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Movement for Life's Story

March 15, 2021


It is far greater than any four walls, a thousand bricks and any swash of mortar. More than a treatment table here and a therapist and a flashy logo there.

It is heart, passion, compassion and drive. It is Movement For Life Physical Therapy.

It is a young man, who to earn money in college, found rusted, tireless bicycles;  put time, care and a hefty share of labor into bringing each one back from the dead. His reward was as much the finished product than any profit it produced.

It is that same person -- an elite college swimmer --  who two-plus decades ago -- with investment dollars he scrimped and struggled to find --  sought to blaze -- with like-minded others -- a trail unlike any other in his field.

Vision is seeing an ad in the back of a physical therapy flyer -- and one California-based physical therapy clinic brought to life through a creative passion to better lives and a unique desire to make good --  to 26 clinics in California, Arizona and North Carolina -- under a single, dynamic-named umbrella. 

Vision is Jim Glinn and the dedicated many who make up Movement For Life Physical Therapy, tirelessly striving to bring to life -- and share --  the largest employee-owned physical therapy practice in the United States.

It is the entire Movement For Life Physical Therapy family --  large enough to compete in the diverse and oftentimes troubling world of healthcare, but so connected to its roots it still lives -- and thrives -- through small-business passion.

As humbly as it can be posted: The entire healthcare landscape is a better place because of Movement For Life Physical Therapy.

“The focus is on the patient and to do that we have learned that we must put our team first,’’ said Kelly Sanders, PT, DPT, OCS, ATC, a tremendous visionary in her own right, who is Movement For Life’s President and CEO.

“You cannot focus on the patient if you don’t have a dedicated and fulfilled team,’’ Sanders added. “So while it may sound somewhat backward, our team must be our first priority. Without that, it’s hard to focus on the patient outcomes and satisfaction. That is where finding the right team members and investing in them just makes sense.  You can only do the best job if you have the best people. We have what we call the “three A’s”  that are central to our mission and help guide us in our decisions – Ability, Access and Atmosphere. Atmosphere is my favorite “A” and what’s kept me here for 20 years.’’

Success, it must be noted, was not an overnight, one-day happening for Movement for Life Physical Therapy. It was long hours, short nights and worried-filled weekends. 

But if you believe in the process and the course that was charted… If you believed in what was -- and remain today -- a winning vision, you would be rewarded.

“Sure it was a struggle,’’ said Glinn, Movement For Life Physical Therapy’s founder. It was Glinn, a high-energy, look-you-in-the-eye sort, who -- two-plus decades ago --  walked that wobbly branch to bring his dream -- and his unique vision -- to light. “Sure I questioned -- especially that first year -- whether I had made a good choice in buying the practice rather than just being an employee,’’ added Glinn, possessor of the unique ability to motivate those around him to see -- and buy in -- to his unique vision.

Despite Glinn’s hard work and determination, no one’s crystal ball could have predicted the heights Movement For Life Physical Therapy has reached.

“I have always been enthralled and enraptured with business,’’ added Glinn, a graduate of the medical center at Loma Linda University, who completed his doctorate in Physical Therapy through the University of St. Augustine and the North American Sports Medicine Institute. Glinn has coached and rehabilitated a number of All-Americans, Olympians, amateur and professional athletes along his distinguished career.  “I think there was a lot of hard work and a lot of really talented people working together to make something really powerful and important. We have exceeded all expectations.’’

Success is rarely on the surface, oftentimes calling for a deep dive into the desire to create change, promote growth, involve those wanting to share in a dream, yet never straying from the values that could -- and would for over 20 years -- set Movement For Life  Physical Therapy apart from others.

Employee-owned (under an Employee Stock Ownership Plan), Movement For Life Physical Therapy is a collaborative community, an involved team that places patient care above all else, yet has fun working together to change the lives of those they treat.

After two decades under a shared naming umbrella, the largest employee-owned outpatient private practice in the United States,  unified its brand, echoing the value placed on each person on its team, securing national brand recognition, while paving a success-filled pathway to the future.

“Throughout our history, we have always embraced change when adversity has spotted our paths with shifting regulations, payment cuts, and leadership transitions. Through it, our team has stood for inclusion, equality, and growth,’’ said Sanders,  who began her stellar career as a certified athletic trainer. Sensing unlimited potential and tremendous growth, Sanders joined the Movement For Life Physical Therapy family over 20 years ago and has been a driving force in its push upward.

“This (name recognition under one umbrella)  is symbolic of who we are and what we do as well,’’ she added. "If you boil it down, we work to help people move, whether that is lifting up a grandchild or running a marathon."

In 2015, a bold and creative company-wide change would set Movement For Life Physical Therapy apart from other PT practices across the land. Adopting an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) and turning the company over to like-minded, driven employees has -- over time -- created an effective vehicle that promotes growth and enhances company stability.

In this case, risk has meant great rewards.

ESOP is a tax-qualified, defined contribution employee benefit retirement plan that invests

primarily in the stock of Movement for Life. Each is funded by a contribution by the employer to the employee and does not require an employee purchase. Every year, Movement For Life Physical Therapy makes a monetary contribution to the ESOP which then pays down the loan we took out to buy the shares. Shares that are purchased are then added to participants’ accounts based on their earnings as a percentage of total payrolls. 

Employee ownership plans reward employee-owners for improving company performance.

Through their ideas and efforts, employees improve their individual performance, the effectiveness of their departments and the overall profitability of the Company. As a result, Movement For Life Physical Therapy increases in value, and the employees’ ESOP accounts are worth more. Just as investors expect a return on one’s investment, employee-owners can earn a return on their efforts.

“The opportunity for sharing equity and ownership in a practice and allowing people to work together for something bigger than themselves, seemed to be a wonderful opportunity for all involved,’’ Glinn said of the successful transition to employee-owned Movement For Life Physical Therapy has made. “It continues to move forward accordingly, with people continuing to build equity and the practice continuing to grow.’’

To best serve any patient and its goals to get better, there must be motivation. If self-motivation and love of bettering the lives of others is not what drives any physical therapist, a different career path should be the next option.

Jonathan Grisanti (DPT, OCS, CSCS)  strives daily to enhance the lives of those he serves. As an employee-owner with Movement For Life Physical Therapy, Grisanti says the practice/ownership picture is much bigger these days. Like other employee-owners, Grisanti was allowed to have an opportunity of a lifetime after one year on staff and over 1,000 hours of work time accrued.

“First, the company definitely has a family feel to it,’’ said Grisanti, who completed his undergraduate studies at the Master's University in Santa Clarita, Calif., then earned his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northern Arizona University. A high school knee injury playing basketball -- and undergoing physical therapy --  helped Grisanti find the perfect career in making a difference in the lives of others.

“ Being an employee-owner, I need to think about the big picture and not just how a decision will affect me or the clinic,’’ added Grisanti. “ For example, the company may want to start some new procedures or checklists that have to be done across the company. I may not want to do those things and it may not be super relevant to me personally, but if it will be good for the company then I need to do it and see the bigger picture. 

“Having an Employee Stock Ownership Plan makes me more excited to hear about the growth of the company and it makes me want to be a part of it and to try to do better,’’ Grisanti pointed out, noting that he first caught wind of  Movement For Life  Physical Therapy when reading it earned a “Best Private Practice,’’ honor, one of the many individual awards earned by Movement for Life Physical Therapy over its two-plus decades of practice.

  “If we were not an ESOP, to be honest, I probably wouldn't care that we were opening new clinics, setting records, etc. But, as an employee-owner, it is great to hear other clinics and clinicians doing so well because that helps all of us.’’

For Glinn, allowing others to be part of ownership was simply the right thing to do

“To me, it is as simple as believing in others’’ Glinn said. “Allowing them to do what they are capable of doing. There is a quote I use: ‘How would you act if you believed everyone was smarter than you and cared about the practice more than you do?’ Doing it by yourself sucks. It’s a lonely position and you’re not going to gather the strengths of the people around you. Partnering and collaborating with great people is probably the most important piece of advice I can give.’’

The future of healthcare remains a challenge, yet Movement for Life Physical Therapy is stationed on solid ground with a tremendous outlook for what comes next.

When I look around our organization I am blown away at the caliber and quality of people I get to be on this team with, they humble  me daily but the difference they make to each other and definitely those that we have the honor to serve in our communities is amazing.’’  Sanders said.

Despite its growth, Grisanti says Movement For Life Physical Therapy has room -- and the right leadership -- to continue its upward turn.

“I think we will be much bigger,’’ Grisanti said when asked to share where he sees Movement For Life Physical Therapy at the end of the next decade. “Who knows, maybe 50 clinics. We will be able to reach a lot more patients in need of help. I think we will be very successful. I am excited to see how we grow, but I am very optimistic. We have a great team of people.’’

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