Dr. Mertz takes next step on his journey
For CJ Mertz, DC, family comes first in everything. His wife and three daughters are at the center of his personal life, and family wellness has always been the core of his vision as a practitioner. Recently, his decision to assume a leadership position with HealthSource, the top chiropractic franchise network, was influenced by the same concepts.
"HealthSource members aren't just a community of doctors,” he said in an interview with Timothy Feuling, publisher of The Chiropractic Journal. "They're a family. They're connected to each other. They help, support and learn from one another. That's one reason they're so successful.”
Dr. Mertz has been part of the chiropractic family for nearly three decades, although his introduction to the profession came even earlier. "I was 10 years old when I became a DC,” he said with a chuckle. "That's when I experienced firsthand what it was capable of, and when I realized it was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Like so many other DCs, Mertz was introduced to chiropractic via an injury. In his case, it happened on the school football field. His mother's chiropractor practically dragged him out of the hospital after medical doctors said he'd need back surgery to repair the extensive damage done by an overly aggressive tackle.
The chiropractor told his mother that if he couldn't help him, he'd refer him to a chiropractic specialist and if that person couldn't help, he'd see another chiropractor in the Midwest. Only then, if all three failed, would he go for the surgery.
"I learned an important lesson right then and there,” Mertz recalled. "Chiropractic first, chiropractic second, chiropractic third ... and surgery only as a last resort.”
The second lesson came after he responded quickly to the first chiropractor's care and thanked him for "saving” his legs. The DC sternly reprimanded him. "Son, don't ever say that again. Remember for the rest of your life that I moved the bones. God did the healing within you.”
It was an eye-opening realization for young CJ and it made him aware of how much he owed to chiropractic. It allowed him to avoid surgery that could have left him disabled for life, and it gave him a new perception of wellness and the innate healing power of the body. "I was - and still am - indebted to chiropractic and that's been my greatest motivating force,” he said.
It motivated him to become a chiropractor and, later, to teach other DCs how to have successful and fulfilling practices. It spurred him to start two of the most popular and highly respected chiropractic consultant businesses - Waiting List Practice and, five years ago, Full Potential Leadership - and to train thousands of DCs in 44 countries around the world.
Recently, it was the deciding factor in his decision to serve as president and chief innovations officer of HealthSource. "Despite all the progress we've made, we still haven't been able to create a universal ‘brand' for chiropractic. I want us to be the Starbucks of health care. I want chiropractic to be universally recognized as the wellness leader it really is,” Mertz explained.
HealthSource is proving to be the company that has the best chance of succeeding in becoming the Starbucks of chiropractic. The largest privately owned network of DCs in the world, it's grown to 360 practices in just five years, and last year claimed the #1 spot on Entrepreneur magazine's Top New Franchise list. It topped that publication's "Top Health Services Franchise” list for four years running, and was named "fastest growing franchise” by Franchise Times in 2010.
Coach CJ, as he's known in chiropractic, says the profession needs that kind of powerhouse behind it. "Subluxation needs to become a household word, just like cholesterol,” he noted. "We're a stone's throw from having everyone, even kids, understand the importance of subluxation correction ... of making the word subluxation part of the street language.”
He also visualizes chiropractic taking the primary role in wellness around the globe, another vision supported by HealthSource: "I want to see 10,000 HealthSource practices open around the world, each headed by a passionate, dedicated, and wildly successful DC.”
Right now, Mertz admits that the success part isn't always easy to come by. "It's no secret that many DCs are struggling, even giving up chiropractic,” he told The Chiropractic Journal. Most analysts say that about half of all new DCs fail within five years, and those who've been practicing for many years are challenged at knowing how to succeed in the 21st century.
"The fact is, according to the Small Business Administration, 80% of all new businesses fail,” he noted. "But 80% of franchises succeed. That tells me there is an answer. To me, that answer is HealthSource.”
His new position with the franchise network is to make sure each member of the HealthSource "family” is given all the help and support they need to succeed. "We're putting together what I call HealthSource Leadership Teams,” he explained. "We're going to have 45 to 50 experienced, knowledgeable, and successful people in various regions of the world to mentor, coach, and help each HealthSource doctor.”
Mertz is particularly excited about the fact that HealthSource has established an investment fund to help new graduates set up their own practices without having to take on impossibly high financial debt. "These students are hitting the streets with $200,000 or more in student debt,” he explained. "They can't go to a bank to get another loan to start a practice. HealthSource has a program to help them get started on the right foot.”
Sometimes, Mertz sounded as though he can't believe his good luck in being part of HealthSource. "A lot of things had to fall into place to make this happen, and they all did. It was obviously Innate working through me to bring me to this place,” he admitted. "I truly see this as the next step on my chiropractic journey.”
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