Growing up on a sheep farm in New Zealand, Michelle Collie had no idea she’d one day be the owner of a thriving Rhode Island business, Performance Physical Therapy, with nine locations across the state.
Collie earned a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy from Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand. After a year of working in orthopedic care in a private practice in Queenstown, New Zealand, she was part of a group of seven physiotherapists recruited to work in the U.S. for what was to be a one-year assignment.
“There was a shortage of physical therapists in America then and they came to recruit us,” said Collie.
Her job was at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket. One year turned into four as she initiated and developed a pediatric physical-therapy program at Memorial, worked with adults in orthopedics and ended up managing 18 therapists in outpatient, acute care and rehabilitation for the hospital.
She worked as a physical therapist and clinical director at Performance Physical Therapy from 2001 to 2003. When she was four months pregnant with her first child, she was approached by the owner when he decided to sell the business. Was she interested in buying it?
“I didn’t have any money, but the previous owner financed the deal,” said Collie.
Buying the business just seemed the right thing to do.
“After that, I got a small-business loan. So there I was with a new business and a newborn,” said Collie. “I didn’t sleep very much then, but I was passionate about having this awesome practice. When I bought Performance, it had three locations and 16 employees.”
The business grew mostly by referrals from family-care doctors, internists and pediatricians. One of the specialties at Performance is working with sports injuries.
As the business continued to grow and open new locations, Collie focused on setting up infrastructure and empowering employees to be leaders. The company’s growth now provides 70 jobs.
“Most of our employees were born and bred in Rhode Island. I’m one of the few people at Performance who doesn’t have a Rhode Island accent,” said Collie, her New Zealand accent still strong.
Her quality physical-therapist employees find Performance, many through the four-year physical therapy degree program at the University of Rhode Island, said Collie. Education and training are critical for the variety of therapies Performance provides and the detailed medical screenings done before each patient’s treatment is determined, she said.