Refine /rəˈfīn/: to improve by making small changes over time; in particular make an idea, theory, or method more subtle and accurate

This Oxford definition accurately summarizes The ScoliClinic’s 6th year of business.

At this point last year, the dramatic shake-ups that rocked our once-familiar structures in the first year of the pandemic had (generally) subsided, and our leadership team made a commitment to regroup and reassess our company’s state at that point in time: now that we’re not perpetually putting out fires, where do we focus our efforts now? 

This 2022 Annual Letter offers a peek into The ScoliClinic’s efforts over the past year, to provide context to our stakeholders – our clients, their families, fellow medical professionals, our own staff, and the public. We want to share the company’s successes and challenges, as we strive towards our goal of changing the landscape of conservative scoliosis management in British Columbia and beyond.

Although the overall COVID situation was still uncertain, we settled into a groove of what could be referred to as ‘tolerable uncertainty’. Despite re-establishing our stability, we still weren’t ready for major leaps of growth, and instead we took the opportunity to audit our operations. We spotlighted some coarse and unfinished areas, racked our brains, and accepted the often tedious tasks required to smooth them out.

What we learned:

Sometimes You Push, And Sometimes You Hold

We’re highly aware of the capitalist trap of ‘growth for growth’s sake’ or ‘bigger, better, faster’. The ScoliClinic enjoyed an exciting demi-decade of growth, where we pushed beyond our comfort zone to establish our company and invest in start-up necessities. It’s imperative that we stay true to our philosophies and values, and any future plans will be scrutinized to ensure we do. We also need to be ready to accept the implications, financial and emotional, of growth.

For the latter half of this year, we shifted gears and made the conscious decision to stay, to hold, to maintain (common terms you’ll also hear in Schroth exercises!) – and we recognized the strength in this decision for this phase of our company’s growth.

In this maintenance phase, we found space and time to dive deep into each aspect of the company. Our quest for inefficiencies required us to step into the perspective of our stakeholders – how might a process affect a client’s experience? How does this affect our admin team’s workload? How will this be received by the therapists? Where does this issue fall in our company’s [long] list of priorities?

After contemplating these factors and more, our team worked together to refine crucial systems for scheduling, direct billing, onboarding, mentoring, and more.

Manage Expectations

The first year of the pandemic helped us understand our capacity for short-term surges of stress. We developed mental and operational strategies to deal with the ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast, this past year gave us a glimpse of the endpoint of our endurance. At times, staff and leadership felt exhausted and discouraged. Sensing our team wasn’t alone in this, we reached out to fellow clinic owners who have been in the game for 20+ years. Their advice: 

  • Honor our feelings; take time to process the emotional journey that is small business
  • Manage our expectations; businesses go through various phases and paces, and we had such lofty self-imposed expectations that realistically were unsustainable 
  • Celebrate our achievements up to this point! Forward thinking serves a purpose, yet we must be cautious not to let it overshadow our accomplishments. So on that note…

What we’re celebrating:

We delivered on two of our major objectives from last year.

  • As many people cannot access scoliosis-specific treatment due to financial, geographical, or cultural barriers, we wanted to contribute to a solution. Our YouTube channel, TSC Connect, has steadily grown with over 1700 subscribers at the time of writing. After a year of the plan-write-shoot-reshoot-delete-reshoot-edit-publish cycle, we feel encouraged that people with scoliosis from all over the world are tuning in to access scoliosis-related content. To date, we’ve posted over 40 videos of scoliosis-friendly workouts, educational topics and insightful conversations, with many more to come!
  • Increasing peer and public scoliosis awareness was, and always will be, a focal point. Albeit virtually, we gratefully participated in many teaching engagements at various venues this past year, ranging from several private clinics with fellow Physiotherapists and Registered Massage Therapists, to the BC Association of Kinesiologists Professional Development Day, to Healthy Dancer Canada’s Annual Conference.

Our clinical team grew with the addition of 2 Physiotherapists, 2 RMTs, and a Pilates Instructor. With more voices and more perspectives, we refined how the Physios and RMTs communicate with each other on shared clients, and in general. This included updating chart templates and education sessions on discipline-specific jargon.

Our robust administrative team absolutely nailed it this year! Our highly capable Client Coordinators navigated many challenges – between last-minute schedule changes, organizing multiple direct billing portals, and folding heaps of laundry with precision, they bridge the logistical gap between therapist and client schedules with poise. Our X-Ray Analysts (we now have two!), Operations Assistants and Bookkeeper have also been discretely refining their data capture, inventory, and payroll processes respectively to ensure a smooth operation behind the scenes.

Lastly, we launched our company’s internal website called ‘TSC Network’, which cohesively houses our many systems and captures some of the accumulated skills and experience of our team. Beginning as a clunky document dump, its evolution has led to an organized multi-media web of informative systems and learning modules

What’s next:

Further polishing of our internal processes

The schedule has a life of its own, as the expansion of our team and offerings brings multi-layered complexity. By fine tuning our steps and standardizing various situational procedures, we hope to keep the booking and billing processes as smooth as possible.

Our growing team also requires more organizational structure for communication, to support each staff with boundaries to protect their time and focus. We’re continually developing and adjusting roles based on the needs of the team.

Improving cross-disciplinary scoliosis awareness and education

We aim to reach students and fully-certified clinicians across Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy, Orthotics and Prosthetics, and community groups like Pilates, Dance, and more

Focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA)

Continued team learning will broaden our perspectives to uncover internal biases to better appreciate the intersectional experiences of our clients and each other. We’re building relationships with changemakers in the community, who share their expertise on topics including, but not limited to:

  • Emotional aspects of scoliosis, and mental health issues such as self-harm and suicide
  • Anti-fat bias and racial bias in the medical system
  • Healthcare challenges for trans and non-binary people
  • Trauma-informed care

Understanding the range of human experiences will inform how we build spaces and services, to maximize inclusivity of all people with scoliosis and spinal conditions.

Establishing our research branch

We’re working to bring several staff and students on board to determine how The ScoliClinic can contribute to research. This requires us to be financially creative, and we’re thankful for opportunities to apply for research grants

Notable Stats:

New Clients: Over the past year, we welcomed 683 new people through our clinics, resulting in a total of 2615 kids, teens, and adults who have accessed scoliosis-specific services since our inception

Staff: We now have a total of 27 individuals at The ScoliClinic + 4 at The Scoliosis Collective in Australia

Revenue: The expansion of our team resulted in another solid year trending upward on our growth chart. This was much needed, as expenses (both expected and unexpected) also increased. We’ve chosen to allocate significant portions of our upcoming budget to team learning and integration of IDEA concepts, establishing our position in research, and developing more online content and client-focused resources.

We wrap up year six feeling content with our approaches to the unique challenges this period brought. Endless gratitude to you, stakeholders, for your support in every way. 

A reminder to ourselves when things feel impossible: as a coarse rock requires churning, grit, and ultimately, time to become a smooth gemstone, so does a company. Our challenges can make us tumble; and with our mission fuelling our team’s determination (grit), and persistence over the long-term (time), we too transform.

Andrea Mendoza
Founder & CEO
The ScoliClinic
April 6, 2022