(This article originally appeared in Ottawa Business Journal, https://www.obj.ca/Opinion/Bruce-Firestone-5444)
As an immigrant to Canada
from Cairo Egypt and with a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, Nasr Salib needed
to find work in his chosen field—physiotherapy—to support his wife and two
children. But after seven years working in a private clinic where Mr Salib had
helped increase volume from 2 to 100 patients a day, he was escorted off the
premises by an angry owner. His sin? He’d had the temerity to ask if his work had
earned him a shot at partner.
So with just $2,000 in
his bank account and a Renault car worth $400, Nasr wasn’t sure what to do
next. One thing he did know was that he loved Ottawa—it was his hometown now, a peaceful
place where people of all faiths are welcome. He wasn’t going anywhere except
Tim Hortons. That’s right—he didn’t tell his wife he’d been fired. He got up
every morning, got dressed, and went to “work”.
After a few days of
Horton coffee, he went to Scotiabank without an appointment and asked to see
the manager. The manager asks, “Do you have a business plan, Mr Salib?”
“Why yes I do,” Nasr
replied, pulling out a Tim Hortons napkin on which he’d sketched out ideas for
his own clinic. The bank manager laughed, but she did offer to call Toronto and ask for a
line of credit for him in the amount of $150,000.
Nasr said, “No! $75,000
is fine,” afraid that Toronto
would say no to the larger amount.
Rather than build his
clinic from scratch (a costlier and lengthier process), Mr Salib talked two
family physicians into subletting a couple of rooms to him on Bank street, and so
the first Pro Physio and Sport Medicine Centre was launched a short time later,
on November 25th 1995 to be precise.
The issue was—he had no
patients and didn’t feel right about going after his clients from the former
clinic. But then he got a break—one of them found out about his new location,
and took out an ad in a local daily newspaper congratulating him on opening his
own business. After that, “business
exploded”, Mr Salib adds with a smile.
Today, the operation has
27 locations including dispensaries that mix potions, lotions and other
medicines for patients who frequent the clinics as well as the general
population. Next on Nasr’s to-do list? Expand to Toronto
Pro Physio and Sport
Medicine Centres has over 350 employees and Mr Salib is proud of the
fact that a large number of physiotherapists have ownership in clinics in which they work.
Each clinic stands on
its own two feet, but the management company provides assistance regarding
various items, such as organizing community events and marketing efforts,
including team and event sponsorships.
It also helps that
Pro Physio and Sport Medicine Centres is on the right side of history—as Canada’s
population ages, business has nowhere to go but up. Most observers think that Victoria BC is Canada’s
hot spot for elders, but it’s actually Ottawa.
CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) says that Ottawa has 103,000 seniors today (out of a
population of 900,000; ie, 11.4%), which will increase to 232,000 by 2031
(making up 22% of the total, nearly double what it is today).
“The company is
very profitable,” Mr Salib says, “and has good management and infrastructure.”
I believe him as he sits in his east end office looking relaxed and fit as they
were preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the company’s
founding. People are not running in and out of his office with a
crisis-a-minute like in so many other Ottawa area businesses I visit, at least
not while I am there.
What sustains Nasr
is a philosophy based on: “Giving clients the wow treatment, not being greedy, not
cutting corners and putting God in front of me.”
His main marketing
vehicle has been word of mouth–his patients tend to talk up the business.
Bruce M Firestone, PhD, Ottawa Senators
founder, Century 21 Explorer Realty broker. Follow him on twitter @ProfBruce
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