Tanya Grantham from Animal Health and Hydro joins Megan to chat about opening multiple branches of your Veterinary Rehabilitation Practice.

I would love to share the highlights of their conversation with you!

Tell us about your journey into rehabilitation? 

As a Veterinarian, Tanya had some health challenges that led her to sell her practice and to stop consulting. As she explored alternative health options for herself, she also started investigating rehabilitation for animals. When an opportunity opened up, she invested in building her own rehabilitation facility with hydrotherapy, and has never looked back.

How many years did it take you to get to the point where you wanted to open another branch of your practice?

For two years, I did everything on my own. I then got an assistant who was trained in canine body work and could assist with patients and everything else. In the next two years, I added a full-time administrative person and another therapist. In the next few years, an additional therapist was added, who travelled quite a distance to work at this branch. Very soon the conversation started on how we could help patients that were local to her, and the seed for another branch was planted. Over the last 14 years, Animal Health and Hydro has grown, with ventures started and new opportunities explored.

What were the challenges in opening new branches?

The biggest challenge of opening a new branch is the financial investment in the equipment required for a new branch. Another very important factor is to have systems and procedures that can be replicated and expanded to a new branch, that are not dependent on you as an individual. You cannot be the limiting factor in your own expansion. We must have the support from our staff and our procedures to ensure that we don’t become overwhelmed in our work.

Standard operating procedures are so important! What advice do you have for listeners?

We don’t always anticipate that we will grow to the extent that we do, and so we don’t think about creating operational procedures. But creating these protocols and procedures when your business is still small is very important. The more you grow and the more people join your business, the less time there is to create these standard operating procedures.

In order to create a model that you will be able to replicate and expand, you must have these systems and protocols in place, so that you can ‘plug and play’ in a new practice and a new location. We also have to ensure that we make time to work on the business, and to work with the members of the team who are making it all happen. I meet every week with every individual member of the team, which empowers and enables them to do their work well.

What are the pros and cons of running multiple practices?

The biggest challenge is the people you have on your team. You are not going to be able to do everything; your team members must buy into your vision and have similar values to yours. Then they become an asset to your team and management becomes so much easier.

If you have hired the wrong person, especially in terms of their values, you will run into endless challenges!

Time is always a factor that needs to be adequately managed. We need to move away from crisis management as much as possible, which will be a part of opening any new practice. If you have systems that you can ‘plug and play’, it becomes much easier.

How do you handle situations where one of your therapists is sick?

This is a great question. Most of my team works in four- to five-hour shifts on a day, and so therapists can cover for one another. We are also creating a reservoir of therapists that we can call on – therapists who are consulting for themselves or are between jobs. It is very helpful to have a cache of these therapists that we can call on when a therapist calls in sick. Because we have systems in place, the new therapist is quickly and easily brought on board.

Can admin be grouped together, or does each individual branch need to have separate admin portals or systems?

This depends partly on what you would like to achieve. What are your goals and what is the direction that you want to take? A great deal of our admin – our patient systems, data collection systems, our invoicing systems – can all be easily transferred to a new branch.

We separate our book-keeping systems into separate companies to simplify that aspect of the business, but all the other things are online on one system. For example, I can see everyone’s bookings online, right now, across all the branches on my computer. We can also access patient notes for every patient, from each of the practices.

I also ensured from the start that patients don’t ‘belong’ to a specific therapist. This is good for two reasons – the pressure on a therapist if a client insists that they will only see one therapist is tremendous. You are the only person with your personality, but not with your skills. Ensuring that patients don’t belong to one therapist takes the pressure off of that therapist.

The second reason this is good is because it brings more eyes onto the patient and gives a more holistic approach as different perspectives are brought to the patient. This gives the patient the best outcomes possible, and is a great strength.

Patient notes are incredibly important. We are pedantic about notes!

How do you market the practices? Is each responsible for their own marketing?

I market the practices together. Basically, because we have a very specific set of values and ways in which we want the company to be represented, all the marketing goes through one funnel. We have one Facebook page, one website, one account for each of the other social media platforms. The information and the stories come from all the therapists, who will share their stories in creative ways on these social media platforms.

What has been the biggest lesson for you from having multiple branches?

I think that the biggest lesson (but there have been so many!) is that if you want it and you understand your motivation, then don’t stop. Just go for it! There are no mistakes, only ways in which we learn. One of the things that is important to me is that when I am excited and scared out of my wits, then I know I have to move forward and I have to take the opportunity in front of me. It doesn’t matter what happens – you are going to be OK in the end!

Has there been a positive financial reward for creating multiple branches?

It is very important that when we run a business, it needs to be a profitable commercial enterprise that should be able to work without you. We do need to achieve financial gain from expansion. And so although we don’t enjoy running the financial side of things, we must move forward with the goal of deriving financial gain from the investments that we make – not only satisfaction and enjoyment from what we are doing.

Before we expand, we must ask ourselves if we are surviving or thriving. If we are only surviving, we will carry that into the new branch.

As rehab practitioners, we sell time for money, and we will never get ahead if that is all we are doing. So we need to find other ways to leverage or to diversify. One of the ways we can leverage is through opening multiple branches. This allows us to create wealth in the long run. We must also find ways of adding value to our services and to diversify our income.

What are some of the ways in which you diversify your income?

I enjoy teaching, and it comes naturally to me. I started with workshops in person, and I can create specific workshops for specific purposes. I have also started online courses and webinars, which have been my biggest diversification. Other options are to create e-books that can be sold.

Are you thinking about moving towards franchising?

Yes, it’s definitely something I am aiming for. There are a lot of legalities and background work that needs to be done, but I am certainly working towards that. In South Africa, there are a few more hurdles to overcome than in other countries, but in the close future there will be the opportunity for Veterinary Physiotherapists to be able to own their own practices.

If you want to learn more about diversifying your income, watch Diversify Your Income on the Free Platform. 

If you want to learn more about creating online courses, watch Creating Online Courses, with Sara Moseley. 

If you would like to learn more about opening an Animal Health and Hydro practice, reach out to Tanya Grantham. 

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