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Midas touch for Australian physio with business spark

IN this week's SME Focus:

a music-loving Australian explains why she decided to follow her entrepreneurial instincts in Scotland.

Name:

Kirsten Lord

Age: 

A young 46!

What is your business called?

The Edinburgh and Glasgow Physiotherapy Centres. We've also recently started a new online business called PhysioMedics, designed for the healthcare provider to offer online self-assessment of low back pain, a common cause of workplace absenteeism.

What service does it offer?

The largest independently owned physiotherapy business in Scotland, we provide a wide range of treatments, which include manual Physiotherapy, remedial and relaxation massage therapy, Pilates as well as acupuncture, dry needling, and running assessments.

We deal with a lot of spinal treatments and sportspersons - some of our treatments have been validated to enhance performance in the sports arena.

Along with Mark Comerford, a renowned researcher and lecturer, we launched the Swingbuster Golf Assessment, specifically for golfers, available at the Edinburgh clinic.

How many employees? 

Between both clinics we employ 25 people and in the year ahead we hope to expand this figure.  

When was it formed? 

I established the Edinburgh Physiotherapy Centre in July 1992 and the Glasgow Physiotherapy Centre in December 2008 - both clinics were set up during recessions.

What is its turnover?  

Turnover is in six figures, a lot of bums on seats!

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I had not long been in Scotland, having arrived from Australia when I was offered a partnership in another physiotherapy business. This didn't work out, so I decided to take a leap of faith in my own skill set in order to set up in practice myself.

As well as my physio degree from Adelaide, I also have a Diploma in piano from the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, and a love for music. Musicians spend long hours in one position and subject themselves to a lot of pain to get ahead in a competitive industry.

Their sufferings can sadly also end their careers. My understanding of physio combined with my interest in music has allowed me to develop a special interest in treating musicians as well as dancers and actors. I've treated a number of people who have performed in Edinburgh Playhouse productions and consequently I've met some amazing and very talented people.

Why did you take the plunge? 

For so many reasons. I'd always wanted to be a physio - it was a profession where I could help people, it stretches your mind, took less time than qualifying as a doctor, you can travel easily with it and ultimately it enabled me to run my own business.

I came to Europe as many Antipodeans do, on a two year travelling holiday. A friend had told me about the Edinburgh Festival and coming from Adelaide where there is a similar festival I thought it would be the perfect place to park my toothbrush for a while.

I was also young and without any responsibilities, and fortunate enough to get the opportunity to open my clinic. It's amazing what you can do when you have an open mind. I believe the longer you have to think about starting a business and the more responsibilities you have, the less likely you are to do it.

Also in Australia, around 80% of physios end up in private practice - with this background, having my own business was always my goal. My passion has always been to provide an exceptional service and I have been better able to do that by establishing my own business and setting the bar high.

How did you raise the start-up funding? 

I started the clinic with £1000 in my back pocket.

Admittedly I'm a bit of a risk taker but much of my success to date has been down to hard work, being clever with money, and meeting and learning from other business people in the Entrepreneurial Exchange.

What was your biggest break?

It came when I improved my skills in staff management.

Happy people are the lifeblood of an organisation and it's vital to spend time looking after the people who represent the company.

What was your worst moment?

Growing the business has had its fair share of challenges and once or twice I've taken a few too many financial risks. It's always worked out but has been very hair raising at times.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

The people I have on board working alongside me are amazing. They are pretty much an extension of my family.

Being a director of the Entrepreneurial Exchange has also given me the opportunity to meet like-minded business people, to share the joys and also the challenges that every day brings when running a business. The Exchange has been instrumental in supporting me in taking calculated risks and evolving as an informed business person.

What do you least enjoy? 

Dealing with obstacles and the bureaucracy. It can be very time consuming but I'm also very tenacious!

What are your ambitions for the firm? 

We've grown over 33% in the past year which is very exciting for everyone in the business. We're looking forward to continuing this trend in 2014. Having recently taken on four new team members, we have also just introduced Pilates to our range of services in Edinburgh. And to kick off the new year, we have introduced Nutrition Therapy which we plan to develop fully over the coming year.

What are your top priorities? 

I want to ride the wave of digitalisation and innovation, to make healthcare information as accessible to as many people as possible. By listening to the needs of our patients, we source new treatments and look for the best people to deliver these services for us.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help? 

Allow service companies to access monies from Scottish Enterprise to help with their expansion and growth. Unlike many other Scottish companies, we are not eligible to receive assistance from Scottish Enterprise, which is really frustrating. Support would enable us to employ more people and contribute a great deal more to the economy.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

You can't just expect success to be served to you on a plate. You need to work hard. However, no matter how difficult things may seem never give up on your goals and ambitions as the success you will achieve in the long run is so rewarding.

How do you relax? 

I'm addicted to massages, a great perk of my job and they keep your body young and supple. I know I should say something healthy here too but I'm a foodie and love to entertain. Growing up beside the Barossa Valley taught me the meaning of a good red!

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