Hi, there, and welcome back! This week you get a treat. I’m the one being interviewed by Kimberly Nartker on the Rehab to Wellness Boss podcast.
During our talk, we discussed fun topics like hypermobility, the nervous system, of course, growing your wellness, business, marketing, sales, and so much more. I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoyed talking about the aforementioned topics!
Kim’s Question To Me: Can You Share With Everybody Just A Little Bit About Your Background And How You Got To Where You Are Today?
Sure, well, where to start? I have been a practicing Yogi for about 20 years or so. And I stumbled into yoga when I was injured as I was a division one diver. It both healed me physically, and emotionally and mentally. And it really opened my eyes because I did physical therapy as well. It opened my eyes to the potential of the embodiment of holistic healing beyond just the physical and so that seed was planted early on when I was 20 years old.
However, at the time I was a massage therapist, I never thought I could hack it in grad school, let alone apply and get into grad school. So I massaged for quite some time, which is another blessing, because I was taught that I could succeed with a cash-based practice. So finally, long story short, I did apply and ended up going to grad school for physical therapy and got my doctorate in physical therapy because as a massage therapist, I had a lot of repeating clientele who had migraines or low back pain and I knew I only knew so little as a massage therapist when I was in PT school when I was learning all the information.
I had an awakening at one point like an epiphany. I was like, “Oh my God, if I was able to make a living, not knowing any of this information, and people were paying anywhere from – because I worked in a spa so the prices weren’t cheap – anywhere from like $120 to $200 for an hour or 90 minutes when I just had a BS and certification as a massage therapist, then for sure I could succeed as a physical therapy without taking insurance because I very, very much dislike paperwork.” So that was the start of my journey.
When I graduated from physical therapy school, I did work in the traditional physical therapy setting for a couple of years, which was great practice. I learned a lot, and got my hands on a lot of people, but my heart always called back to combining yoga and physical therapy and the wellness side. So eventually, I studied under a mentor for a number of years who was one of the first people here in San Diego to really combine physical therapy and yoga, and I took a lot of trainings. Her name is Rachel Krentzma, and she moved to Israel when I was an employee when I worked for her, and that was about the time right after I had my own baby that I broke off and went on my own, actually.
I was grateful for the whole experience, though, because I really learned so much from her technique-wise, practitioner-wise, and also just small business owner-wise, and she did both insurance and cash base. But my heart really spoke to the wellness side. So once I opened my own business, I immediately just let go of the rehab side mentally and called it Ignite Wellness, which eventually morphed into Ignite Ur Wellness because truthfully, that was the URL that was available.
And then, you know, it kind of stuck with me because I think as practitioners, we get into the gig because we want to help people – helping people get better, feel well, feel better. That’s what really speaks to our souls. And so Ignite Ur Wellness spoke to them. It works, so I stuck with it.
I never had rehab in my name at all. It was always just focusing on the wellness component. And I think it really came back to when I was a massage therapist because I never took insurance. I always focused on the wellness side, and that’s what worked for me back then. So I thought, “Oh, well, I’ll make it work now,” and I’m embodied with a whole bunch more tools and techniques.
Kim’s Comment On My Journey: Yes. So the cool part is, so you go, and you get your degree. And you’re not that PT that says, “Oh, I’ve got to put all these certifications past my name. And I’m not going to promote my PT part.” You use your PT as a stepping ladder of knowledge you incorporated into what you already knew and be able to develop a service that is not out there for a consumer looking for wellness.
Kim’s Question To Me: How Many Years Ago Did You Start Your Wellness Business?
I started massaging back in 2001 when I was first certified. But I started my own business in 2016 and just went right into the wellness side. I love to see its growth because here in San Diego, when I first started combining physical therapy and yoga, there was only a handful of us really in San Diego doing that. And truthfully, when I worked in the traditional physical therapy model, I was even hesitant to say that I was a yogi practitioner because it was still a little bit granola, still a little bit out there. Plus, I’m hypermobile, and so some of my mentors were like, “Don’t do yoga, you’re gonna hurt yourself more,” which is true if you’re not mindful about it. But yoga was so much more than a physical practice to me. And even as a hypermobile person, there are still ways you can practice when you’re aware of it. And then yoga can actually, for me, I use it a lot for my nervous system truthfully to down-regulate, because I just tend to be more on the anxious side of things.
Kim’s Comment On My Hypermobility, Yoga And The Nervous System: There are so many people out there right now who have some type of underlying autoimmune systemic problem and also have hypermobility. And if we are telling them, “Don’t do yoga, don’t do this. Don’t do this. Don’t do this,” but don’t show them and walk them through a program that they can do.
You’re missing out because you’re right, Alison, you’re not using yoga to gain more stretching for hypermobility, except you probably did have some tightness that you wondered about. However, you use it not only for that component, which you know, you need to stabilize, but it wasn’t about stretching further.
As for the nervous system, we do not talk about the nervous system enough in our physical practices. And people come in with a heightened nervous system. And what I hear from my clients that have been to physical therapy, and I’m not talking about all physical therapy guys, I’m not putting in a generic platform here, but I am saying that most physical therapists are not looking at the nervous system and how it’s affected. And so they’re not showing a consumer how to manage their nervous system and to calm their nervous system. You can help people that have hypermobility, and there are a lot of them out there, just by learning more about the nervous system and how you can help them manage nervous system reactions.
Alison: That’s what my practice eventually evolved to where people would come in. So I combined physical therapy, yoga massage, and again, massage is all nervous system regulation. I did a lot of myofascial work, it wasn’t like deep, forceful massage, it was all nervous system. And I learned it from my own experience going through many traumas in my youth and how it would show up as an adult what my brain and my nervous system perceived as, quote, unquote, safety. So the way I really stood out in this quote-unquote saturated market here in San Diego, especially in North County Encinitas, where wellness and health coaches and yoga teachers are aplenty, was because I was able to bridge the gap between Western medicine knowledge and this holistic healing of where people had been to so many physical therapists, Chiros, acupuncturists, I was like the ninth, 10th, sometimes 20th practitioner that they had seen, but they would walk into my office and right off the bat they can see it’s not a traditional office. Like right now, I’m currently in a theater, where I also practice yoga, but even when I had my commercial space, I still had my yoga wall behind me, and people would walk in, and they’d be like, “Oh, my God, are you going to tie me up and hang me upside down?” I was like, “Well, yeah, kind of.”
It was all about the nervous system where they would come in, and I would meet them where they’re at, where we might start with some physical strengthening, we might start with some mobility. But then even for people that were super, super tight, ambitious, like people are more – especially coming out of the pandemic right now – people are triggered, people are anxious, people are stressed out. And it’s manifesting in all kinds of acute and chronic physical issues and diseases. And when you come down to the root, a lot of the root sources of these issues, no matter how they’re presenting, have to do with the brain and the central nervous system.
Kim’s Question To Me: So Do You Also Include In Your Practice Just Some Manual Work On Cervical, Thoracic As Well?
Kim’s Additional Introduction For The Question: You have to do that stuff because you have to take the pressure off of that area. And I know people kind of get a little nervous when they’re like, “Oh, I don’t like chiropractic care because they see a person for so long.” Guys, look at what a chiropractor does and see what they’re truly doing. They’re getting customers in with back pain, but their true treatment is on the nervous system, they want to make sure that they’re calming the nervous system and that they’re keeping the nervous system healthy. That’s their ultimate route. And you can collaborate with them by offering support in so many ways. And it can’t just be manual and exercise.
Alison: So I really specialize in the spine and the autonomic nervous system, right. And someone might come to me with, for example, a full-blown flare-up of sciatica or a disc issue where they can’t move, so we can’t even do the physical work. And maybe I do a little manual work. My heart always goes back to manual because that’s how it started. But truthfully, what I do a lot of is all yoga-based tools. So we might do breath work, we might do meditations and visualizations, we might do visualizations because some people, for example, have no connection to their body. They don’t realize what they’re feeling, for example, they might feel that they think they’re stretching their hamstring, for example, but what they’re really just yanking on is their nerve all the time and that’s why they’re continuously flared up. So it’s slowing down a lot.
And I think for me, no matter you know what type of practitioner you are if you’re a Chiro, if you’re a PTA, if you’re a physical therapist, it doesn’t matter. But when it comes down to it, if we can just bring these tools where we’re not just teaching them a lunge, right, so there’s so much overlap – chiropractors teach lunges, Pts, PTAs, we all teach lunges, yoga, it’s on Janasena.
But it can be so much more if we embody it into their lifestyle. So we’re looking and listening to someone’s subjective story when they come in – their complaints, their desires, how they want to live their life – and people are truthfully just busy, so we’re not adding like another, “Okay, go home and do these ridiculous stretches,” because, in their mind, it’s ridiculous. They don’t understand it, and for them, it’s just another thing to do. And instead, we should embody it where it becomes more part of their lifestyle, where it becomes something that their nervous system craves. And they know that because when they stop, they miss it, and they feel worse, or it just becomes something that becomes innate to their day-to-day living.
That really, truthfully, is the definition of wellness for myself how I live it and practice it myself, and then how I begin to teach others. Because patients and clients look at us, and they want to see how we’re living as if they are saying, “Show me the way.” So that is another tool that I really highly suggest for the practitioner – to live what you teach. So then you can say, “Yeah, for me, personally, I truthfully had sciatica, I had full-blown herniation. And I practice what I preach, I do my own meditation, I do my own nervous system regulation because otherwise, I’m a stressed-out, anxious person. And truthfully, I might not be so nice to my kid and my husband. So yes, I want to live this and practice it because I feel better both physically and mentally, and emotionally when I do. And it’s possible for you too. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.”
Kim’s Takeaway During This Part Of The Interview
Kim: So I want to take away a little nugget there that you just said, because guys, this is a good nugget – listen to your consumer story, listen to where they’re struggling, empathize with them and try to understand where they’re at. Don’t force them to be where you need them to be. And don’t force a program on them that is your program because if this is a cash-based service, they’re not going to pay for it.
But if you sit down with them, understand what they’re looking for, and build your program around what they’re looking for, and they come to you, and they say, “It’s my nervous system,” and you go, “Oh, you’re not in my target,” then give them to somebody that is their target.
Connect them, guys, don’t just put them back about there in our healthcare system.
Alison: You have to meet them where they’re at first, especially with cash-based, or else they’re not going to commit to a package, they’re going to be that one-off person. And that it’s not good for them, obviously, because they’re not getting the results that they desire. And it’s not good for you because as a business owner, obviously, you would love to have someone to pay the revenue of that cash-based, package-based service, but it’s more than that. Because you’re missing out on the opportunity of having a raving loyal fan who’s going to go out and talk to you and spread the word.
So for me, it comes back to exactly what you said, really slowing down that first evaluation. I might spend the majority of that first hour just really listening to them. And I might only give just one exercise, especially because I know if they’re going to sign on to a three or six-month package because that’s only what I offer, then I have a lot of time to get into the other stuff. I can more accurately base their whole sequencing of their program initially from the start to help them to get faster results. Because a lot of people know deep down what they want or what they believe. And not all of them are correct that’s why they’re coming to see you.
Kim’s Question To Me: I Want People To Better Understand Wellness And How You Incorporate That Because You’re A PT, You’re A Massage Therapist, And You’re Including The Wellness Side For People. How Many Patients Do You Typically See A Week?
It really depends, anywhere from like 12 to 20. Truthfully, I’m not a high-volume therapist. I also don’t do one-offs, so they don’t pay per visit, they pay per package.
Follow-Up Question By Kim: What Is The Wellness Package Cost For Somebody?
Kim: So you’ve got a customer, and they come through your door. And they already know a little bit about you, because they probably have been to other places and failed. So now you’re going to meet them where they are, you’re going to understand what their needs are, and you’re going to build a program for them. But regardless, you’re still going to sell them a three-month minimum program, because you know, that’s how long it’s going to take them. So how much do you charge them for that program?
Alison: Yeah, you know, right now, I have people that are paying anywhere – because I have two different programs and I just started releasing a six-month package – so they either pay, right off the bat, $3000 to $6000.
Kim: I mean, you’ve got your DPT background, you’ve got your massage therapy background, you’re incorporating wellness, autonomic nervous system, education, all of this stuff in for a person, and a person is going to pay $3,000 to $6,000 to see you. And you probably think this is a bargain, don’t you, Alison?
Alison: Oh yeah, it’s a steal for the amount of stuff that they learn. You have to think generational.
Kim: But you can’t give a physical therapy product and charge $3,000 to $6,000. This amount is for your program you have developed, and you have tested it with clients. When a client comes into your clinic, you know what you’re going to provide, and what you’re going to sell to them.
Alison: I learned this from one of my coaches. It is either I’m selling to them the value that I can give them the results I can get into their life, which is based upon their goals truthfully. So either I sell that to them. And I don’t mind using the word selling because I know I can get them the results. I know, I’m going to make a huge impact in their life, I’m going to change their life for the rest of their life, right?
Or they’re going to sell me on their time obstacle. Some people have a cash flow obstacle, right? In which case, I’ll make payment plans, we’ll work something out, right. But a lot of the time it’s not a cash flow because they can get their iPhone for $1,000. They’ll prioritize their vacations, right? So it’s what they’re really hesitant about is either they don’t trust me quite yet, or they don’t trust themselves that they can get the results. It’s easy, right? So then it’s like, they say, “Oh, it’s just too expensive.” Because they don’t either trust themselves or us yet, or they just don’t understand the value and they need more education. There are a whole bunch of reasons why you can go into all these sales tactics. But essentially, you’re going to either sell them, or they’re going to sell you on their reasons why they can’t do it. Either way, someone’s doing the selling.
Kim: I love how you just said that, Alison. I have never heard someone say that, either, I’m going to sell them or they’re going to sell me, and guys put that in your head, put the either or in your head because it is a transition. I mean, the short amount of time that you were in physical therapy, working in a physical therapy field, I’m sure that first year of transition was you figuring out what you could provide for a customer and you really learning about a customer, and you do need to know that stuff, you have to spend the time with the customer to see what value you give to a customer before you just throw out these big prices. You didn’t just go, “I’m going to open my door, and I’m going to charge someone $3000.”
Alison: You have to believe that I started a lot lower. And as my confidence grew, my prices grew. And it wasn’t always easy. Like it’s not like I felt confident and was like, “Okay, now I’m going to charge $200.” No, I had to work with myself every step of the game because there are always growth edges.
This is true for anyone, it doesn’t matter. Because you might be thinking, “Wow, you know, these PTS, they have their doctorate, so I can’t do that sort of thing,” and that is a lie. Because I’ll tell you, the wellness, the coaching field, yoga, it’s exploding. There are so many amazing practitioners who have “just certifications” and are killing it, making multiple six figures, helping so many people, and it stems from their ability to believe in themselves and believe in their ability to get people the results, and they do get the people the results.
So as long as you know your trade, you know your practice, you can honor the promise that you’re selling, then you can make it no matter what you’re going to do.
Kim: Here’s what I always refer back to. I’ve got a lady here locally who is a Thai massage therapist, and she is fabulous at what she does with Thai massage therapy. I heart PTs complaining that PTAs can’t do joint motion. But you’re going to go to a Thai massage therapist and guess what a Thai massage therapist does – joint mobilization. And they charge $150 per visit and make them buy 12 visits at a time.
So that you’d rather have your person go to a Thai massage therapist and not go to a PTA who actually knows more about the musculoskeletal system and can provide more than just Thai massage therapy.
Alison: I sometimes think, especially when we get into the marketing side of things, sometimes we just need to put our blinders on and like it’s abundant out there. There are so many people in the world right now that need help. For both Kim and I, we’re on the wellness side, and we speak to our audiences a little bit differently. But know that there’s just an abundance of people, people can even work with both of us, and they’ll get benefits in different ways.
Kim: We are one spoke in the wheel. To say that we do everything for a customer is a failure to that customer, right?
Alison: A hundred percent. Since I teach a lot of yoga teacher training, I always teach my wellness practitioners, and my yoga teachers to work within a team. Because even as a physical therapist, I’m going to refer out to a nutritionist at times, I’m going to refer out to specialists in their field because I can’t be a specialist in everything.
So when we work in a team, we support each other, and then we’re supporting that person to get the results, the goal that they hired you for in the first place, and everyone’s risen up, really.
Kim’s Question To Me: So How Do You Market Your Physical Therapy Clinic?
Truthfully, for the physical therapy wellness side of things, I say this with huge caution because I helped a lot of wellness practitioners. I don’t market it because I get so many referrals and word of mouth. However, what I do market a lot of because I’m growing the coaching side of my practice, so I’m marketing more towards the wellness practitioner, helping them grow their wellness business. So all my marketing goes to that side of the business.
Where I’m actually working with ambitious adults who want to stay active as they age, heal and prevent pain, that sort of thing that is feeling itself currently.
Kim: So guys, that is the biggest nugget you can take – the fact that she doesn’t market her physical therapy yoga practice because people just refer to her. So when she gets a client, she listens to them, she provides the value that they’re looking for, that is a high price ticket item, they pay for it, they’re happy to pay for it, and they’re happy with their results.
And then, after they get those results and pay the high ticket, they also go out and spread the word in her community so that other people come to her because they see the value that she brings. So if you do that, you don’t have to spend money on marketing.
Alison: Well, here’s the thing. I want to caution, though, because if I were doing my wellness, PT side, and yoga side practice full time, I would market and not going to have to pay for ads at all because I don’t pay for ads for my coaching side of my business. It’s all organic marketing.
But I would market it because I wouldn’t want to put the pressure a hundred percent on people to go and give me referrals. That’s a lot of pressure on my patients.
Kim: But if you’re a new practice owner building relationships, then your clients will help. And then you learn your technique, you learn what the value is. And then when you’ve refined that, then you spend money because you know your technique.
Alison: Yes, you know your messaging. I think a lot of practitioners were not taught this in school. So it’s an easy thing to say, “Well, I’ll just hire a marketing assistant and pass it off quickly or do ads.” But truthfully, if you don’t know your audience, and you don’t know your message, if you pass that work off too quickly, it’s just throwing money down the toilet.
Kim: So definitely don’t go out and do a Facebook ad if when you get a client, and you can’t keep them more than three visits.
So your first year in business, you’re really learning. So don’t consider yourself a failure. If you’re not where Alison is or where I am.
Alison: It’s not a huge amount of time. But yeah, you’ve got to be patient, those first few years.
Kim: You’re learning those first few years. 2013, I was not the person that I am now. And my confidence wasn’t there. I didn’t know my consumer. I knew there was a need, and I knew that I could help people, and that’s a good starting point. But I didn’t know the intricacies of what a consumer needed and how I could really impact their life. And if you look at those things, you really will have a long-term customer. And then you’ll learn more about what your system is, your wellness system, and then you will start building that. Then you advertise and bring people in.
Alison: Yeah, I think you just highlighted a huge point because wellness can mean so many things, and it is a way to stand out in your market in your neighborhood, online, or wherever you are if you really learn your unique wellness process. And then that’s what you repeat over and over and over again, and you put blinders on to what anyone else’s wellness process, you focus on your business, your wellness process of what you teach others.
Kim: Yeah, that is huge. I think that’s a huge takeaway for new business owners and even those who are trying to start their wellness practices. We talked about this a little bit before you came on the air today, private practices are struggling right now, PTs who have opened private practices are not making any profit. And they’re spending a lot of time performing physical therapy.
So what Alison is saying, what I’m saying, is that adding some sort of wellness service, just add one thing, just add one little thing to get you started so that you can get some wellness revenue, but you certainly can’t price it high in the beginning, it’s a learning process.
Alison: And again, for me, it just made so much sense. And I think you were hinting on this before we got on the air, too, it wasn’t just someone was going to come to me for physical therapy, and then they were going to get this value-add or upsell of wellness after the physical therapy. It was all-encompassing right from the beginning. The seed was planted even before they walked in the door.
Kim’s Question To Me: How Much Would It Cost A Person To Go Through And Get Enough Hors To Be Proficient In Putting Yoga Into Their Practice If They Are Looking Into This?
Kim’s Additional Introduction To The Question: I want to clear something up for people. I just heard this yesterday, and I don’t know if you with what you’re doing on the coaching side if you’ve heard this too. So one of the PTAs I spoke with yesterday, and I was telling her about my stretch mobility coach program and how she could be certified and all of that stuff. I had no idea that to become a Pilates instructor, you need $7,000.
So guys, let’s just put this in your mind a little bit, okay? You go to school to be a PTA, or an OT or a PT. And you spend all of that time, and we have awesome knowledge that we learned that this is not taught as a foundational component of Pilates. And then you get out of school, and you pay $7000 more to be a Pilates instructor. I mean, you get to use some of your clinical skills. But as a Pilates instructor, you can’t do any manual work.
Alison: That’s a great question. So a yoga teacher 200 is $2500. And usually, it’s only three months, and I’ve had so many PTs who tell me, “Well, I just don’t want to learn from a yoga teacher, like what can I teach me if I go to the certification?” And it blows my mind. I’ve done so many yoga teacher trainings from quote, unquote, just yoga teachers. And I’ve learned so much.
Kim: So how much would you say you spent to be where you are in your practice?
Alison: Oh, gosh, like, probably close to $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000. I don’t know because I’ve been a yoga teacher now for over a decade. And I’ve done 1000s a year.
Kim: So I just want to touch on that. Because if you’re a new owner out there, and you want to start a wellness business, and you think that $7000 or $10,000 to start a business is too much, you shouldn’t be starting a business. I, too, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on mentors and trainings. My stuff was not all PT training.
Alison: Not to mention the coaching side. But it comes back like every time I invest every single time I invest because I invest in two ways – I invest in practitioner skills consistently, in business skills consistently. It doesn’t matter, either side of the coin, both of those, 100%, 150%, I always get my return. Yeah, every single time.
Kim: Yep. And not only that, that’s why you can charge $3,000. Because you’re not delivering a physical therapy service to a client who was expecting something else.
Alison: Yeah, exactly. I have so many tools to pull from. That’s how I can meet a client where they’re at. Some people walk in my door, and they’re like, “Ooh, yoga. I can’t do it.” Not to worry, I’m going to put on my traditional PT hat or my massage hat, we will let yoga go.
Or I’ll get some ambitious type of people that come into my office, and I’m like, okay, you know, I can see what they really need is like a restorative type pose or some breath work that calms our nervous system. But I could tell if I were to give that right off the bat, they’d be marching right out the doors, so I think to myself, not now, I got to ease into this. And so we’re going to use the other skills first. So I’m able to go with their flow while educating and still continuing to push towards what they need, not necessarily always what they want. But we’re meeting in the middle, we’re doing a little bit of a dance.
Kim: So if I can recap on some things that are really important because I think we hit on a lot of nuggets here.
So have a skill and learn a skill that’s different from what you already know because what you already know does not incorporate on the wellness side. Wellness side is not stretching hamstrings and not doing a quad stretch.
Understand wellness, understand the body, the nervous system. I think the energy system is far underrated, too. And we’re all just starting to tap into that. If you get into pain science, and you want to teach wellness, I think you have to dig a little deeper. I think it’s about how you teach it to a consumer to make them not feel as if they’re a failure and that they’re imagining things because that’s what it goes to.
Make sure you invest in what you’re going to provide a customer. As far as really thinking through the service you’re going to provide before you just say you’re going to provide a wellness service. Just like you Alison, I did the same thing. My whole thing was when they came into my door, my PT part was my program. It was what I did when I went to stretch mobility coaches. I said, “Okay, PTs, you’re going to just do PT. Do it the way you want to how you do it.” A customer calls for PT, they will get PT, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, I’m going to do stretch, mobility coaching, I’m going to do the program that I incorporated when I opened my business. And that’s why mine was successful.
So, learn a skill that’s different than you already know. So focus on those things. Make sure you don’t downgrade the fact that you’re going to learn from other providers, whether it’s a yoga instructor, a Pilates instructor, it doesn’t matter just because you’re a DPT, OT, PT, PTA, OTA, you are not above their level, because you do not know what they’re teaching. You can take your clinical skill and apply it to what they’re teaching and deliver a better product that’s more comprehensive.
And then make sure you’re investing not only on your business side, but also own your clinical stuff and understand your customer.
Kim’s Question To Me: Tell Me How People Can Get In Touch With You
Alison: It’s igniteurwellness.com. I have a free resource there. If you are stressed out as a practitioner yourself, you can go get that and tons of free resources!
Kim: Great, so everybody reach out to Alison, and you know, just schedule a call with her to see how she can help you better understand how you can incorporate wellness practices into your business and follow her. What about social links?
Alison: For Instagram, it’s igniteurwellnessbiz. On Facebook, it’s Alison McLean.
Kim: Perfect. I hope you guys really follow her!