After graduating from Physical Therapy school, where did you start your professional career?
Allyson: My first PT job was in a hospital in acute and outpatient rehab. Then, I was a traveling physical therapist, working in different locations across the United States. I landed at an orthopedic clinic for 6 years, where I learned about Pilates through a patient.
Gabrielle: I graduated and went into a hospital setting for neuro rehab. Stroke and brain injury type PT before moving into orthopedics. A friend asked if I’d ever done Pilates and took me through a workout that piqued my interest.
When did you decide to “go out on your own”?
Allyson: A patient invited me to her Pilates workout. That experience was amazing. I loved how you treated the whole body in one session. So, I got certified in Pilates (while working in a PT clinic) and started teaching in a Pilates studio. One day, a client was injured and asked if I could see her for PT. And then it just kind of mushroomed with me seeing clients in the Pilates studio and working in the PT clinic. Not long after, I made the decision to start my own thing, work with patients 1-on-1, utilize the Pilates repertoire, and treat people holistically – body, mind, spirit.
Gabrielle: I did a Pilates session with this girl and I had a similar experience of thinking this is such a great blend with physical therapy. I’ve been doing orthopedics and neuro in a rehab setting for about 2 years and was feeling a little bored because ortho was so tunnel vision. Pilates seemed to open up the idea that even when you’re treating orthopedics, you could treat whole body and neuromuscular reeducation.
I thought I needed to learn more about this work. I moved to LA and heard about the studio where Ally was teaching, and I wanted to learn from a physical therapist.
Her business had been growing and she asked me to work with her.
Allyson: Our mission was to have a full Pilates studio. It differed from what usually happens with PT and Pilates, with a PT clinic being established first and then bringing in Pilates equipment.
Our vision was a full Pilates studio and a full physical therapy practice. That’s what we created. Ours is a unique setting and we have a full Pilates and fitness facility and a physical therapy clinic.
Gabrielle: In addition to offering “whole body” healing, Pilates is for cash flow because it’s all cash and not insurance-based.
How quickly did you realize Pilates as a proven revenue stream that kept clients coming back (essentially turning “patients” into “clients”)?
Allyson: The beauty of our practice is patients come in for physical therapy, and we utilize Pilates from the beginning, so they’re already on Pilates equipment. Pilates is a beautiful way to exercise, focus, relax and concentrate. Once they’ve completed their physical therapy, most patients then graduate to work with a fitness instructor. We’re not losing a patient, we’re gaining a client.
Conversely, if people come in for Pilates and then injure themselves, we adjust their program to include PT. They get what they need from us, whatever we offer, they can take advantage of that.
Gabrielle: I think the majority of small businesses build a client base by word of mouth. Offering Pilates and PT, we have twice as many people spreading the word. Our Pilates people talk up our Pilates program, while PT patients refer other patients. We are double-dipping word-of-mouth referrals.
For revenue stream, PT has been the higher revenue stream since we started our business. It’s more than 50%, sometimes it’s 60-40, sometimes it’s 65-35. But there have been times when PT has taken a huge hit, like when an insurance company decides they’re not going to pay us for 6 months. When that happens, Pilates is our consistent cash-pay revenue.
Does it give you a bit more stability in the business?
Gabrielle: Definitely, yeah.
Allyson: For sure, yes.
What Pilates workshop/training did you find was most beneficial for you?
Allyson: The Balanced Body courses specifically designed for Physical Therapists s are ideal because Physical Therapists are teaching Physical Therapists. We demonstrate PT-specific movement conventional instructors wouldn’t necessarily know. The specific PT coursework is amazing because it delivers the courses that Physical Therapists need, including Reformer 1, Reformer 2, and CoreAlign. For Physical Therapists who want to progress, there’s also the full comprehensive PT-specific training.
Gabrielle: Some of the conversations in PT-specific courses require a PT instructor. We brainstorm like a patient. The Physical Therapists also get CECs, which they couldn’t do before with regular Pilates training.
Why Pilates equipment?
Allyson: Clinic owners will naturally ask “What’s the return on a $4000 Pilates equipment investment?” My answer is not to think of it as a $4000 piece of equipment that takes space and a Pilates instructor, and then make money off the Pilates instructor. Instead, invest in Pilates equipment and PT-specific Pilates training for Clinic staff to use the equipment with patients as part of their treatment. Then, transition those patients into clients who already know and love Pilates and their PT instructor.
Gabrielle: We use Pilates equipment instead of traditional PT strength training machines. Our Physical Therapists are doing training with all their clients on Pilates equipment, which offers strength training and so much more. I think Clinic owners confuse Pilates as a separate business with separate expenses. The key is to bring Pilates into what they do every day in the clinic.
What was the first piece of equipment you introduced into your clinic that you connected with as a PT?
Allyson: I started on the Reformer, but when we started our clinic, we had everything. We were going to make it a full-fledged Pilates studio, so we brought in everything – Reformers, wall units, Trapeze Tables and Barrels.
Gabrielle & Allyson: If we were just a Clinic and could only bring in 1 piece of equipment, it would be the CoreAlign or the Reformer. Ideally both as they are very different functionally and both are incredibly effective with patients.
Where are you today?
Allyson: We’re both really happy with our career choices, even though both of us never thought we were going to be owning our practice. It was never a goal, but once we realized we could change people’s lives physically, emotionally, and spiritually, it all fell into place.
Gabrielle: We’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we’re never bored because there’s still more to learn. There’s always more to grow, which you want to do if you’re a good PT because it’s a profession of continuous learning. We can always do better, always get better. And the studio business just keeps growing!