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The No. 1 New Franchise: HealthSource

This is spinal tap. Actually, it's chiropractic services making its debut at No. 1 on our Top New Franchises list.
February 22, 2011
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/218111

When people think of businesses that are perfect for franchising, a few tried-and-true categories come to mind: fast food, automotive repair, hotels…. Chiropractic services? Not so much. Typically, chiropractors are "lone wolves," says Dr. Chris Tomshack, founder of HealthSource Chiropractic and Progressive Rehab. But a lot of those lone wolves are struggling, especially in the current economy. And Tomshack believes franchising is the solution.

He may be right. Since HealthSource began franchising in 2006, it has exploded to nearly 300 franchises in 43 states. That impressive growth vaulted HealthSource into the No. 1 spot on our Top New Franchises list, and a ranking of #111 overall in this year's Franchise 500®.

Chiropractors might not seem like obvious franchisee candidates, but Tomshack isn't surprised by the success of his system. In fact, it's exactly what he had in mind when he turned to franchising. As former owner of four clinics in Ohio, he believed the business and treatment models he had developed since 1998 could and should go global.

"Quite frankly, a lot of practitioners remain stuck in the '70s and '80s, and my team felt that we need to help chiropractic continue to evolve," Tomshack says. "New advances in healthcare did not stop in the '80s. They're being made every day."

Spinal decompression, cold laser therapy and a holistic weight-loss program are just a few of the services offered in addition to traditional chiropractic care at HealthSource clinics. And they won't stop there. "We're always looking for what's new and what's best," Tomshack says.

Those extra services aren't the only way HealthSource gives its franchisees a leg up on the competition.

"We actually help teach them how to think more like businesspeople, like true entrepreneurs, in addition to being a clinician," he says, "because that's what it takes today to survive." At HealthSource University, doctors and their staff are taught everything they need to know about the day-to-day operations of their business, from answering the phone to marketing. "It's Business 101 through 401 in the chiropractic niche," Tomshack says, "something that's never been taught before."

At the heart of the training, the key to success for HealthSource franchisees as both doctors and businesspeople, is a simple lesson for all entrepreneurs: The customer always comes first. "Our guiding vision is to always focus on what's best for our patient, which is our consumer," he says.

That may not sound groundbreaking--until it's compared with the typical doctor's office experience. "Something's gone awry in healthcare," Tomshack says, adding that HealthSource's goal is to do away with the impersonal, uncomfortable settings so often associated with the industry. HealthSource patients are greeted as soon as they walk through the door and guided through the process of signing forms and learning about the services available. They can even enjoy a gourmet coffee bar while they wait--though they shouldn't have much time to linger.

"We don't tolerate wait times," Tomshack says. And the personal touch offered in the reception area is only the beginning. "The doctor's not going to treat you as a number. The doctor's going to treat you as a family member."

This philosophy--and the business and treatment systems Tomshack and his team have developed to uphold it--is influencing a new generation of chiropractors. He is a frequent guest lecturer at chiropractic colleges across the country, and some schools have even invited the HealthSource team to design and implement a business curriculum.

"Now we're always in front of the students and we can offer them a better way to get into practice," Tomshack says. Because of that, although most HealthSource franchises are existing clinics that converted, Tomshack anticipates welcoming more startups over the next year as graduating chiropractic students decide that franchising is better than going it alone.

He expects to add at least 100 clinics, startups as well as conversions, in 2011. And he also plans to move beyond the United States, having just received approval to begin franchising HealthSource in Canada (he has his sights set on Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand as well).

As more "lone wolves" join the HealthSource system, Tomshack seems well on his way to revolutionizing his industry. Someday he might even make chiropractic services as synonymous with franchising as fast food, auto repair and hotels are today.