Each article in the MILLION DOLLAR CHIROPRACTIC series () focuses on the top surveyed issues facing chiropractors today. Recruiting new patients, retention, profitability, marketing and staffing are each a determining factor in the growth, potential and success of the practice.
The subject of this issue’s profile is Dr. George Michalopoulos an extremely successful chiropractor who has practiced in Illinois, for the past fourteen years.
Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, George Michalopoulos began working for his parents in their family owned fast food business in Napanee, Ontario. He played competitive hockey and was a member of the Ontario Provincial Softball Championship Team, representing Ontario in the Canadian National Softball Championships. He is a “huge” Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan.
Dr. Michalopoulos still plays hockey and is a Member of the Chicago Blackhawks Alumni Association. He treats a number of the ex-Chicago Blackhawks and participates in their fundraising auctions and golf tournaments. An avid golfer, he treats a professional caddy of one of the top 10 golfers in the world, as well as top ranked high school and NCAA athletes.
In an interview with The American Chiropractor, Dr. George Michalopoulos answers our Million Dollar Chiropractic (M$C) questions about his successful multidisciplinary and physical therapy center.
M$C: Dr. Michalopoulos, what influenced you to become a chiropractor?
Michalopoulos: Ever since I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a doctor. I remember walking down the halls of Toronto General Hospital going to visit an aunt in the hospital and thinking how much these doctors and nurses had helped her. From that day, I knew I wanted to help people but I did not know what type of doctor I wanted to be until 1981.
In 1981, I hurt myself playing high school football. Prior to this injury, I had always had some mid back pain and I used to have my little sisters “walk on my back”. Finally, a friend of mine told me to go the local chiropractor in Napanee, Ontario, Dr. Larry Shaw. From the first time he adjusted me, I had instant relief. He proceeded to explain what chiropractic was and also the benefits of supplements, all—amazingly—without drugs. I thought, what a great way to help people and do it without medication.
After high school, I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and then, in 1986, started at the National College of Chiropractic. I completed the 5 academic years in less than 3-and-a-half, and was on my way.
M$C: What type of practice do you have?
Michalopoulos: Our practice is a “multidisciplinary” practice. We have integrated medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and massage therapists into our clinic. We quickly realized that, to be successful, to be able to grow your practice and to cater to a large number of patients, you need a great network of doctors to work together. We had a number of patients that needed chiropractic care, but needed some type of medical care at the same time. There have been many times when patients have come in that were in excruciating pain who truly need medication to at least “take the edge off”. Initially, we would refer the patients out and not hear back from them. At this point, we decided that we needed go get our own medical team assembled. This is where the expertise of Practice Perfect and Dr. Daniel Dahan came in. They made this new marriage of medicine, chiropractic, physical therapy and massage work together legally, ethically and honestly to accomplish the patient goals we wanted as an outcome.
M$C: Give us a physical description of your office facility.
Michalopoulos: Our clinic is on the second busiest street in Addison, Illinois. We initially started out with about 600 sq. ft. of treating area down the road and quickly graduated to a new 2,000 sq. ft. facility that I thought I would never grow out of. We are still at this 2000 sq. ft. facility, but have knocked down walls to incorporate our growing physical therapy department.
We have a beautiful office with a therapy suite that has our interferential electrical stimulation, ultrasound and micro stimulation units. A front office and insurance department combined; and 3 treatment rooms as well as a physical therapy room for active aggressive physical therapy and strengthening. Beyond the physical therapy room is our X-Ray and dark room facility.
We have great visibility on a busy street in a town of 37,000 next to a locally famous pizzeria. When new patients ask for directions, we tell them, next to Nardi’s pizzeria. They know exactly where to go.
M$C: What’s the income service level that you provide annually?
Michalopoulos: Our income service level has consistently risen every single year in practice; however we seemed to plateau just prior to our office becoming multidiscipline. We were seeing more patients, working harder and longer hours, but had become limited in income growth because we were running out of room.
Dr. Dahan of Practice Perfect taught us how to cut overhead, increase the practice and even cut my hours all at the same time. Within one year, I was astonished at how receptive my patients were to our new medical doctor and the extraordinary service and knowledge our office was providing. Our patients’ response was, “It’s about time MD’s and Chiro’s started working together.”
M$C: Do you have a set profit-standard or margin formula for the business?
Michalopoulos: Our practice runs on goal setting. We set our goals at the u u beginning of the year and revisit them every quarter. Our objective is always to do better than the year before, and we have a bonus system for all of our staff and doctors. We all strive to give the best quality care, from the front desk and insurance department to the doctors and therapists in the back. We have weekly staff meetings and get all questions answered at that time. If patients have questions, comments, complaints or compliments, we want to hear them. The personal profit margin formula for the business is to decrease unnecessary expenses and to have a blow out Christmas party with bonuses at the end of the year.
M$C: Is there anyone in particular to whom you attribute your professional success?
Michalopoulos: My parents with their strict work ethic and honesty have undoubtedly contributed to my professional success. When I was going to school in the US, the Canadian government didn’t offer student loans to go to a US school, so my parents and younger sisters worked many hours and weekends to pay for my tuition, which was almost 7 times more than it would have cost had I gone to a Canadian school. For this I am very grateful.
My wife, Kathy, not only believed in me but also trusted that I would do the right thing for us and our family. She is the love of my life and we are cut from the same cloth.
There are several other people that have changed my life personally and professionally. First of all, Anthony Robbins has helped me set my goals by having an ultimate vision for my life.
Secondly is my consultant, and dear friend Dr. Daniel Dahan. He has outlined for us a program that is honest and ethical with continual updates to stay on top of the rules and regulations that are constantly changing in our profession. He discusses ethics and honesty in detail at every one of his mastermind seminars, and I consider him a true friend and great person.
Thirdly, my priest, Fr. Chris Kerhulas, was very instrumental in changing the direction of my life. His determination and foresight are second to none.
Lastly, and most importantly, my partner, Dr. Ralph DeStephano. In the almost 10 years that we have been partners and 15 years I have known him, we have laughed—no exaggeration—every single day and we could count the number of disagreements we have had on one hand. He is a partner’s dream and a true friend.
M$C: What marketing strategies do you use to attract new patients, and to keep current patients?
Michalopoulos: We outline our marketing strategies at the beginning of every New Year. We use a wonderful newsletter from L. K. Graphics that we send direct mail to 50,000 homes several times per year. We also have internal marketing, of course. This is the most effective, I believe, because when a patient comes in that was referred from another patient, this tells you, your staff, and the new patient what an effective job you have done. We have had several food drives for Thanksgiving and toy drives for Christmas. We have even done spinal screening in malls and seminars at local and big businesses in the area.
The most fun of the year comes when our wonderful staff has a Patient Appreciation Day. On this day, we get local businesses to donate bagels, donuts, coffee and numerous other things to give away. The patients come in, get their adjustments and massages at no charge, and all new patients come in and get consultations and examinations at no charge. There is so much energy in the office that day, how couldn’t you have fun.
M$C: How do you handle problems with patient retention?
Michalopoulos: Our patient retention is monitored carefully by the doctors and, even more so, the front desk. The importance of the patient keeping up with their scheduled appointments is stated to them right from the get go. We explain to the patients how important their care is and that every treatment and physical therapy session builds on the next. When they come in, they are taking 3 steps forward; however, every time they miss, they are taking steps back. We explain that we want to continually make progress and not “tread water”. It is also explained that there is a high probability that their problem did not occur yesterday when they took the trash out, but over years of some type of abuse to their body. With this in mind and explained in an easy to understand manner, the new patient realizes that several years of problems will not go away in 3 or 4 visits. We are very strict with our appointments. Our front desk, who I call our quarterback, knows the importance of keeping the patient schedules and does a spectacular job doing that. Missed appointments jeopardize care and potentially our practice.
We have a staff meeting every Wednesday to discuss the status of our patients and what needs to be addressed, and with which patients, before the next staff meeting.
Our patients can feel the energy in our office. The patients love to come and to send others to get better.
We all know that an efficient staff is a crucial component of a successful practice. Tell us what you look for in a staff member.
Michalopoulos: Organization is the key to any staff member. Every single one of our staff members is extremely organized and knows what to do. I have been in Addison for 12 years and I still have one of my original staff members, who is the organizer for all supplies and in charge of getting us the best deals. She also does physiotherapy and is in charge of filing our note documentation, which, in any practice—especially a multidisciplinary practice—is crucial. As I mentioned before, the front desk is our quarterback. My belief is, “As the front desk goes, so goes the practice.” The insurance u udepartment needs somebody with great knowledge and expertise of the insurance business, and we have a 20-plus year veteran that keeps up with all the changes. Our physical therapist’s, massage therapist’s, therapy assistant’s and associate doctor’s work ethics are unmatched.
The whole office is closely involved with getting the patient better. I look for not only organized people but also friendly and empathetic people when hiring.
We have an outstanding team, and most of the staff participates in hiring new staff members. Once we get the approval from the staff, the new staffer is put on a probationary period. If they fit within our mold, they are a keeper. The majority of our staff has been with us for at least 7 years so, as you can see, there is little turnover.
Do you enjoy your work? How do you feel about going to work in the morning?
Michalopoulos: Enjoying my work is an understatement. Our office is a very dynamic place. It is filled with love and energy. This, along with outstanding doctors and staff are key ingredients to this wonderful healing profession.
M$C: Having a multidisciplinary practice, what advice can you offer our readers about setting up and maintaining such a practice in today’s healthcare system?
Michalopoulos: First of all, multi-discipline practices are not for everyone. It takes a tremendous amount of work and constant preparation to achieve your ultimate outcome. Second, you cannot do it alone. You need someone with a tremendous amount of knowledge and a person that has access to knowledge of this type of practice. Our consultants, lawyers, and other professionals help us, almost on a daily basis. If you want to go this route, you must find a consultant and healthcare attorney who can answer all of your questions. The more knowledge people have about this business, the easier it is for you to succeed.
Other than traditional chiropractic care, do you include any other type of services or products in your clinic which further help your patients, as well as bring in additional revenue to your practice?
Michalopoulos: One of our associate doctors provides nutritional counseling, and counseling for fibromyalgia. Our MD occasionally gives trigger point injections. We do offer our time for outside industrial lectures for carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain and headaches, and are also preparing to do manipulation under anaesthesia.
M$C: Any final words for our readers?
Michalopoulos: I will say that my office is a ball of revitalizing energy. It didn’t just happen overnight. There have been many long days and questions that have come up while building this practice. There are many transformations that have taken place. You need to be a leader, to lead yourself and your team; innovative, to not be afraid to take a chance and experiment with new products and new technology; enthusiastic, because enthusiasm is the battery for healing; and, especially, be honest, open and ethical with your patients. If you apply these simple techniques, not only to your professional life but also your home and personal life, with everything you do, you will have the recipe for success. Get an ultimate vision for yourself, and never lose sight of that vision. Have a purpose and mission statement, not only for your business but your family life also. Balance, balance and more balance is essential to true success.
You may contact Dr.Michalopoulos at 630-833-1552.
Our sincere thanks to Dr. Michalopoulos and his staff at Addison Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, LTD., Addison, Illinois.
Editor’s Note: Do you have a million dollar practice that you’d like TAC to highlight in our Million Dollar Chiropractic column? Contact TAC’s editor Jaclyn Busch Touzard by phone/fax: 1-305-716-9212, or email: [email protected]. We want your inspiring story. Contact us today.