As the owner of 2 successful multidisciplinary clinics in the Durham region in Ontario (Durham Spinecare & Rehabilitation Centre), Dr. Ranjith Mahen says he's been fortunate to care for more than 15,000 patients, helping them recover from injuries, chronic pain and improving their health naturally. He believes in the "one life" approach, giving back and having a massive impact on people.
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When did you know you wanted to become a chiropractor and why?
I knew I wanted to be a chiropractor in my first year of undergrad at the University of Toronto. I was studying kinesiology at the time and was looking at various healthcare professions that emphasized health education, fitness and sports. Chiropractic seemed like such a great fit given my background in playing competitive sports and my interest in healthcare. A classmate of mine got me thinking about Chiropractic.
Back In 2006, many people didn't really understand what Chiropractic was and it was very much a profession on the margins of healthcare. What made sense to me about Chiropractic was the emphasis on the biopsychosocial approach to healthcare. Chiropractors take a holistic approach to health and use many manual therapy techniques to address pain and function. The idea of helping people improve their health with my hands was really appealing. Another reason I chose Chiropractic was because of my mother, who suffered from chronic back pain since her 40's. She had very limited success with traditional approaches. I knew there was more out there and this passion to help her and others gave me that extra push to pursue the field. After being accepted and anxiously waiting to start school in just 2 weeks, my mother passed away suddenly. It was the hardest thing for me as a 22-year-old. I accepted she was gone, I rolled up my sleeves and then devoted my life to being a student of this profession and finding ways to help others just like her.
What made you decide to open up your first clinic (instead of continuing to work for others)? How did you decide on opening up subsequent locations?
After graduating from Chiropractic, I worked as an Associate for a busy clinic making ends meet. After 9 months there, I decided to take the leap and start my own practice. I had used those 9 months to learn everything I needed to run a practice from the back-end admin work, billings, insurance, accounting and all day-to-day tasks of running a clinic. I was tired of making a fixed income and working crazy hours. I had a waiting list of patients and was marketing to bring more patients into the clinic. I knew it was better to start sooner than later and having the confidence I had built up in those 9 months really helped. After 5 years of practicing at my primary location, I opened my second practice. The need for the second location was based on the extra space needs and meeting the demands of our growing community.
What has the impact of COVID-19 been on your business?
COVID-19 has impacted the clinics tremendously. During the first wave, we shut down the clinic for almost 9 weeks. There were shortages of PPE and a lot of unknowns regarding the virus. During that time, like many businesses we pivoted to implementing new ways to keep our patients informed. We transitioned to offering tele rehab and I made a consistent effort to post free health information on social media. This was an interesting time for sure, given how Chiropractors mainly work with a "hands on approach" or with other modalities to treat pain. Many of the patients were very grateful for the online sessions as many of them deal with chronic health conditions. I remember one client who suffered a herniated disc and was in excruciating pain. We were able to do a phone consult, offer him specific exercises and pain management strategies, allowing him to recover quickly. By the fall and winter, we were seeing our regular numbers and in fact, had a record month in December. It's been a challenging time for sure, given all the requirements and procedures to ensure we are providing a safe environment for our patients. I am also so grateful to my staff who showed up to work, ready to serve. It was also heart wrenching to hear of stories of those who lost loved ones or became very ill with the virus. Our hearts and prayers go out to them all.
I know you enjoy mentoring younger chiropractors that work with you. How do you find the right balance between sharing knowledge and retaining your competitive advantage (knowing that most of them will go on to start their own clinics eventually)?
This is one of the biggest challenges in the rehab space. Ultimately, this is the trend as most providers choose to be solo practitioners and eventually start up their own practices. I have had the opportunity to mentor many young Chiropractors and Physiotherapists during their education and clinical externships. Many of them joined my practice after graduating. I give them the clinical and business knowledge to excel, and I always try to lead by example. My thoughts on this have been that as a profession, we want the best for our community. Chiropractors coming out of school have very little business knowledge and experience managing a practice. I look for individuals who are coachable and have that willingness to learn. Many of my associates have moved on to open their own practices and are doing exceptionally well. We keep in touch and I have also learnt a great deal from them. I find that the good deeds and positive energy always come back to you when the intentions are right. I've had mentors along the way who have helped pave the path for me. I'm just paying that forward.
What is one piece of advice you would give other entrepreneurs?
One advice would be is to think and ask big. You need to have the right mindset to be an entrepreneur. Mindset and focus are the foundation of achieving growth in any aspect of your life. You need to have big vision and think how to 10x your business. It's progression over perfection.
What’s one goal that, if you were to accomplish it over the next three months, would feel like a big win for you?
I am currently working on my personal health coaching website, Doctormahen.com. I am putting together a personalized self-empowered program to help patients make better informed health decisions. I truly believe education and awareness of their condition will allow them to succeed. The website will offer health and wellness tips, injury prevention, evidence-based treatments, weight loss, functional medicine and 1-1 health coaching. This is truly my passion to help those with chronic health conditions find better results. Unfortunately, the conventional approach with medications along with the wait-and-see approach has not yielded the best outcomes. Many of my patients who consult me for back pain, suffer with depression, anxiety, high stress, fatigue, troubles losing weight, hormone imbalances and sleep issues. This would be a great win for me if I can get my ideas and my programs online.
How have your family and friends supported you through your journey? Did you have any doubters?
My family and friends have been immensely supportive through my 10 years in the Chiropractic and rehab industry. In fact, when I graduated, I had a very hard time getting a bank loan to start my first practice. The bank was probably the only doubter in my life. I had student loans, a mortgage and credit cards I owed money on. I knew working on a fixed income as an associate, I was never going to get out of debt. My dad was able to give me $10,000 to start my first practice. I started small inside a medical clinic with around 600 sq ft. I stretched the $10k to cover signages, equipment and lease. I was sharing space with a cardiologist to keep my rent affordable. Fast forward 4 years, I had paid off all my student debts and had the bank offering generous amounts of money to the business. It's crazy how times change quickly. Today, I have 2 full practices generating over 7 figures per year with 20+ staff.
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Where do you see your business in the next 3-5 years? How about yourself personally?
In the next 3-5 years, I'd like to see the practice become more integrated with other medical specialties. I am looking at regenerative medicine, working with MD's and Nurse practitioners to offer more services and integrated therapies. There is no cookie cutter approaches to the management of these chronic diseases. I find when we can offer different services of allied health care, the patient benefits. The future of the clinic will encompass functional medicine approaches, weight loss and stress management. This is what most people really want and desperately need. My goal is to have this all under one roof with an advanced medical integration style set-up. For myself, I would love to grow my personal brand to bring more awareness about health and healing, help reduce the burden on human suffering, taking on more CEO responsibilities and most importantly being the best version of myself for my wife and 3 children.
In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
I would love to be remembered as an authentic, caring, loving, kind, human being who has helped thousands of people regain health. In my practice, we have seen over 15,000 new patients in the last 10 years. I would want my family and friends to know that I was a student of life. We all have this "one life" to truly live on our terms and so I would want them to know I did just that.
Who is one person from the global Tamil community and one person that isn’t Tamil that you admire and why?
From the global tamil community, I admire Sadhguru. I'm sure many of us have heard about this mystic Yogi and seen his videos on YouTube. Although he is born into a Telugu speaking family, I think he would consider himself a Tamilan. I admire his intellectual concepts pertaining to spirituality and life. Many life lessons to be learned and the inner engineering program is something we all need when things seem chaotic and stressful. Another individual I admire is Tony Robbins. I've been following his teachings for almost 20 years. His story is incredible, he's come from nothing and today has built a billion-dollar business coaching people. He's also given back in so many ways through his charitable foundation. A highlight for me was meeting him in person in Toronto in 2019. One of his favorite sayings is, "The secret to living is giving".
What is a failure you’ve experienced in the last 5-10 years that you’ve learned the most from?
In the last 5-10 years, I have been blessed to have many wins and accomplishments, both in my personal and professional life. The biggest challenge was balancing the entrepreneur mindset, clinic growth, family, marriage and of course my personal health. At the expense of growing 2 large practices along with being an involved father in my children's lives, I struggled with weight issues. I was constantly yo-yo dieting and searching for a quick fix approach. I would be drained by the end of the day with little energy for my family. When COVID came along and everything was slowing down, it was a wake-up call for me to get my health and immune system functioning better. I had more time to reflect, learn, prepare meals and plan my day. I was able to lose 25 pounds and get physically fit. I'm in the best shape of my life since high school and I've learned so much about healthy eating, stress management, sleep, supplements and physical fitness. I've made it a personal mission to share this with my patients and community. I did it myself and have inspired many of my patients to make better choices. It’s been a life changer!
What is a great business idea that you would be working on if you weren’t focused on your current business?
A great business idea would be to see how I can help other young Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and other Health care professions grow their clinics. I enjoy practice coaching and helping other young entrepreneurs to build niche type practices. There is a need to assist these clinic owners with new patient acquisitions, patient flow, office management, accounting, legal, patient experiences, finances, staffing and payroll, marketing and training. This is something that will be in the works hopefully very soon. This is also my way of giving back to the profession so that we can serve more people.
What do you think you would tell 16-year Ranjith looking back?
I would tell Ranjith to marry the same girl again. I met my wife when we were both 18 and we were high school sweethearts. You don't hear that too often nowadays. Rita has been my anchor and my biggest supporter. Although Rita is more conservative and generally plays it safe, she was the one who encouraged me to take on risks and think big. I've never had business partners, but I've always had Rita for advice and encouragement. I'd also tell myself to not worry as much and just trust in the process. Just remember that when you provide value to someone they will happily buy. I have always been about giving more value and impact to those around me.
How would you describe your dream life?
My dream life is the one I'm creating now. As Mahamta Ghandi said "The future depends on what you do today". In this dream life, I'd love to have the freedom to continue to spend quality time with my family and loved ones. My dream life would consist of great health, loving family, financial freedom/generational wealth and continued personal development. I’d love to travel the world and share my message of hope, health and healing.
What is your favourite book(s) you've read recently or a podcast(s) that you've listened to recently that's had an impact on you?
A favorite book I recently read is called, "This is your brain on food" By Dr. Uma Naidoo. The book looks at dietary advice to help fight mental health conditions such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, OCD and more. I also really enjoy listening to Chiropractic Podcasts from, Dr. Zaino, Dr. Christie, The Remarkable Practice and The Part Time Million Dollar Practice.
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
This last year I was introduced to a low carb, high fat diet (healthy ketosis) and intermittent fasting. I started studying the science of ketosis and ways to do healthy meals. I implemented this way of eating into my lifestyle and with my patients. The diet is largely plant based, good fats, moderate protein, whole foods with fasting. I feel the best I have ever felt with more energy, better sleep and better mental clarity. I follow a very simple eating plan, usually 2 meals per day with no snacking. I've lost my love for refined carbs such as bread, pasta, muffins, cake and rice. It's been a game changer and I highly recommend this to anyone who needs to lose weight and get healthy.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world
I would allocate this money to support the global spine care initiatives through World Spine Care. It is estimated that over 1 billion people are affected by back and neck pain and this prevalence is expected to increase. This money would go a long way to ensure underserved communities have access to the highest quality spine care available. Back pain is the number 1 cause of disability worldwide.
How would you describe the impact that the Tamil community in Toronto has had on your personally and your business?
The impact of the Tamil community on myself and my business has been tremendous. As a Tamil speaking Chiropractor, many of my patients are Tamil and drive great lengths to see me. The Tamil community has been a strong supporter of my business from local community groups to large corporations. It's been both a rewarding and humbling experience to help Tamil patients understand their diagnosis and put together a plan to help them manage their conditions. As the former president of the Tamil Students Association at U of T, it was always in my heart to give back to our local community and back home.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
Puttu Mix, although this is not ketosis friendly at all. :)
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
Don't have a favorite movie, but enjoy movies with Vijay in them.
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
Tamil Culture is an identity. I believe it’s something we need to cherish and that is sacred to all Tamils. I love what TamilCulture.com is doing to help embrace this unique culture and providing a platform for us Tamils to tell our stories globally.
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