The Johner Journey
Kim Johner got a sneak peek at the entrepreneurial life as a child growing up in the small city of Norwalk, Connecticut. Her mother had purchased a Mail Boxes Etc. franchise, so at a young age, she observed the ups and downs of running a franchise business.
“From the outside looking in, it seemed so subpar to me, so I don’t know why I’ve landed where I am now!” she laughs.
Johner’s journey of becoming a Physical Therapy Now franchisee reads like a Hollywood film. Her story encompasses hard work and grit, tragedy and heartbreak, plus love and triumph.
Johner always knew she wanted to do something that helped people, but instead of leaving for college after high school graduation like most of her friends, she did something different. She and her family packed up their things and moved from Connecticut to sunny, warm-weather Florida.
Soon after that, Johner became a mom. By her late 20’s, Johner had three young children: sons Danny and Brandon, and her daughter Jessica whom she affectionately calls “Jesse.” Now a single mom, she was in survival mode.
“My kids were everything to me,” she explains. “I had to figure out a way to provide for them, not just for the day or for the week, but long term.”
A New Beginning
Shortly after little Jesse was born, Johner realized she had to do something – and something quick. Whatever that something was, it had to give her the flexibility she needed to take care of her kids while also earning income to support them.
Johner’s mom gave her a carpet cleaner, and Johner decided to put it to good use – not in her own home, but the homes of several other people. She kickstarted a carpet cleaning business in a matter of days. It did so well that one year later carpet cleaning grew into a full-fledged cleaning company. It was paying the bills, however, cleaning wasn’t her passion.
Johner decided to do what she had always wanted to do and applied to nursing school. When she was accepted into Edison State College (now Southwestern Florida State College), she was on her way to fulfilling her dreams of becoming a Registered Nurse.
Although unbelievably demanding, Johner’s school/work life was what worked best for everyone at the time. Johner went to school during the day and cleaned commercial office buildings at night.
“There were so many days when I’d have all three of the kids with me, and I’d just have them help by emptying the small office trash cans or whatever would keep them busy.”
By the time Johner finished nursing school, her business had grown to the extent that she had some big clients, more than half a dozen employees, and a manager. The company was growing rapidly, but the physical demands of Johner’s cleaning business had taken a toll on her body.
“It just wore me out,” she explains. “It was hard labor, and my body just couldn’t keep at it much longer.”
The Professional Path
When Johner finished nursing school, she decided to sell her cleaning company and took a job in the field she had worked so hard to join. Johner accepted a position as a Registered Nurse on a medical-surgical unit as at Cape Coral Hospital.
“I could pull off the long, 12-hour shifts, but that meant I couldn’t go to my kid’s soccer games and baseball games,” Johner says. “I didn’t want to miss out on that.”
After more than six years at that job, Johner decided to transition from the hospital into home health care to get the more standard 8am-5pm work schedule. She began as a field nurse at Gulf Coast Village with expertise in wound care and fell in love with the job. She was still caring for people – and could make it home by dinner time. It was the perfect job.
“I loved home health care then, and I still do. There’s something so special about those relationships and caring for people who truly do need your support,” she says.
Johner continued providing in-home patient care for two years and then transitioned to the administrative side of home health at the same facility. She landed a job as an Assistant Director of Nursing, worked her way up to Nursing Director and then to Administrator.
Johner says, “I always knew how to be in charge and call the shots, but that job really let me know that I had the skills to manage businesses with a lot of working parts.”
As time passed, Johner’s children were growing up and leaving the nest. By now, her two boys were young men, and Jesse was a high school teen. In the meantime, Johner became a manager extraordinaire at Gulf Coast Village, learning about the commitment and drive it takes to keep a business not just functioning but thriving.
In the midst of it all, her personal life began to flourish as well. She met a man named Jeff, and they fell in love in a matter of weeks.
Having met the man of her dreams, and now a grandmother to two girls, Johner’s life was falling into place in a way that seemed almost surreal.
“I had a great job, a wonderful man had just come into my life, my kids were venturing out on their own, and two grandbabies who are the light of my life.”
But Johner’s life soon shifted in a horrific way that she could never have imagined.
On a Saturday afternoon in September 2017, just days after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, Jesse – now 18-years-old – was driving a pick-up truck in Cape Coral. A downed tree concealed a stop sign, a driver ran that stop sign and crashed into Jesse’s truck. Johner’s daughter was killed instantly.
Coping Through Grief
Johner was living a mother’s worst nightmare. Her youngest child now gone “but with me every day,” Johner dug deep amid her grief and tried to figure out what to do next.
“I had the perfect job. Even if I didn’t know how I was going to get through the pain of losing Jesse, what I did know was how to work, and work hard. It’s what got me through everything I’ve been through, and it’s what I know how to do and do really well.”
Because of that mindset, Johner was at the height of her career but was now feeling like it was time for a change.
A Fresh Start
Johner often thought back to her days as a Connecticut kid, watching her entrepreneurial mom dabble in a franchise, and it sparked something. In addition, her partner Jeff had an entrepreneurial passion like hers, an enjoyable aspect of their compatibility.
Jeff told her he’d be there to support her and help in any way he could.
“The thought of owning a business again was kind of exciting,” Johner explains. “I needed something new, but to build a business from scratch is so exhausting, and I’ve been there – done that!”
And so began the more serious discussions between this business-minded couple about Johner becoming a franchisee. Their conversations continued, and one day she received some information from her mother about a nearby franchise fair. She and Jeff made plans to go.
“I woke up on that Saturday morning and was just not in the mood to do anything. But Jeff was like, ‘No, let’s just go and see what it’s like. We need to know what it’s like to be a part of a franchise.’ So, we went, and the rest is history.”
That was in May of 2018. Johner walked into the franchise fair, and she says it was as if there was a magnet pulling her to a booth with the words “Physical Therapy Now” splashed across the display.
Meant to Be
“I walked right past everything, and for some reason, I went right up to that booth. Looking back at it now, it’s so crazy how it happened. I know health care. And physical therapy is such a huge component of that. Such a large portion of home health IS physical therapy. It always has been and always will be because people need both. They go hand in hand.”
She met with Armando, a sales representative at the booth, and was convinced that she was going to buy into this franchise almost immediately.
What eventually sealed the deal?
“Armando first, and then Andy. Andy all the way.”
Andy Zapata is the owner of Physical Therapy Now.
“Andy made me feel like his business is, of course, his business, but he also made me feel like it’s a family. I’ve been through so much in my life, and when I find someone who has a true passion for family, I’m in.”
She continues, “Andy has something special…I think it’s a combination of his knowledge, his connections, his leadership style, his workplace culture, and his innovative mindset. That’s what sold me.”
Johner wasn’t sold just once. She bought into THREE Physical Therapy Now franchises. She and Jeff, now married, are on an entrepreneurial venture that she could have never imagined.
“I don’t know why things have happened the way they have, but I guess it’s God’s plan. I don’t understand it, but I do know that despite everything, I am still so blessed.”
That’s precisely the attitude and resolve that gives Johner an edge when it comes to business. She admits that she doesn’t know how it will evolve, but what she does know is that she can and will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
“I’ve got this. I’m willing to be there day in and day out to make all three of these locations exceed expectations. I know I can do it.”
Everyone who knows Kim Johner knows her commitment to her work. But without family – in every sense – Johner says, it wouldn’t be possible.
“I’ve got my family with Physical Therapy Now cheering me on, and Jeff, my boys, and my granddaughters are seeing it all happen. And Jesse – I know she’d be so proud.”
Johner opened the doors to her first Cape Coral Physical Therapy Now in July of 2019. Two additional sites (another in Cape Coral and one Fort Myers) are expected to be up and running in 2021. To learn more about Andy Zapata, Physical Therapy Now, The Physical Therapy Now Franchise, go to www.physicaltherapynow.com or call (800) 481-4582.