The 1st Attempt
My first business decision in the Chiropractic profession was to purchase an existing practice near my hometown. The building, contents, files, and even the employees came with the purchase. The previous DC was willing to finance, and his son had no intention of coming to that town to practice. Sounds good, right. I asked for the Schedule C for the last 4 years, as I was told to do from my father-in-law, and was met with much resistance. “That’s personal information” and was handed a hand-written in pencil ‘cash-flow/P&L’ monthly expense and income average. Well, they wouldn’t lie or mislead me, right? I borrowed money from my parents for the down payment, and we moved into the apartment that was in the building.
WOW, after factoring in a 20% loss of patients (attrition, change, etc.) I figured I had $3000 personal income after paying all the expenses of the practice! So, I went out and spent that much, probably more, on my family and mostly me. I earned it, right? I just spent 9 years in school getting to this point. I ‘need’ that Cadillac. I ‘need’ that new computer. I ‘need’ that convertible Mustang for my wife. I ‘need’ that new TV. I ‘need’ a new bed.
Now, I was working hard, and seeing patients, and frankly, I was very good at delivering the Chiropractic Adjustment in all its glory. “I can see this many patients in fewer days, play golf, be more energetic, and do better.” So I went from 4 ½ days of practice to 3 ½ days of practice. I spent the time (and money) on the golf course, in the mall, on my family.
Every month, when the bills were piling up for the practice and for me personally, my wife would throw a fit at me for not keeping up on them. “But honey, that’s not my thing. Besides, I have this really big insurance check coming in next week. I will get all this paid then.” When the insurance check came in, and the bank account was flush with coin, “hey honey, let’s go to the Beef House for supper and celebrate.”
After 6 years of this horrible cycle. Having the electric, phone and gas shut off at least a half dozen times each. Having to sell back the Mustang and the Cadillac and get something literally out of a junk yard (Mercedes 350SL, funny, because that was repossessed, too), we finally couldn’t play the game anymore. I was spent physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. The doc that I bought the practice from (and his son, who decided he now wanted ‘my’ practice) started hounding me for more money and more money. Really? I was giving them almost 60% of what we agreed upon! What did they expect? Give me a break!
Bankruptcy court was an experience, and I am so ashamed I drug my wife through that. It was enlightening, though, to see the lies other people told on my behalf. Sorry, ‘clerical errors’ that were made so that I could get what I was asking for. Others believed in me, others believed the lies I was telling them…and myself.
We salvaged what we could, found a very large place on the north side of town (by the WalMart), and ‘moved’. It took another 3 years to get to the point where I just had to leave that place. Church and worship were not a fun place to be. The doc I went belly up on was a deacon, and I got physically ill every time I even thought about going there. We changed churches. Still, I knew I had done wrong, but I saw no light, no solution, and no escape.
“OK, hun, there is the young couple that just started practice here in town. They are struggling, and I have 3 treatment rooms, 4 therapy rooms and a 1500 square foot open space for a therapy/rehab center. Want to invite them to practice in my office?”
“Whatever.” Can you really blame her? I mean, my super-uber business savvy had really impressed her at this point.
The husband-wife team moved their practice to my place and things started humming. But they could sense I really wasn’t ‘into’ the town anymore. They offered to buy me out, and I said yes before the price was even mentioned. I took a 2 week vacation to take my son to Space Camp, and when I got back, I didn’t go to the office anymore.
We moved to where we live now later that summer. We adopted 2 girls and thought we needed to restart in a fresh, new place. We chose Lafayette, IN, and are so happy with that choice.
Regrouping, Resetting, Restarting, Refreshing, Recharging
What am I going to do? How am I going to support my family in a new town, not doing what I was trained to do? I will TEACH! Yeah, that’s it. I will TEACH. My best friend was working at the local community college, and his brother-in-law was the head of the department. I got on staff as an adjunct professor teaching, wait for it, computer applications! It was fun, it was a blast, and I learned a whole lot about working in a department of crazy people.
The most memorable moment teaching was on Sept 11, 2001. It was 2 weeks into teaching, and the class was able to watch the news reports live on our projection system. Very much a ‘reset’ moment for me, as it was for many millions worldwide. I remember going home and looking at the sky with my wife and kids and noticing nothing in the sky except this very high, very fast vapor trail. “That’s the President going back to DC.” ‘nuf said.
I taught for the community college for another 3 years. I was also on staff at our Church’s private school from the time we moved to Lafayette until my father-in-law ‘coerced’ me into working ‘with’ him in his business. I taught biology and technology courses, was the golf coach, and taught and coached the debate team. I worked my way into the A/V department of the church, and became what I call the “special teams” tech crew – handling all the events no one else wanted. You know; weddings, funerals, school events, conferences.
Working for my father-in-law was a very precious time for me. He is a wonderful man, quiet, efficient, effective, and a scrooge when it comes to coin. He never lied to me about what I would earn. He did change the rules a couple of times, though, but never retrospectively.
That expense card was my Achilles’ heel. I could rationalize almost anything I needed as a business expense. I had to answer to Ray, which was much harder than answering to myself. I had already convinced myself it was a business expense anyway, so not much to answer for there. Several discussions a year on my misuse of the card, and promises that I would work harder to correct my ways, always ended up with me doing a bit better, but never good enough as I look back on it. Never good enough. Never disciplined enough to actually do it right.
In January of 2009, I went from a pseudo-salary to a full commissioned income. Not a good thing, as that was right when the economy tanking hit our business. I went from 4500 per month to 2500 for the first quarter as income. No one’s fault, just the way it was. God was so present and provident during that time. Never had the electric, phone, gas or anything else cut off or late. I still don’t know how He did it, really, I don’t.
Here’s one you don’t see often. I actually got to fire myself in August of 2009. You ever done that? Not many people have that opportunity or experience. It was really the only choice the business had. We went from 4.5 million in volume to 0.5 million in 6 months’ time. So, I got to experience unemployment compensation, and you know what, it wasn’t that bad compared to what I had ‘brought in’ the previous 8 months. Again, God provided throughout.
Here’s a kicker. Ray, my father-in-law, wanted me to buy the business from him in January of 2010. He was ‘retiring’ and wanted me to take it over. But why would I buy a business that just had to fire me because it couldn’t afford to pay me? Besides, I had to get back into Chiropractic. I just HAD to. It was a fire in my belly, and an imperative in my soul.
I had made friends with a DC in my church. He and his wife were so very very encouraging to me and my family. Specifically, he was very provocative about me going back into practice. Every time we would talk, he would prod me, poke me, tempt me, and challenge me. I love that man, I really do. He offered me tools, tables, equipment, training, resources, whatever I needed. Always a vague offer, always a nice gesture, nothing concrete though.
Then, one day, a gentleman comes up to me and says “I know you want to be in practice, and I know you need to be in practice. Take this, and get it done. I don’t’ want to talk about this ever again, and I don’t want it back.” He hands me this envelope as he walks away. FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS was in that envelope! Doesn’t sound like much, but you don’t know the rest of the story.
I got my license renewed by going to many seminars, and blew through 3500 of that amount with all the fees and such to go. I started scoping out where I would practice, and I kept being drawn to the town of Rossville, IN. I had tried back in 2003 to start a practice here, but that was so resisted internally, and externally, that we gave up then. Rossville always was in my mind and we would travel out this way every chance I got. My favorite golf course is there, and the golf team made that their home.
Doing my research, I drove up to the most expensive and newest building in town that was for lease and called the agent. “Well, I would really like a DC in town. How about this deal. You sign a 10 year lease, and I will ‘give’ you the first year ‘free’?” Yeah, my head shook, too. He also threw in a fifteen thousand dollar build-out in the pot. The deal was struck, and we started to move in. Now I know a few of you reading this are saying ‘committing to a 10 year deal is a sucker’s bet.’ My answer is: If I wasn’t going to commit to this community for at LEAST that long whey even bother? Besides, the rate for the space is a killer rate, and I’m locked in at a low market price. Sensing a change?
So, now I need equipment, right? No, remember my friend the DC? He helped me with tables, equipment and hooked me up with his X-ray group. How many more God Things you need to hear? Front desk area? Computers? Software? Staff? Coffee Shop? Sublease? Advertising? Office chairs? Wall Art? Oh, final tally: $6500 cash to open (and about $15K debt in leased equipment), and like I said, $5K was given to me.
Some other changes. My sales experience for my father-in-law has made me keenly aware of what a salesperson is going through when they call on me. I give them time, attention, respect. I also throw them off their schpiel and get them to their message while making them feel welcome and appreciated. I am working at operating on a fairly strict cash-only basis. Cash in, only. Cash out, only. Still working on making it an absolute, but getting closer. Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.
Thoughts and Provocations
Personal Mission Statement & Time Management
One of the pleasures I have been exposed to is Biblical Counseling. Taking God’s Word, and applying it to daily life and the struggles it brings. It has allowed God to work miracles in my life, in my head, in my heart, and in my relationship with my wife. I was so proud of my humility, I was so arrogant in my meekness, it was sickening when I finally saw it. Now, I’m working on balancing out the whole mess that I have made. God is working in and through me to affect those changes. It has effected more than I have time or space to relate to you.
I have had the opportunity, from being IN the Job Loss Support Group at my church, to help teach and lead to that group. I share some insight I have gleaned from years of struggle and personal experience on how important a Personal Mission Statement is and how to craft one, and how that is essential for effective and efficient Time Management skills. My time as an Amway rep and my years as a sales rep for my father-in-law have given me the information I use. My training in Biblical Counseling makes it killer effective, as it is not my words or any mans word, it is His Word.
Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship Education
During my building the practice phase, before the doors opened, I was asked to tutor a man from our church on computer issues. No problem, some Word and Excel teaching is right up my alley, and I had a few hours a day to devote to him over the next few weeks. Wow, this guy knew NOTHING, let me repeat N O T H I N G about computers. He let the Best Buy salesperson pick out his new laptop. That was it. I had to show him what folders, and all the basics were even before we got to training on applications.
As we worked together, more and more of his project came out, and eventually he ‘read me into’ his project. I am now a team member, in charge of directing the technical end of it. You can see how far Don has come at www.TheEntrepreneurialRecipe.com.
Another funny thing about this whole deal. I was headed down the same-old path I had been on, trying to do ‘the practice’ my way, with no help. Working on this project to help someone else out opened my eyes to my arrogance and self-righteousness and self-sufficiency attitude that was still lurking under the surface. Made me want to puke. So, here is this guy, using my skills in computers while I use his skills in business. Go figure. All I can say is “it’s a God Thing.”
Oh, you want to know about my practice? Surprise! You can’t know about my practice as it is today without knowing all that stuff above…and probably more. I didn’t get into my TaeKwonDo career, and schools. I didn’t get into my family adopting 2 girls other than mentioning it. I didn’t mention my 11 brothers and sisters, or my parents and the life we lived before I left the nest. I didn’t mention that mom and dad had 65 kids through our home as foster parents before I left for college. I didn’t mention that I went to Illinois Wesleyan University, and graduated with only $2400 that I had paid them, the rest was scholarships and grants. I didn’t mention my training in financial matters before I graduated Chiropractic College – which was NOTHING, but you could probably guess that from my story.
Anyway, here’s where I am today in my practice. I am just starting! We have been open since May of 2010, and serve a small community of about 1500. My closest competition is 20 miles in any direction, and we are that close to 4 much larger communities. PVA is climbing, and my target is 15 to 20 by the end of the year. My goal is 10 NP per week, and 150 to 200 PV per week (duh, you already did the math). I am at 5 NP and 25 PV per week right now. I currently have a low-cost high-impact campaign going on that culminates at the end of September. I spend a lot of ‘free time’ working on the expansion of my influence in the community, the exposure of my practice into the community, and supporting community events/teams/functions. I spend whatever time is left on doing the high-tech stuff of blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and webpage updating/creating.
I am adamant about my priorities: wife first, kids second, practice and patients third. I had this all backwards in my first practice. I almost lost all 3.