As Physical Therapists, we’re a pretty ambitious, high-achieving group. We’re driven to work hard. We want to achieve excellence. As private practice owners, we want our businesses to deliver exceptional patient care, and a perfectly seamless patient experience. We want to be profitable. And we want to be—and be seen as—successful.

When the ‘drive to excel’ is really perfectionism

How do you tell the difference between a drive for excellence and perfectionism?

For perfectionists, nothing is ever good enough. This can mean trouble for private practice owners who want growth in their businesses and balance in their professional and personal lives.

I know, because in addition to being a former physical therapy private practice owner, I’m also a recovering perfectionist. I know now that for practice owners,  authenticity beats perfection, every time.

But I didn’t always.

Like a lot of Physical Therapist private practice owners, I fell into the perfectionism trap. And it held me back.

How perfectionism hurts your business  

Perfectionism sets impossibly high standards. The perfectionist mindset simply doesn’t allow room for mistakes. That degree of pressure can be paralyzing for business owners. And the need to be perfect stands in the way of growth.


  • Slows you down, chewing up your valuable time and energy
  • Creates burdensome stress, and leads to burnout
  • Isolates you from sharing ideas and collaborating
  • Costs you opportunities to change and grow


6 Signs you’re a perfectionist PT practice owner


  • You Procrastinate


Seems counter-intuitive, but it’s true. For perfectionists, nothing is ever finished, or ready for prime time. For perfectionists, everything takes longer than it needs to. And decision-making is excruciating. I see this a lot in hiring: practice owners delay the decision to hire additional staff, waiting for the conditions to be just perfect. Meanwhile, they’re constantly overwhelmed, and mired in too much work. Remember the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the value comes from 20 percent of the effort. Don’t mistake obsessing about mistakes for problem solving. Learn how to recognize good enough, then act and move on.


  • You sweat every detail


Perfectionist PTs constantly get bogged down in minutia. This is especially true when it comes to business expenses. Perfectionists worry almost as much about small expenses as they do about big investments, and they often chase endlessly after value in already sunk costs. Obsessive about the finer points of everything, mistakes and losses—even very small ones—haunt them. There’s no perfectly profitable business trajectory. Losses and errors happen. Let go, and focus on how you and your team can work smarter.


  • You don’t delegate


An inability to delegate is a classic perfectionist PT trait. In some practice owners, this comes down to believing that nobody else can do the work as well as you can. But sometimes, it’s really about not wanting to reveal that you don’t know everything about the task you’re handing off. Perfectionists have a hard time collaborating, and being transparent with others about their own processes. Hypercritical of themselves, they think: what if I’m doing this wrong? To delegate well, we must set ego aside and cultivate trust in our teams (and that starts by trusting ourselves).



  • Fear of failure drives you


The secret lurking within perfectionists? They’re not really trying to be flawless. They’re trying to avoid failure. Perfectionists fear their own mistakes. They fear the judgment of others. Above all, they carry an intrinsic fear of not being good enough. Nothing keeps us from growth and change like fear does. For a business owner who wants to grow, learning to manage and transcend fear is crucial.


  • You’re overly cautious


Fear of failure makes perfectionists feel constantly underprepared and ill-equipped to meet challenges. It also makes them excessively risk-averse. Not all risks are the same, but to perfectionists, every change can feel too risky to pursue. Perfectionist practice owners often miss out on new opportunities that can improve their businesses. Shed the constant worry about what ifs, and build your confidence by focusing on the successful risks you’ve already taken, all while not being perfect.


  • You never really stop working


Work-life balance? What’s that? Most of the perfectionist Physical Therapists I’ve worked with over the years are compulsive workaholics. (I used to be one of their kind.) They may tell themselves that they HAVE to work constantly. But closer to the truth is, they DON’T KNOW HOW to step away from work. The workaholic nature of perfectionists comes at a steep cost: perfectionists are more likely to suffer burnout, and are at higher risk for depression and anxiety. Creating a business that can run without you isn’t just good for your bottom line—it’s also good for your health, and your life outside the clinic.

If you recognize yourself in these traits, you’re not alone. You also don’t have to stay on the perfectionist path. Changing your perfectionist ways isn’t only possible—it’s to your benefit, and the benefit of your business.

School taught you how to treat patients. It didn’t teach you how to run a business. Set up your Get Laser Focused 30 Minute Free Call to troubleshoot your business-ownership challenges.