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Sept. 20 2006 12:00 AM

The idea of health in modern society is undergoing a transformation that is beginning to have a profound effect not only on our patients' lives, but also on how we do business. The public is no longer just interested in treating their illnesses, but instead are becoming more and more concerned with maintaining their health. As the popularity of fitness increases, many are recognizing the potential revenue opportunities that are breaking down the boundaries of wellness. Yet for some, expanding beyond the traditional services of the medical world to embrace the fitness component can be a daunting undertaking; however, the success of Dr. Mark Schmall, a chiropractor in Rock Island, Illinois who saw the promise of such a vision is a testament to all the possibilities that await us in an integrated health care system. 

 

The Early Vision

            Schmall, along with his partner Chris Molck had been running their chiropractic office for over 15 years until a year ago when they too realized the financial and professional benefits that could be gained for their existing business as well as the opportunity to enhance their services and reach to meet the emerging needs of their patients. Taking the initiative, Schmall realized that an integrated fitness service was what his clients and patients needed, and there was no facility in the area that provided those kinds of services. So, he decided to take a little bit of a chance and built onto his practice to include such a fitness center.

            The road to growth, however, was one that Schmall had to navigate himself as there was little precedence for him to reference. "I couldn't find any information within the literature that I read or people that I knew that talked about building the kind of facility to the extent that I wanted to do," recalls Schmall. Although there was no business model for him to follow, Schmall had plenty of experience on which to build. Utilizing his chiropractic background as the foundation on which to incorporate his fitness services, Schmall developed his own model step by step. Using the initial issue of Wellness and Fitness Entrepreneur as the preliminary guide, he was exposed to the various manufacturers of fitness equipment that were frequent advertisers in the publication. He began to research by visiting the assorted companies' Web sites and made further inquires by placing phone calls to the representatives. Slowly, the kind of facility that he wanted began to take shape in Schmall's mind. 

            Initially, Schmall employed his base of patients as a launching pad in which to recommend services that could be provided by his new fitness facility. Often, Schmall would observe that his patients would require additional training and attention at the end of his chiropractic sessions, so in response, he would then transfer their continued care to his fitness facility to oversee their rehabilitation; therefore, supplying his new business a ready-made source of revenue. Originally, Schmall named his affiliated fitness company the Weight Loss and Wellness Center as he mostly concentrated on weight loss as well as wellness. However, through the successful response of his clients as well as his continual expansion beyond his chiropractic services, Schmall has renamed his facility to Maximum Health and Fitness. The adoption of the new name represents not only the new direction of the future, but essentially the power and importance that fitness is playing in the consumer's life. "The new name reflects more of the goals we have and the programs we are offering now. We've gone from just offering weight loss and wellness plans to a full-fledged fitness facility. Now, we've been noticing that over the last two months that a lot of our new clients are coming just strictly for the fitness programs we offer," details Schmall.

            As the demand of his fitness facility increases, Schmall has begun to explore other avenues to meet the growing duties of an integrated health professional. Due to the expansion of his strength and conditioning services, Schmall, along with his partner Chris Molck, have begun studying for their certifications in strength and conditioning through the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). They are both expected to receive their CSCS this year.

 

Update: The Progress of the Facility

            Schmall has been running his fitness facility, Maximum Health and Fitness, just under a year. In that time, he has created an independent business plan for expansion, purchased his facility's equipment, employed trainers and implemented revenue-generating strategies such as integrating memberships. Utilizing tactics from traditional fitness clubs, Schmall began offering month-to-month memberships. He also offers extended packages of three, six and twelve months, with a $99 per month fee including training and program supervision. For those clients that do not have an interest in supervision or program design, Schmall provides a facility charge of $49 where they can use all the equipment, unassisted. In addition to these various membership choices, Schmall supplies rehabilitation services that include pre-rehabilitation, rehabilitation and post-rehabilitation, which are being covered under patients' insurance plans or being paid out-of-pocket. All of these profit-geared approaches feed the continued expansion of the facility's space, the addition of equipment as well as bringing on more trainers.

            Schmall has begun to see these strategies produce concrete results. "We had no members originally. We are still not at the point where the business is profitable, but the business is meeting the overhead. We're on the verge of getting to the point of being profitable. As Schmall is nearing the end of his first year in business, the growth of the fitness center can be clearly measured in his expansion of reach. "We're getting more diverse members from early teens all the way up to the '  late eighties. We're focusing on the different areas of strength and conditioning for the martial arts fighters, high school athletics, programs using wrist strength and hand programs for carpal tunnel and tennis elbow as well as focusing on the senior fitness market," notes Schmall.

 

Looking into the Future

            Already after just one year, Schmall's fitness business has transformed and expanded beyond his original plan. Along with his partner Molck, Schmall is preparing to put together a manual that details all of the ideas and routines that they found to be successful in order to guide other medical professionals that are looking to venture into the fitness world. In addition, they have plans to acquire a massage therapist as well as a licensed physical therapist in the next 12 months and launch their Web site, www.maxhealthandfitness.com, which will detail all of their programs, serve as a resource for articles, provide a newsletter and sell products.

            As more and more consumers look towards fitness services to contribute to their well-being, the medical world is recognizing the many benefits and opportunities that can be achieved by building onto their practices. Ahead of the curve, Schmall has begun on the path that is already bringing him an increased scope of care, a new client base and the eventuality of profit. "I have a lot more access to clients that I did not have before. We have a lot of fitness clients who now use our chiropractic facility and vice versa. We're able to treat a wide variety of conditions that I was not able to treat as successfully before I had the fitness facility," concludes Schmall.

 

            For more information on Schmall's fitness facility, email him at markschmal@mchsi.com or call 309-283-0874.

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