My Leaps of Faith

It was the summer of 2012. The outpatient PT practice I had been managing for seven years had been sold to a large national corporation and it became clear that I would no longer be running the clinic as I saw fit.

My wife Kristen and I felt like it was a great opportunity to explore all options and consider a radical change in our lives. We took 9 days off and took a tour of some cities in North Carolina. We also did some job interviews along the way. We had never enjoyed Pennsylvania winters, so we thought we might be happier in the south.

We liked the areas we visited, but we didn’t fall in love. It was easy to find jobs and better weather, but something just didn’t feel right so we went back to the drawing board.

By October of 2012, I had come to the conclusion that starting our own business might be something we should try. After a lot of thought, I resigned from my managerial position, and signed a 5 year lease on and 1800 sq ft office above a gym. The rent was 3700 per month. I remember the feeling in my stomach the moment I signed the documents. It became very real and very scary.

My business plan was simple, and incredibly naive. I would be the sole employee at first, wearing all hats, until we built up enough of a business to hire our front desk admin. They would help me with the phone, and paperwork. I did the numbers in my head, and if I could see 10 patients per day I would take home what the average PT was making in my area. That was the end goal, me and my admin running a great little clinic in Wilkes Barre, seeing our 10 visits per day, happily ever after.

There was one problem…It started to grow faster than we had planned.

By the end of the first year things started to ramp up. I was treating 40-50 patients per week and also doing personal training with 27 fitness members. Yes, I was now also a personal trainer selling monthly memberships to my little fitness facility / PT clinic. It was completely unplanned. Patients wanted to continue to exercise with me after discharge and asked if I would train them. I couldn’t believe that they wanted this service at first, but since I enjoyed working with them and needed the cash, I said yes to everyone.

I hired my first three employees at this time. Yes, three. I hired a personal trainer, a. PTA, and that admin I had planned to be my only addition. We had officially grown to 2x the size I had planned. I was completely unprepared to hire correctly or manage people. I would eventually pay dearly for it, but that’s a whole different story I’ll share some other time.

By the end of year three we had 11 employees and over 60 fitness members. We had outgrown our little space and began the search for a much larger one. I came close to renting an entire 10,000 sq ft space that would have cost me about $100,000 per year for at least 5 years. I was ready to sign the deal and move forward, but Kristen did not feel good about the location, or the amount of rent money we would spend. (Of course she was 100% right)

We went back to the drawing board and decided to buy. We looked at dozens of buildings and nothing we saw could have worked. After another failed tour of a building, we decided to drive to the downtown and have lunch. On our way, we saw that the former Grainger building, a large 12,500 sq ft space with high ceilings and parking for 30 cars, had a for sale sign on it. I called the listing agent from our table in the restaurant and booked an appointment to look at it. From the minute I walked into the space a few days later, I knew we had found our home. It took 6 agonizing months to finalize the real estate deal. That familiar stomach churning feeling occurred again when we signed documents for the purchase. This time was worse. We now needed to back up the loan with a personal guarantee and our home as collateral. The numbers were staggering for us, but in my heart I knew we could make it work.

It was a very scary start when we moved in during January 2017. We posted a loss the first month in the new space and barely broke even in the second month. I had trouble sleeping and tried to work my way out of it. Thankfully, we got through the winter months and started to gain momentum in the spring. We ended the year in good financial shape and decided to complete the renovation of the entire building with the profits.

6 years later, we have 18 employees and work with hundreds of people each week. We love what we do and continue to learn more about entrepreneurship and managing people. We still have more stress than I ever had before starting the business. We are always on the lookout for threats, and fires to put out, but I can honestly say that I still remain excited about it all. I rarely look back at it and admire what we’ve done, but this blog has been a good opportunity to recognize that. Instead, I have my eyes on 2019 and beyond. I have no idea how far we can go, but I sure want to push the limits and find out.

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our story and giving you the details about our mistakes and failures, so you can avoid them. If I can save you some time or stress, writing this blog will be worth it.

Thanks for listening!


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