Recently we interviewed Dr. Larry Arbeitman of Upper Cervical Chiropractic of Monmouth in New Jersey. Dr. Arbeitman is a master at team building. He has been able to build an incredibly successful upper cervical practice by building an incredibly successful team. If you have any employees or if you hope to have employees one day you need to read this interview. Dr. Arbeitman shares his proven ways to connect with his team, improve their performance and build the practice of your dreams. Along with a ton of other golden strategies. You will love it!
Dr. Bill Davis: I'd like to always get started with what inspired you to become an upper cervical chiropractor?
Dr. Larry Arbeitman: You know it's an interesting story because I was in chiropractic school back in the year 2000 and I was really attracted to the philosophy and I was going and getting adjusted by one of my professors with a traditional chiropractic technique. Having played high school football, my neck was never right after that.
And the results weren't matching what I was being taught chiropractic school. So I was actually getting ready to transfer, quit, chiropractic. I remember calling home and questioning my decision to become a chiropractor.
Then one day, I ran into a young lady in the hallway down at Life and I was telling her my tale of woe and she said, "Before you do anything drastic, why don't you go listen to this upper cervical doctor to talk on campus?" And she was referring to Dr. Russell Friedman who was and still is my mentor.
Dr. Friedman didn't speak himself on that Wednesday night, he had seven of his patients show up and tell their miraculous stories of recovery from upper cervical care. So, skeptical, I went into his office, became a patient, and after the first adjustment, my life changed because I just knew for the first time that, A. I was going to be okay. The B is I finally found the technique that will be able to help me.
And from that point forward, I studied upper cervical. I begged him to let me intern with him and that was 15 years ago. And to this day, I don't know who the young girl was in that hallway who said that to me but she certainly changed the lives of thousands of people by speaking up that day and sharing upper cervical with me. She was an angel.
Dr. Bill: Wow, that's amazing. Interesting that someone you didn't even know and you still don't know to this day caused that and changed the whole course of your life.
Dr. Larry: I was down at Life in April to speak to the students and I went back to that hallway and I took a picture of the hallway and I put it into my presentation. And to them, it was just the C wing but to me it was sacred ground.
Dr. Bill: Interesting. Wow, that's amazing. All right, so you get this major shift to upper cervical when you were in school and so, you came out, you interned with Dr. Friedman, right, you said?
Dr. Larry: I was interning with him while I was in school. Yeah.
Dr. Bill: Okay. And then after school, did you do an associate position first or did you go right into practice?
Dr. Larry: Yeah, it's really interesting because I was down at Life during the accreditation mess. So I actually had to transfer to Logan. And when I got to Logan, there was no upper cervical so I had to actually leave upper cervical for a little while, which at the time seemed painful but when you look back, it was blessing.
And I ended up studying full spine technique so I had to get out of School and I ended up, at the time, back in 2003, I got a hard time finding a successful upper cervical office that was large enough to take in an associate. And so I knew I needed to associate to learn the business of chiropractic.
So I found a great subluxation based chiropractor in New Jersey who was a full spine practitioner and I worked for her for 18 months doing full spine work knowing that I was going back to upper cervical. But I always separated the two. I had my business mentors and my technique mentors.
And until recently, in the past five or six years have I found that there are wildly, outrageously successful upper cervical doctors that have both great technique and great business skills. I think that shifted. All my awareness of it has shifted.
Dr. Bill: Right. The big part of what we're doing with these interviews is we want to show people that there are doctors out there that are doing fantastic with both helping people get well but also having successful businesses that will sustain that level of success for years to come.
Dr. Larry: Absolutely.
Dr. Bill: So, let's talk about when you actually went out and practiced on your own.
Dr. Larry: I'm located in central New Jersey, in Monmouth County where I grew up. I decided to go back to my hometown to open up.
Dr. Bill: Great. Starting out in practice, I know that today you've built a large successful upper cervical practice but I'm sure that took a lot of hard work and a lot of building had to go into that. So tell us about the first few years of practice, what that was like.
Dr. Larry: Yeah. The great news is we were successful out of the gate. I had dogged determination. It took literally seven days a week and every waking hour, I was either working on or in my practice. And I was so scared to fail. I was so scared to fail that I put everything into it.
Looking back, maybe it wasn't the healthiest way to go about it but everything went into making sure that we hit the ground running. And I think between a little bit of talent and a lot of God's help, we were successful. And it's a simple formula. You have to care about people as if they're your own family authentically. And you got to get great results.
That's my formula. And you can't really train people to care and thankfully, I came from a household, my mom and my dad taught me to genuinely care for human beings. And I just apply that to everybody I met. Sometimes I think I cared more about their health than they cared about their health.
Dr. Bill: Absolutely. I think we've all experienced that. Been in practice, it's a reality check to be able to say, "You know what, I actually care more about this person's health than they do." And sometimes, that can be a negative, right?
Dr. Larry: Absolutely.
Dr. Bill: Yeah.
Dr. Larry: You have to show them the light.
Dr. Bill: Yeah, exactly. You mentioned something I want to talk more about. You said, in the beginning, one of the reasons that you point to how you were able to be successful relatively quickly in practice is you were working on and working in your business.
That reminds me of one of my favorite business books which is The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. And he talks a lot about that; the importance of working in your business but also working on your business. Can you talk more about that and the balance there that you had to establish over the years?
Dr. Larry: Even though I had a positive associate experience in the subluxation model, it wasn't an upper cervical practice. So I had to create and learn a lot of the systems and procedures on my own. And if I could go back in time or if I was getting out of school today, I would make sure that I find a practice that already is successful in an upper cervical model because that took a lot of time and energy and tweaking.
And so, when we're not working in the business adjusting people, then we're working on our business. And working on our business is everything else. It may be the marketing, it may be creating the procedures, creating the scripts, practicing and training, creating the forms, creating the patient education.
Now, the great news for students coming out of school and doctors is all of this exists. So at this point, the wheel doesn't really need to be created, you just got to get with somebody that's already doing what you want to do and find out what they're doing.
But in the beginning, you don’t have a lot of patients but you got a lot of time. And so what do you do with that time that you're not taking care of people? You have to be working on the business. And even to this day, as many people as we help, right now it's a Wednesday and I'm not taking care of people but I'm working on my business, driving it forward.
Dr. Bill: Awesome. When I first met you years ago at practice innovations you spoke on team building. And you had some great concepts about building a team and not just building a staff, right? Building a real team that shares your vision and wants what you want and really wants to serve and love patients. So talk more about that. Talk about how you've been able to really build this team atmosphere in your practice and how other doctors can do that as well.
Dr. Larry: As your practice grows you realize very quickly that you can't go at it alone, you’ll just keep hitting a glass ceiling. You need a great team to move you forward and I use the analogy a lot. Like, a rowing team, a crew. Everybody's got to be rowing at the same intensity and speed to know you'll go on a straight line.
If you got six people in the boat and three people are rowing and three aren't, then you're going in circles. Or if two people are rowing really hard and three people are kind of rowing, you don't go straight. And so, we've got to have a team with a shared vision.
It's not enough to just come in and just say, "Here's your job, this is what you do here." They need to know the why. They have to be passionate about the why. They got to care about the fact that we're taking care of people; other people's mothers, brothers, sisters, and uncles, and that they may be suffering.
And if they're no longer suffering, they're still people's mothers, brothers, sisters, and uncles and they have to care enough to share the vision because without the why, it's just a job. And so with our team, it's really important that they see it as a career, not a job and that they're making a big difference.
And so, there's a lot that goes into our teambuilding. The first thing is they have to have a relationship with you. Not like, I go out and have mochas with my team. I don't recommend that. But they have to know that you, as their leader, care about them and they're not just a cog in the wheel or replaceable and that you got their back.
They're not going to get your back until they know that you got their back. And when they know that they can lean on you and they can trust you and you utterly care about what their goals are, what's important to them, they'll do whatever it takes to help you reach your goals.
Dr. Bill: Interesting. So tell me more about that, as far as how are you able to connect with your team and build those connections where they know that you care about them without getting into a close friendship?
Dr. Larry: Yeah. And again, I want to stress, I'm not friends with anybody in my office.
Dr. Bill: Right.
Dr. Larry: Although they know that I care deeply about them. The way that I make this bridge is every single human being, whether they're aware of it or not, has some goals; things that they want in their life to achieve. And I think it's really important, since we're all very goal-oriented in my office, that every doctor knows what their staff's goals are.
Where do they want to go on vacation next year? Where do they want to move to? What kind of house do they want to live in? What's their dream car? What about their relationships? I mean, are they moving towards engagement or are they moving towards having children?
If you understand what people want and show them how being in an ultra-successful upper cervical office that is helping a lot of people can help them get what they want, then all of a sudden you guys are a team because they know that if they do a really great job and we all help a lot of people it will get them one step closer to their car, their home, their relationship, their vacation, whatever it is that's important to them; going back to school.
And so, if you don't know what your staff's deepest desires are, you're not going to be able to motivate them to stay long. Why are they motivated by your goals.
Dr. Bill: That is just great insight. I really love that. Yeah, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Zig Ziglar. It says that, "You can have everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want."
Dr. Larry: Exactly.
Dr. Bill: And so, connecting with what your team, what your team really wants and helping them to see how your practice and what you're doing is a vehicle for them to accomplish their goals?
Dr. Larry: Right.
Dr. Bill: Interesting. So let's talk more about your associate development program. Number one, what do you look for when you're looking for an associate? For our students who read these interviews. And then number two is, how do you work on building that associate into a successful upper cervical chiropractor?
Dr. Larry: Yeah, great question. So the very simple answer, anytime I'm hiring any human being to join my team, I look for energy and attitude. Energy and attitude because these are the two things that ensure success in chiropractic. Everything else is teachable. Technique is teachable, communication is teachable, marking x-rays is teachable, adjusting is teachable.
But energy and attitude isn't. God either gave it to you or he didn't. And you can be trainable. You can train yourself to improve your attitude and improve your energy. But what I mean by energy and attitude is likeability.
When I talk to you, do I want to lean in? Do I want to be around you? Well fortunately, we're in a people business and you got to be likeable. And so, I know it in a second. I know it in a second it's a feeling that you create in me.
Everything else could be taught but energy and attitude is. As far as developing Associates, I think at heart I'm an educator but I realize I've got to help a lot of people too in this life. So what I love about having an associate, it gives me an opportunity to be a mentor.
And we teach, we train, we re-train, we re-teach, we train some more, and we do that in a weekly basis. And I think the Navy SEALs, and by no means am I comparing myself to a Navy SEAL or even a fraction of a Navy SEAL, but they don't believe that you rise to the level of the occasion. They believe that you will rise to the level of your preparation.
The Navy SEALs say you rise to the level of your training. And so, we are obsessed about training. And doctors will ask me, "Tell me about your advanced training." I don't have any advanced training. Tell you about it, it's actually very simple. We need to train on the basics over and over and over and over again, ad nauseam.
Dr. Bill: Right. That's a great point. I'm a big sports fan and one of my favorite all-time coaches is John Wooden the former head coach of the UCLA basketball team in the 1960s and 70s when they won something like 11 championships. John Wooden is famous for teaching on the first day of practice how to put on their socks and how to tie their shoes properly. And every single year, that would be the first practice.
And it's interesting because you talk about the fundamentals of chiropractic and saying that you just keep training on those same fundamentals over and over and over you just get them more and more mastered.
Dr. Larry: Yeah, you do have a great point and I agree with you 100% but it's coachability to think when a student or doctor says, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got that," it means they don't get it. By most people's standards, people would think, "Dr. Arbeitman, why do you still need to train? You've been very successful for over a decade now."
I'm successful because I didn't stop training and I don't think I got it. And that's why I still train on how to do a consultation, how to do an examination, how to do a report. I still record reports and break them down and listen to them and say, "How can I better communicate chiropractic to this person so they get the care they need?"
Dr. Bill: Exactly. Yeah, when you think you've arrived, then that's when everything starts falling apart.
Dr. Larry: Yeah, Dr. Sid used to say when you think you're right, you're not.
Dr. Bill: Yes it is so common that doctors will stop doing the things that made them successful to begin with. I'll talk to doctors and they'll be saying, "Oh, I'm having my best year in practice," and then they stop doing the things that they've been doing to have the success that they've been having. You know what I'm talking about.
Dr. Larry: Of course, of course.
Dr. Bill: Continuing that mentality of training and focusing on continuing to be better is so important. So let's talk more about your associates and building associates and your vision for your practice going forward.
So first, just so people know, a lot of people asked me to ask these questions and tell me about what your numbers are at this point, your visits, and your collections.
Dr. Larry: Yes. So right now we're a two-doctor practice. We see anywhere between 1,600 to 1,700 visits a month. We are a cash practice. We collect anywhere from $85,000 to $120,000 a month. That's our model but we have a lot of room for growth and I think the sky is the limit. The bar keeps getting set higher.
There are upper cervical doctors that you have interviewed who are doing 160, 180, 190, it's all glass ceiling and the truth is, all the money is a reflection on how many people we are actually helping and that's just like a speedometer on a car.
The difference between the practice that collects 20,000 a month and the practice that collects 120,000 a month is the one who's on 120,000 a month is just larger and serving more people. And so in order to love and serve more people, you have to build out your capacity. You got to build it then they'll come in like Field of Dreams.
Dr. Bill: Right.
Dr. Larry: So without sacrificing on the quality of the person's chiropractic care, you realize pretty quickly, "Well, we need more hands," at some point.
Dr. Bill: Right.
Dr. Larry: And the young students are in a predicament where they've just been pillaged for $200,000 or $250,000 to get their degree yet they have no education on how to be successful in chiropractic or no guarantee. So it's a natural marriage because the experience of associating in an office like ours can almost ensure their success, show them how to not just pay off their student loan in a few years but actually help a lot of people, make a lot of money and have a lot of fun being a chiropractor.
So our vision is to continue to add associates into our organization, get them trained up. And so, the old associate model was a bad one. It was, you get paid a very small amount, you got to work to the bone, and there's no room for growth and when you burn out, you go out on your own and you got to start all over.
And that was the model chiropractors used for many years, where we move to work with a model where the associate can build a practice within the practice and get compensated proportionately to their production. So there is no ceiling. There's no "just a salary" in that too.
When an associate comes in and builds a practice with our marketing and our training and our team and our facility and our equipment and our brand, they're building their practice. And when they're super, super successful inside our office and they demonstrated that they can do it here, I've got the confidence to say, "Hey, let's go open up a satellite office."
Dr. Bill: Right.
Dr. Larry: Because there's so few upper cervical doctors in New Jersey. Most of our patients come from over an hour away. They can open their office tomorrow and then that associate is now working towards full ownership of that satellite office within three years.
Dr. Bill: Very cool.
Dr. Larry: We're only limited by the amount of associate doctors who actually come to our organization. The more associate doctors we can attract, the faster and bigger we can build upper cervical here in the northeast.
Dr. Bill: Absolutely, that's definitely an underserved region for upper cervical from what I've seen. There's just not that many upper cervical docs in that area. So if doctors or students wanted to get hold of you and talk more about opportunities within your practice, best thing to do is just go to the website or call the office or what?
Dr. Larry: Yeah, so we have a website. It's www.GetWellNJ.com/associate.
Dr. Bill: Perfect. All right, doc. Well I really appreciate your time today and I want to leave you with a last word for our audience out there. What would you like to say to the doctors and the students that are reading this?
Dr. Larry: Yeah, I'd like to impress upon everybody that there's never been a better time to be a chiropractor than right now, that the future is really bright for chiropractic. If we don't water chiropractic down and if we bring chiropractic in its purest form to the marketplace and we don't see ourselves as second-class doctors, you have a distinct profession that offers a service that no one else offers, our communities, our families, our friends, they're sick, they're suffering.
They're stuck in a model with information that's not going to allow them to lead a full and healthy life. And chiropractic has an answer for so many of these people, especially the kids. And so, if we embrace chiropractic, if we work hard, if we train hard on our communication, the sky is the limit on the amount of people and the success that we experience being upper cervical doctors.
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