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Meet Denise Smith of Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy in Crystal Lake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Denise Smith.

Denise, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
As a sports medicine physical therapist for the past 13 years, I have seen changes in our industry due to insurance regulations and corporate buy-outs. Working in a large corporate PT setting had its advantages – continuing education, management opportunities and program development and I loved every part of being a part of a team. I was lucky enough to be able to be a part of a running program that focused on injury prevention through teaching proper technique. But once we were bought out by an equity company (no matter what company I worked for) the results were the same – a shift in focus from quality to quantity. Much of this was a result of reimbursement limitations by insurance companies but it forced the physical therapists to see multiple patients at a time to maximize volume. Prevention could not be a focus because insurance companies don’t pay to prevent something from happening! So after a few corporate buy-outs, I finally realized that my goal of injury prevention to runners was not accepted by most large corporate organizations because insurance companies found no value in prevention of injuries. If I wanted my perfect job, I had to create it. My vision was to create an environment where patients could have one-on-one time with their therapist for a full 60 minutes and runners/athletes could learn how to prevent injuries through learning proper technique. I wrote up a business plan, took it the Small Business Development Center that is part of McHenry County College where I worked with a coach. Within 8 months, I opened Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For the most part, it has been a fun road. There have been nights of tears or pulling my hair out but the outlook is always brighter in the morning. I’ve learned how to head up the HR, Marketing, Finance, and Social Media departments but I’ve also learned that I can’t do it all by myself and that sometimes it is worth hiring someone to free up my time to do the things I’m good at doing. There are parts of the business that I am not good at (nor do I want to do!) so hiring a skilled consultant can go a long way. Asking for help never comes easy but it is a humbling experience. I learned that hiring fast and firing slow is the wrong way to do it. And I learned to let someone else proof read so that I don’t put my old employer’s phone number on my swag! We also invested in the first annual Crystal Lake Aquathon hosted at Three Oaks Recreational Center here in Crystal Lake – this event, thought it cost me significantly in out-of-pocket expenses, was one of the most moving and motivational experiences and taught me just how lucky I am to be a part of this wonderful city.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy – what should we know?
We now have a staff of 4 people – 2 therapists, 1 office manager, and 1 she-does-it-all. Every day I get to go to work with these smart ladies who inspire me to grow the business because it is fun and we know that patients deserve the kind of care we provide. Our services include running technique training, video analysis, return to sports testing and training, vestibular therapy, ACL injury prevention testing and treatment, concussion testing and treatment and physical therapy. Dana Tress is a certified concussion specialist and Denise Smith is a certified running technique specialist and certified manual physical therapist. The fact that we do not utilize therapy aides and that each patient receives a full hour of one-on-one care makes us stand apart from our competitors. We are known to get patients better faster because of the attention we give and our skill sets. As a company we are most proud that we are on the forefront of prevention: prevention of running-related injuries, fall prevention, improving awareness and prevention training of concussions. We can significantly reduce our healthcare costs by focusing on prevention and Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy is leading the way to educate athletes and patients that they don’t have to wait until they are limited to figure out what is going wrong in their body. We pride ourselves on the care that we give runners – we are reducing the amount of preventable injuries in runners simply by teaching them HOW to run (how come every other sports teaches the fundamental skills at an early age except for running??!!). We can help young athletes recover from concussions because we teach parents, coaches, and teachers how to help them. Our customers are empowered to understand the way their body move and function in order to prevent pain from developing and keep them enjoying every aspect of their life. After only one full year in business, Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy was voted Best of the Fox by McHenry County.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Grit and appreciation. I knew there would be long hours and lost dollars but I have such a passion for the goals I had set and optimism that there was happy, purposeful day of treating patients and runners the way I knew they deserved to be treated. If I’m going to spend time away from my 2 children, I want to do it with freedom and excellence in my field. I so appreciate my staff – we laugh every day and have each other’s backs and I appreciate our patients for believing in us. We are all on this crazy, fun ride together and I leave every day exhausted and excited.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Misha Media, Sylver Studios

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