Although times have changed and will continue to shift due to health care, owners Ann Berry and Jan Lauer know what truly matters. What do they attribute their success to? "It's just working hard and trying to maintain focus, and certainly having amazing staff the entire time."
I recently sat down to interview co-owner Ann Berry about Tri-Rehab's accomplishment. She shares what business has been like for the past 20 years, and how it will continue to evolve into the future.
How did you get started in the physical therapy business?
Jan and I are both athletic trainers. We had been working in the Dearborn area with several local high schools, and Dr. Lawrence Morawa was our team physician. He encouraged us to open our own clinic - to continue taking care of athletes as well as the community with the same level of care.
What is your biggest achievement over the last 20 years?
Achieving Medicare Rehab Agency Status and receiving the highest rating from the state agency with our surveys. To explain, they do surprise visits and come evaluate facilities and see if we're following strict Medicare guidelines. Both times, we've received "Outstanding" marks, and it's been a really good feeling to know that we're excelling even in the most difficult situations with Medicare.
What major things have changed and stayed the same over the years?
As far as changes, the economy has impacted patients' out-of-pocket expenses. When we started, most patients had 100% insurance coverage and now that's extremely rare with deductibles, coinsurances, and the $5,000 per year range for out-of-pocket expenses. The patient has become much more of a consumer, and they're really investigating whether they're going to get the return on their investment.
Although we've adapted to insurance restrictions, what has stayed the same is our level of care, which has always been above and beyond. We continue to do this even with insurance restrictions and everyday obstacles patient's face. We do anything and everything to accommodate our patients - in their lives and with their diagnosis. Our main question is always "How can we help them achieve wellness?"
What have been some challenges over the years?
Business wise, it's been a very difficult environment over the past 5-10 years with the economy. We have an amazing staff to balance and make sure they have opportunities for growth. We're very proud of our staff. Just owning a business is a challenge; it's a stress. We're here to see people pretty much in their worse state - hurting, in pain - our challenge is to make that completely our focus. When you're in healthcare with a business to run, you have the main responsibilities to keep lights on and such, as well as make sure our patients are getting better. It's a unique balancing act that we're proud we've been successful at for 20 years.
What's the best, most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing a person get back to their lives, at the quality of life they want to live. Recently, we had an athlete announce us at an event, saying he couldn't play without us. The best part is seeing people reach goals and live a good, quality life.
What's your favorite success story?
It's hard to choose one, but we've treated severe brain injury with motor vehicle accidents, as well as athletes with severe injuries. We have seen people in such pain and such lack of function because they've been hurt so badly or have a disease. For example, we had a stroke patient who was completely paralyzed on the left side. We worked and worked and he was with us for 15 years (not as a patient, but he continued to come work out everyday). He just passed away at 86 of lung cancer. His family said they never thought he'd live past a year. The best success is seeing somebody live their lives with quality and independence.
Any advice for someone who's thinking of starting a business?
In starting any business, you'll never work harder at anything. If you're trying to figure out if it's for you, think of it as another child. When my business is happy, I'm happy and vise versa. I lay awake and worry about my business at night. My job is to watch it grow, mature, and become independent...just like a parent needs to do that with their child.
To start in the Physical Therapy business, you need to really be prepared for change - health care is ever-changing. The treatments, philosophies, and way you provide care may not change much; however, the structure of the business changes daily. As good as you are, you really need to stay on top of ever-changing health care.
How have you been able to stay in business so long?
Our willingness to make sacrifices - you have to be able to make personal sacrifices. Also, this isn't "Jan and Ann Tri-Rehab," it's our group putting our brand and image forward. We're happy as owners, but it's a great team.
What makes you stand out over your competition?
We've done a lot of studies on that, and interestingly, it's not our professional staff. That's way down on the list when we've talked to focus groups. It's about friendliness, atmosphere, cleanliness, and accommodating to schedules and insurance. I really believe it's because our brand is "it's all about you," and that means we treat the whole package. If you're not able to get to us today because your car broke down, we come get you. If you need to bring your child and let them play, then that's okay too. We just make it comfortable and make sure you're getting the focused attention you deserve.
What makes you proud to do business in Michigan?
I'm born and raised in Michigan. I'm very proud of keeping my business going in Michigan. As everybody knows, it's been tough economically. I am a daughter of an automaker, so I'm proud to work with fellow automakers over the years, such as with Ford and worker's comp. I kind of go back to my dad's time. Jan is from Kansas and came in and built her reputation in the area from scratch. She was the first athletic trainer in Dearborn schools and built that program. Her reputation grew and grew enough to open the business and stay here. Michigan has been just as loyal to us as we have been to it.
What are the plans for the next 20 years?
We want to get through healthcare reform a little bit and adjust our vision at that point and see where it takes us. I think there's going to be a great many opportunities on the horizon. It can be tough working 80+ hours per week, but I don't see us retiring anytime soon.
Congratulations to Ann, Jan, and Tri-Rehab on 20 years in business!