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BBT Ep. 23: Christian Sanon

November 20, 202320 min read

In this episode we sat down with Christian Sanon of Look Up Therapy, a practice based in Palm Beach County, Florida that delivers therapies to children with autism spectrum disorder and other diagnoses.

Listen on Spotify: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/better-billing-today/episodes/Ep--23-Christian-Sanon-e2c6d3r

Watch on YouTube: https://bit.ly/49CGwtg

Transcript:   

  Welcome to this episode of the Better Billing Today podcast. I'm your host, Adam Welchel from Spark Billing Services. On this show, we're talking to owners and operators of small clinics and practices, helping them improve the patient financial experience, optimize their business, and improve their cash flow.

I had the pleasure of meeting Christian Sonon at a conference in Miami last week. After meeting him, I was excited to have him on the show and have him share his story with our audience. Christian and his wife launched their own practice a few years ago and he's going to share with you how they overcame their challenges, expanded their business, and they're helping more patients and more team members than ever before.Here's our interview with Christian Sanon.

So Christian, if you don't mind, I really want to hear about your origin story. You probably didn't wake up when you were a kid and say, I'm going to be a physical therapist. I'd love to hear just about your story. It sounds like you own this practice where you run this practice with your wife.

Could you share us, share with us, how you got here?

Sure. For myself, I grew up around my, my sister, she's on the spectrum and everything. So watching a lot of her behaviors, I'm always just interested on how to, learn more about it. But I took the opposite route.

I went into the medical field. So I have. My background's in pre med and biology. And then I stumbled upon behavioral analysis through one of a close friends of mine. She was what we call an RBT working direct one on one. And she was like, yo, you'd be the perfect fit. And I'm like working with kids.

I don't really know, I was comfortable in the corporate job that I had. But I jumped straight into it. I ended up quitting my job and working for a very low rate, but it was fulfilling.

And so how did you get to the point where you own your own practice and you've built it? Tell us about how that transition went out.

Yeah. Crazy enough. We got married in 2020. COVID happened. So we ended up buying a house canceling our first wedding. And at the same time, both of us losing our jobs. So my wife's an occupational therapist and I do the behavioral side. So it was perfect time to just sit and put our brains together and, have control over our own destiny in a sense.

Wow. So in the middle of COVID, you started your own practice. Yeah, okay, and then now it's not just you two, but how big is your practice now?

So we're about 35 employees big.

Wow, and is that half occupational half behavioral? What's the ratio there?

So it's majority behavioral. So Tiffany is the only Occupational therapist on staff right now.

Okay. So what is you know, what were some of those obstacles that you faced as a technician, how to help, your patients; do you work mostly with kids?

Yeah.

So you're able to help these children and you have to put on the business owner hat, like what were some of those first hurdles that you saw yourself having to overcome; time management?

I think that was the biggest one. When you're working with someone, you are for someone, you understand you're on their clock. And once you have your own clock, your own routine, your family life outside of family, personal, hobbies and stuff that you want to do, you like I think you can do it all, so getting that schedule down pat and being able to really stick to it and be disciplined and consistent.

Were there any were there any nights or days where you're trying to figure out should I go work for somebody else? Should I continue doing what I'm doing? Can we make it? Were there any transitional? I guess mental things you had to come overcome.

For sure. I felt like that's constant, as a business owner, you're constantly thinking did I make the right choice? Can I do this long longer than this? But for me, I can tell you specific time, like when my first child was born, my son it was just overwhelming to be a parent number one, and then running a business that you just open a new location and you're looking to expand. So I was just like, it's so much easier just to work for someone.

For sure. And like, where do you go to dig in? Do you have mentors? What systems are you using to raise your belief level that like I have to do this?

I think it's instilled in me, innate. Like, it's like in my blood. I'd like to compete, I love to challenge myself. I don't believe in keeping life stagnant. So That's just something I do like I'm 35, but now I just started CrossFit, which I shouldn't really be doing, but I just liked the rush. And then, the 10X has been great too. Being able to be introduced to that kind of sparks an interest even more.

Yeah. And for our listeners who may not know you and I met at a 10X workshop in Miami with Brandon Dawson and Grant Cardone and Natalie and and those people down there that teach mental toughness, raising your belief lid, raising your operational effectiveness and then building and investing into your people. You said you had 34 or 30 or so team members. What is that going from one to two people to 30? What were the, some of those, hurdles that you had to overcome?

The first one or two, we really had to focus on loyalty, right? We had to make sure that the personalities matched well. With us because we were so small and we worked so closely. Whereas now I've learned that separation a little bit with your team and having like management around that has the same vision and belief really pushes it even further.

So do you personally manage 34 or 30 people? By yourself every day.

No, I don't. I oversee the supervisors, right? I'd be burnt out.

Yeah, absolutely. And when you were building this organizational structure what were some mistakes that you made? Did you have a too wide of a team? Did you have too deep of a team or were you pretty effective in building the right cluster types as you grew?

It took time, it really took some brainstorming. My background is not in business, right? I always loved business, but for me it was more so understanding what our vision was and making sure we matched what that looked like. So in the beginning, I hired so many people, made so many mistakes and trusted people that I shouldn't have been trusted. And now I feel like we finally are on a good path and a good rhythm of understanding what we're about.

Give me one mistake that you maybe stand out, but obviously protect the innocent, but were there any mistakes you can share on the show?

Yeah. Giving people chances when it doesn't match your ethical and your vision of your company. So for example I had a staff member who really didn't align with what we were doing for our therapy, for our children and the family. I gave that person multiple opportunities, but I should have cut it short a long time before that.

What was it that, what was it that made you want to keep that person around longer than you realize, you should have? What kept you from just pulling that plug?

The fear of replacement, right? Because we believe that there's a shortage of staff. So we always hang on to people.

It's so true. That's so true where the time you've invested, it's like the opportunity cost or the sunk cost. Like I've put time and money into finding you, and you're doing an 80 percent 70 percent okay job. But it's that last little bit that's going to ruin our brand and it's going to make it impossible to recover. Was there something specific that you thought that was the real deal killer. Was there anything specific in that situation that said, you know what? I've got to do this now and it's a no brainer.

Yeah. It was last minute cancellations on clients. That was huge for me. We have families that depend on the quality of service that we provide. Also interaction with caregivers when you're working with children, parents are so vital in that who's taking care of them. You have to treat them in a certain way to make sure that they understand that you're there for their child.

When this kind of behavior persists, let's say you didn't fire this person. When this type of behavior persists, what kind of message gets sent to your team members?

It's acceptable. And they cause this facade that we're soft or weak. Or we're desperate.

It's like all the messages you don't want to send to your staff, right? There's this balance between, I don't want to be ridiculously unreasonable and have this, super fine line where everybody's afraid.

But then there's this other side of it where you know. You have to act because if you don't act soon enough, people will not respect you and they won't feel like, there's an exchange here, right? So you're an employer and part of the value you give to your team members is good team members. Like you said, If you hold on too long, they will see you as not taking care of them.

For sure. Yeah, for sure. And coming from the background of playing sports, right? That's really the concept is your coach would never keep a player that isn't performing at the level that they need them to perform to win a championship.

Yeah, for sure. And I wonder, the hesitancy that some of the clients that we've talked to when they. When they hesitate pulling the plug on somebody, it's that fear of replacement, fear of time and money and energy to get the next person in, in, in the right seat. And then you think, what's my client going to think if I had to fire somebody, it's all these considerations, but the truth is those decisions, the hardest ones are usually the best ones for everybody involved.

Yeah.

So what was, what's another, milestone you've had to make tough decisions for your staff? Did you ever have to like really rethink the way you were running it as a leader?

A hundred percent. That's what made me interested in 10 X. I felt like I was doing an okay job, but I understood that in order for the business to thrive, me as a leader, I have to be sharper.

I have to be more confident. One thing I've always struggled with was confidence part playing sports. I always was the humble, quiet guy who could play, but the confidence lacked. So now I'm just like, I'm a beast.

What was this, besides going to conferences and seminars and like feeding, with others that are trying to grow their confidence, are there any mechanisms you're using?

What would you advise somebody else who's got to improve their confidence that they're the right leader for their own company?

I'd feel like making sure you understand your business front to back. Understand the financial aspect of it. Understand the roadmap, right? And be okay with changes as your plan develops because unfortunately we're in a world right now where every industry changes in the blink of an eye because that's just life, insurances, especially sometimes they won't pay out. Sometimes they'll cut your contract. So you have to make sure that you have some other route to get to your destination.

Yeah. And I know specifically in your industry, they've capped some of these hourly rates that you can pay your behavior therapists. And so now you're limited on. The kind of incentives you can give your people and the insurance companies, as we call them, the they're very evil as an open label on this show.

So we assign credit where it's due. What are some ways that you have as a creative business owner with a dream to grow your practice in? Create opportunities for your employees. What are some ways you can offset your limitations? Like we know the insurance companies aren't going to pay what we want them to pay.

We know that private pay customers don't always have, the means to make, exactly. the rate that you want. So what are some ways that you can enhance your practice and make your place a desirable place to be?

Multiple lines of service. I think that's really what it is. Our vision is to make it a one stop shop where you can get ABA, OT, speech, your case management, and education all under one roof. A lot of parents, right? They have limited time, so they don't have time to drive back and forth to different specialists. So if they can just drop their kid off for the day, get everything in one place.

So maybe your RBTs who are not seeing a patient at that time, they have opportunities to, move laterally in the company, even on an hour-by-hour basis?

Yeah. So ABA is a little bit different. ABA we have about 30 to 35 hours per week for each client. So whereas OT and speech, it's like an hour. So every two to three days my vision is include everything. And then those that want to take the educational or even social work route, they can become case managers on like their off time.

Wow. So you're really creating wider opportunities for your staff members who, if they were to go to any other practice and they're just an RVT maybe that's all they can do. And if they don't have a client, then they have to go home. And you're saying that there's opportunities for them to bring more value to their clients or other clients and bring more value to the team and to the company.

Is there a model that you're building that's few you feel is original? Are you taking a model from somebody that's done this before and you're reaching up to that mentor?

It's not so much a mentor. I've previously worked somewhere and I saw the model the owner doubted my vision of including certain things and for specific demographics. So I have a battery in my back to make sure it works.

Man, you've got a chip! No, I'm just kidding. So you have a purpose, beyond just, being creative, you had a vision and it was not Acknowledged or it was invalidated, and now you have, a drive to make it work. Have you seen some of your drive backfire?

Oh, yeah, definitely early on. Oh, yeah, for sure. I was very impulsive. I made impulsive buys, right? I got spent. the wrong way at times. Also, the way I interacted sometimes with staff and clients, I was short or I wanted to just get rid of people.

And sometimes you have to learn that working through issues and seeing if there is some type of common ground is better than just spying right on the spot or getting rid of clients on the spot.

Man. Building a practice from one to, 20 or 30 people is no small feat.

And I'm really impressed with some of the things I've heard about your journey and your practice. I want you to talk to our listener who is maybe they've got two or three people on their team. What's, who needs to be in their corner as they're growing? Is it a technical financial person? Is it the supportive spouse or partner? If you could speak to that person who's trying to grow. Who do they need to surround themselves with?

For me, it was my spouse. She believed in me and pushed me 100 percent and we were on the grounds running together. If you can find someone who sees it the way you see it, and sometimes not exactly how you see it, but understands what the goal is. I think that's the healthiest way to make it happen.

Were there any tactical positions that once you got into the business operations that freed you up to have this more creative, leadership direction that you've taken?

Yeah there's a few things that I did. I started looking for assistance with business strategies, right? It's a business in the end, although I'm passionate about it and what we provide, but I have to really understand how to strategically manage funds. I think that's something that a lot of times as business owners we have big dream, we have big vision, we want to do it all, but you have to make sure your money's right.

How did you what would you say from a marketing, how did you get so much interest? Was it word of mouth? Did you do a lot of paid advertising? What was your fuel that helped you expand?

So since we were in the field for a little bit, we had a good reputation, both my wife and I. So it started off people like seeking us where we went because we were like off the math.

COVID happened. And then from there, little by little, I did, some Google ads didn't really work. I did Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff. But Adding in target case management and really partnering within the community is really like my go to.

I'm really glad you said partnerships because I feel like in this business of either health care or helping health care, which is what we do.

I don't know that a lot of our buying decisions in this area come from a Facebook ad and it does seem to be those relationships that so did you find yourself building more partnerships and more relationships as you were able to take off some of those administrative duties and then you got yourself into the community?

Was that where things started really opening up for you?

Yeah, when I first started, for sure, we were smaller, so I had more time to really send out emails and say, Hey, you have an event that I can come by. I just want to see what you guys are up to. Do you need any help in this field? I was more available.

Now I actually hired someone specifically to do our outreach for his job is to really organize events and communicate with other partners and make things happen on the ground level.

So you're not only do you you've taken some of the administrative burden off, but actually the thing that brings you new business. You turn this into a system that brings you those referrals and those clients.

Yeah, and then our target case management that we do for HELPS as well, because we're the direct source.

Wow. Going back to one more topic we, on this show, we're talking about the belief level, the systems, and then building your team. We haven't really talked about building the team as much.

What have you done Or what are you wanting to do that you feel like is an investment into your people that makes their lives better, their jobs better, not just makes it easier for them to earn money, but what are you doing to enhance them as a person?

Two things specifically. One, I spend time thinking about them. I think that's the most important thing. I really spend time trying to figure out how I can position them to get to what they want. And I have a couple of people on staff that want to get into licensed mental health, which is something I could potentially open and they can stay within our company.

Another thing is we do we're doing a mini fitness challenge. So that health component is so key. When you're working with children, you're burnt out. It's a lot. So being able to have that discipline to go to the gym every day or stretch, do anything that's helping you take a break away from that environment that you're putting so much energy towards really gives back to them.

Yeah, that's really important. Making, sending the message that I'm not just Hiring you to get something right. I'm hiring you to give as a, as another platform for giving. Yeah. And so are there any did you have any, I've had 18 or so active employees, but I've been through about 30 in the last three years.

I'm sure not every experience with employees goes perfect. What were some mistakes that you made with and we talked about you, you sustained somebody too long, but was there a moment where you realized you weren't investing enough and did that ever make itself obvious?

Yes. There's a gentleman that I felt like I didn't give the right opportunity to.

Wow.

I wasn't open enough. I was standoffish. And I don't know why, right? Everyone, every once in a while you meet that one person, you're you're just wondering why you can't really build that rapport. And I felt bad because he was really a good worker. He did very well and performed at a high level, but I never I wasn't available in that season to invest in.

It does make sense. It does.

Christian, this was a really great treat for me to have you on the show and hear about your behavioral therapy business, your wife's occupational therapy business. I love the content that you've shared with me and the audience about, Expanding, but not just, the business, but you're out in the community you've delegated the outreach and you're continuing to grow and create more opportunities for your staff and your, and yourself.

Anything else you'd like to share with our audience about, just as somebody who strives to grow their practice?

Sure. Yeah. I think stick with it. There's going to be a lot of lumps. You're going to learn a lot. It's going to be hard. It's going to be painful, but whatever vision that you have, see it through as best as you can. That's my advice.

I think that's great. I think that's great. And like what you've done, you've plugged into communities that are challenging your mindset. Being part of the 10X community is not about improving your, your software or approving your procedures. It's you've got to change the way you think you've got to change the way you see yourself and break through those limiting beliefs.

Yeah. That's huge. I'm excited.

I can't wait to see him because we're now we have a relationship and we're going to be seeing each other at these conferences. And so now I get to follow up with you and have you on the show again. And next time I see you, you're going to have 10 more people on your staff and maybe some mental health.

Hopefully more sleep.

Yeah. Hopefully more sleep, more help. Christian, thank you so much again for being on the show!

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