Best workplaces 2006: Back pack - Back in Motion

At this medical rehab centre, the clients aren't the only ones who are flexible.

Back in Motion Rehab Inc.
Surrey, BC | health care | 57 employees

When Back in Motion first opened its doors in 1993, its founders, four health-care practitioners and one administrator, weren't sure the small chronic-back-pain clinic would fly. Thirteen years later, the private company offers full-service rehab and disability management care, and has 57 employees in three locations. The goal is to reach $10 million in revenue by 2010.

Among rehab specialists, BiM has made a name for itself as a great place to work. “Rehab is a small world,” says Tim Winter, who, four months ago, left a hospital job to work as an occupational therapist there. “Word gets around pretty quick. Thankfully, I've found all the talk to be true. There is a lot of support from the directors, and they are very approachable.”

BiM's directors are 100% committed to their team of occupational and physical therapists, kinesiologists, psychologists, physicians and vocational rehab counsellors. Case in point: in 2002, after a few years of expansion, the company had a rough year. Rather than lay anyone off, the directors gave up their own salaries for eight months. What's more, once the company was back on its feet, they instituted a profit-sharing plan–and in fiscal 2004, 48.1% of distributed profits went to staff. BiM also makes its financials available to all its employees, even though, as a private company, it is under no obligation to do so. The highest-paid director earns just over twice what an average employee makes.

BiM offers each worker an annual education allowance of $700, and up to six paid days off each year to study for exams. “There is lots of mentoring,” says Vicky Forsyth, a physiotherapist and program manager. “And the directors are good at including managers in strategy sessions.”

The Workers' Compensation Board of B.C. is BiM's main customer, which means the majority of its patients were injured on the job. BiM's responsibility is to get them back to work as fast as possible, without compromising their care. Physiotherapist Darren Chuang says he left a previous employer because he was under pressure to manipulate the length of treatment. “That type of stress shouldn't exist in rehab,” he notes. “And it doesn't exist here.”

Ramon Ruffy, a kinesiologist and single dad, applauds BiM's flexible hours. So does Cameron Brine, who started as a kinesiologist in 1999 and is now finishing an online MBA degree while doing marketing and business development for BiM. Brine also commends the company's policy of promoting from within. “They've been able to keep me interested,” he says.

Cynthia Abbott, a vocational coach, recalls being absolutely shocked when, accompanying her first raise, she received a handwritten note from CEO Debbie Samsom praising her accomplishments. And the feedback goes in the other direction, too. Annual corporate-culture surveys help directors evaluate what they're doing right, and where they need to improve.

In 2005, before BiM offered health benefits, one of its managers was diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, the company financially supported her through that tough time, and she is now healthy and back at work. Several employees report that after watching BiM's directors take such good care of a sick colleague, their loyalty shot way up. Most are also pleased that, despite BiM's small size, it now offers health insurance. “Our people understand our job is helping other people get back to work,” says Samsom. “We are pretty clear in our objective, and we attract people that share that belief.”