As a part of my interview series with prominent medical professionals about “How To Grow Your Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Karen Litzy.
Dr. Karen Litzy, PT, DPT, is a licensed physical therapist, international speaker, owner of Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, host of the podcast Healthy Wealthy & Smart and founder of the Women in Physical Therapy Summit. Through her work as a physical therapist she has helped thousands of people overcome painful conditions, recover from surgery and return to their lives with family and friends. She has been featured in magazines and websites like Redbook, Women’s Running, Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle, Health.com and CafeMom. She has been a guest on several podcasts including Entrepreneur On Fire, Hack the Entrepreneur and The Healing Pain Podcast. She lives in New York City.
I started my physical therapy career in an acute-care hospital in Scranton, PA. I never had aspirations of being an entrepreneur. I assumed I would work in a hospital or clinic and eventually work my way up to a supervisory or management role, and that is where I would stay for the duration of my career. Then I moved to New York City and everything changed. I was exposed to career opportunities outside of the traditional healthcare track. My first job in NYC was at a very high-end gym and I saw the way the personal trainers took control of their schedules. How they had their own “side hustle” outside of the gym and I thought, “If they can have their own side business as a personal trainer, why can’t I do that as a physical therapist?” This was my first entrepreneurial spark. I started slowly building my own concierge physical therapy practice — where I see patients in their homes or offices — building up my reputation in New York City. I concentrated on creating relationships and friendships with other healthcare and fitness professionals. As my word-of-mouth referrals started to grow, I decided it was time to quit my full-time clinical position and really focus on my business. I took a part-time job at a physical therapy outpatient clinic and continued to build up my concierge practice. Then one day I ran the numbers and realized that the amount of time I was spending at the part-time clinic job would be much better spent working on my own practice, and I finally let go of that last “safety net” and went all in on myself.
I knew I wanted to do healthcare differently. I didn’t want an insurance company or third-party intermediary to dictate how I can treat my clients. I wanted to spend time with each client that I, as the practitioner, felt was necessary for that person’s overall recovery and well-being. I wanted to be more than just their physical therapist but be their trusted resource for healthcare and fitness information and referrals. I knew I could not be all of these things working in a traditional insurance-based model of care. It became apparent to me that creating my own practice was the best way to achieve all of my goals. So, I created the concierge physical therapy practice where I provide one-on-one care for hourlong sessions in the comfort of my client’s homes or offices. Now, my clients and I partner to create the best possible plan of care for their recovery without being beholden to insurance companies.
Two things helped me to manage being a provider and a business owner:
For me it was when I felt as if I had hit a ceiling. All I was doing was seeing a very high patient caseload (which is a good thing) but the business itself was not moving forward. Instead of being a creative business owner I was now a “tech” in the business. I was getting through the day to day but neglecting the big picture. Once you lose your creative edge as a business owner, I think it is time to take a step back and take a deep dive into your business and your life and see how you can work smarter. Once I took this step back, I realized that I can have multiple streams of income from my business that are outside of direct patient care. I gave myself permission to be passionate about more than patient care and that realization helped me to move from working in my business to working on my business.
A huge part of building up resiliency for me was learning to not take everything so personally. For example: If a patient decided to work with another therapist, I used to think that meant I was a terrible therapist or that I was not good enough. I now realize that if a patient feels as if we are not a good fit or if I feel like we are not a good fit, it has nothing to do with my ability as a therapist or the way I run my practice as a business owner. All it means is that we as a team were not a good fit and the patient would be better served with a therapist that they can vibe with. There is no such thing as one size fits all in medicine or in business. That is why they make cars in different colors and sizes. If we all liked the same thing, it would be a very boring world.
This was a mental block that I struggled with for a long time. For me a big part of the monetization aspect of the business came down to having the confidence in myself to charge what I (and my services) are worth. After years of working on myself, I now know that the services I provide are valuable, they help people get back to the lives they love and they require a unique skill set that only I can provide. It is my responsibility to share my knowledge and services with the people who need it and not be afraid or ashamed to be compensated fairly for it. In fact, if you are not making money, you can’t stay in business and you can’t help the people in your community.
I hit the gym! Since childhood, physical activity and sports has always been a mainstay in my life. As an adult, I suffered chronic neck pain for about eight years. During that time I was not as active because of my fears that working out would increase my pain. Then I had a huge mindset shift and realized that exercise needed to be part of my recovery. Not only does exercise keep me healthy and strong, it also helps to relieve stress, focus my attention, improve my mood and enhance my creative process.
One of my biggest mentors is a physiotherapist and educator based in Australia named Dr. David Butler. He is not a business coach, although he is a very successful entrepreneur. He did not give me specific business advice, although everything I learned from him I have applied to my business. He is an expert in the neuroscience behind pain and his research, books and mentorship helped me to dig myself out of close to a decade of persisting neck pain. I have taken the research, information and lessons I learned to heal my persisting pain and channeled that into my business. One of the biggest lessons I learned was that you can’t rely on one person to “fix” you and your pain. You need a team to support and guide you, but you have to put in the work and make the ultimate decisions. You can’t sit around and be a passive audience to your care. The way I adapted this to my business was I realized that doing it all was keeping me small. I need to have a team around me to support and guide me, so I reached out a hired a virtual assistant, an executive producer for my podcast and interns to help me grow the business. Now I have my team to guide and support me. I have learned to do the things I do best and delegate the rest. Without this lesson, I would have been burnt out and miserable years ago!
I utilized the Private Practice Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, Marie Forleo’s B-School course, Selena Soo’s Impacting Millions Course, local entrepreneurial meet-ups in new YorkNew York City, and my patients, who were great sources of information and support as I have been growing my business.
When I first decided to create my corporate entity, I was told that I didn’t need a lawyer to help me with that process.
I created the corporate entity with the help of only an accountant, and as it turned out, the entity I chose was not the right one for me and my specific situation. This created havoc with my taxes and the legal side of the business. Luckily, I found a lawyer through an entrepreneurial group I was a part of and she helped me to dissolve my original corporate entity and create a new one that made sense for me and my situation. In the end this piece of advice cost me time and money!
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
Instagram: @karenlitzy (https://www.instagram.com/karenlitzy/)
Twitter: @karenlitzyNYC (https://twitter.com/karenlitzyNYC)
Facebook: Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, PLLC (https://www.facebook.com/KarenLitzyPT/)
For other incredible interviews, please check out our podcast: Healthcare Heroes.
A special thanks to Dr. Litzy again! The purpose of this interview series is to highlight the entrepreneurs, innovators, advocates, and providers inside Healthcare. Our hope is to inspire future healthcare providers on the incredible careers that are possible!