Creating a buzz — Buzz is the gasoline that makes the fire grow and it’s all about marketing, branding, and cool energy. What story are other people telling on your behalf? What makes your practice unique and different? When you find ways to create a buzz, your marketing turns into a ripple effect in which momentum builds fast. I have always found that if everybody is swimming in one direction, that is the greatest way to create a buzz. Make some splashes and waves, like wearing completely different clothing than a traditional practitioner or providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Go beyond what’s expected!
As a part of our interview series with prominent medical professionals called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Bryan Joseph.
Dr. Bryan Joseph is the CEO and co-founder of The Wellness Connection in O’Fallon, Missouri. He originally earned his business degree from the University of Iowa and later received his doctorate in chiropractic. Dr. Bryan started his first practice based on solid business structures and systems, quickly applied his business acumen, and began helping a great number of patients to build towards his first million-dollar practice. He then opened 10 more practices and began advising/mentoring his peers towards the same level of success.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
Glad to join you! I’m the fourth child from a competitive family of six children — five boys and one girl all packed into a ten-year span. Competition and achievement were two fundamental values that ran in our family. It was from this environment that I was driven to compete and achieve in several areas of my life. My initial outlet was sports but once that came to an end, I found a new outlet in business and service.
I’ve always enjoyed helping others and have been fascinated with the human body, along with all of the natural ways to keep it healthy. After witnessing and experiencing several family members (including myself) struggling through health-related challenges, and the way the healthcare system was continuing to put a bandage on their issues, I knew that there had to be a better way. My quest began as I learned and developed the skills needed to help others with their health naturally. I would eventually build a business that would allow me to deliver quality healthcare for people to heal and get well. Money was never the goal in establishing my first practice. It was about serving others, listening, and truly trying to help them find the proper solutions.
In addition to competition and achievement in my family, entrepreneurship was everywhere. Many of my relatives had owned and operated businesses, so I knew it was in my blood. Almost 20 years and multiple healthcare businesses later, our success and impact continues to expand. We’ve also been blessed tremendously to help many people get well naturally.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
I’ve had many great mentors over the years. All of them were able to serve exactly what I needed at the times our paths crossed. I truly believe in the concept that “success leaves clues” and have found huge benefits in observing others who are doing or being what you want in your life.
My greatest mentor is my father. He was a driven and successful entrepreneur, a father to five other children, and kept a solid marriage and faith in place. It’s from him that I discovered you can be both successful and humble. Success is not about showing everyone else what you’ve done or bought, but rather about integrity, love, and service. I’ve witnessed his legacy impact thousands of people over the years and some of the greatest lessons I’ve taken from him include:
- The value of honesty
- How much it matters in how you treat others rather than what you say
- The value of working hard in addition to working smart
- The amazing fight within to execute your vision regardless of the obstacles
He faced so many challenges that would have taken most people down, and yet he never gave up. If it’s something you know is right and good for others, then you stand up and fight. That winning spirit, backed with love and honesty, has served me throughout my life. I’ve learned so much by observing him over the years.
What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?
Truth be told, I was never good at taking others’ instructions when my heart felt otherwise. I always knew that I wanted to be a leader in my industry. I also knew that I could develop and lead a team of people that could deliver an experience in healthcare that was better than what was already out there. I was destined to fight to make that happen with integrity.
One of my older brothers was also a doctor and when I graduated school, I joined him in working within someone else’s practice. I wanted my own practice right out of school, but our father advised us to go work and learn under someone else for our first two years. I learned an incredible amount of information during this time, and it also stoked my fire even more to create my own practice the way I envisioned. I found out what I liked and disliked while I also validated things I was feeling. I didn’t last the full two years because my inner desire burned inside too strongly. I had already established a good number of patients who followed me to my new practice, significantly reducing my risk. I can thank my dad again for that.
With the help of my older brother, I learned more about marketing and how to attract new patients into a practice. To this day, I still believe this skillset to be a priority in developing a successful business or practice. If you can’t regularly acquire new patients, you will find yourself struggling. I was pounding the pavement daily — “shaking hands and kissing babies,” as they say. I had set clear goals on how many new patients I was going to get every day and leaning on the values of achievement and competition. Failure wasn’t an option; I was going to fight just like Dad to do whatever I needed to do to make this work.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
About three years into running my first practice and experiencing success, my wife and I decided to move. Everyone thought we were crazy because we had just laid the groundwork and we were going to start it all over again. Following our inner instincts and not getting sidetracked by other people’s visions, we sold our practice and moved away.
I say this is the most interesting because it was the biggest learning experience of my career. I had developed a new vision for what I wanted and I was willing to fight to make it happen again. However, this time it was away from home and my family. It was up to me to make it happen without the same level of support. This experience taught me so much about strategic planning and management. I was engaging into partnerships and employing others to help execute the vision rather than me simply working with patients alone. I was learning how to manage a practice rather than just work within one.
Because it is a “helping profession”, some healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization.” How do you address the business aspect of running a medical practice? Can you share a story or example?
Most of us do get into healthcare because we want to help others. Some probably just want to be called a “doctor” while others may be all about the money. Our core motives can be felt by others and serving another human being is a beautiful thing. With that said, so many people become sensitive around the topic of the exchange of money. I’ve always believed that if I’m delivering value and operating with integrity, a fair exchange of money makes sense.
I’ve also witnessed many of the problems in healthcare and the crazy fee structures/prices that insurance carriers have created. I believe in transparent pricing, explaining which solutions are best to help the patient, and clearly going over the fees to avoid any misunderstanding. It’s not a game of “selling” or “taking advantage of others” to me; it’s about using your gifts to help someone solve their problem. When you solve someone’s problem, you’ve provided value for them and that’s where an exchange of money occurs.
If a practitioner struggles with money or talking about money with a patient, it’s my opinion that the issue isn’t the money — it’s more about the intentions and the personal value the practitioner believes they have. Lead with pure intentions and money rarely is an issue.
Managing being a provider and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?
This is where strategic planning has a lot of value. While we have to wear more than one hat at times, it’s only possible to wear one at a time. I have found the need to establish clear organizational structure, roles, tasks, and goals that help with this. For example, I may be in the provider role on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but may be in the business owner role on Tuesday and Thursday. In the beginning of a practice, you find yourself splitting roles like this, but you can choose which role you want to specialize in as your resources and practice grow. At this time, I really enjoy the business aspect so my role as a provider is very limited and I hire and work with great providers to serve our patients.
From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
What’s the first thing that comes to my mind? Honestly, it’s being a bit disappointed after becoming a doctor to help others and then quickly discovering you can’t help anyone if your practice fails. I was discouraged at first that I would have to learn marketing skills and more business skills before going out to get patients into my practice. Everyone wasn’t going to just show up. There is a lot of competition out there and I was hoping that getting the degree was all I needed. No chance!
If you want to succeed in private practice, you have to acquire several business skills. The way I got over it was to tell myself that this is how I get to exponentially increase my impact with others. Developing these skills was going to allow more people to get help and to make a bigger difference in healthcare. This mental shift moved me from feeling sorry for myself toward excitement and gratitude to be able help more people.
Learning new business skills became super fun for me because the intention behind it always came back to my core purpose of helping and sharing with others. So if you have a strong enough “why,” then the details don’t stop you.
Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the 5 things you need to know to create a thriving practice, and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Pure intentions
Since we’re working with another human being, our intentions should be to serve, love, listen, and do everything we can to help solve their problem. If your motives and intentions are to harm or simply take others’ money, then your success is going to be limited. The feeling that the patient leaves with will never be as good as it can be if your intentions are not pure. It has a lot to do with giving off good-healing energy.
2. Clear organizational structure
Action and execution of a successful practice require clear organizational structure. People should always understand their roles, tasks, and goals, along with how to assist in the overall vision. Communication is the bridge that must exist when you start adding complexity into your practice such as new employees, patients, locations, equipment, and so on. I have met with and spoken to many practitioners who never made the effort to put in any organizational structure and therefore are in a constant state of frustration, attempting to figure out why they can’t grow. Our brains are not capable of remembering, managing, and controlling every action and behavior needed.
3. Excited culture
It’s almost impossible to expand without others. Excitement in your culture can be developed from camaraderie, team builders, testimonial shares, and engaging one another in the truest intentions of serving another human being. When somebody on your team or one of your patients is excited, it becomes contagious and they want to tell others. We have had many offsite retreats, team builders, and spent ample hours on developing why we exist as a culture. You cannot just go through the motions; you have to put your best energy out there for others to feel.
4. Systems for success
Strong systems are what makes things reproducible and scalable. If you do not have an organizational structure and systems in place, then everybody gets a unique experience that can be good or bad. Systems are not only for patients, but also for employees. They are internal and external, including marketing, networking, and sales.
5. Creating a buzz
Buzz is the gasoline that makes the fire grow and it’s all about marketing, branding, and cool energy. What story are other people telling on your behalf? What makes your practice unique and different? When you find ways to create a buzz, your marketing turns into a ripple effect in which momentum builds fast. I have always found that if everybody is swimming in one direction, that is the greatest way to create a buzz. Make some splashes and waves, like wearing completely different clothing than a traditional practitioner or providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Go beyond what’s expected!
As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing patients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?
As I previously mentioned, it’s important to be able to separate the roles of business owner versus practitioner. Personally, it works for me to think of those roles and tasks as completely different days or as different blocks of hours. The goal of each particular role is so different from one another that it’s important to distinguish a clear purpose on what it is you’re trying to accomplish with each block of time for each role.
We need time to work on our practices rather than in them. Many doctors don’t even know what working on your business looks like. For me, it’s time for long-term planning and goal-setting to improve our systems and become more efficient. Think hiring, management, and marketing skills. You can also participate in self-awareness audits and begin to think about what type of vision/plan needs to be executed and how.
It’s like all the time spent practicing, rehearsing, and developing a play or musical so that actors can simply perform in the moment without thinking. The amount of time that’s necessary to work on your business is going to depend on what type of goals and practice and vision you want to have. I would recommend a minimum of four hours a week dedicated to strategic thinking and time working on your business, not in your business.
I understand that the healthcare industry has unique stresses and hazards that other industries don’t have. What specific practices would you recommend to other healthcare leaders to improve their physical or mental wellness? Can you share a story or example?
There are multiple laws and regulations in healthcare, so I think it’s vital to have peace of mind. That kind of feeling comes from knowing that you’re not breaking any of the rules. It’s important to speak to other professionals such as attorneys or state regulators to make sure that you are always compliant. As an example, if you’re working with insurance carriers such as Medicare and you’re unfamiliar with the billing procedures, you could end up in hot water. This can lead to a short and frustrating career. When you’re operating with that level of uncertainty, doubt, and fear, it’s very difficult to work with the right intentions. That’s because you’re no longer in a healing mindframe, but rather in a defensive one trying to avoid trouble.
I remember times where I wanted to run creative marketing campaigns offering incentives just like other businesses do. I had no clue that healthcare businesses had a completely different set of rules. Later, I found out that many of my initial ideas were not even legal in my state. That freaked me out and put me in a state of fear and doubt until I reached out to an attorney. Once I was able to get peace of mind from them on the legal way to do it, the idea was full steam ahead with a new sense of confidence.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“A turtle never gets ahead without sticking out its neck.”
There have been many times in my career when I felt like taking a risk was uncomfortable. It’s reflecting on quotes like this that makes me realize that’s the only way to move forward in life. You can’t be afraid or else you’ll get stuck and never actualize your dreams. Also, sometimes your lack of action means that someone else stays sick and that’s not okay!
As I mentioned earlier, I learned from my father that anything really worth going after is worth fighting for. Taking risks can make it happen.
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Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success and good health!