Taking care of children when they need it most is always seen to be noble, and a keen business sense can help further. Therapies for Kids founder Debbie Evans talks about how she saw an injustice and is working to make it better.
Debbie says her background is heavily tied to her physio experience in a business that was disjointed, with three professionals in three different rooms.
“My background came from physio ... I’ve been running my own practice since 1999,” she says.
“We were just renting a room. There was a speech [pathologist], occupational therapist and [physiotherapist].
“I was approached to go into that, and I felt that that would work really well because I’d always worked as part of a team, but if you’re never in the same room at the same time, and you’re all busy, it’s very difficult to exchange [your] knowledge.
“My view was that I needed to start a practice where all three disciplines were working at the same time and you could grab a therapist and say, ‘I’m working with a standing child but he’s not using his hands to play, what could I do during the session when he’s standing so that the whole child is being looked after?’ and we could get the information at the time we needed it.”
Today, Debbie’s vision is a reality, with Therapies for Kids now sporting a 300-square-metre open gym that allows for any of the three different kinds of professionals to float around and help out wherever they’re needed.
“We have a [300-square-metre] gym, and that is not blocked off from the waiting room,” Debbie says.
“Everybody has visual access to the gym from the waiting area, while they’re waiting for therapy or while they’re paying. That gym is full of equipment that can be used across all therapies, and all the physios work in that gym all the time, they actually don’t work anywhere else. And then the OT [occupational therapy] rooms and speech rooms come off that gym, so everybody that’s walking into their own therapy, again, has access to the gym.
“We have couches outside the therapy rooms, so if a parent doesn’t want to go into therapy and they’re sitting there with siblings, they can watch the gym or can have access – if they need it – to the gym for [the] siblings. But also, children that are in the individual … therapy can come out and do part of their therapy in the gym, because we’ve got swings and climbing equipment and trampolines and ball pits, so it’s very accessible to children with sensory needs.”
My Business also asked Debbie about how other SME owners can adapt the successes of Therapies for Kids to their own businesses.
One important issue all business owners face is managing cash flow. For Debbie, cash flow is managed with what she calls her ‘blanket’.
“I’ve always felt that I should never have a debt,” she says.
“If possible, people pay cash for their services, like they would for a doctor. There are now some government plans and we have to wait a month for [payment], so I’ve always kept what I call a blanket; that I have enough money to cope with either me being sick, or therapists being off, or people that can’t pay at the time and are waiting for government funding in some form. I always try and keep that there; I don’t even have an overdraft at the moment.
“I know what’s coming in because we have [a] daily database that we use [with] our booking system, [which] gives us a daily income … and I always know my outgoings in relation to that, so wages always have to be met, and your regular outgoings like rent. I always pay a wage, [so] my profit might vary depending on that.”
For her business, Debbie says making sure she’s up to date on everything is the most important thing.
“You have to provide a service that is current, up to date,” she says.
“If you’ve got well-informed staff that are looked after, that provides a good service. You have to be providing continual updates on current methods, and that’s part of my job: always keeping up to date with ... what is evidence-based, whether it’s from overseas, not just some gimmick, but something that’s studied by universities. And because you’re keeping up to date, then your clients know they are your best interest.”
She adds: “People say this was a vision, and … the vision is working really well”.