John Gallucci Jr. has spent the past eight years building a physical therapy business from a single office on the brink of closure to a rapidly expanding chain of more than a half-dozen centers.
But don't call him a "businessman."
"I feel that I am a clinician in the business world," said Gallucci, president of JAG Physical Therapy. "I don't put businessman first. I'm a clinician first."
Gallucci got his start as an athletic trainer, working at New York University, which led to a part-time opportunity with the New York Knicks. Since then, he's continued working with college and professional athletes, including as head trainer for the New York Red Bulls and, for the past five years, medical coordinator for Major League Soccer.
In 2005, Gallucci and his wife got a home equity line of credit to open the first JAG Physical Therapy office in West Orange. The early months were rough.
"We were open four months and could not pay the loan and were probably going to go out of business, because we were out of network trying to get in network with insurance companies," he said.
Then, like a buzzer-beater in a basketball game, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield accepted the practice into its network. That, coupled with Gallucci's connections and reputation as a sports injury specialist, pushed the business from the brink of closure to the brink of expansion.
Since then, JAG has expanded to include six physical therapy centers and a pediatric therapy center, which opened last fall. A seventh physical therapy center, in Princeton, is scheduled to open Aug. 1.
Though the company has expanded steadily since 2008, Gallucci said his expansion philosophy is less about market strategy and more about personnel. He views growth as a means to align the company's goals with the career goals of his physical therapists.
"What I do is I look at the clinicians that have been with us three and four years, that have their own aspirations of possibly running and becoming the clinical director, and then we train them for another year to grow and become a clinical director in that setting," he said.
In fact, each new center has been started just like that — with a clinician branching out to start her or his own practice under the JAG name. Gallucci said he has that in mind when he first hires clinicians.
"My feeling that as soon as I lose that clinical component and truly just become a businessman, JAG Physical Therapy loses the foundation it was founded on," he said, "which is to truly care for people."
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