I had the good fortune and privilege to interview the very sought-after Australian Physiotherapist Brad Beer. His accomplishments are too many to list – read about it here (believe me, it’s worth your time). 2014 was a big year for Brad as his company underwent a re-branding under the new moniker of “POGO Physio” on Australia’s gold Coast. The Practice has won a number of business awards, and Brad has worked with a number of elite athletes over the years. I highly recommend you spend some time poking around POGO’s wonderful website, as well as their Youtube Channel. You can also connect with POGO on Twitter.
In this interview, Brad shares his shares his story as a physio, along with vision of physiotherapy and some valuable professional words of wisdom. Also included are bits on physiotherapy in Australia – public perception, Australian healthcare, etc.
I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. Enjoy!
What kindled your interest in physiotherapy? Give us your beginning story.
My interest in physiotherapy began when my running coach referred me to see a terrific physio named Suzanne who lived and hour and a half north of my country town. I was a frustrated and injured junior triathlete with aspirations of progressing out of the junior triathlon ranks into the professional triathlon ranks.
I can’t recall much career coaching while at high school so when my physio said during a consult ‘you’d be a great physio one day’, the seed was sown. Years later I started studying exercise science at the Gold Coast’s griffith University before transferring into the physiotherapy course.
Physiotherapy was the perfect career in which I could pursue my love for helping people to maximise their physical potential. This passion was borne of my own struggles and frustrations as a junior triathlete.
How has your practice evolved since your early career?
I opened my practice 5 months after graduation, and 3 weeks after resigning from my first job. I quickly resigned from my first job. i was working alongside a sports physio in what I thought would be my ‘dream job’. I felt that the practice I was employed at lacked of culture, professionalism, and there seemed very little vision for career progression. So I resigned vowing to ‘do physio how I thought it should be done’.
I opened on an ‘oily rag’. I had less than $5 in the bank, a newly negotiated lease without a rent free period, and a small overdraft facility for equipment and a modest fit out. The practice would have three consulting rooms, reception desk, and a tiny gym area. I was however full of vision and passion for the physio industry. When I started out I had the vision of building Australia’s first recognisable ‘physio brand’. I thought I would achieve this through franchising.
Three years into practice ownership the practice was rapidly growing and we moved locations. At the same time I came across an emerging franchise system in a southern state of Australia. I was captivated by the leader’s vision and after six months my wife and I made the decision to collaborate with this franchise system. Our visions for an Australian brand were congruent and so were our clinical philosophies.
5 years into life as a multi site franchisee and also QLD Franchisor (building a practice network) it became very clear that life as a franchisee was not for me. What ensued was an 18-24 month legal process of unwinding my franchise obligations that ended with me ‘buying back’ my original practice to ‘free it’ from the Franchise network. This has proved very costly.
I see what could have been a ‘set -back’ with my forray into life inside the former franchise group as being a great ‘set up’ for what we now as a newly rebranded practice POGO are setting out to achieve!
It took several metamorphoses to arrive at POGO Physio. What drove many re-births? And what are you trying to accomplish with the new venture?
Yes it did. The original practice name when launched in 2006 was My Back’s Physio (MBP). The vision was to only treat lower back pain-hence the name. This vision was quickly diluted when my first client asked if I could help her with her knee pain. With rent to pay and no savings I said ‘absolutely I can help you with your knee pain’. Sadly the vision was instantly diluted! We traded as MBP for 3 years and under this trading name won a local business award for excellence in customer service in the professional services category.
In late 2009 I joined the practice to a national Australian franchise group (Back In Motion-BIM) becoming QLD’s first franchisee. Our practice was then known as BIM Mermaid Waters. One year later I also became the BIM Area Director for the state of QLD. In my role I oversaw the launch of 3 QLD BIM practices: Bundall, Mt Gravatt, and Bribie Island. We traded with BIM for nearly 5 years.
In late March of this year (2014) I ended my association with BIM and franchising. I exited my franchise agreement for Mermaid Waters and surrendered my QLD Area Director (master franchise) just inside of its first term. This wasn’t an easy or particularly pleasant experience but it was certainly the right direction for me.
In April this year we have rebranded the practice to its third iteration POGO. In short through POGO we are looking to empower people to live pain and injury free so that they can do the things they love to do. On an operational front we are looking to pioneer a new methodology of delivering physiotherapy to the Australian public. We have coined what we call our ‘3P Approach’. The 3P’s being: Pain Free, Performing at an optimal level, and Prolonging the health of one’s physical body. Everything we clinically do is based around this 3P Model.
We will shortly be launching an industry first method of accessing services that overcomes one of the greatest problems that I believe limits the private practice physiotherapy industry in Australia; that is the booking of client from session to session. Such bookings does neither the client nor the therapist any favours. We have come up with a way to ensure that clients get all the care that they need and most importantly their goals are achieved.
Share some of the most important entrepreneurial lessons you’ve learned over the many years of doing business.
Lesson 1: Just start! I like the maxim that ‘production beats perfection’. This has always been a value that I have lived by. In business if you wait until it is perfect you will miss many opportunities.Looking back if I had of known the rigours that awaited me after opening my practice I possibly would not have started! Fortunately I took action and here I am today.
Lesson 2: Take Massive Action. Taking action is one thing. Taking massive action however is where the momentum and magic happens.
Lesson 3: Put people before the task. I used to have this written on my whiteboard. In the fullness of business it’s easy to get overly task focussed. There’s a price to pay when a leader’s focus is taken off their people and tasks become the number one focus the price is normally the underdevelopment of team members, and a culture that reflects that tasks come before people. We’re in business for people. It’s counterintuitive when we forget this simple truth.
Lesson 4: Customer satisfaction is worthless, customer loyalty is priceless. Nowhere is this more relevant than in health care. The lifetime value of a loyal client can be enormous. Too many practitioners and practices forget that the only way to develop client loyalty is to consistently exceed the expectations of a client. Loyal clients will ‘fight’ to leave you based on the high level of trust that has been developed over time. They will also be strong referrers and word of mouth advocates for your service.
Lesson 5: Start with Why. Simon Sinek says that there are leaders and then there are those who ‘lead’. The best leaders are the ones who start with ‘why’. They regularly and clearly articulate the ‘why’ of their organisations. Starting with ‘why’ gives people a sense of purpose and belonging, and a cause for action.When what an organisation does is in sync with why the organisation exists the organisation will ‘stand out’. These organisations will have the most loyal staff and also customers.
How did you come up with “POGO”? I like it! “POGO” sounds interesting & fun at the same time!
The name POGO was derived through a brand creation strategy and process that we undertook with a leading creative agency. The name matched the criteria I was looking for on all levels. Best of all the name embodies movement and being memorable-two key components of what we do.The feedback we have had from our clients has been terrific.
The essence of POGO is to empower people to live pain and injury free so they can have daily fun. We have three founding values and they are: 1. Excellence in delivery, 2. Our customer is our hero, and 3. Have Daily Fun. Having fun is a core value as we really do want to inject some ‘zest and energy’ into the private practice sector.
I noticed POGO offers a “100% Money Back Guarantee”. That’s a pretty brave lure. How does this guarantee work? Is POGO a cash practice?
Having a service guarantee has always been something that I have strongly believed in. I see it as a way of ensuring that client’s know we believe in our ability to deliver results. POGO’s guarantee is a Results or We’re Free Guarantee. This means that if we fail to get the client the result they are after we will happily refund their consultation fees. You can read more at The POGO Way.
Most of us in the US aren’t very familiar with Australian Healthcare. Tell us about how physio works within the Australian system today.
Physiotherapy has a proud history in Australia. Physiotherapists are first contact practitioners . This means that the public can come direct to their local physio. They do not need a doctor’s referral to make an appointment. There are times when a doctor’s referral is necessary such as for third party insurance claims.
The Australian government runs an initiative known as the Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) Plan. This enables sufferers of chronic conditions to access up to 5 physiotherapy sessions bulk billed each year. The scheme is funded by Australia’s Medicare.
Patients can access physio services in private practice and claim private health insurance rebates on the spot via their health insurer. As of the 24th July 2014 11 million Australian’s have private health insurance. This is up from 9.8 million people in 2009. The government pays a 30% rebate on annual private health insurance premiums. Privately insured clients are the largest clientele group we see at POGO.
What is the relationship between physios and other healthcare providers? (General physicians, surgeons & specialists, etc.)
The current breed of both general practitioners (GP’s) and orthopaedic surgeons tend to embrace the value and expertise that physiotherapists bring to the health-care sector. Long gone are the days where some medical practitioners did not refer to physiotherapists but rather sought to maintain clinical sovereignty at all times. Even if ultimately this was to the patient’s less than ideal clinical outcome.
What about the public perception of physios? How has it changed over the years? What do you think helped or hindered this image?
I believe the public perception of physiotherapy and the role that physios play in the Australian health-care sector has continually grown over the last decade. One of the key drivers for this I believe is the love affair Aussies have with sport. Stories of our most successful and high profile sporting champions being helped by team physios has been of great benefit to the physio industry.
Australia also has an ageing population. Over the next 40 years the percentage of Australians over 65 yrs is likely to double to around 25% of the total population. With the baby boomers moving into early retirement and seeking to maintain an active lifestyle the overall percentage of Australians visiting physiotherapists will also increase. This presents great opportunities.
You also write for Run For Your Life Magazine. How did this relationship start?
I was approached by the magazine to write a series of articles in 2010. I have enjoyed a great relationship with them over the last several years. It is a terrific magazine.
What lessons have you learned about the writing process and do you have any do’s & don’ts when it comes to writing?
Writing I believe is a key skill that anyone who leads people or a cause needs to have some ability with. Writing is like any skill it requires practice in order to improve.
In today’s content marketing rich world there has never been a greater need or opportunity for those who write well to command a following an influence within an industry.
It’s imperative that you identify your ‘editorial mission’. This is basically your strategy that you will espouse when you write and generate content. I have discovered that writing minimising jargon, with some personality, and with the intention of helping people yields the greatest results.
Favorite books & authors? Reading recommendations? (personally & professionally)
I love reading. It has long been a hobby of mine. I fell in love with books whilst still a university student.
Numerous books have impacted me throughout my physio career. Of note would be:
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie). This book really turned the ‘switch on’ for my quest to develop ‘people skills’. It seeded my interest in personal development.
2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (John Maxwell). Once I realised that my effectiveness was determined by my leadership ability I became a student of leadership. John Maxwell’s many books have always yielded great learnings.
3. The Disease to Please (Harriet Braiker). This book helped me to overcome my pathological problem of people pleasing-it set me free to say ‘no’!
4. 100 Great Businesses and the Minds Behind Them (E Ross and A Holland). This book inspired me to dream!
5. Too Busy Not to Pray (Bill Hybels). Self explanatory-it’s easy to get so busy that you neglect to make room and time for that which in my life is ultimately the most important.
6. Ordering Your Private World (Gordon MacDonald). This is a book about living life from the inside out. It’s about cultivating the inner victory required to be publicly effective.
7. A Resilient Life (Gordon MacDonald). This book draws on the metaphor of running life’s with intentionality and grace just as a gifted runner approaches a race. It taught me the value of spiritual self discipline to build stamina and grit for the challenges that lie up ahead.
8. EntreLeadership (Dave Ramsey). A great book that shares terrific leadership lessons cultivated through being in the trenches of growing a world class business. It’s a rule-book for doing business well.
9. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Al Reis and Jack Trout). As student of marketing this is a classic. These are laws violate them in your marketing and you will pay a penalty.
10. Personality Plus at Work (Florence Littauer). Harnessing the power of personality equips a leader to revolutionise their relationships. Business is all about people and therefore all about relationships.
11. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni). A great and memorable leadership fable.
12. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless (Jeffrey Gittomer). Helps develop a real sense of the value of loyalty over a satisfied client.
13. Think Bigger (Michael Hill). A great read about not limiting your vision of the future.
14. Good to Great (Jim Collins). Vital ideas for any business that is looking to stand out.
15. Axiom (Bill Hybels). This is a such a fun but impacting read.It contains 76 easy to digest and memorable axioms of leadership.
16. The Entrepreneur Revolution (Daniel Priestly). The rules of business have changed and continue to change. The new revolution has begun!
Most recently Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ has me absorbed!
You have a full plate! How do you manage to maximize your life – professional & personal – given how busy you are?
It’s a full week! I start early at 4am with marketing and email answering. I also treat with a full time case -load. In addition I train for my running endeavours and also ensure time for my wife and beautiful daughter Bella. My wife is a GP who specialises in nutritional medicine (www.drcris.com.au) which helps in understanding each other’s work responsibilities.
It’s a constant juggle. You really do have to at times ‘fight’ to maintain boundaries. It’s so easy to make work your idol. Even more so when you love what you do!
Imagine if you could pick up the phone and call your younger self right after graduating physio school, then what advice would you give him?
Great question. My advice would be two-fold:
1. To not ‘look side-ways’. Avoid the comparison game. The grass may appear to be greener but it rarely is!
2. Be patient. Success is developed through the navigation of an array of challenges and various learning opportunities that life both professionally and personally generates.The degree to which you succeed and progresswill be determined by the degree that you stop to evaluate your learnings and lessons.It has been said that experience is an OK teacher but evaluated experience is an even better teacher.
Visiting Australia is on my to-do list. What are your top 3 must-do/see/experience items in the Gold Coast? (Other than stopping by POGO!)
Ha ha! Yes a POGO visit is number one!
Other great experiences here on the Gold Coast would be:
1. A surf at Surfers Paradise or one of our famed surf breaks (Kirra or Burleigh).
2. A visit to our renowned theme parks (Dreamworld, MovieWorld, SeaWorld etc).
3. A trip to the top of the Q1-the tallest building in the city. It will give you unprecedented views of this great city!
Brad, thank you for your time and valuable insights. I feel like there’s a lot more ground we could have covered. Let’s do this again sometime…preferably on a Gold Coast beach with drinks in hand!
I am @Cinema_Air