How a Graphic Designer Pivoted her Career to Open a Thriving Multidisciplinary Wellness Clinic.
Jennifer Lickver is the founder and owner of Wellness for the Body, a multidisciplinary clinic located in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, offering chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, naturopathic and massage therapy services.
Jennifer sat down virtually with Destin from the Jane Community team for a chat about her journey from graphic designer to clinic owner, her learnings from 15 years of clinic management and the successes and challenges of being a non-practitioner clinic owner in the allied health space.
How did you go from a career in graphic design to clinic owner?
I get this question a lot, especially when people find out I’m not a practitioner. Before opening my clinic, I worked in graphic and web design for most of my career.
At one point, I found myself unemployed, and I took on some freelance jobs. Ultimately they weren’t bringing in enough money. I had a friend who worked as an osteopath, and she helped me find part-time employment at two clinics where she worked. The hours were awkward with two small three hour shifts jumping from one location to another, five days a week. Still, it worked well with my schedule at the time, and I learned a lot about the ins and outs of how clinics work and the interesting world of wellness and therapies.
After some time working in the clinics, I thought maybe I would like to become a therapist myself. That perhaps I’d make a good massage therapist. I even went as far as applying to a program and was accepted. However, before I was set to start my program somebody in my network approached me and offered to help me open up a clinic of my own. So I decided to go that route instead, and I’ve owned and run my wellness centre - Wellness for the Body - for the past 15 years.
How has your background and previous work experience helped you as a clinic owner?
The ultimate benefit is that I have no schedule to fill, so filling everyone else’s schedule is my top priority. Obviously, part of that motivation is that I cannot get paid unless everyone is busy. I focus on the business aspects of the clinic and let my therapists focus on our clients and together we work to ensure our clinic is running smoothly and our clients are all super happy.
🌱 As a clinic owner my job is 100% focused on ensuring all of my therapists are busy. That’s what I care about.
I have found that a lot of the therapists at my clinic are seeking out support with the business side of practice. They are looking for support with finances, business organization, and even things like sending out invoices properly. I love that I can provide those services to my business, allowing my therapists to focus on their work, and through that, I am also able to share that training, knowledge and information with my team.
How did you learn to run your clinic?
It was definitely a bit of a learning curve. I’d say the most challenging thing about owning a business is figuring out how to work with everyone on your team. So many different personalities and communication styles mean effective communication is really vital.
You have to figure out how to respect people and, more importantly, listen to people. That’s actually surprisingly difficult. No two people are alike.
In my experience, you could have ten people working with you and make a change in your business. You’ll please 9 out of 10 of those people, but there will inevitably be one person who just doesn’t like the change.
Coping with that type of behaviour is a matter of figuring out ways to communicate specifically with each person on your team. Everyone might need their own communication style. I wasn’t always good at this, but over my 15 years of clinic management, I think I’ve learned how to do this, and I’m continually trying to improve.
🌱 Management, leadership, and communication are not one size fits all. You have to learn that not everyone has the same personality, and everyone varies in communication style.
Ensuring everyone feels comfortable, seen and heard is crucial to running a successful business and having a high functioning team. This is actually part of my newest challenge for myself. I appreciate self-growth and continued learning, so I have enrolled in a life and business coach program. I’m learning in this program the theory around empowering people and working interdependently with them instead of working in the traditional workplace hierarchy.
Is there anything you wish you knew when you started?
That’s a tough question. We’re all human beings. We all evolve, and hopefully, we evolve for the better. It’s a learning curve.
I don’t think anyone can come out of the box and be perfect. It’s just years of experience and sometimes failing and understanding that you will trip and stumble a bit, but you just need to pick yourself up and keep moving forward.
By no means am I perfect, but I hope that people see a difference in me as a clinic owner and manager from where I was 15 years ago or even from just a couple of years ago.
🌱 The lesson is about picking yourself back up. Figuring out how to do it better and continue being open to evolving. Agreeing to be a bit better each and every day.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience with Jane?
We’ve been with Jane for a little over a year and a half now. I think I found out about Jane by chatting with other clinic owners. I asked about what they used, and a lot of people I talked with were using Jane and were really happy with it.
No software will be perfect. I think Jane even admits that with messaging, I’ve seen like we’re always a work in progress but join us, join our community and help us along this journey.
🌱 I share feedback with the Jane team and add items in the Feature Request area. I love testing stuff out, figuring out how it works and if it’s working well. I am proud to be able to contribute to Jane and help make it better.
At the end of the day, Jane does tick off most of the boxes for me, but I have to admit I did give your team a hard time initially! I said before I commit, I’m going to test this bugger out. Every week I emailed and asked for the demo site password. I loved that I could do that. I tested Jane out for so many weeks.
I don’t really want to admit this, considering I’m so technically inclined. Still, we literally went from paper and pencil to Jane! I really held off for many, many years because it really just worked for us.
I also had some admin staff members who were really hesitant to go digital, so it was essential to consider their needs before we made the switch. But once we decided to move off of paper and pencil, I wanted to move quickly and rip the bandaid off! Just get everything moved over from Quickbooks, including all of our clients, notes and appointments into Jane as soon as possible. We also launched online booking immediately as well.
🌱 I think my admin staff would say that the email and text reminders have been life-altering. Before Jane, they were literally phoning every client to try and cut down on no-show rates. Jane has automated so much of that for them.
For me, I really like the copy and the move feature on the schedule. That is pretty awesome and pretty time-saving.
A feature that I just recently learned more about that I love is online booking start times. I read about the feature initially, and the default setting seemed like what I wanted. After a year and a half of using Jane, I just wasn’t really happy with it but wasn’t sure if changing it made sense. Recently there was a post on the Jane Facebook Forum about this feature, and I jumped in asking for more explanation of how it worked. This other community member explained it to me, and I implemented the changes right away.
It’s only been a few weeks since I made the change, but I think it’s really a game-changer for us. Before the change, we were always trying to salvage the one-hour spots (if you’re an RMT, you will know what I am talking about here!). If you have three 45 minute spots back to back and one of them cancels, you can’t fill that spot. With online booking start times, you can set up the intervals your clients are able to book in the schedule. This means no more trying to salvage those one-hour spots or being left with awkward gaps in the schedule.
On the client-side, our clients absolutely love online booking. Allowing our patients to book in themselves when they have the time versus them having to call in is fantastic for everyone.
I think I read that most online shopping happens at 1 am and who’s to say that that isn’t the same with booking treatments online as well? We aren’t going to answer the phone at 1 am, but they can absolutely visit our website to book!
🌱 I know clinics who are not using the online booking functionality yet, and I keep telling them they don’t know what they are missing!
How has your clinic weathered COVID, and what have been some of the learnings from this time for you?
I have to admit it was a really scary time, but at that point, we thought we might be closed for at most a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks turned into four and then six. In total, we were closed for about two and a half months.
I didn’t stop working during that time. I researched every article and every program or grant I could find. I watched every news feature every day, every morning. I actually created a website and collected information to help other business owners figure out what was out there and how to apply for it. I would go through the steps myself, and then I would post about the process and any issues that came up.
🌱 During the COVID closure I focused on keeping myself busy because I needed to feel like there was hope that we would open, and I needed to feel like there was hope that we would survive.
We made a COVID Action Plan Team, and it was kind of cool. I had six people from the clinic volunteer - one chiropractor, a massage therapist, an osteopath and a few others - and we met for weekly video calls. We had people representing the different therapies and associations and sharing that information with the group. Together we came up with a plan for re-opening.
Because of this group and this plan, everyone felt so much calmer when it came to actually re-opening. We had this team. We had decisions already made. Then we had a big group Zoom call with everybody in the clinic to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and what we were doing.
I also connected with some other clinic owners through Facebook groups. Through that, I started meeting with other clinic owners over Zoom. We would get together about once a week, and I just felt really supported by the whole industry.
Jane was so supportive too. Jane was putting out information left, right and centre. Jane even launched a Facebook group for the Jane community, which was another great resource and source of support throughout COVID and re-opening. And it has remained a great resource still.
Can you tell us a bit about your process for hiring and training at your clinic?
It’s always an interesting process for practitioners because, as I said, I’m not a practitioner. So what I usually do is go by a gut feeling on people.
When interviewing people - whether staff or practitioner - I’m very clear about sharing our beliefs, values and seeing if I get the sense that they align with that. I use things that are important to me at our clinic as touchstones. For example, we have seniors rates for most of our services and if anyone flinches at that, then that’s a clue for me that maybe it’s not the right fit.
🌱 Things have been different with COVID like doing interviews over the phone or via video chat. But the core question is still the same. Do they align with our beliefs and values? After that, I look to see if they get along with the rest of the team and have a personality that would fit in well.
For the job skills part for practitioners, I bring in other teammates to help with that. They’ll help test out their abilities in their discipline. I am happy to let others on the team take the reigns there. That all goes back to the trust and communication with the team I was talking about earlier.
However, I will say we are pretty lucky that we don’t have to hire people all that often. We keep our therapists for a pretty long time. But we do need to add more practitioners in specific areas as we grow. We only added physiotherapy about a year ago, and she’s been swamped. So we will need to bring someone else on board to help with the demand.
As for training, I have a lot of lists! I will actually walk around with a clipboard and check things off as I go.
Jane has definitely helped with our training process because of the online guides. I find Jane’s online materials very helpful in training new staff and practitioners…and of course, I supplement them with additional materials that are specific to my clinic by showing what Jane does and then highlighting how it applies to us in various circumstances. Our training manuals and documents are ever-evolving and are always a work in progress.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your clinic and your business?
I think it’s the good we do and that everyone at the clinic is there for the same reason. We are all there to help people.
Yes, we all need to make money. That’s always part of the equation. But at our clinic, it’s not the number one priority, and I tend to hire people on that same page. If anyone on my team ever came to me and said that a client was struggling financially and asked if we could help them out, I would be all for it.
🌱 The main priority at my clinic is, how do we really, really actually help people? After that, how do we make sure that we make money and stay alive and survive to continue being able to help people?
I’m also really proud of the team that we have now. Obviously, I went through some bumps and some challenges along the way to get the team we have today. But it was all worth it; it’s a pretty awesome team. From our admin staff to our weekend only team members to the people there four or five days a week, they’re all awesome people. So I’m really fortunate there.
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