Bringing Franchising Into Wellness And Health Space

Presenter: Katherine
Guest: Jason Smith
Guest Bio: He is a physiotherapist, author and successful entrepreneur and founder of the National Group of Directors of Back in Motion Health Group.


Health Professional Radio

Katherine: Thanks for listening to Health Professional Radio. My name is Katherine, and today, I’m joined by Jason Smith. He is a physiotherapist, author and successful entrepreneur and founder of the National Group of Directors of Back in Motion Health Group. Welcome to our show.

Jason Smith: Thanks, Katherine.

Katherine: Now, a question for you, Jason – does franchising work in health and well-being industries?

Jason: Look, it’s a great question, and I get asked that all the time, generally by people who are still trying to work out what franchising really is and how that might actually fit in such a personal sector as healthcare.  The good news is I’m 13 years now into our own journey around franchising.  And so, I think, our physiotherapy network, the Back in Motion Health Group, is good evidence that franchising does work in healthcare.

Katherine: Exactly.

Jason: And, in fact, if you study, like I have, franchising in healthcare across America, across parts of Europe, and even within the mainstream channels of health in Australia, you’ll find that, in fact, there are lots of great examples where people have turned franchising appropriately, taking the best of franchising and bringing it into the wellness and health space.

Katherine: Yes.  Can you give us a little bit of your background?  As you’ve mentioned, you’ve been doing it now … Back in Motion for 13 years and, you started in your mid-20s and you went down the franchising route.  Can you tell us a bit about how you started and what’s happened since?

Jason: When I graduated as a physiotherapist, I was pretty passionate, and ironically, not interested in private healthcare, of private practise.  I was more determined to work in the public sector or community health, and in fact, the developing world.  So, it’s quite funny that I’ve landed where I have today.  But it really came about from two main drivers: one is that I felt that the philosophy of care that was pretty evident in mainstream health was a very reactive, quick fix form of health care, and that didn’t seem to get patient outcomes.

The second thing was that, really, private practice owners were not building sustainable lifestyles, let alone leveraged financial returns from their practise.  So, they were actually attritioning pretty quickly out of the industry.

Katherine: Yeah.

Jason: Both of those things led me to consider franchising … I’m cutting the story really short here, but both of those things were drivers that got me to a point where, if I wanted to present a different model of health for our patients, to give them better outcomes, and actually get a business structure that could grow and leverage, then I really had to do something quite different to what had been before.  And that’s where we started the Back in Motion Health Group.

Katherine: Right.  And since then, it’s grown fairly rapidly. [laughter]  Can you tell us about it [indecipherable 0:03:06] in Australia?

Jason: I always laugh when people say it’s grown rapidly, because I think it’s been 13 years of enormously hard work.

Katherine: Yeah.

Jason: And so often, people, they ask you, “Gee, it happened so quickly for you!”  And really, what you want to say is, “Well, actually nothing happened quickly.  It was just a lot of mistakes along the way and then eventually getting something right.”  The truth is: today, we have about 350-strong workforce.  We’re across five states.  We have more than 60 locations, and I can attest to the fact that this new philosophy of care that we call “results for life,” which is about wellness and peak performance and patients performing at their best, is exactly what consumers want.

It’s evidence-based, it gets results, and I think that’s the reason why we’ve grown so fast, if we want to look at it that way.  And franchising has just been the vehicle through which we’ve done it.

Katherine: Right.  For health practitioners out there, they get stuck in, like you said – they want to grow their business but they don’t want to lose that personal touch with their… Do you know what I’m trying to say?  Like some people, they think, “Oh, franchising, is a bit too much of a machine?”

Jason: Yeah.

Katherine: And they feel like they’re losing touch with what they want to do as [indecipherable 04:33].  Can you dispel some of those myths for us?

Jason: I think it’s a very consistent concern, and it’s not an unreasonable position for some practitioners to take, because when they think of the word “franchising”, they immediately associate it with McDonald’s or some sort of real estate business, and they think of it as just being this mass commodity.  And they wonder how you can still deliver personal care, full of compassion and get clinical results when every patient, of course, is different.

I think the way we best explain it is that with Back in Motion, we’ve taken really just the structural elements of a franchise, which is trying to centralize a lot of the back-end services that have to go into operating a practise.  But we’ve never tried to commoditise the actual healthcare service itself.  Every practitioner who joins our business and every owner who wants to grow their practise, they need to find a way to still deliver on that personable service for the patient, or they won’t grow.

Katherine: Yes.

Jason: The good news is: franchising is one option.  But there are many other ways you can grow a business.  But it all comes back to making sure that there is consistency in the way patients get treated, given the sector that we’re in.

Katherine: Yeah.  And I’m glad you brought that up, because I wanted to get to the point of people management – you get far more applications for franchising than you can possibly service at the moment?  And you, as an owner and consistency with your brand, you can’t accept everybody.  Can you explain to us a bit about how you go about selecting the right people?

Jason: I think people, of course, are the lifeblood of every business.  And, I think in health care, that is just … it can’t be understated, I mean – sorry, it can’t be overstated.  It is just the core of a service-based industry.  So, in our group, we have a number of different people that we need to consider.  We have our practitioners, and they are often employed by our group.  We have our directors, who are franchisees.  They’re generally practice owners who are practitioners themselves.

And then we have all of the support staff that help glue that together.  And, I guess, one of our primary objectives is to make sure that every one of those people have good professional development, good mentoring, good access to support when they need it, because ultimately our patients won’t get any value unless our people are at their best.

Katherine: Yeah.

Jason: So, that’s a big investment on our part.  We spend hundreds of thousands of hours every year investing into people.  We run new graduate programs for young practitioners.  We employ staff to actually run professional development programs.  We do clinical and non-clinical training.  So, we do a lot of leadership development as well to be forever succession planning the next opportunity within our business.  And hopefully, we’re giving that to people who already work somewhere in our group.

And that includes new franchisees.  So, many of our new franchisees have actually come from our employed workforce, who were looking for that career progression.

Katherine: Alright, okay.  At the start of the interview, you mentioned that initially when you graduated, you were interested in community – that is something that is very important to you still now, and Back in Motion as well.  Can you tell us a little bit about some of the community outreach programs that you’re involved with?

Jason: I’m so glad you asked me that question because most people just want to hear about the commercial side of our business.  The truth is: I would never have started the practice if my wife and I were not already passionate and determined around wanting to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people.  In fact, our practice was just a way to fund that.

Of course, today, because the business is so large, we have now a fair amount of resources to give back.  And so, we have started what’s called the SOS Health Foundation.  It’s into its fourth year now.  We take physiotherapists and related practitioners into areas of disadvantage within Australia and we provide pro bono health care.

Katherine: Wonderful.

Jason: And that can be indigenous communities up in the top end and [indecipherable 0:09:00] right through to the city streets where there’s homeless people who really do need allied health services but can’t afford them.

Katherine: Yeah.

Jason: So that’s pretty exciting.  We have a lot of volunteers who contribute, a lot of industry folks who sponsor us and it’s going to be something to really develop over the next two or three years.

Katherine: Yeah.  Finally, before I let you go – you had some time to write a book last year as well. [laughs]


Katherine: … Back in Motion.  Can you tell us about your book?

Jason: The book’s titled, “Get Yourself Back in Motion”.  It’s a physiotherapist’s secrets to optimal health and pain relief.  It’s really been written, Katherine, for the patient, not for the practitioner.  It’s not a textbook.  It is trying to help patients understand how they can look after themselves, and, if you like, be their own physio or be their own advocate for making good health decisions.  And it’s really around the holistic wellness approach.

We launched that in November last year.  We have already more than 13,000 copies in print and distributed around people who are interested in this.  And we’re just about to do our revised first edition of it.  So, the early response has been really positive.

Katherine: That’s great.  Thank you so much for your time today, Jason.

Jason: My pleasure, Katherine.  Thanks for the invitation.

Katherine: And for those of you that would like to know more, please go to  Thanks.

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