Q&A with John Richards, CEO of The Joint
Fresh off its IPO, chiropractic chain is up to 245 units and counting
Making chiropractic care affordable is one of the central tenets of The Joint, a franchised chiropractic care provider with 249 units open in 29 states.
After opening its first location in 1999, founded by Dr. Fred Gerretzen, The Joint was “re-founded” with the acquisition of the original eight franchised clinics in 2010. In June 2014, the company brought on former Starbucks President, John B. Richards. Then, in its biggest move to date, The Joint went public last November.
With big ambitions and a $20 million war chest to fund his planned national expansion, Franchise Times caught up with Richards about the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company’s post-IPO progress, his view on franchised medical care and how his company is revolutionizing chiropractic care — an $80 billion industry in the United States.
Franchise Times: How is your company different than a traditional chiropractic office where most patients pay with their medical insurance?
John Richards: We are a retail-oriented, private pay or cash-only chiropractic service. We are less expensive primarily because we don’t offer insurance. We’re convenient and accessible to people, and promote substantial routine use and encourage people to adopt chiropractic care as a wellness way of life.
FT: With your high-volume care model, how do you handle patients with more serious needs?
JR: We don't treat acute problems. We refer those to chiropractors or MDs who do X-rays. We get a lot of referrals coming the other way, because we’re set up to handle larger volumes and more rapid service delivery. We do about 1,600 visits a month on average, compared to a traditional independent practitioner [who averages] 450 visits per month.
FT: How quickly is The Joint growing since the IPO?
JR: We’re growing fast. We have about 245 units open today, and we are in approximately 29 states, so we’re already the largest private-pay operator of chiropractic clinics anywhere. I think we are the largest employer of doctors of chiropractic, because of the number of units we have. We are in the process of adding company units, which in part was the reason for our public offering so we could finance some of the growth on our own.
FT: How is the chiropractic industry as a whole doing these days?
JR: On a macro level, it’s a very large industry—somewhere in the range of $80 billion annually. It’s growing about 3-4 percent a year, and generally the trends favoring chiropractic care are very positive. A lot of people have back pain—we’re sitting [more] and people are active into their later years.
FT: How does your business model benefit your chiropractic doctors?
JR: The typical doctor who practices with us makes more money, and tends to make it faster because they’re busier and they don’t have to mess with insurance, so they get to make more money and don’t have to practice being an insurance peddler. I don’t think there’s a doctor on this planet who enjoys messing with the insurance part of [the business].
FT: How big do you see franchised health services becoming in the future?
JR: People want to have more control over how they take care of themselves, they want it to be accessible and reasonably affordable. The trends in the overall medical world are trying to find ways to save money, so these more complex things that were offered in hospitals … are being devolved into more accessible things. A lot of the wellness-oriented elements of healthcare are being spun out and made more accessible to people, and we’re obviously one of those.
FT: Do you have any plans to diversify the company beyond chiropractic care?
JR: Not at this point. We have a huge runway in front of us and we want to stay focused on that. I do think there are two ways in which we can grow beyond just getting bigger. One has to do with ancillary chiropractic services within the unit itself. There are chiropractic services that relate to that … arms, legs, neck and shoulders. The other side of the equation ... is supplying ancillary products that are a close cousin to the service.