Agency for Change- Joel Makovicka, President & Founder of Makovicka Physical Therapy » KidGlov

Announcer:

Welcome to Agency For Change, a podcast from KidGlov that brings you the stories of changemakers who are actively working to improve our communities. In every episode, we’ll meet with people who are making a lasting impact in the places we call home.

Lyn Wineman:

Hi everyone. This is Lyn Wineman, president of KidGlov, and welcome to another episode of the Agency For Change podcast. Now speaking of change, today’s guest, Joel Makovicka, knows all about changing paths. From winning collegiate national championships, to playing pro football with the Arizona Cardinals, to being president and founder of Makovicka Physical Therapy, he embraces change left and right. Joel, I’m eager to talk with you today and learn more about the great impact you’re making on the world.

Joel Makovicka:

Well Lyn, it’s great to be with you and happy to do it. And like I said, I like being on some of these podcasts. I get to talk about our business and talk about the state of Nebraska and these communities we’re in so it’ll be fun.

Lyn Wineman:

I love that. Once a Nebraskan and a Husker, I imagine, you’ve always got that platform to speak. I’m sure we’ve peaked everyone’s interest with your football background and I’m sure people recognize your name, so let’s start there. Can you tell me a bit more about that journey and how your journey led you to start your own physical therapy practice?

Joel Makovicka:

A lot of people ask me this and it always gets to be tough because I don’t necessarily like to talk about myself all that much, but I will give it a shot. But my journey started as I think any kid growing up in the state of Nebraska is. I wanted to play for the Huskers and football was a passion of mine and I loved competing in football.

Joel Makovicka:

And so growing up, I was exposed to quite a few injuries and my dad was a physical therapist, I mean still is. He’s slowed down a little bit, but my dad was a physical therapist at the time. So healthcare was always a part of my family growing up. And so when I was injured in athletics, I would get physical therapy from my dad all the time to keep me healthy.

Joel Makovicka:

And then Coach Osborne called. I came from a small community where I graduated with 18 kids in my high school class and played eight man football here in Nebraska. So a lot of people can’t believe I played eight man football. So I played eight man football in high school and it was something where when you’re from a small town, you don’t get a lot of exposure. But my older brother had went to Nebraska, and so I had a lot of exposure coming out of high school to the University of Nebraska, to the coaches.

Joel Makovicka:

And so Coach Osborne called me one day and asked if I’d be willing to walk on, that they didn’t have a scholarship available, and if I’d be willing to walk on they find a scholarship for me in the next year or so. And I don’t think as any high school kid at that time in the state of Nebraska you could turn down Coach Osborne. So I gladly accepted a walk-on position at the university and was part of just great teams there at the university where we won three national titles.

Joel Makovicka:

It was a stretch that you haven’t seen a lot in college football. And it was just a collection of young men that had a common goal and we got along and it was just part of a great team. And so throughout that journey, my undergraduate degree was in biological sciences because I was always going to do, I felt, something in the healthcare world because that’s what my passion was. That’s what I was around growing up. I saw the way it helped me as an athlete.

Joel Makovicka:

And so then I got drafted by the Arizona Cardinals and played in the NFL. And so when my time came done and it was time to retire and begin my other career, if you will, it was something where I coached for a year and thought football might be path I wanted to choose to go down. So I coach for a year at the University of Virginia, but I decided I wanted to get back into the healthcare world where that was what my undergraduate degree was.

Joel Makovicka:

I thought about even going to medical school, those types of things but then I thought, hey, what really helped me as I was growing up and being an athlete and it was physical therapy. And like I said, my dad and my sister actually were physical therapists. And so that got me thinking that’s the path I wanted to go down and ended up coming back to Nebraska and going to physical therapy school at Creighton University and then got my doctorate in physical therapy and started Makovicka Physical Therapy.

Joel Makovicka:

So I know that’s a long-winded answer, but that’s the story of how it began. Like I said, I was always going to do something in the healthcare world because I thought that was a way we could help and touch a lot of people in Nebraska.

Lyn Wineman:

Joel, that’s a great story. First of all, I appreciate you telling that because you do have a reputation of being very humble and I’m sure it is weird to talk about yourself like that so thank you for that. I love the way you brought it full circle about how you were playing football and your dad was a physical therapist. And honestly, right there I was very jealous because when my son was playing high school football, I really wish we had a physical therapist in the family, right?

Joel Makovicka:

It helps in athletics. Like I said, I was probably one of his, I don’t know if I’d say best patient but a patient that saw him the most because I was probably one of his most frequent patients. Like I said, it was something that it was great for a football family to have that in the family to be able to get the therapy you needed to get back on the field.

Lyn Wineman:

Yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about Makovicka Physical Therapy. I think I mentioned to you before we jumped on, I feel like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, every time I turn around I see a new location, so things must be going really well. So on your website, you mentioned the Makovicka difference. Can you touch on what that is and how that sets you apart?

Joel Makovicka:

Well, yeah. Well, thank you for saying that. We have grown pretty fast but it’s never been growing out of need to just get big. It’s growing out of we felt there was a need in some of these areas and we wanted to grow and we have the right people to grow and the team members to grow, so that’s pushed our growth.

Joel Makovicka:

And I think if you talk about the Makovicka difference, I think what that means to us is that we’re just leaders in our profession and we continue to be locally owned and operated by physical therapists. That’s important to me because our executive team understands the profession.

Joel Makovicka:

I did want to start a business and I did want to help people and I knew my passion was in healthcare and medicine, and so I knew the way to do that was I had to go to physical therapy school. I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the profession of the industry so I could be the leader or the president of the company that I needed to be and felt like that was important to us. And so it’s very important to me that we have all my partners are physical therapists, all of our executive team are physical therapists.

Joel Makovicka:

But the most important thing about the difference is our team members at Makovicka Physical Therapy, we employ the most board-certified orthopedic specialists of any PT company in Nebraska. And what that means is after you graduate physical therapy school and you have your doctorate in PT, well you have your doctorate here from UNMC and Creighton University, you get your doctorate in physical therapy to sit for the board exam, you have to begin working and accrue enough clinical hours to even sit for the board exam. And then when you accrue the clinical hours, you study and sit for this board exam, and we encourage our therapists to do that and they want to do that. That’s just part of the culture that we try to foster here is that they want to do that. So then they sit for the board exam.

Joel Makovicka:

And so what that shows us and what that means is they just have an excellence in the area of physical therapy and want to continue to push the profession. And so we have the most board certified orthopedic specialists in the state of Nebraska. And we also as a company develop mentorship programs and leadership programs and continuing education paths for our professionals to further their scope for the treatment of patients and to be advocates for the patients.

Joel Makovicka:

What I like to say is progressively push for the advancements of treatment protocols in our industry. That’s something I’m very proud of because our team members are people that strive for excellence and I think that just shows that there is a difference. And I guess one other thing that I’m very, very proud of is in 2018, the Better Business Bureau gave us the Integrity Award for both Lincoln and Omaha. We were, I believe, the first ever or the only ever company to get that in both communities.

Joel Makovicka:

And then in 2019, we received the Omaha Chamber Business Excellence Award for Leadership and the Award for Philanthropy. I wanted to bring that up because that just shows who’s a part of our company, who’s a part of our team and the excellence they strive for. And like I said, it’s all about them and what they do.

Lyn Wineman:

Joel, that is fantastic. And congratulations on those recognitions, because I know that none of those, the Better Business Bureau, that chamber recognitions are not easy to come by. And I can hear, as you tell this story, that you’ve been very purposeful in how you form the company, how you’ve grown the company very strategically.

Lyn Wineman:

And one of the things I like to do on this podcast is talk about purpose driven businesses. Because I know people that are in charge of these types of businesses, want to change things for the positive, just as you are always pushing and striving for excellence. And we’ve talked about your business practices, but I’d like to talk a bit more about your community connections and how you are really being community conscious. Can you talk about that aspect?

Joel Makovicka:

Yeah. I thought when we started this company, that one of the biggest things that I felt we wanted to do is be in the communities. Like I said, I grew up in a small community and Nebraska roots through and through. And so I was always doing things in the community, whether it was church organizations or just being great neighbors and philanthropists in the neighborhood or the communities.

Joel Makovicka:

I always felt like if you’re going to be a great business you have to be involved in the community. And that was one of the foundation points that we wanted to emphasize when we were building this business is when we put locations in communities, we wanted to carve out a three to five mile small community in the greater city of Omaha or the greater city of Lincoln, and hire people in those communities to work in and run our locations and also be in the churches and be in the school system and be in those types of things where they meet people. Because let’s be honest, in business the best marketing is word of mouth and being in those communities, So that’s something we strive to do.

Joel Makovicka:

So when we started, that was one of our founding principles is we were always going to be in the communities and give back and do those types of things and so in 2017 I believe, we formalized actually that program. We had been doing it since we started, but 2017 we wanted to really focus and formalize that program. And we called it Makovicka Cares and we engaged our employees in that effort and we encourage their participation and community involvement each year.

Joel Makovicka:

And like I said, each of our locations, we hire people close to those locations in that community. And so in 2017, when we formalized that, we look back on 2020 and our staff provided almost 800 hours of community service of just volunteer work. So that shows you how dedicated these guys are that are part of our team.

Joel Makovicka:

And now we have even a communications and outreach specialist who finds meaningful opportunities in those communities, and works between the agency and our company to get those projects completed. So like I said, our staff has participated in the holiday drive and I’m sure you’ve heard of that to where last year we collected 31,000 diapers for Lydia House as part of our open door mission. Yeah.

Joel Makovicka:

So we were really excited about that because that just shows you … And again, those came from our patients and our staff, and it was just incredible to see them step up and do that. And one of the biggest things, I think being a locally owned business is what we can provide. I don’t know if provides is the right word, but what we can do is we have the flexibility to respond to needs that arise.

Joel Makovicka:

And an example of that is a couple of years ago when we had all the floods here in Nebraska and Valley, Nebraska really flooded and we have a location in Valley. And so we were able to shift gears and send two teams to Valley in short notice, to spend a couple of days there, spend two or three days there cleaning out resident houses. Going as far as pulling drywall, cleaning, basements, pulling carpet.

Joel Makovicka:

So those type of things really excite me and being that locally owned and being here in Omaha and being able to respond to what the community needs. And so I really believe that says a great deal about the quality of staff that we get to be a part of this organization. And they’re not only excellent clinicians and that’s what they strive to be, but they’re also great people and most of them come from the Midwest. Most of them are from Nebraska but if they’ve graduated school at Creighton University, they might be from other states and then they stay in Nebraska is going to be home.

Joel Makovicka:

And it’s interesting because I had a lot of former players I played with at the University of Nebraska, and they’d come here from Texas and they’d come here from Florida and California. And they would get on campus and they’d be, “How can you live in the state of Nebraska?” It’s not the skyscrapers and these kind of things, but then they fall in love with it and they ended up staying. And I have so many former teammates that fell in love with the state of Nebraska and ended up raising their family here.

Joel Makovicka:

And so that’s what we have on the staff too, is there’s a lot of Midwesterners, but there’s a lot of them that have just stayed in Nebraska after they’ve been here to go to school. And so that just, I think, shows their work ethic and their caring quality about each of them.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s so good. And you know what I do think, I think sometimes Nebraska is the best kept secret. We don’t have the mountains, we don’t have the oceans but man, we have great people and great communities and you’re just an example of that. I love what you said there. I think you phrased it, “Great businesses take care of the community.”

Lyn Wineman:

But I also think the mark of a great business leader is happy, satisfied and fulfilled employees. And healthcare has been in a recruitment crisis for as long as I can remember. I’m just curious, how do you at Makovicka ensure you’re taking care of your employees the best way possible?

Joel Makovicka:

Man, you’re getting some tough questions here, Lyn.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s my job.

Joel Makovicka:

I know. You know what, I think to me it’s interesting you phrase the question as employees and I think you’ve heard it in some of my other answers or when I’ve talked about it. It’s interesting that I don’t really refer to them as employees. They’re team members to me and I think that’s how we go about things is there a part of our team. And you are only as good as your team and that’s what we really feel here in our company.

Joel Makovicka:

And what we want to do is yeah, aside from the benefits that our team members get as far as health insurance and 401(k)s and all that, we could talk about that, but a lot of companies can talk about that. But what we focus on is we want to develop our team members and continue to have them strive for excellence and have them strive to push this industry for the next 20 years, 30 years and see how we can push the envelope of patient care.

Joel Makovicka:

We have a culture of that to where we have like-minded people of team members that come on board that want to be a part of that. And then we foster that to where, like I said earlier, we have mentoring programs and we have leadership programs. A team culture that what I never wanted is once you come aboard, hey, you’re left out on an island and hey, you’re on board with us, now go do your thing. That was never what it was intended to be.

Joel Makovicka:

We want those leadership programs and mentoring programs and that culture that we create, that everybody is included no matter how big we get or how small we are, this company, I’ve always wanted it to feel like a family. I know a lot of people probably say that, but we really want it to be like being a part of a family that will always take care of you.

Joel Makovicka:

Being somebody that grew up here and still involved in this is my door’s always open. So, I want our team members to know that they can always come to me and sit down and my door’s always open for them. And our executive team is an amazing outlet or an amazing thing for our employees to have is so we have HR, to finance, to operations, to compliance, to marketing, to et cetera.

Joel Makovicka:

So it’s a team that like I said, is our physical therapists, and so it’s very easy for our other team members to go to them. And we have an unbelievable executive team that helps our employees, and we always want to retain our team members. I mean, this is something that I’ve stressed and it’s through my athletic background that I always want to continue to retain our team members. Because you always talk in athletics about culture, and even now you’ve heard it when Scott Frost is Coach Frost. I call him Scott Frost because I played with him, but Coach Frost-

Lyn Wineman:

I think you’re allowed to call him Scott.

Joel Makovicka:

So Coach Frost and going back to Coach Osborne, always, you hear now about the culture and how the culture has to change and he’s trying to change the culture. And so starting a business and running our company is, we always wanted to have the right culture and that starts at the top and works its way down.

Joel Makovicka:

We want to have that culture in our company. And then we want to provide growth for our employees and be able to promote from within just like coaching staff, as you see in the athletic community. They promote from within if a coach retires or moves on. There’s a lot of coaches that are from that staff that end up taking over the head coach. So we like to promote from within. We were only as good or as strong as our team members, and I believe that we definitely have the best in Nebraska.

Lyn Wineman:

So Joel, since you brought up Coach Osborne I’m just going to mention it. This may sound crazy to you, but there was a time in my life where I wasn’t sure about the Coach Osborne magic and then I got to work with him one day. We got to film a television commercial that he was in. And it did not take long for me to realize he was a person of outstanding conviction, outstanding character, and someone who just made everyone around him feel important and valued. I’m just curious, how much of your philosophy today was maybe inspired by that relationship with Coach Osborne?

Joel Makovicka:

You know what, greatly inspired. When I wanted to build a business, you look at some of your experiences and look at some of the people that you want to learn from or that you feel mentored you and I was around a guy for five years to build championship teams. And so he inspired me a lot and there was a lot of things I took away from building this company, from what I saw and what I experienced at building championship teams.

Joel Makovicka:

So there’s no question he influenced me a lot and I think he influenced a lot of people. And it’s a shame on you that you didn’t think he was one of the best coaches ever and say you met.

Lyn Wineman:

Isn’t that terrible? This may be the first time I’ve ever admitted that out loud but when you meet him in person and you’re like, “Okay, this guy is for real.”

Joel Makovicka:

He really is. You know what? One thing that I really took away from him … And this is interesting that I don’t know if a lot of people talk about in what we try and do and it can be difficult at times. Because like I said, Coach Osborne when I was there, 185 guys on the squad, which is a lot of guys.

Joel Makovicka:

Now in the NFL we had 55 guys on our roster, and so when I was there, we had 185 guys. Coach Osborne was one of those that even when I was younger, so when I was even a freshmen and wasn’t playing yet or playing that much yet, he would always ask me, “Hey, Joel, how’s your mom and dad doing?”

Joel Makovicka:

He wanted to know about the family and he knew their names. And so he took a genuine interest in everybody on the team and not just lip service to being, “Hey, we care about you.” And so, there was a lot of guys that would run through a brick wall for him and that’s the type of culture that we talk about.

Lyn Wineman:

That’s amazing. What a great role model. I imagine though, you too, Joel, even when you were in college, I know that people looked up to you as a role model and leader. As I was preparing for this today, I had a conversation with my son who’s in his twenties and spoke of how he thought of you as a role model while you were playing, too. I’m curious what advice you have for young leaders who want to make a difference in the world?

Joel Makovicka:

Oh man. I get a lot of questions like that on are leaders made or are leaders born? There’s a lot of questions on that are how do you lead and things like that. And especially with young leaders or young people when you talk to them, what I always try and tell them is, “Everyone can be a leader.” And that means you don’t have to be a Coach Osborne and lead a team to three national titles and be the leader of a championship team. Or you don’t have to be the leader of a company and have multiple locations or things like that. What you can do is lead by example every day and just in little areas to be a leader.

Joel Makovicka:

What I mean by that is, be on time every day and set an example for your classmates, so be on time to class every day. Be attentive in class every day and not be a disruptor and that’s another leadership example for your classmates. Things like that.

Joel Makovicka:

There’s little things that you can do every single day to be a leader and lead by example because there’s two ways to lead. You can voice, you can be a loud talker and people follow you or you can lead by example and they’re both great leadership qualities, and everybody can do that. Like I said, everybody can show up on time. Everybody can be attentive. Everybody can help someone out and that’s a leader.

Joel Makovicka:

And so then the second thing I would say is just find something you are very, very passionate about. And once you find something you are very passionate about, set the goals to attain that and that’s what leadership to me is and that’s what I try and tell them. Because sometimes when young people come in and ask you, “How do you become a great leader?” They’re thinking about, hey, leading teams to championships and those kinds of things. And I like to say, “Hey, it’s the little things that you can do to lead every day.”

Lyn Wineman:

That is really great advice, Joel. I want to hit on one other thing that you mentioned earlier, your appreciation for the state of Nebraska. But I’m always curious to hear people’s reasons for starting a business in their home state. For me, I’ve always been a Nebraskan so it just made sense to start KidGlov here. But I know you were in Arizona, you’ve been to different places, so my question for you is why Nebraska?

Joel Makovicka:

Wow Lyn, my question to you would be why not Nebraska?

Lyn Wineman:

You got me.

Joel Makovicka:

There you go, I got you. As I said earlier, I grew up in the state of Nebraska and the biggest thing I love about this state is the way this state gets behind and supports their own, I feel is very special.

Lyn Wineman:

That is so true.

Joel Makovicka:

Yeah and I even witnessed that. When I went to Arizona and I lived in Arizona after I got drafted by the Arizona Cardinals. And then when I coached for a year, I went to the East Coast and the University of Virginia. Especially in that world, the football world, you talk about it. Everybody knows the state of Nebraska from the football world about Memorial Stadium and being sold out since the late 1960s.

Joel Makovicka:

And people can’t even fathom that we can sell out for that many years in a row. I just tell them, “That’s just how the state is, is they support their own and the university is their university.” And so when I felt like I wanted to begin this journey and build a company and get back into healthcare, the only place I really wanted to do it was the state of Nebraska. Because when I was at the university they supported our team and me, and being from this state you can’t even imagine it was so special.

Joel Makovicka:

So I wanted to get back and give back a little bit and help the many Nebraskans that I could help as many as I could. Because I knew they had supported me throughout college and even throughout my career in the professional football world and in the coaching world and now with what we’re doing is the support has been amazing. And so I feel like it’s the place that I can give back and show them my gratitude and help as many as I can to get back to their normal lives and help as many as we can.

Lyn Wineman:

That is a great answer. Great answer. And you did get me on the beginning there. You got me on two things now.

Joel Makovicka:

Yeah, there you go.

Lyn Wineman:

So now I’m going to ask you my favorite question, Joel. People who know me know that I am inspired by motivational quotes. And I know we all have quotes from other people that we love, but I want a few Joel Makovicka words of wisdom for our listeners.

Joel Makovicka:

I don’t know if I have a lot of words of wisdom, Lyn. You know what-

Lyn Wineman:

I don’t need very many, just a few really smart ones.

Joel Makovicka:

I’ll tell you, I do know a lot of quotes. Like I said, I had a special teams coach with Arizona that that’s what he would do is he’d have a different quote on the board every day we walked into the … like burn the boats and those types of things. There was lots of great, great quotes, but I look at words as things I’ve experienced and how I’ve tried to set a path to accomplish the things I want to accomplish. And then when you get there, what are some of the words that you can describe or leave to people?

Joel Makovicka:

And I guess the easiest ones to me would be, be humble, stay focused and then attain your goals. I think I’ve met a lot of people that have achieved a lot. I know a lot of people like a Coach Osborne or other coaches or people that develop great businesses or politicians, any people that have achieved a lot and had a lot of success. And then the ones I admire the most and the ones I talk about or say, “I want to be more like.” Are the ones that are humble, are the ones that they’re just ordinary people that were successful.

Joel Makovicka:

And so I think that’s the biggest thing is staying true to who you are and being humble and then staying focused on what makes you be able to attain your goals and then if you do that, you will attain your goals. And I know that comes from a little bit of my athletic background and building that, because in athletics it’s always taught me to set goals and work towards those goals and what we need to set a plan to achieve those goals.

Joel Makovicka:

And so that’s what I’ve tried to bring to the business world. And I think, like I said, the experiences have shaped me and in this business world. Those would be my words of wisdom is just be humble, stay focused and attain your goals.

Lyn Wineman:

Those are great ones. Fantastic. It’s going up on my quote wall Joel, so thank you for that. Thank you for that. So as we wind up today, for our listeners who’d like to learn more about your work, maybe find the closest location, join your team, how can they find out more about Makovicka Physical Therapy?

Joel Makovicka:

The easiest way obviously is go to our website, MakovickaPT.com. And you know what Lyn, I’m going to spell it for your listeners because so many people put the C in there. And listen, even people that work at the university sometimes put a C in there. So it’s just MakovickaPT.com, so that’s MakovickaPT.com. So that’s probably the easiest way to see, but you can also check out our social media. We have social media on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, but probably the easiest way would be go to MakovickaPT.com.

Lyn Wineman:

Fantastic. Thank you for spelling that. And for anybody who did not write that down, we’ll put that in the show notes.

Joel Makovicka:

Awesome, I appreciate that.

Lyn Wineman:

All right. So this has been a lot of fun. As we wrap up our time together today, what is the most important thing you would like our listeners to remember about the work that you’re doing, Joel?

Joel Makovicka:

Ooh, man. You get some hard hitting questions over there, Lyn, I like it. So the number one or most important thing listeners want to remember about the work you’re doing. You know what, I think the most important thing would be that it’s not the work that I am doing, it’s the work of our whole team and it’s the work of what our team is doing, because this has never been about me. I know it’s got my name on it, but it’s never been just about me.

Joel Makovicka:

That’s what I want your listeners to take away is that our team is unbelievable. And our number one goal and our priority when we started this and it stays the same from day one to now is patient care. And we want to advocate for our patients. When we see the Nebraskans, when they come to see us, it’s in their most difficult time in their lives because they’ve had injuries.

Joel Makovicka:

And so our focus is on getting them back to normal and that’s our number one focus. And that’s what I strive to tell our team is patient care and advocating for patients. If we can do that, we’re going to be successful and we’re going to be good and we’re going to help Nebraskans.

Joel Makovicka:

And so that’s what fuels our passion and drives us. But I want to make sure it’s important that everybody knows it’s not about me. It’s about our team members and like I said, we couldn’t be doing this without them.

Lyn Wineman:

Fantastic. Spoken like a true leader, Joel. And I’ve had so much fun talking with you today. I truly believe the world needs more people like you. So thank you for taking the time out to share with us.

Joel Makovicka:

Well, I appreciate it and it was a fun and an easy interview. You make it easy. You do very well at what you do, Lyn.

Lyn Wineman:

Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Joel Makovicka:

You too.

Announcer:

We hope you enjoyed today’s Agency For Change podcast. To hear all our interviews with those who are making a positive change in our communities, or to nominate a change maker you’d love to hear from, visit KidGlov.com at K-I-D-G-L-O-V.com to get in touch. As always, if you like what you’ve heard today, be sure to rate, review, subscribe and share. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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