. . . And In Health

For The People

Perhaps it's because they selflessly gave time and money to him and his family in their time of need that Ted is so set on making rehabilitation accessible to everyone in the 12 North Carolina counties ATP serves. Not only does the company, with about 30 employees (including contract therapists), offer free therapy screening, it also provides discounts on a sliding scale to patients with no insurance or no, or limited, out-of-network benefits.

Ted admits it may not be the wisest strategy, because ATP, with sales expected to hit $750,000 this year, has yet to go big-time. "The way I look at it is, we're trying to give back to the community. And if I can at least cover my costs and make a very slight profit margin, then we'll do things like that," Ted says. "I write it off as marketing, because, hopefully, they'll refer more patients with insurance who can afford it." Keeping overhead low by having therapists in management work full time, using extra space in health clubs and schools as quasi-clinics, and making employment forms for prospective and present therapists available on ATP's Web site (http://www.atprehab.com) all help his cause.

When you don't have financial backing (at some point, he would love to secure $250,000 to $500,000 worth), the owner also has to make sacrifices. "My salary fluctuates," Ted says. "I'm always the last one to get paid. I pay all my expenses first, then I pay my therapists [therapists' wages have decreased by about 20 percent since 1997], and then I pay myself. If referrals are down, I may need to cut back when I get paid."

But you'll never see the day when ATP gives quickie service to increase profits. "We call them `shake and bake' outpatient facilities," says Ted. "They'll do anything as cheap as possible, so they can pocket the rest. ATP is not about that. We may go out of business as a result of that philosophy, but I think people will start to recognize quality care is more important."

Because the health-care industry is "such a volatile field," Ted has diversified more than his company's services-which earlier this year entered the health and wellness arena with offerings like yoga and therapeutic massage, and may also add T'ai Chi and nutrition counseling. To add another revenue stream, he founded AptBilling LLC, a medical billing practice management company, with ATP's chief financial officer, Lynda Taylor, this past November. And he's partnering with Jacquelyn, 29 (also an independent kitchen consultant with The Pampered Chef), on two new ventures: a therapy-supply e-commerce company and an assisted technology company geared toward the blind and deaf, inspired by their son Jack Grier, who is blind as a result of osteopetrosis.

Expanding statewide is this year's goal, but facilitating independence, be it for himself, his family (Spencer and Jack Grier are doing well), his patients or his therapists, has always been Ted's main goal. A family man who's "just figuring out how to be an entrepreneur in this type of setting" (and who often works 60- to 70-hour weeks to do so), he helps contracted therapists set up home offices and seek autonomy-even though they really work for him. "I try to show them they can take a bedroom or a corner, set up a computer and a fax line, and have a homebased business just like I did," he says. "I'm keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive."

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: . . . And In Health.

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