With the 15th anniversary celebration under his belt, Earle Burrows, CEO of Human Performance Centre, is in his happy place. Earle, an endurance sport enthusiast, leads an accomplished team of physiotherapists, massage therapists and kinesiologists at his thriving clinic on Westfield Road in Saint John.
Only one of nine McKenzie-certified physiotherapists in New Brunswick, Earle has a BSc in biology from Dalhousie University and a physiotherapy degree from Queens University.
When he takes a break from helping people optimize their movement, he is an accomplished triathlete and works on getting out on his bike in the summer and cross-country skis in the winter as much as he can. But like so many health professionals, Earle’s journey from a practitioner to business owner wasn’t without its bumps along the way.
I began my conversation with Earle by asking how it all started for him.
A: When I was in school it was always a dream to own and operate my own clinic. I started my career working for Work-SafeNB at the Workers’ Rehab Centre. Over a 10-year career I moved from a staff physiotherapist to middle management.I really enjoyed the management position but I was missing the hands-on interaction with patients and clients.
Then an opportunity came up. Ken Salmon,a physiotherapist I had worked with in the past, expanded his clinic and I was given a full-time opportunity. Eventually I was able to buy-in to the practice and then I bought out Ken nine years ago.
Q: Tell me about how Human Performance Centre came to be.
A: A couple of years ago, we had the opportunity to partner with a local dentist, Dr. Jeff Clark, and work with local physicians to construct a building that would house all of our offices and clinics. We moved in last December.
Q: Sounds like a highly collaborative effort.
A: Yes, our local physicians are our biggest referral resources. Both Dr. Scott and Dr. Keripe refer patients to us. It just made sense to have a wellness centre that is a one-stop shop for the community to come and have their health and wellness needs addressed at the same location.
[Tweet “It made sense to have a wellness centre as a one-stop shop for the community… – Earle Burrows”]
Q: How many staff do you have?
A: We have four physiotherapists now, including myself. We have two massage therapists,two kinesiologists and we have six main support staff.
Q: What are you enjoying most about your business?
A: This is really the perfect mix because I liked being a manager with the leadership, vision and the planning that’s involved. I also like working with patients – I get to do both with this job. It’s very diverse.
Q: How do you balance being both a practitioner and a business builder?
A: Well, we are not trained to be business people in physiotherapy school. We are trained to be clinicians. In my experience, when you are working in a hospital or a big environment, the best clinicians get moved up the ranks to managers, but we don’t have any managerial skills. I was very fortunate the way my career went – I was working in an organization like WHSCC where I had mentors. I worked with people who were managers and they had gone to business school and had MBAs. It was a great learning environment.
Q: How would you describe your customer profile?
A: We have a few niches. Two of us, Trish Sennett and I, are certified McKenzie therapists, an international system. This training is specific to treating patients with spinal problems and various joint problems. Because of this expertise, people who have had spinal problems turn to us.
[Tweet “Because of this expertise, people who have had spinal problems turn to us. – Earle Burrows”]
Q: What does the rest of the customer base look like?
A: I tend to treat a lot of injured athletes – they come from all over the province, and beyond – to be assessed and treated. Trish specializes in treating women with pelvic issues. She’s also a certified acupuncturist.
Q: Is your gym another line of revenue for business?
A: Yes, it’s a full-fledged gym with cardio and strengthening equipment. It is a nice asset to have from a physio point of view because at a certain stage in someone’s recovery we want them to be more active.We want them to get at least some general conditioning and some cardio work. General members can come and use the facility too. It has been a great addition to our business.
Q: What have you found challenging in your business?
A: I was so busy in the trenches – working in the business – that it was really hard to work on the business. I’ve structured things now so that I have more time to work on the business. That’s really important to me – I don’t want to own a job. I want to own a business.
[Tweet “I don’t want to own a job. I want to own a business. – Earle Burrows”]
Q: What was it like going through the transition from renting a space to owning your own physical location?
A: There are only two things that happen with a business – either you’re growing or you’re shrinking; there’s no real status quo. We didn’t have the physical space to grow. We knew we had to do something and this venture made sense, as scary as it was.
[Tweet “This venture made sense, as scary as it was. – Earle Burrows”]
Q: How would you describe your mission?
A: Our mission as a business – and this is a personal mission of mine also – is to achieve my best and have the best business that I can have and be the best practitioner, be the best boss and be the best leader. Ultimately, I want to have the best outcomes for my patients.
[Tweet “Ultimately, I want to have the best outcomes for my patients. – Earle Burrows”]
Q: Do you have any sense of the impact you are having with patients?
A: We do a satisfaction survey with every patient. We have thousands on record now and our average score is somewhere around 9.6 out of 10 on the question of how they rank their experience with us.
Q: What is your most important measurement?
A: I want my patients to get better because no matter what else we are doing, if our patients aren’t getting better and improving and getting good outcomes, then they are not coming back and they are not going to tell their friends to come here.
Q: So, soliciting feedback is very important to you.
A: I hired a business coach a number of years ago and we discussed how important it is to really know what people are thinking about our service. It helps us improve.
Q: What advice would you give someone who has dreams of owning their business?
A: If you see an opportunity, seize it!
Q: How would you finish this sentence?“A leader’s job is to …”
A: A leader’s job is to have a vision of the future and clarity on what you need to do to help your clientele and staff achieve their best.
Q: What keeps you inspired?
A: Stephen Covey’s book, the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The seven habits are part of the orientation manual that we give new staff – we’ve tweaked the habits to fit our business. That book gave me some good ideas on how to become a good team leader.
Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale.
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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, May 28, 2016.