Her Story with Julie Sergent: Trading a Career of Comfort for Her Dream Business
If you’re the type of person that has a big dream, but can rationalize it away because looking around, your current situation isn’t “that bad,” that you should just be grateful for what you have and forget about those crazy goals, then you might appreciate this week’s Her Story Spotlight with Julie Sergent, owner of Sergent Wellness, a growing physical therapy business in Louisville, KY.
A few years ago, Julie had it made in her civilian career with the Army. She had a good salary, small, but consistent raises and autonomy. She also had long commutes, a cap on her growth, and more importantly, a pull to make a bigger impact.
The leap to start her own cash-based physical therapy business was scary and she’s questioned herself plenty of times along the way, like I know many of us do with our own ideas and businesses, but in her story below she shares how she’s moved through those times to keep her eye on the clients and work she’s most passionate about.
Meet Julie - Fun Facts:
1. I love being a mommy to my sweet Kathryn Grey, she's approaching 2.5 yrs old and my husband & I cannot believe it- and she has blonde hair, blue eyes, who knew?!
2. Organizing is my favorite- if we had a container store in Louisville, I'd be in trouble!
3. I love all things design and decorating, whether it's at home or the office!
4. I'm 1/2 Lebanese
5. I really dislike clothes shopping, I love new clothes just hate spending my time shopping for them- I love stitch fix and anywhere with free shipping & free returns!
Tell us about your business, Sergent Wellness!
Sergent Wellness is best described as a growing wellness practice that currently offers physical therapy and tailored personal training services. We help active adults & athletes get back to the sports and life they love, avoid unnecessary doctors visits, injections, surgery, & imaging by emphasizing injury prevention and optimal performance.
How did it get it’s start? Did you know this is what you always wanted to do?
Most people don't know this, but I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist since I was 9 or 10! Growing up, my mother was a nanny for a wonderful family and one of the children was traumatically injured in a car accident at the age of 6 months old. Resulting from the accident, she was confined to a wheelchair, completely dependent on caregivers, and required multiple surgeries over the years. She spent several days per week working with physical and occupational therapists through all developmental stages. Being 2 weeks apart from her in age, I spent the first 6 years of life seeing her endure the challenges in simple tasks instead of being able to play carelessly. I will be forever grateful since it was this experience that opened my eyes to such a rewarding career path.
What gave you the courage to make the leap from employee to entrepreneur?
When I decided to open my own practice, I had a pretty "cush job" working as a physical therapist at an army hospital. In the army setting, you have more autonomy compared to civilian positions, we could do things like order imaging and specialty consults without a physicians approval. There were no insurance hoops or pre-authorization requirements either, BUT I had a long commute (2 hrs total), and outside of a 1-3% annual raise, there was no way for me to advance in that setting since I was not active duty.
So, I actually had plans to open a facility with a Major that was coming up on his retirement. We had been meeting with a silent investor for months getting plans together, looking at potential locations, etc. then he was offered a job he couldn't refuse and I was left to continue on the path solo.
I interviewed with a few clinics for director positions, but that turned out to be more of a formality and really clarified my decision to do the damn thing! I got a job as a home health PT where I made my own hours, didn't have any conflict of interest, and saw patients in my gym office after my work day. I officially started Sergent Wellness in 2014 as a side hustle. I quit my other jobs and devoted myself 100% to my business in Nov 2016.
So many of us have limiting beliefs that need to be overcome or we've "failed" and might need some encouragement to keep going. Can you tell us about a challenge you have you had to overcome to get where you are now with your business? How were you able to overcome that or what are you doing now to overcome that’s working?
One has been present from the beginning, and still brings me challenges, is the fact that my business model is cash-based, so patients pay up front for services received. Being cash-based also shifts my referral sources- instead of relying on MDs and surgeons for new patients, I have several chiropractors, massage therapists, trainers & coaches that send patients.
Working with a business coach and mastermind group for the past year has been HUGE in overcoming this limiting belief... and COUNTLESS others. I've gained a lot of knowledge in marketing & sales (which is seriously fascinating!!!) and defined my ideal patient (instead of thinking I need/want to convince every prospect) - this has helped me avoid the negativity that often comes from serving the masses instead of my target audience.
What would you say has been the main key so far to helping you get to where you are now?
Knowing that there really isn't another option! There are a lot of weeks I still don't pay myself, and I've experienced entire days when I question the whole damn thing- BUT what always holds true is my desire to help others and the freedom that comes with this entrepreneurial/business owner life. I've worked since I was 15 and I am wired to be a hard worker and always strive for more. The only way to reap the benefits of that drive was to create my own job! And today, I'm so blessed to have 2 employees on my team and more to come.
What advice would you give to other women looking to start their own business?
A few things... Surround yourself with supportive, uplifting people. I'll share something I heard recently that might resonate with one considering to start their own business...If your first prototype is successful then you've waited too long!! Don't wait until you think you have it all together, my lovely business coach has taught me if it's 80%, it's complete. As a perfectionist in recovery- this is not easy! Just remember, nothing is permanent, be it a email campaign, website, you can always go back and make it better.
Many of us are solopreneurs at the moment, but as we grow and look to scale, what tips can you share about building a team?
Think of all the repetitive tasks you perform to do the awesome "thing," "service," "fill in the blank" and create a process or guide for it, that way when you have an assistant or add staff to your team, that you're not spending precious time training. Consider hiring an assistant or VA before you think you deserve it or can afford it. If you spend time doing mindless tasks or tasks that don't require YOUR skill set, you could be missing out on potential profit.
What are some tools that help make life easier/better?
We use Gsuite for patient documentation, programs, staff communication, and more- it's $15/month, HIPAA compliant.
Quickbooks is a must- I'd recommend hiring a bookkeeper!
Canva- the paid version is great for designing social media posts, newsletter images, flyers, etc.
What routines do you have that helped you be successful? /How do you start your mornings/end your days?
I plan the week every Sunday- I put everything in the calendar- meetings, phone calls, workouts, Kate pick up (my husband is a firefighter so every 3rd day I'm a solo parent). Every night I prepare for the following day, outfit, lunch, gym bag.
My morning routine admittedly needs some help, but on my best mornings I wake up on the 2nd snooze, make the bed, and grab a Starbucks or Hiene brothers latte on my way in to the office.
What is a book or podcast you would recommend for others looking to start or grow their business or just for general positive mindset motivation?
The Tim Ferriss Show
The Best Life
The E-Myth by Michael Gerber
The Gifts of Imperfections by Brene Brown
For fun…What common PT issues do you see in women and what are some things we could be more aware of or do to prevent some of those?
Low back pain, neck/shoulder pain, and headaches are super common. I see a lot of women not taking enough time for themselves. They selflessly serve their jobs, their families, and lose the priority of caring for themselves. The best thing women (child bearing or not) can do for themselves is to make time for self-care.
Prioritize exercise and sleep. If you have to choose between exercise or sleep, ALWAYS choose sleep!
Find a hobby outside of your work that feeds your soul.
Pain and musculoskeletal conditions are complex, so whether you have headaches, low back, foot pain or discomfort anywhere in between- be mindful of your posture. How are you sitting? How are are standing?
Here are some simple tips: alternate sides if holding your baby or toddler, lighten your purse and use a backpack or messenger style bag to decrease stress to neck & shoulders.
How can people find out more about you and Sergent Wellness?
I'm so glad you asked! We are having an open house to celebrate the new location [in Louisville, KY], Sergent Wellness & Core Chiropractic (right across the hall!) are partnering to host an interactive open house, we will have several local wellness centered vendors, give-aways, free chair massages, gifts for all attendees, food & more. It's Friday December 7th from 3-6p!
Facebook: Sergent Wellness
Show Julie some love and comment below to let her know about a key takeaway you got from her interview! If you have a recommendation for one of our future Spotlights, please reach out and let me know!