What can you do with $20,000 in New York City? Spend a couple months rent on a small one bedroom apartment, do some damage on 5th Avenue, get two box seats to the ill-fated Mets World Series closer…
Or, start what today is one of the most sought-after physical therapy facilities for city dwellers who move and shake just a little too much.
Twenty thousand dollars is exactly what Adam Banks and his two co-founders had in the bank when they opened the doors to NYSportsMed in 2007. Today, they have three locations on some of the city’s busiest corners and are eyeing expansion opportunities both in space and services.
“We started with a very small budget,” says Adam, now CEO of NYSportsMed. “Our initial challenges were cash flow, cash flow, cash flow. Day one was about getting customers through the door.” It may have been the early focus on customers that helped Adam to recognize that customer service could be a competitive advantage in the physical therapy market.
Not Your Grandfather’s PT Center
“Everyone’s has had the experience of walking into a doctor’s office with ugly green flooring and stains on the ceiling.” Adam wanted to change that. “A great customer experience isn’t expected at a doctor’s office,” he says. So Adam took some cues from the most well-trafficked retail stores that shared the busy Manhattan avenues that his were set up on. “You’ve got to have fantastic stores.”
With NY Sports Med, Adam set out to create a customer experience that was a cross between going to the gym and going to the doctor. His facilities are athletically inclined, and his team thinks carefully about how they answer the phones.
Adam also speaks to the importance of establishing a trustful customer-employee relationship. “When people are with their physical therapist they go through emotional stages of fear and dependence on a stranger,” says Adam. Hiring people that are able to establish a rapport with patients and assure that they will get better in his facilities is key to keeping a recurring revenue stream.
When Adam interviews prospective employees he has one common question. “I ask them to tell me about a sport they are passionate about,” he says. “I don’t really care what sport it is.” Adam believes that athletes are able to speak a different language to each other. “They don’t take no for an answer. They won’t say ‘you should take some time off from training.’” Hiring people that are dedicated to sports themselves helps ensure they’ll also be dedicated to helping their patients recover.
If he had the gift of foresight, Adam isn’t sure he would start the business over again. “Being a little naive helps you to take the jump to get started with a company,” he reflects. Running and growing a healthcare business in the current regulatory environment is no easy task.
“There are tremendous pressures on private practice owners,” says Adam. “It’s definitely a difficult business to operate.”
At the same time, Adam thinks it’s an exciting moment for healthcare. “Changes are happening very fast — technology is one of the biggest,” he says. He speaks of an eventual “Uber-fication” of the medical visit, where electronic medical records and other tech enablements make visits more efficient. “That’s something we want to look at,” he says. “Customers have become so accustomed to frictionless experiences, so any friction you experience at the doctor’s office is met with tremendous pushback.”
Taking the Next Step
Adam is hoping NY Sports Med will gain a nationwide footprint. “We want to grow a bigger company. That requires capital and finding the right investors to help us grow,” he says. He also hints at some ideas to coincide with the focus in healthcare on retail medicine.
“Retail is such a big deal in New York,” he says. “In healthcare, convenience is becoming the currency.” Adam is studying what gives certain city storefronts their “wow” factor and thinking carefully about how walk-in clinic models might apply to physical therapy. “We want to give customers the experience they are being trained to have by so many other companies.”
*Since this writing, NYSportsMed has been acquired by industry leader, Orthology. The combined companies are now Orthology and Adam Banks serves as Head of NY Operations / Acquisitions.