The following is a Q&A with FYZICAL member Louis Zuniga, PT, DPT, CHT, MCT of El Paso, Texas.
Tell me a little bit about how you started out in private practice physical therapy.
I’ve been in private practice since 1989. I started independently as a hospital contractor in a tiny osteopathic hospital. I worked in a very poor part of town. It was a super important part of my career because I was interested in manipulation and was able to take care of a lot of people for free. The hospital later sold and that is when I opened my first clinic. It was very small but efficient. I joined a partnership shortly after which lasted 15 years. It was a dysfunctional arrangement and got worse over time, so I left and created HealthMasters roughly 10 years ago.
How did you discover FYZICAL?
I don’t remember how I first became involved with FYZICAL – but, I guess, I was intrigued by something I saw and did my own research. Actually, the spelling FYZICAL was how I intended to spell Physical when I first opened my practice and my wife told me I was crazy. I understood then, as I do now, that there was a national problem with balance, vestibular issues, and falls. Our model didn’t adequately serve that population. HealthMasters’ mission was not inconsistent with FYZICAL in that we really wanted to be the standard of practice for everything we do. On principle, I’ve always been opposed to going off to a weekend course and becoming an “expert.” We shouldn’t say we are experts unless we truly are, but therapists do it all the time. We were a very successful orthopedic model, but I realized where my weaknesses were. I wanted to change things and do better. In retrospect, I suppose my interest in taking extensive balance and vestibular courses ultimately led me to FYZICAL. I then discovered everything else FYZICAL has to offer: business skills, strength in numbers, legacy planning and growth opportunities to name a few. I spent a lot of time evaluating and speaking to franchisees and that’s how I solidified my decision to join FYZICAL. It was a difficult move for me primarily because we were not a practice in distress, and I had to be completely convinced this move to join FYZICAL would improve my practice significantly. I made the right decision.
What were your first impressions of FYZICAL?
My initial impression of FYZICAL was confusion because I didn’t understand it very well. That’s why I spent so much facetime with the FYZICAL team before jumping in with both feet. I had my attorney and bankers asking me why I was making this move but I knew I had to form a new vision for my company. It’s so easy when you’re successful to sit on your laurels and at this point in my life it would have been easy to do just that. FYZICAL presented me the opportunity of a new challenge and growth potential and I welcome a new challenge. I have always been one to press myself and never settle. FYZICAL has certainly impressed me.
When did you join FYZICAL?
In February 2018, I joined FYZICAL.
What, ultimately, was your reason for joining FYZICAL?
I have a new opportunity for strategic growth – both personally and professionally. I feel like I have someone on my side moving forward. The CEO of FYZICAL, Brian Belmont, is a good guy – he gets it. There is a lot of positive energy and exciting things going on at FYZICAL.
Why did you become interested in acquisition?
Henry is one of my former classmates and a former partner. We have always had a great relationship. I told him what I was doing, he reached out to FYZICAL, and FYZICAL reached out to me. That’s what got the ball rolling and we started discussing FYZICAL together. He was a private practice owner experiencing some challenges – both in his business and his personal life. Henry is in the twilight of his career and had started thinking about his exit strategy. He and I both know the options for exiting a PT practice are not easy. Usually you have to sell your practice to a hospital or bigger corporation and it’s not glamorous. I had evaluated those options and so did Henry. I realized it wasn’t for me, Henry felt the same. So, we talked a lot about how to move forward. FYZICAL helped me come up with a winning formula to acquire his practice.
What is this acquisition going to do for you and your business?
This acquisition is a huge win/win for Henry and me. FYZICAL gives Henry the opportunity of a wealthy exit strategy he never would have had otherwise. Now, I can significantly expand the business and create better opportunities for the employees to learn and grow. As far as recruiting, I’ve got PT’s chomping at the bit to join. Because of this, I am confident the team will continue to grow well into the future. We train our staff more than I’d say anyone else, and as a result, therapists that want to become better professionals migrate toward us. Our larger scale brings more opportunities for us to train and grow our staff into All Stars.
What are your plans for the future?
The plan is to take this acquisition and make it as great as our other locations. Everyone has been re-energized since this opportunity came about. We’re building our employees’ level of expertise to become proud leaders in outpatient rehabilitative care, physical health and wellness. I’m going to bust my tail to make this successful for our team.
How did the FYZICAL team offer support to you during this process?
The HQ team has been helping me the whole way, especially Chris Mulvey. Chris is amazing and he can answer any question or problem I face. Brian Belmont knows exactly how to get this done. He, Chris and I have spent a lot of time on the phone. They’re problem-solvers. Having this team of people who’ve already been through acquisitions on my side of the fence is just priceless. RJ Williams is in the trenches with me as well. I bounce questions off Rick Douglas, RJ and the entire team. Everyone is so willing to help us win. I can’t say enough about the strength and commitment of the FYZICAL team.
What else do you want to share with your peers about FYZICAL helping you become an acquirer?
There’s no way I would have done this acquisition without FYZICAL behind me. An acquisition process is not easy. There are many moving parts and having a team like we have behind us is priceless. The last thing I want to do is let anyone down, but now I know I won’t because I have FYZICAL on my side.