Building Your Own Brand as a Physical Therapist

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On this episode of the #AskMikeReinold show we talk about some of the ways that a physical therapist (or fitness specialist) can build their own personal brand the right way, and without your employer being annoyed. To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to

#AskMikeReinold Episode 213: Building Your Own Brand as a Physical Therapist

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Show Notes


Mike Reinold: On this episode of the Ask Mike Reinold show, we talk about building your own personal brand as a physical therapist.

Mike Reinold: We got a good question here. This is a good one that I think is going to be good for this crew. I wanted to kind of talk to you guys about this, but Brian, from Los Angeles, asked, “Mike, you have a team of physical therapists that all have their own brands and side businesses educating in their field of expertise. Unfortunately, you don’t see that often with other employers. How do we push our profession forward to see this type of model and PT practices as beneficial instead of employers viewing their employees having brands as negatives.” Honestly, it’s a lot. While you guys gather your thoughts, let me think a little bit here and I think it’s kind of funny.

Mike Reinold: Let me hit the end of that while you guys think about it because I want to hear it from your perspectives as the employees with the brands. And maybe Lenny can talk a little bit too as an employer, but I want to talk about that last part, about this being a negative. I have no idea why an employer would consider this a negative. I mean, what are they worried about? You going around the corner and open up your own shop? I mean, that’s the only negative, right? Is that you’ll leave and do your own thing. But whether you have a brand or you don’t, if you have an entrepreneurial spirit, if you’re a business type of person, that type of thing, and you’re dying to open up your PT practice, then you’re probably going to do it anyway, right? I don’t know, we never fear our employees leaving to do other things because it probably means it’s a better opportunity for them and we’re supportive of that decision, right?

Mike Reinold: So it’s funny, we’ve had, I don’t know even, over the years, people tend to come and go a little bit, right? We’ve had a few employees give their notice-

Mike Reinold: And they’re that, yeah. We have a few employees give their notice and they’re always like, I don’t want to say scared, that’s the wrong word, there’s like a level of anxiety when they give their notice. And I don’t know if it’s just because they don’t know what to expect from the employer side, but I’m always ecstatic for them because they found something better for them. I mean, who am I to judge what’s good for them, right? So congrats. I’m happy for you. I’ll reflect on what we could do better to make it a place where people want to stay forever, but you can’t think of it as a negative that your employees are gaining expertise. It’s funny when you can just say that sentence, it’s comical, right? You kind of laugh like, “Who would…”

Mike Reinold: But I’m going to take a step back and just say there’re probably employers out there that either have some egotistical issues or maybe some self-confidence issues, and they’re just super worried about their employees getting too powerful. And I don’t even know what that means. But that, obviously that’s ridiculous and hopefully, if you’re in a situation like that, you see there’s other opportunities out there. So based on that, I want to hear from you guys a little bit, as the employee. I mean, what do you guys like about your ability to have your own brands?

Dave Tilley: Dan, you want to go?

Dan Pope: Yeah, sure. And I’ve said this a lot of times before, but I think it helps me on a lot of different levels. First and foremost, I love to learn, I love to share things, and that’s kind of what having my own blog and brand is. But it kind of comes full circle because I’m out there doing more learning, working with a specific niche, niche, whatever you want to call it, getting my craft, better posting about it, continuing to refine my craft, and then making products about that, and then trying to make some income in ways that helps me, helps everyone else, and supports me eventually buying a house and a car kind of thing. So I think it’s very fulfilling for me in a variety of different ways.

Mike Reinold: You know what I like about everything you just said there, Dan? That’s also beneficial for your patients and your employer. And again, I think everything you guys are about to say, we’re going to conclude with that again, right? So, Dan obviously approaches his brand as an extension of him, him learning and growing and getting better. All wins for both the employee, the employer, and the clientele that you have. Dave, how about you, man?

Dave Tilley: Yeah, well, the first thing I think is important to say is I think we’re really fortunate that you and Lenny, as leaders, have always kind of been what’s best for the team, what’s best for the employees. So we’re really lucky. I think people who are listening maybe on your side of the fence have to realize that it’s a selfless thing. I think you guys are always like what’s best for all the team and so that allows us to have some freedom to kind of do our brand stuff well. I think in previous situations I’ve been in, sometimes that’s not as supported and it’s hard to kind of get your feet off the ground.

Dave Tilley: So, with that being said, I would definitely agree with Dan that a big part of why I started my brand was because I felt like I wanted to have a way to continuously learn. And, I mean, content’s expensive, man. Getting high quality information, books, courses, is expensive. And I ended up finding that I was spending a lot of money on books and courses and so I wanted to use a brand to kind of leverage the ability to support that.

Dave Tilley: That was a big initiative for me because I enjoy constantly learning as well, but the second piece to mine is I just feel like I was really lucky, in a unique point of view, where I had a lot of different experiences as a coach and as an athlete, and as someone who’s able to work with you guys, that I had a unique perspective that I wanted to share with people. And so that was a big reason why I started mine too, as well, because I felt like there was a lot of information that could help people with their training or with PT side of things and I wanted to make sure I used that opportunity and the platform to do that.

Dave Tilley: So I started building more on top of it and it just became a company because it just happened to grow more, and I needed to like travel and kind of get expenses and stuff. But I found mine is more a combination of what allows me to learn, but then also what allows me to help people who I think really could use the information. I think you guys did that with baseball and I kind of followed in your footsteps with gymnastics.

Mike Reinold: I like that. And when I think about what you said, is like we talked about… So Champion’s like a small footprint right here, but you’re educating the world. Why would we ever want you to hold that back?You’re helping other therapists around the country do what you’re doing and sharing what you’re learning, right? That’s another great thing, and what you didn’t mention is your you’re working on, probably, an underserved population a little bit, right? The gymnastics community didn’t really have these resources, so you’re really going out there and giving back to the community like love and you’re passionate about, and build up a little prominence there. So that’s awesome. I think that’s fantastic.

Dave Tilley: But I’ll also say to you that a lot of the brand benefits have actually been directly helpful for Champion. A lot of patients of mine have found me through blogs and through different stuff, and they come and get an evaluation and they work in our sports performance in the summer and stuff. So you have to make sure you look at that right angle.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. I mean, yeah, think about it, the more popularity you get, you start generating, and this from an employer perspective, you start generating your own leads. Right? If you think of it that way. So, again, why would we be upset? Again, I think it just comes back to a lack of self-confidence in, probably, the private practice owner. I think that’s interesting. Lisa, how about yourself? I mean, you’re kind of starting off a little bit in your journey here with your brand and your passion with working with the rowers, and your background, and stuff like that. I mean, maybe from your perspective, you’ve worked elsewhere as well, have you ever dealt with anything like that and where’s your head now?

Lisa Russell: Yes, I 100% have. I’ve had a couple of different jobs where the employer is not welcoming to someone becoming sort of their own independent brand within… Either completely independently or in the umbrella, or whatever, I’ve been shut down a good number of times before in that way. And ended up where-

Mike Reinold: And how did that make you feel?

Lisa Russell: I mean, I don’t work for them anymore.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. I mean, that’s a valid point, right? If you’re an employer and you want to just have a bunch of crappy people that you can put under your thumb all the time, then, yeah, that’s a great strategy.

Lisa Russell: Yeah, I mean, what is amazing about the culture that you and Lenny have created at Champion is that you encourage everyone to continue to learn and to find their passion, and do what we all want to and follow what we want to do in our careers. And you support that in ways that, I mean, I have not come across other employers who do. So you guys have set up a very, in my experience, unique setup, where you really encourage your employees to do this. To spend time on bettering ourselves and educating ourselves, and consider that a value for the company as a whole. I’ve 100% worked for employers who… If you say like, “Hey, I don’t have anything to do, so I want to just take this continuing ed course.” They’re like, “Well, you need to do that on your own time. You can’t do that during work hours.” And it’s like, “But that would make me better at my job. Doesn’t make sense.” So-

Mike Reinold: I’m just sitting here, I don’t I have anything else to do right now.

Lisa Russell: Yeah. You really just want me to sit here and check my email, and like what? So, I mean, it’s definitely something. I mean, I’ve worked in a lot of different settings, other outpatient settings, inpatient settings, home care, it doesn’t matter, and no… The benefit, I suppose, of the setup of Champion and even just maybe cash-based, generally, is that you have that flexibility. You have that ability to allow your employee to go and spend the time to educate themselves, and not always be worrying about how much money they’re bringing in and because I find that’s most employers’ primary focus, right? Is what your-

Mike Reinold: Sure. Yeah. Get different numbers in.

Lisa Russell: Your value is in that way and spending time learning doesn’t bring money in at that particular moment.

Mike Reinold: Yeah. It goes back to, I mean, a lot of the ways we do things is just based on what’s best and what’s best will work itself out, right? Not what’s most profitable or how do we squeeze things. So, Len, any negatives from the employer side that you can think of?

Lenny Macrina: Not really, I mean.

Mike Reinold: I have some.

Lenny Macrina: Yeah, there’s-

Mike Reinold: There are some, but I wanted to hear your perspective.

Lenny Macrina: I mean, I think everybody has kind of spoken to the… I don’t think I have much to add on from their perspective that… Engage that it-

Mike Reinold: I want to hear from your perspective.

Lenny Macrina: Right. From my perspective, if these guys can better themselves and become more educated in what they’re passionate about, and then that helps to generate leads and potential clients for the business, then why would we ever stop that? And if these guys, if we somehow cannot put an environment together where they are 100% satisfied and they have to begin to look, which I know people are going to leave us, but if it’s something that we could’ve controlled and we held them back, and they left because of that, then that’s on us.

Lenny Macrina: So we’ve always tried to do something to put the employee first, where it’s learning, it’s letting them spread their wings and do whatever they feel is most comfortable for them, and I think that everybody benefits from it. So why would I want to stifle that? So to hear Lisa say that, I know Dave has had that in the past, it just blows my mind because I kind of lived it. You’ve got employers or previous companies I’ve worked for where they have a philosophy where you have to take the courses that they want you to take. Whether or not everybody has to be McKenzie certified, not to throw McKenzie, or some kind of manual therapy certification. And it just doesn’t fit what the person is trying to do in their own professional niche, niche, whatever. And so it’s just, to me, I would love to have our PTs really expand in what they are passionate about, not necessarily what the employer is passionate about.

Mike Reinold: Can we just settle on is it niche or niche? Because I feel like we’re all hedging our bats on a bonsai.

Lenny Macrina: I know. I don’t know, that’s why I repeated it twice.

Mike Reinold: It looked like you were going to anyone if you say one or the other. You know what I mean? Well, so I’m going to give the employers a little credit here and let’s talk about some potential negatives maybe, right? So the first one I think was… I think we all answered that because we’re all good humans, right? We answered that assuming all good things were happening. So, obviously, there’s a ton of benefits. But if you’re developing a personal brand and you want to be that confrontational brand or the person that’s the contrarian or the real negative person, or if you want to be throwing political stuff on there, then, yeah, a lot of employers do not want to associate themselves with someone they don’t align their core values with.

Mike Reinold: So I would say, I would throw that out at you first, right there. It’s just made sure that that isn’t the issue, right? If you want to be the contrarian guy, a lot of people are going to be like, “Whoa, I don’t…” I get that, right? And then, you can certainly have like your own personal account and try to give some disclaimer stuff, but I still think a lot of employers aren’t going to really back you up for being the bonehead online, right? Did that make sense? I think that’s one thing we didn’t talk about.

Mike Reinold: Two is, we talked about it a little bit here, but none of us are going rogue in the clinic with some crazy stuff that we do. At Champion, we share some clinical values and we share some common systems that we’ve developed and educated, and brought in as the group. I mean, if you’re a therapist here and you are completely on one side of a spectrum, away from us, it’s probably not going to be a good fit.

Mike Reinold: So, again, same thing. We talk about like having your own brand and thought process, but we have to share, again, core values and then we’ll call them the clinical values, right? So core personal values and then maybe clinical values, it has to be close. And then, I guess the last thing would just be a conflict of interest. We all educate other professionals as to what we do online. It’s a mild conflict of interest. Say, Dave was doing social media posts. He’s like, “Hey, anybody wants physical therapy in my garage? DM me and we’ll get it going.” And we’re putting a lot of time into building up Dave and Dave brand equity, and stuff like that too because we support that.

Mike Reinold: But he’s educating other people on what he does. And that’s even myself and Lenny, and so we educate Dan, we educate people on what we do versus selling physical therapy. I don’t see it as a conflict of interest, but I could see maybe your employer doing that. But if you’re trying to build your brand to charge people in your basement, then, yeah, your boss is probably not going to be happy about that. He’s doing a lot to drive people into the clinic to put on your schedule so you make more money. Right? So if you’re putting all your efforts into driving people into your basement, then, yeah, it’s going to get awkward. That makes sense?

Dave Tilley: Why don’t we just stay away from that?

Lenny Macrina: Dave’s correct.

Dave Tilley: Yeah, another well-established facility.

Mike Reinold: Did I make it more dramatic by saying a basement because it seems to turn-

Dave Tilley: I know, it sounds like a horror film now.

Mike Reinold: Yeah, it seems. Yeah, ready. Seems negative, right? So I actually, just quickly before we end, as the employees, that makes sense right? Was that off base in any way?

Dave Tilley: Yeah. I would agree, I think you hit the nail on the head, wrapping up saying it’s all about your intent of leveraging your brand. If your end goal with the company and with your financial, or not if you’re just doing it because you like it, is just to educate and you’re speaking or you’re traveling, you’re selling services with courses. That’s a very different end goal than if I’m building my brand to leverage getting physical therapy clients. If I’m going to start my own gymnastics-specific, cash-based practice, and I just pull 50% of the clients away from Champion, that’s a very different intent, and I think that’s really what it comes down to, is what’s the end goal of your nonfinancial or financial kind of.

Lenny Macrina: My end goal is I’m selfish and I want to just be a better PT. It’s honestly that. I’m afraid of falling behind in the research and not keeping up, and not being the best that I can be. So my selfishness is I want to be the best PT. It’s that simple for me. You know what I mean? I don’t want to lose track of what’s going on in the research. I need to stay on top of that stuff so I am not that outdated therapist that’s doing crazy stuff and everybody’s looking at me like, “What are you doing?” I want to be a good PT. And it’s just that simple. And then it carries over into social media and then you have other stuff.

Mike Reinold: Yeah.

Dave Tilley: There’s a massive benefit at Champion because we all have different niches that study different topics. Nobody else at the clinic studies hip microinstability like I do. I don’t study inguinal hernias like Dan does, right? So we get that ongoing kind of melting pot of new information.

Lenny Macrina: And then, we talk about it during work and we chat, and we have fun, and then it’s just a great environment. So I think it works well.

Mike Reinold: Love it. Yeah. All pros, right? I mean, very few cons. If you have an employer that’s probably hitting the negative things that we talked… Or no, if you have an employee that is hitting some of the negatives that we talked about, then, yeah, it’s probably just not a good fit anyway. Right? You’re probably butting heads a little bit anyway, you’re probably not at your best. I mean, there are some people, we talked about this, there are some people we deem unemployable. Right? I think there’s a book about that. There are unemployable people out there that just need to do their own thing and that’s fine, and I encourage that. I’m unemployable in my mind, right? That’s part of why I started Champion because I was like, “Hey, I can’t go work for a hospital right now and wear a lab coat, and stuff.” Yeah. Right?

Mike Reinold: So it was kind of like how we kind of think about it. But anyway, great question. I wanted to spend a little extra time. I’m glad we went a little longer on this one because I think it’s an important topic. A lot of people want to start their own brand now. Again, this is almost like a little mini course on the right way and the wrong way to do it, for so many reasons. So great question, Brian, thanks so much. And again, if you have a question like that, head to the website,, click on that podcast link and you can fill out the form, and keep them coming. We’ll see you guys on the next episode and continue doing this as long as we’re getting good questions like that. So thank you very much.

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