5–1/2 Questions for Heidi Jannenga
Heidi Jannenga, DPT — co-founder of WebPT
Dr. Jannenga is the co-founder of Phoenix-based WebPT, the leading software provider for electronic medical records and practice management for rehabilitation therapists.
A sports physical therapist and clinic director when she co-founded WebPT in 2006, Dr. Jannenga served as chief operating officer until 2015, and then as the firm’s president until 2019, when it was acquired by Warburg Pincus. Dr. Jannenga also serves as secretary of the board of directors of the Arizona Community Foundation, as a trustee of the Arizona Science Center, as a board member of the Arizona chapter of Conscious Capitalism, and as a board member of the Arizona School for the Arts.
An active member of the sports and private practice sections of the APTA, Heidi advocates for independent rehab therapy businesses, speaks as a subject-matter expert at industry conferences and events, and participates in local and national technology, entrepreneurship, and women-in-leadership seminars. In 2014, Heidi was appointed to the PT-PAC Board of Trustees. She also serves as a mentor to physical therapy students and local entrepreneurs and leverages her platform to promote the importance of diversity, company culture, and overall business acumen for private practice rehab therapy professionals. In 2015, Heidi was named the APTA’s Physical Therapist of the Year.
Heidi was a collegiate basketball player at the University of California, Davis, and remains a lifelong fan of the Aggies. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and exercise physiology, went on to earn her master’s degree in physical therapy at the Institute of Physical Therapy in St. Augustine, Florida, and obtained her doctorate of physical therapy through Evidence in Motion. When she’s not enjoying time with her daughter Ava, Heidi is perfecting her Spanish, practicing yoga, or hiking one of her favorite Phoenix trails.
5–1/2 Questions for Heidi Jannenga
1 — Did you have a mentor early in your career? Tell us a little about it.
So I have had quite a few different mentors throughout my life. I’m a big believer in mentorship. And I feel very lucky to be now on the other side of being a mentor to having mentees.
But, you know, I guess, if I could talk about to one was during my clinical years as a physical therapist, and I knew that I wanted to go into sports medicine, and work with potentially professional athletes, but definitely call collegial athletes. And there really wasn’t a lot of women physical therapists who are working, especially at the professional level. And when I was going through PT school, I specifically chose one of my internships to be with Iowa, Iowa Methodist Hospital, in Des Moines. And I happen to get paired with a clinical instructor named Grace Johnson, who was not only the clinic director of this facility, but she was also the team physical therapist for the Iowa Barnstormers, which was a professional indoor football team. And actually, I don’t know if you knew this, but the year actually that I interned, Kurt Warner was the quarterback at the Iowa Barnstormers — that’s how he actually started his career playing indoor football, or arena football, I think, as they call it now. So anyway, it was just an amazing experience to see a female therapist who was confidently really working with these male professional athletes.
And it gave me the understanding that this was a possibility for me. I saw someone like me who was doing this role. And not only that, but she was an Asian American, which, is part of my heritage and background. So there was just so much I learned from her and I still keep in contact with her today.
But there are seasons in your career. And during that piece of my career, she was super instrumental with helping me to believe in the possibility of my dreams of what I’d set, and goals that I had set out to be as a physical therapist, were going to be able to come true.
Were you conscious that you were seeking a mentor at that time,
I was not conscious. I wasn’t seeking a mentor at all. It was really more happenstance. Because I didn’t know she was going to be my CI or my clinical instructor. But once I got paired, I immediately was like, ‘Oh my gosh, like, you’re exactly who I want to be someday.’
And so you know, we developed that relationship. And I came out and asked specifically ‘could you continue to be my mentor,’ even after I’m done with my clinical. And she was gracious enough to say yes, and so definitely kept in contact with her over my years of growth as a physical therapist.
Okay. You were going to mention another one.
Yeah. Just because, like I mentioned in different seasons of my career. The other one that came to mind with this question was a regional director when I worked at the one of the largest sports medicine clinics here in Tempe, Arizona, his name with was Keith Coker, also a physical therapist, — and he was a regional director and very entrepreneurial. And, I got recruited to his clinic because I had started a small practice inside of Phoenix College that was catering to the school athletes. And so he wanted to replicate that at ASU. So I got recruited to come over.
And although I was a new clinic director and starting this practice, I didn’t really have a whole lot of grasp of the business side of running a PT practice, especially at the size of his clinic. And actually, we expanded to three clinics when I was there with him, and eventually moved into his role as a clinic director. But he really helped me to develop this deeper understanding of the business side, the metrics, the dashboards, the, you know, all of the analytic components to really running a business. And so and not only that, but pieces of what I believe today and how and culture also came from working side by side with Keith, for many, many years.
2 — What is the one quality or behavior that you often admire in other people?
The quality that I really admire a lot is resilience and grit. And when I think of like resilience and grit, I just think of people who have this remarkable ability to process the challenges that they’re facing, and obviously to overcome obstacles. And they’re change agents, they’re able to adapt to change really, really well.
So grit really is that the ability to bear through whatever challenge is in front of you; to keep going, and to find the wherewithal to get up and keep going. And to withstand adversity, and just to keep that determination and come up with creative solutions to really continue to endure.
Yes. Yes, I like that. It’s something that I tried to look for, or ask questions about and enter every interview that we do. It’s actually one of our core values. Now. It’s called True Grit — the core value of our organization and our company. Because, at the beginning, when we first started, it was something that we really I wanted to make sure was part of who we were the ethos of WebPT.
3 — When were you most frustrated by someone or something in your career?
Oh, man, I’ve got lots of examples of frustration. But I think one that came to mind was, I think probably an entrepreneurs dilemma.
So when we first started WebPT, it was always all about solving a problem that I was having in my business, and we intentionally purposely built our solution for my specific issue. But then we quickly realized that, you know, it wasn’t just me, it was 80% of all the therapists in the country that are having the same problem, right. And at the time, the clinic that I was the clinic director of which I referenced earlier, was part of a large corporate group. And our initial thesis when we first started was that, okay, we’re going to start with my practice, we’re going to add more, maybe we can get to 20, out of the 300 clinics that this group is going to is have, you know, get great success. And this strategic group is going to want to buy our software, right, so we’re gonna get quickly to 300 practices, because I already have a built in system to sell to, right?
So we got to the 1,215 practices that all had given us a thumbs up, we were humming along. We started talking to the CIO and the CEO, and you know, words word spread about, Hey, who are these? What’s the software, no one else is using it, blah, blah, blah, well, operations loved it. The therapist loved it.
But then we got to the CIO. And the CIO was an old time software guy who didn’t really know anything about SAS, or software as a service. And this — you gotta take yourself back to 2009, 2010 — in healthcare, which is, you know, 10 years behind everyone else. And so he wasn’t super familiar with web based applications. And so he rejected us and said, No, this isn’t going to be for us. And, you know, we were a little dejected, we had kind of said this was going to be our path. But again, going back to some of that resilience conversation, we quickly took a step back, and it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because we, we looked at the market again, and we figured out that, you know, at that point, about 60 65% of the market was the small and medium sized business, which at the time, were actually the ones who were the early adopters, and those that, you know, our SAS price point and monthly recurring monthly payment was actually more appealing to. And so once we immediately started going after the SMB market, bam, we were off to the races, and we weren’t bogged down by the big enterprise group who probably would have sucked up all of our R&D capacity anyway.
And so, you know, it’s one of those decisions or dilemmas and frustration that you know, you get really wound up around, and then you just, it’s like, you bounce back. And you’re like, it’s an aha moment. And it really pivotal decision and the turning point of the company, actually,
Don’t get me wrong. We went back to that CIO, multiple times. We had 10 clinics, and then 12 clinics, and 15 clinics. And, you know, it wasn’t like, we just did it once and said, Okay, well, I’ll see you later. Like we it was probably a good six months that we tried to go through this process, and then finally took no for an answer. And that’s when we just finally said, you know, what, we’re going to show you.
4 — If you had your choice to you create something new — what would it be?
I always believe we have choices. It’s just a matter of whether you take action against that choice. So I’m actually in the midst of creating something new right now.
It will be 15 years next year that I’ve been, you know, part of WebPT and co founder and in the business, and I’ve been slowly starting to back out of day to day operational augment with the company and, you know, staying a board member staying more to strategic and long term sort of strategy, assistant and product assistant but less than the day to day. So, I’ve actually started a nonprofit, started a foundation that is committed to solving another big issue in the PT profession. And that is the lack of diversity in our workforce.
So I’ve actually created a scholarship program, and we are in our second year and have already completed, I think it’s 18 meaningful scholarship funding for students and PT residents. With our goal of I think we’ve got two to three more to do this year. And then we want to double that number next year. It’s called Rizing Tide (https://rizing-tide.com/)
And it’s based on Kennedy’s quote, that a rising tide raises raise raises all boats, it’s something that I’ve always talked about and truly believe in terms of, you know, building a community around your business or whatever you do. And so, the qualification for the scholarship is you have to be from an underrepresented population. Raising the voices of these amazing scholars is only going to help our entire profession as a whole, to hopefully attract more patients into being able to understand the value of PT.
5 — What job/profession do you really admire but could never do?
Well, other than like the dirty jobs, because there’s a lot of dirty jobs I could probably not do even though I don’t mind getting my hands dirty. I grew up with a dad who was a horticulturist. And so I’ve always had dirt underneath my fingernails. But I think probably the profession, if I had to choose one was probably be a public defender. I obviously have a ton of respect, a ton of respect for the law. My brother’s a lawyer. But man, do they have tough jobs! I don’t know that I could stand up and defend someone who I know was guilty of something and have to be able to stand up there and, you know, defend this person when, I don’t know, when they’re clearly guilty.
5 1/2 — BONUS “Color” Question
You’re allowed to go back in time and change one day of your life — what would it be? Why?
Yeah, I really did think about this one hard I actually teared up on it. Hopefully I don’t know if I’ll tear up again, just talking about it today.
Honestly, I’ve tried to live my life in a way that I don’t really like to look back and say, I wish I could have done something differently. I’m just a big believer in things happen for reasons and you kind of deal with things as you go along. But you know, my dad was a big hero of mine, and he passed away in January of 2018. And he had been in and out of the hospital due to problems with congestive heart failure over the last, you know, 18 months of his life. And I did get to see him on on the day before he passed away. But there, there happened to be, which is so ironic, because there happened to be like a flu outbreak, like just the normal flu. And the hospital was kind of in this lockdown, any kind of place in which they were very much limiting the number of visitors. So my daughter and I, my daughter, who is now seven, at the time, we kind of snuck into the hospital, if you will, we didn’t really sneak in, but they kind of let us go in because he hadn’t been able to have visitors. And we, we brought him this little radio that he used to listen to. And we were ushered out pretty quickly.
And although I, you know, I did get to tell him that I loved him. And we gave him a big hug before we left. We didn’t have any idea that that was the last time we were ever going to see him. And you always wished you could say more. If you knew it was the last day that you’re going to see someone who is so meaningful to you.
For more 5–1/2 Questions Interviews, see:
5–1/2 Questions with CJ Cornell
5 1/2 Questions from The Metapreneurs “5–1/2 Questions” from CJ Cornell is a new series of mini-interviews with leaders…
“5–1/2 Questions” from CJ Cornell is a new series of mini-interviews with leaders in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem around the world. In less than a half-dozen short questions, we’ll try to learn more about each leader, and what makes them successful and unique.
The questions are designed a little like a “Magic Eight Ball” (my GenX colleagues know what this is): A set of questions, posed at random. Plus, at least one question, or half-question, is designed to find out something about their personality that most people might never suspect (I mean expect).
CJ Cornell is a serial entrepreneur, investor, advisor, mentor, author, speaker, and educator. As an entrepreneur, CJ Cornell was a founder of more than a dozen successful startup ventures that collectively attracted over $250 million in private funding; created nearly a thousand new jobs; and launched dozens of innovative consumer, media, and communications products — that have exceeded $3 billion in revenues.
He is the author of the bestselling “The Age of Metapreneurship — A Journey into the Future of Entrepreneurship.”
And the upcoming “The Startup Brain Trust — A Guidebook for Startups, Entrepreneurs, and the Mentors that Help them Become Great.”