Year of Local
Note: This is the first in a series of submitted stories produced by the Year of Local, a collaborative project highlighting businesses and not-for-profit organizations in Sarnia.
Doctors Luke Winegard and Brendan Carney Kilian opened In Motion Health, Wellness and Fitness in January of 2007. Friends since they started attending chiropractic school in Toronto in 2002, each knew they wanted to start their own business.
“We knew we wanted to work for ourselves, not for someone else. We wanted to open a multi-disciplinary practice and there was nothing similar in Sarnia at that time,” Carney Kilian said.
Although neither was originally from Sarnia, they agreed the city was the perfect location for the new enterprise. Winegard had an uncle and some cousins in Sarnia and Carney Kilian’s wife was raised here, so they had connections. And quality of life was very important to them.
Most importantly, they saw an opening in the market.
“There’s no shortage of health care professionals here, but we envisioned offering something different,” Carney Kilian said. While studying in Toronto they had worked for multi-disciplinary clinics in the GTA. They took that experience to heart as they planned their own business.
“It made sense for us to come to Sarnia. There was no one else running the kind of business we envisioned,” Carney Kilian said.
As students they put together a detailed business plan, and quickly learned business plans rarely reflect how a business will in fact run.
“They definitely don’t teach you how to operate a business in chiropractic school,” Winegard said.
Carney Kilian and Winegard also understood they wanted to place clients at the heart of their business. “Customer service is always at the forefront of our decision-making. In health care, customer service is not at the top of most people’s experience list from a patient’s perspective,” Winegard said.
“What matters to us is what steps we can take to get you out of pain. It’s a framing issue. It’s not about us, it’s about them.”
The biggest challenge in the beginning was getting the word out. It took time and effort to establish relationships with other business people in the community, and the Chamber of Commerce was instrumental in helping them.
Franco Filia, who was just beginning a term as chair of the Chamber board, took an active interest in the company.
“Our story resonated with him. He took us under his wing and became a mentor to us,” Winegard said.
The pair emphasize the strength of their partnership, especially in the early years when they were not only seeing patients, but also answering the phones, booking appointments and handling the accounting themselves.
“Between the two of us we had the luck and determination to see it through. It would not have been doable alone,” Carney Kilian said.
“Ideally we’d like to replicate this business and open another location. To build a second practice, would we start by answering the phones again? No. We would be much smarter about it the second time.”