It’s not often one would willingly trade places with someone who’s rehabilitating an injury, but that’s the approach Tim Thorsen and Ben Solheim strive to take at Health in Motion.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” said Thorsen, who established his own practice in 1994 in his hometown of Rhinelander, then co-founded Health in Motion with Solheim in 2014. “If your focus is on the patient, and you empathize with them, the results will be the best outcomes for them.”
At a previous employer, Solheim said, that didn’t feel like the focus.
“They were too focused on numbers vs. patients,” he said. So, through a mutual acquaintance, he met with Thorsen, who was still practicing in Rhinelander but was looking to add locations.
Thorsen had already expanded into Tomahawk in 2001 and Eagle River in 2003.
“Each one was community driven,” Solheim said. “Patients would ask, ‘When are you
going to going to open up in (this community)?’ ”
Thorsen would take a mental note and begin looking at options in those respective areas.
“We’d look at who’s there,” Thorsen said of the number of clients from a given area, “and what was there in terms of other physical therapists. We didn’t want to come in and shut down some longtime local provider.”
If you don’t invest in your team, it’s like having a small hole in the bottom of a boat. It’ll sink you eventually.
—Ben Solheim, co-owner,
Health in Motion
When it came time to open a location in Wausau in 2014, Thorsen and Solheim — by then in business together — felt it was time for a change.
A name change became almost inevitable because going with “Spine & Sport Physical Therapy Specialists” would’ve likely caused confusion with the Sport & Spine clinic already in town. They felt the “Physical Therapy Specialists” portion of their name was a little too limiting considering the additional services they’d begun providing.
It posed a dilemma for a growing, successful practice that had begun developing a following. Changing a name and look could undo everything.
“That’s why we kept the same ‘running man’ logo,” Thorsen said.
With the addition of athletic performance enhancement, Thorsen and Solheim wanted to open up the focus to show they did more than solely rehab workplace injuries.
“Physical therapy can be high dollar, low return,” Solheim said of the accounting side, “but our athletic performance made us unique in the marketplace. We wanted to be a trusted resource.”
The pair have since opened locations in Marshfield (2015), Crandon (2016), Antigo (2017) and Merrill (2020). At each step, they’ve tried to establish a community connection.
“We pay attention to who we’re putting in and their connection to the community,” Solheim said. “That’s most important because people talk. It’s also why we invest in the education of our providers.”
Thorsen and Solheim allocate about $1,800 in continuing education for each of their providers, but the pair also sponsor fellowship programs that the providers can work off. Onsite work groups discuss ways to improve quality of the care and the overall experience that Health in Motion can provide.
"If you don’t invest in your team, it’s like having a small hole in the bottom of a boat,” Solheim said. “It’ll sink you eventually."
"It's why we put together a residency with the University of Wisconsin,” Thorsen said. “If you create the culture, they will come.”
Health in Motion virtually held serve in 2020 despite COVID cancellations and rescheduling. December was looking to be “on par” with last year, while overall business was down 3 percent to 5 percent, compared to usual growth of 5 percent to 10 percent.
“We gave clients choices in how they wanted to be treated,” Thorsen said of the COVID protocols they put in place, as much for clients as for providers. “Our staff wears face shields
so they can get in closer with their patients. Sometimes, it’s as much a perception as anything.”
Those efforts even extended to how they reached out to clients outside of the offices.
“We reached out in different ways,” said Stacey Marcum, Health in Motion’s marketing coordinator. “We did Facebook Live, (online) networking events with the Chamber, just trying to think of how we can help each other.”
It all helped Health in Motion become a Wausau Region Chamber Small Business of Year finalist for 2020.
“We don’t necessarily want to be the biggest,” Thorsen said. “We want to be the best.”