Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode 19 · 1 year ago

Striking a Healthy Balance


On Episode 19 of Decision Dialogues, Victoria Consoles and Mark Willoughby are joined by Dr. Cathy Gurman, who co-runs Westwood Family Chiropractic with her husband, Dr. Jett Gurman. Cathy discusses her experience starting a practice directly out of chiropractic school, shares insights on how she balances her business, her patients, and her family life, and highlights the importance of knowing when and where to seek help. 

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Are you paving the way for the life you want facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by Modera Wealth Management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs. Thanks for joining US and decision dialogs, for throw to have you a law my name is Mark Willoby and I'm a principal and wealth manager and the Chief Operating Officer of Madeira Wealth Management Llc. Today my colleague Victoria Consulis senior planning associate from our Boston office and I will be chatting with Dr Cathy German. Dr Cathy German and her husband, Dr Jet German, has a large family based Chiropractic care practice in Westwood, New Jersey. They started their business in downtown Westwood, which is actually a few blocks from our MODEIRA Westwood Office, over three decades ago. Welcome everyone to the show and I'll hand it over to Victoria. Thanks mark, and welcome Cathy. I know you've known some of our colleagues in the New Jersey Office and they're familiar with your practice. Could you kind of get started and just let us know how you got into owning your own business? Thanks for having me. First of all, it's very excited. Well, I went to Chiropractic School in Nineteen Eighty and Marietta, Georgia, where I met my husband. When we graduated in nineteen eighty three, we moved back to New Jersey, which is the area I was from, and decided to open our own chiropractic practice. In the profession of Chiropractic you actually do not need to do an internship after school or residency, so you're a free agent able to go work for another office or to do an internship. You can just open as soon as you get your you have to sit for your New Jersey license or whatever state you're in. We did that in nineteen eighty three, eighty four and then we opened our own private practice in nineteen eighty five right in Westwood, New Jersey. So that's how we started, right in private business. That's great. So you started right from the beginning where you prepared to open your own business right out of school. Well, we thought we were, but we learned a lot along the way and I of course, three decades later, I've had lots of chances to look back and lots of ts have happened. I've talked about this in seminars. Now in our profession there's a lot of talk about this that I'm sure it happens in other professions as well, but we were totally not taught in chiropractic school how to run a business. So many things. How To hire a staff or team, how to pay them, how to do your tax who actually had a pay quarterly taxes when you're on your own business? Millions of things, and not just financial but just the structure of running an office. Before I left for Chiropractic school I worked for a doctor in Manhattan, so I had some I kind of modeled what I knew from him. My husband hadn't had any of that experience and really in our profession, what happened back then is you just talk to your colleagues and your friends, the ones who were out a little longer that had already been in practice. You'd maybe use their account or use their set up. There were also lots of management groups that we stayed away from because they didn't have great reputations at the time. It's not what we wanted. The early s you could just walk into a bank and get alone as a small business owner. As two doctors, you know, we literally went into the bank in Westwood and they gave us whatever the amount was that we needed to set up. So we were set up in that way. So you got the loan and then you went right into opening your own practice. Did you have patients right away? Did you know that you had? There was a market for this in Westwood, New Jersey, and is that where office has always been? Well, it is. I mean I grew up about four towns over. So we look up to find a location. We wanted to be in, not super out of a city, originally to go to Manhattan, and then we change that idea. We were just really, really, and still are, passionate about chiropractic and what we do. So didn't really matter where we were going to open. We knew we would be fine. And No, we did not have any patients to start, but we...

...knew that was the case going in. So we found our space and needed a little construction and then we literally just did what you do as a business owner. You know, we started pounding the pavement, meeting people, doing outside lectures, meeting our neighbors. Back then there was no social media, so it was ads in the paper. We market it. You know, it didn't take long for things to start building. We were always financially sound. We built quickly, but we made it mistakes along the way, for sure. What's one of the biggest mistakes you've made going through this? And then I want to talk about afterwards as success to but to get into a little bit of what it's like working with your husband as well well. I mean I thought about this a lot. I mean I'd say the biggest mistake is just not knowing what we were doing financially. My Dad was a CPA, so he took care of that end of it. Literally. I wish that someone had sat down with me and said this is how you do your payroll, because my father just kind of took care of it for me and then I learned along the way. I just wish I knew. I didn't know. I didn't know how to pay taxes and didn't know anything. No one really. We just learned. As we've been along. So that was one thing. We're getting. Our rent was going so high in our first location we really didn't know how to negotiate with the landlords, so we ended up leaving the building, which we didn't need to. He was just raising it a ridiculous amount and we couldn't keep up. You know, enough of our in that point, so we left and we moved to another location, which is actually turned out to be much better, but I just wish I'd manage things better and just been a better business person in general. I mean, we look back now we think, wow, it would you know, a lot of our friends bought the building they practiced in. It would have been nice to own a building right now, but we won't. Not that that was a mistake. I just feel that I was very nice eve and running a business. I knew how to take care of my patients. I knew that end of it. There's a whole nother part and I think there are a lot of professionals that have that problem. There was a speaker that used to come to our school and he had this whole program and he worked with dentists and doctors and he said, you know, you start making a lot of money in the beginning and you have no idea how to save it or spend it or pay back your student loans. It can get out of hand. There was just no guidance. Is that different now in terms of those coming out of chiropractor schools? Now, are people learning from the challenges that others have faced along the way? Well, there's a few things that are different. First of all, no one's getting alone to open a business now, not just cope, it just everything. It just doesn't happen. These kids, because there are kids compared to me, are coming out with two HUNDREDZERO dollars of student loan debt, probably just professional and I'm sure that's happens in every area. That's a lot. So a lot of them, I think more than half of them, up to work for another doctor for a while. There are, well, was there too. There are a lot of these big clinics in various parts of the country where they'll just hire these young kids and just work them like crazy and they are never really making enough money to go out on their own, but they may learn something. So you know, we're now looking for someone to come in and help us that. We want to teach the whole business to so there's more of that going on. You just have to make sure you're learning from the right person. We are involved with a coaching group now for the past twelve years. They put in play in one of the chiropractic schools and probably in others, this program called G ten, where it's graduate and pay off your debt in ten years. So they're teaching students in their last year of school every aspect, and not just the business end, but how to speak to your patients, what to do on the first day, their second day, because that's part of it too, so that they're successful. Had A market themselves. I was just on a panel last week where had to listen to someone who is graduating with her marketing plan. It's happening. It's way late for it and it's happening slowly because, you know, schools make money and they just get them in and out, but I think some of the presidents you should want your people to succeed. Yeah, exactly, and you mentioned that you have someone coming into help now in your business. So is that part of a continuity plan? Is that part of what we're just started the process of looking for another doctor. Yeah, we need another person because we're that busy right now. But also you were thinking down the road when we want a semi retire or just to have another person there so we can have some time off, just looking down the road a little bit more. If that person spins off and opens their own practice, that's like a nice gift. You...

...know, I want my practice, I want to give what I've built that person to be able to open their own practice and eventually get someone that my practice will keep going even, you know, if and when we decide to retire. But know that that makes sense and you've talked about some of the challenges along the way. But I want to hear about, you know, some of your accomplishments and what the things that so you've been working with your husband this entire time and I know you have a couple of kids. How'd your schedule work during that? And you know, you've definitely grown your business. So you've come such a long way that I want to hear about. You know what the road was like there and to get to where you are now. Well, I mean in the beginning it was great and it was fun and it was easy, and then we had three kids in five years and we were already a little bit on the older side. We'd already been practicing for a while and I think they stepped out of practice for good eight or nine years. I think, looking back and the young women and I coach now, I think I might have opted for a different plan or maybe been more conscious about it. Just I put the finance. We just did what our friends did or what was next. So I stayed home with my three kids and I did everything like that, you know, sports and ever and then my husband was able to handle the practice fine. I think sometimes if I stayed in we might have grown more during those years. I don't know, it might have just helped him out a little. But then when they get older, I went back. I went back part time and that's one of the things I love about my career is that I could make my own hours. So it would be months I would just work mornings and then or once I would work Saturdays and then one of my kids would have soccer for the fall, so I would take Saturdays off and it really worked great. When they were all in school. Then I had specific office hours in the morning, even with see patients out of our home when I was home in the afternoon with the kids. So that worked really well for us. It was just cut like a side Gig. And then when they were all in high school, then I went back. And then what happened with this coaching group we're with? They have a lot of strategies and they actually took my husband out of the practice for about six months so that he could have a sabbatical. And you know, he visited other offices and he did some backwork for me, like back office work, but I took the whole practice over and I was very nervous because I hadn't I'm practical, but it was great and it was so much fun and I built my team, so maybe it was a good thing. I don't know what it did, but it's with the energy and then it gave me ownership and that feeling of that I could do it. Then he came back part time. I was working more shifts than him, but now it works that were split and then covid hit. So then we will close for some weeks last March and then, when not, we will open. We said we need to be there together because, you know, the protocols took time. The tables need to be clean, we have to spread patients out and then we were inundated with the patients and still are. So it's great we're working together again. Yeah, so it sounds like you both have a great balance between each other and and your home life. To now, do you have any rules as to, you know, business days at work, or do do you talk about business outside of work all the time? Yeah, pretty much challenging in the beginning. Always. One day, not that long ago, a couple years and my kids are in their early S. we're in the car and we're talking about the office and movie arguing and one of my kids I said hold on, we're talking about the office and they said you're always talking about the office. So that but when we got with our coaching group, one of their disciplines is, you know, it's like the seven minute rule when you get home at night, even if someone's espouse staying home, like seven minutes about the business and then you're back to personal life. It's challenging. We try not to talk about the business part. Chiropractic is our life, so our friends are most their practice. It's a chiropractic lifestyle. We live socialize with our chiropractic friends. So there's that. You know, and on our off days sometimes we do have to go to the there is paperwork to do. We really much better about it than having that on our plate all the time. I'd have date night on a certain on Fridays or a day off and try not to talk about the office and it is I can imagine. And so you talked about covid a minute ago and I want to touch upon that. So could you tell us a little bit about what it was like for during those six weeks where you were shut down? What was the business experiencing? And you, as kind of a business owner, did you apply for any... What type of decision did jeff to make kind of on the fly as we were all going through this unknown territory? That's a great question. So in our profession, and probably in every profession, it was like the volcano. Everyone was falling and everyone, you know, everyone thinks they know everything about everything, but they don't. So there was like our State Association with these big conference calls about how to apply for this loan and then the grant means this and the PPP means is. Nobody knew anything really at that time. One step at a time, you know, we got our ducks in a row and we were able to get our PPP. Maybe we have a small payroll. We have three people on the payroll. Oh, it's not a lot, but we were able to get it. That came through. We worked with our bank in Westwood and they were great about that. We got two grants from Berken county cares, which was unexpected. Also got hhs money from Medicare for being Medicare providers. That came from a few times. So we did and we were able to be fine. I would have never thought that I could close for six weeks and not dip into major savings. Some just the way the energy worked for us. Don't forget we didn't have payroll expense since because my team all went on unemployment, though there was rent and not insurance, but not a lot of other expenses. We really were fine and we actually in New Jersey were not required to close by the State Department at all, but we didn't know at the time and we needed to regroup. Our phone was ringing the whole time when we were sneaking into see patients once in a while because our kids didn't want US sleeping house. Then we went back six weeks later with a shortened staff and then we just in a month we were back to normal and even busier. So we feel very blessed and you know, not everyone's had that experience. A lot of our chiropractic friends have at once that were well established. Now we do know some other people that covid shut us down for good. You know, they just couldn't get it together, but I think maybe that's just the longevity of being in the game and just having a successful business already and patients that were well educated and just people know us. People were not feeling well from being on their computer all day and various other reasons, just wanting a new way to stay healthy. It's been like that. But financially we were fine and we still we don't know what will happen. You know we did. We were able to get the grants that we needed. You said people are still coming in, but do you think business is even increased now that a lot of people are working from home and maybe having more flexible schedules where they can squeeze something like that in opposed to what used to be the normal day to day? Yes, and they were. We had a lot of commuters, you know, back in the day, and so we used to be open till seven and few years ago we changed to thirty. Now, since Covid we just stopped at six because we did also didn't want to be in there that many hours with that many people. And now we're saying at six because every a lot of people working from home, so they leave during the home day to come in, although now we see more and more people going back to work and they want to take care of themselves. And Yeah, they're sitting on zoom all day and their neck hurts, their back hurts. So I mean, that's not even our main goal is to take care of back pay. We want to elevate people's health in general, and that's just what's becoming. And I believe that you know all the work we've done for thirty five years. Like you, just have to keep building your name, building what you say is true and building your practice so that then you're establishing you have this energy. I don't think this would be the case if we were in our first year of practice. I don't know what would have happened. You know, Cathy, what strikes me, if I go back right to the start, a lot of our guests have spent time working for other firms, other enterprises, before they make that big decision to start their own business, and yours is very, very different from the other guests that we spoken to. I think you've touched it at already. Would you have done anything differently? Would you have worked for a chiropractic firm before starting your own? Do you have any regrets or it's clearly worked out? Would you have done anything differently? Decision necking voice? Well, I have no regrets because that's where the times were. But if one of my children were going to chiropractic school, which they're not, so I wish they were, I would have guided them to this group that we're with now, TLC coaching. It's more of a coaching group because they're able to put they learn the hard way and...

...they're able to pay us on the model that works and that's the model that works for us. So I would say maybe working for someone you know for a few months. I love having my own business and being my own boss. You know, I wasn't. We were already thirty when we got out. That we weren't like young twenty two year old. There was that. I don't regret it. That would have been helpful if I had more structure, and I definitely do tell people that. I meant or now go with this group, go to a doctor who practices this way or if you find another group just to learn, not necessarily like I just don't like that idea. You have to work with some of these young people. They're working for two or three years just to pay their student owns off and then they get scared. We just put an ant out for an associate. I'm getting people out of school for fifteen years, twenty years, and they've been working in twenty different offices, running clinics. So that means they're not stable or able. I just I love having my own practice. I would never have it any other way. There's one other question that intrigues me to before I head back to Victoria. Your unique in that your husband and yourself and work together for thirty years. Victoria touched in and how do you separate personal for professionals, almost impossible right talk to us about how you and whether you separate the finances of the business from your personal finances. It's almost like for inextricable. Is it possible to separate the two? But it's really tough because we're doing business as an LLC, so we're together. Our tax return is joint. You know, it's there. It's a little complicated, frankly, and the way my dad set it up, in the way my now accounts since my dad passed, he doesn't like the way it was set up. It's confusing. Who wants the business, who doesn't? In the office, WHO's The insurance biller? So there's a lot of that. It just kind of were used to it. So and yes, of course I take care of the finances. We've tried every other way. So I take care of it now with a lot of help from my accountant, and this is actually a good thing to mention. I mean because my dad was an account I did everything. So I took care of you know, there's no computer back then, so I every check. I wrote how to get categorized by April fourteen. It was ruling. It's not my favorite thing to do, although I used to work for my dad when I was in high school. I just hated it. And then when he passed away and I got this account about a year later, they like we have a peril service of my God had saved me so much time on writing peril and then paying those quarterly taxes, which I was never prepared for, and then they had a bookkeeper. So now I do almost nothing and I love it. I can hear my dad like you're paying for that. Can See like four more people a week and pay for all that, whatever it is. I feel that I deserve it. That's actually a big lesson that I've learned to allow other people to help. It's okay someone to do all that that I didn't have to hold on to it. I guess it took years of learning to not have to do that, and maybe it was good because I did learn what needed to be done and what did. But I wanted to talk about practicing with my husband and being married and in business together. I think I've been in the community life. In our local paper a few times we had been about that, because it can be challenging just on a personal level, but I've always said our mission, thank goodness. We feel the same about chiropractic because even within our profession you could have a different point of view about the type of practice on or about the body and the body healing from within. I mean, if your there chiropractors every where and they're not all the same as us. So we are totally philosophically on the same page and we always have the same vision and goals. That's really been helpful, and I say that it's bigger than we are. So when we have that passion together, everything else works. It's also personality. You know, I'm much more I want to talk about things from the beginning and plan what are we doing this month, and my husband not so much. He's also the most fun person in the world and he never worries about things and he's an optimist. So that helps me in my left brain that analyzing, figuring things out. That might be something of benefit. Sounds like you got a really, really cool partnership with your husband. Yeah, we do. Yeah, I can't believe you haven't convinced any of the kids to continue the practice with you. Best if we don't talk about that right now to him. You know a lot of people are in that generational you know, family, generational chiropractic. Nothing we did wrong,...

I we really are at the point now like they have to make their own choices and they have careers and they're all happy doing what they're doing. And we talked about retirement briefly, but do you see yourself doing this for many, many, many more years, because you can kind of see as many patients as you want? Well, I mean, we love what we do, so we don't really want to stop you, even when I plays off for the well, what are we going to do today? So the plan, the Det you plan that I make, because he doesn't really want to talk about is, you know, to hire another person and then, you know, as you train them, then there's like a longer va patient. There's maybe a month off in the winter where we could go away, and we have. We have a really great team, but we still will own the practice and what most chiropractors do is either they sell the whole practice, which in the long run doesn't end up being that much. A better way is put someone in it and you keep owning it, you know, and running it for them. So we can't really think about moving to another state or we don't want to. Our kids are all here. We only have a license in New Jersey, or chiropractic license. So we want to keep owning this successful business for as long as we can. It's a very physically challenging job. Maybe cut back, you could. There's so much we can do. We feel grateful that we have those options and with our coaching group that we really trust. You know, we use our mentors there to see what the best options are. It's kind of a new conversation, just the past to yeah, and I mean we work with business owners all the time and I feel like retirement to these days isn't what it used to be. You can we're more creative with what retirement looks like and the future as well. So no one wants to just give up everything they've worked really hard for and we love it, you know, I really I don't think we could financially retire yet. That's why I think it's great to own this business, because we can keep owning it. I mean we literally we could walk in two days a month and keep a doctor and they're running. We think. I mean we haven't done it yet, like I said, at least now at this point, when we don't know, we have people to ask. We rely on them and then help other people learn the same thing. What's your favorite part about owning a business and our the practice itself? Well, my favorite part is kind of comes along with my statement of desire that I live by, like I always want to be moving forward and when I'm in that office is I'm so happy because I have people there that are just getting healthy and I you probably would agree that it's just a happy place to be in. You know, someone said the other day I feel better, but I feel like a better person when I come here. I feel kinder. So that feels like everything to me, and our patients are like our family to us. I feel like I help lift people up and guide them to what I understand about health and healing. Whether they understand or not is okay. Whether they're out of pain or not, is okay. They usually are. They just feel loved and appreciated, and I feel that they do. That's what we love. It makes me feel happy that I can serve people like that. That's the most fun. I never think of it as I run a business. I just don't. Yeah, well, it sounds like everything you're doing is very rewarding for you and your patients as well, so I love to hear that. Yeah, but I will say one thing, though. I mean we do have a lot of people that we know that have that kind of open heart and they don't have to run a business at all, and it can really be a problem, because then it can stop you from doing what you love if you can't stay financially sound right. And one of our mentors in chiropractic school at life, he oh, we didn't understand till much later. He always would say this on stage, say service in one hand and business in the other. To you're serving your patients and then you have a business. They never can combine. I mean, when I'm in that office, never look at my check book. I barely go on my email unless it's my business want. You know, I try to say very much in the mode that I have to be in, which is health and not about running a business at all. I mean there's certain insurance things I need to handle. I have a financial assistant who as that and we try to just meet once a week so I don't have to hear all the insurance stuff. It sounds like you have three groups of things here, your patients, Your Business and then your home life as well, that you're fighting found ways to compart, to mentalize everything. The only other thing, Cathy, I'd like to we kind of touched on this, but when you look back at the arc you're experience with your business, what's the single best decision? Is there one particular decision that you think would be applicable to a lot of other business owners who are early on in their business career running their...

...own businesses? Their one decision you can look back on and say, boy, I I'm glad I met that decision that's really helped me throughout. Yeah, I know exactly what it is. It was getting help, getting help from someone that we trusted. That's what I thought, because what I'm hearing from you is you've got this passion for what you do, but of course you're not good at everything. So it was coming to the realization that you needed help in certain areas, whether it was from Your Dad, whether it was from this coaching group, whether it was from the financial assistant. You got your pride out of the way and you got help in the areas that you just it's just not your expertise or are your passion. And what we love with we found this coaching group was that there are recly chiropractors, but we just resonated with them. They allowed us this group of perfect or some practice the way we do, some don't. They understood us. That really turned US around, I think for the business end of it. We already knew what we were doing chiropractically. So I would say ask for help or find help, but carefully choose who you're going to ask for that help. Cathy, thank you so much for joining us today. I know market. I have both enjoyed this conversation and learning about you. Know Your Business and the challenges and successes you've had along the way. What's the last non financial decision you've had to make? We like to ask all of our guests that before they go hmm, that's tricky. I guess to what our next vacation was going to be. We're taking our kids away in June, just the six of us, so we haven't been away together in a while and since they will work, we had we found a wee goo. That's our decision. So thanks very much to Victoria and to Cathy for letting US listen into their conversation. We appreciate their time at perspectives and thank you for tuning in. If we hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. Wwwollcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has been a production of twin flames studios.

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