December 28, 2021 | Jamey Schrier, PT

4 min read

What McDonald’s® Can Teach Physical Therapists About Running a Business

I want you to think about the best restaurant burger you’ve ever had (or perhaps a salad if you’re a vegetarian). McDonald’s® probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind (heck, they’re probably not even in your top 5).

So why has this fast food chain been around longer than most of us have been alive?

While quality is important, it’s not the only factor at play here. SYSTEMS are the key determining factor in the longevity and sustainability of a business.

And McDonalds is the king of systems. Every burger gets EXACTLY two pickles. Fries are cooked for EXACTLY three minutes and 10 seconds.

If you think McDonald’s became so successful because Ray Kroc checked in on his thousands of franchises every day, you thought wrong. Ray Kroc, the founder of the McDonald’s franchise, was religious about systems and making sure each and every restaurant provided the same food, in the same manner so customers would have the same experience.

This is what made McDonald’s, and every fast food chain that followed, the most successful franchise in the world. Clear processes and standards for every situation was the key to enabling the business to grow without local and direct oversight from Kroc.

And the principles Kroc used are not new. In fact, this is how Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, created hundreds and thousands of cars that were exactly the same (can you imagine if the cars were inconsistently made?)

And you can apply these same principles to your practice without sacrificing quality care or having your employees feel like they’re being micromanaged. By doing so, you will be giving yourself the freedom to reduce the number of hours you work in the practice and focus more on what matters most: Building your business.

Here are some tips:

Capture and collect “how to’s”

Every time you initiate a new process, document it! Imagine you got stranded on an island for a week, and your staff needed to know how to do all of the day-to-day things that you or another employee does? Begin to create and outline clear and concise “how-to’s” for each of the processes. Soon enough, you’ll have a standard operations manual that can be a valuable resource for your staff and a great training tool for new hires.

Example: How does the front desk answer the phone and intake a new patient?

Complaints are gold

Most people react negatively (and defensively) when an employee or patient complains. However, successful-minded people see these complaints as opportunities. Take note of the questions or complaints you’re getting and ask yourself, “How can I turn this into a process that will solve the problem now and in the future?”

Record this process in a centralized location so your team has access and can use it as a resource in the future. This will help alleviate staff confusion…the single biggest obstacle for practice growth.

Don’t forget technology

Using technology is absolutely essential to help you streamline and grow your practice.  Using technology to house your passwords (we use can help avoid massive confusion if an office manager (who had the passwords in her head) leaves. You can also use software to store your processes such as Google Docs, DropBox or Asana.

Since telehealth is new to many of us, it’s important to capture the process in how to conduct treatment sessions remotely. It’s also important to choose a software that can help create a seamless experience for the therapist and the patient.

Creating systems and processes is a long-term game, but you can start seeing results immediately. As an owner, you want to always access the systems you have in place to make sure they are delivering the desired outcome.

It’s important to have your staff trained on how to use the process and to have objective metrics to ensure the goal is being achieved.

Now is the best time to fix your systems and prepare your business for growth.

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