Physio In The Valley celebrates its 20th year with digital revamp
Physio In The Valley is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s been 20 years since Donna and Paul Saal left behind the small practice they’d opened in Lively, Ontario and moved back to Pembroke. “Everybody thought we were crazy,” says Saal. “I had a newborn baby, a successful physio clinic… and we just completely turned our lives upside down.”
The “why” was simple: Saal had grown up in the area and it was a community she wanted to invest in. So they did. And 20 years on, they’ve expanded to a 3,000-square-foot facility in Laurentian Valley with a team of five. Typically, a clinic that size would have physiotherapy assistants but Physio In The Valley’s approach breaks away from that model, instead seeing fewer clients and allowing for one-to-one support between clients and their physiotherapists. “That’s given us a very good reputation,” says Saal. “The physicians and healthcare providers in our community trust us and that model has worked very well for us as far as longevity of our facility.”
But recently, Saal has started to feel like she has more to offer. It’s spurred her to invest in the physiotherapy clinic’s digital presence to build a stronger connection with her community. And the COVID-19 pandemic has helped clarify just how important that connection is.
Saal says the early days of the lockdown were a dark period for the business. “When you invest the greater part of your life in your business and you don't know if your business is going to be viable, that was hard,” she says. “We have nothing to fall back on… so it was scary.”
But through that experience, she also realized just how essential the service they’re providing is. It’s something that had never really been tested until she started to see the effects of clients not being able to access Physio In The Valley’s services.
“I was like, okay, what I do is very important and I will make it my mandate to never not work again,” she says. That drive has pushed her into the digital unknown, something she says she had never really been comfortable with.
She found out about Digital Main Street and enrolled for a $2,500 Digital Transformation Grant. The program combines grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. “My grant helped me set up an online booking platform and it helped me pay for a new website,” she says. Saal also invested in a new laptop to run the platform through.
She says the seminars and support from the Digital Service Squad helped her get a bit more confident with being online and see that there are a lot more ways of being online than she realized. It also showed her that there was an active conversation about the physiotherapy clinic on Google, a dialogue she could capitalize on.
She says the next step will be getting more comfortable with putting out videos or other pieces of insight for clients. “I’m old school, you know… I feel really uncomfortable with putting myself out there like that on a video or on Instagram,” she says. “(But) I feel like I have so much knowledge and education to help people that if I could find a way to create an improved online presence and really get out of my comfort zone then, then I can reach more people… with some proper guidance, I think I’ll be able to do it.”
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $7.45 million from the Province of Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Northern Ontario.