professions, including the medical profession. To be employed by the state (ie working in hospitals) and to be a member of a highly powerful regulatory body (eg the AMA, Pharmacy Guild of Australia etc) makes change more difficult.

So what should you do next?

I want you to think about that formula for change and work out:

What is your dissatisfaction? In life, in business, in society.
Do you have a vision – for whom and what is it?
What is stopping you from changing (resistance) – for me for years it has been personal debt and fear, and as my family home mortgage reduces I am losing this fear.

Finally – let’s take the first steps. We are the leaders of our profession – let’s step up, take ownership, and grow into our roles – in our clinics, for our teams, for our patients, for our communities, for our families.

But most importantly, for ourselves.


Interested in learning more about leadership?

Check out the launch of my first upcoming leadership course

This is the first of it’s kind – a 12 week online course to teach you how to become a leader and get more out of your team. The course is most suited towards clinic owners working too many hours, and feeling like you need to get more out of your team.


We are having plenty of great conversations about this topic and other topics to help you on your journey of clinic ownership. Come and join our Australian physio private practice owners facebook group here.


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