Pivoting versus Retiring with Physical Therapist and Professor Dr. Rob Wainner, PT, PhD

When life throws a monkey wrench into things, a lot of times you are forced to either quit or retire.

But rather than retire, pivot and change the direction of your life. And when you pivot, you start a new life or career.

Air Force veteran Rob Wainner pivoted from the military and became a college professor before starting his own physical therapy practice. He ran more than 360 offices nationwide before pivoting again to begin a coaching and leadership firm.

Listen now to discover how you can pivot in your life rather than retire.

Show highlights include:

  • Why buying $1 candy and fireworks in Taiwan on credit ruins your family’s fortune ([1:39])
  • How watching your grandfather run a business teaches you how to become a millionaire ([4:32])
  • Why retiring many times lets you begin new projects (and how you can start one today) ([6:35])
  • How hiring and training your own people to grow your business develops your best practice systems (even if you are not ready to do so) ([9:44])


DLP011 PC - Pivoting versus Retiring with Rob Wainner



Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? 


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? So welcome to the Retire In Texas Podcast, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the state of Texas. And now here’s your host, financial advisor, author, and all-around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.


([00:28]): Welcome to the retire in Texas show. My name is Darryl Lyons. I’m the co-founder of PAX financial group in San Antonio, Texas PAX financial group is the sponsor of the program. Visit PAX financial group.com. And before I get started, I need to share disclosure. This material contains general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment tax or legal advice. Is it PAX financial group.com for more information, investment advisory services offered through PAX financial group.com. Okay, so really cool show with a really cool friend been a friend for a long time and got a chance to hang out with him and enjoy his family over the years and get to know him. And I consider him a friend and mentor a compadre and really looking forward to this interview. So I’ve got Rob Wayner here who is probably retired four or five times if I think about it now. So welcome to the show, Rob. Hey


([01:27]): Darryl, it’s good to be here with you as always. So we’ll get to where you retired. Cause you did retire. We didn’t even talk about this and you did retire multiple times. I graduated several times. Okay. Got you. Yeah, we’re going to unpack the retire that, okay, so first let’s go back in time real quick. I want to know grown up. Where did you grow up and did your parents teach you about money


([01:47]): To answer your question? The first, probably 11 years of my life were spent either with my grandparents during the first few years. And I have some distinct memories of, of being with them and a close relationship, but then I spent the rest of that time as an air force brat. And I spent a good portion of that overseas in Taiwan for years, and then in Norway for close to a year and then the rest state side. But then my junior high growing up years were down in south Texas.


([02:17]): Did they teach you about currency exchanges? Yes. So in T kroner for being in Norway, we had NT in Taiwan. And so yes, I was very familiar with foreign currency and that was my first experience with debt. Well, you mean, well over in Taiwan, you remember this was in the late 68, 69 70. And I mean, it was a third world country, no doubt. And outside the compound, you could go over and all the shops, just like you see, you know, they were open street, bingos, narrow alleyways, bicycles, all over the, all these different stores. And so they had great candy. It was amazing. They had fireworks for sale all the time and we would meet with scale. The, and there was this remarkable thing called credit that we discovered one day. And when we didn’t have the usual, I think a hundred and T you know, for a buck, I mean, it was crazy w kind of how far your money went. And so I just died. Great. That’s free stuff. And then one day the shop, I don’t know how they found my parents, but they found out I had a debt that was painful, bro. No, like noodle lashing


([03:24]): Or anything. My dad definitely whipped us with a paddle. I won’t, I mean, and I’m proud of it because it may be the man I am today in many ways because he always did it in a real loving way. I can’t remember. I think he, you know, I had to work it off. I had to do chores. I had to sell stuff. They had to buy and sell man that would come by to your house on the compound there. Did you, have You had brothers and


([03:45]): Sisters? I did. I had, I have a brother and a sister there’s five and a half years between my brother who’s next and then about seven. So during that period, it was kind of like an only child in some ways. And so during that only child period, did you mostly observe the way your parents used money or did they sit down and tell you do this and,


([04:07]): Or don’t do that? Yeah, no, I home with my dad all the time. He was also the island wide air force basketball coach over in Taiwan, travel with the team, got to see them in action. And so I knew that that was exchanging American dollars for NT. I could see what the difference would be when you’d buy on the economy when you’d buy in the BX. And so I just was by his side, I just kind of absorbed some of that. And then my grandfather played a significant role when we would go back. He was, you know, a business owner owned a car dealership, tire shop Marine shop. I mean, he was, and then retired at age 61, probably in the early seventies and lived off his investments. He was very good with money. So I watched that was fascinating. I didn’t know how he did it, but I was fascinated


([04:49]): By it. So when you graduated from high school, where did you go? I went to Wharton county, junior college. I played junior college football at Wharton county junior college. It’s where I met my wife. And it was very, very quick. The real shift, a significant life event was getting my knee totally rearranged and operated on. And then my football career was over, which you know, was my God. That was really what I was after. And I was devastated, but it, you know, life would be, it I’m so glad it happened now and never want to go through it again, but it allowed me to go become a, get into physical therapy school after two years of junior college, which at that point they were just phasing that out. And then right after that, I joined the air force. So I was married. I was engaged by 19, married by 20 and in the air force by 22. Thank you for serving. Thank you. Oh, you’re welcome. How many years? 20 and three months.


([05:40]): And then you decided to Pivot. I decided about a year before that to pivot and yeah, certainly that’s a great word to use the word pivot versus retired. Tell me more. No, no, you’re retired. Not even, I don’t, I can’t even bring myself to use that word. Yeah. That’s when I’m in the grave and with Jesus. Exactly. So, yeah, so I began thinking, and it really was, you know, a weighted decision on security, taking the normal route of maybe even making those six, moving a few more times, going into civil service or pursuing a really novel idea of starting a physical therapy clinic. And I had by that time had a PhD, therefore sent me back to school. So I was doing a lot of clinical research, a lot of teaching. It was in an academic job and I, I, I’m not an academic at heart and mindset. I’m a teacher man, but I’m not an academic. And I thought, man, let’s open up a PT practice and just change the world. And then we almost went broke.


([06:34]): Well, I want to unpack that more, but it’s cool to recognize that after serving for 22 years, right, 20, 20, you did pivot and you taught at Texas state, which was at the time Southwest, Texas. And even though a brief period of time.


([06:50]): So I had about three jobs for awhile. Okay. So when I did my pivot, the practice, as I shared, we really hit it. And by the way, I had no business experience. So I know what, I don’t know, teamed up with a guy who didn’t know and was very good at it. And, you know, once we went through the first cash call, kind of struggled a bit when I actually, it tanked my retirement date came, we still had not built a practice up enough to support a second salary full time. And Texas state university was in dire need of having somebody come and direct their orthopedic musculoskeletal track. So we worked out a deal that I was on campus two days a week would be considered full time and I could still grow the physical therapy practice in the emerging clinical education practice, which later became,


([07:35]): I am. We’re going to talk a lot more about the PT from, because that’s, it’s fascinating and I’ve watched that story over the years, but some people are listening and they, they may or may not recognize the challenge from transitioning in an active duty environment under DOD to civil the civilian life. How was that transition for you, both the language and culture? What did you see as challenges there?


([08:00]): You know, again, it was kind of unique because the air force in the total of my air force career, I’d gone to graduate school for five of those years. And then I was on faculty at Baylor or four total years or no six total years. So I spent most of the time in and out, you know, I was very familiar with both worlds. So it was really easy for me. It was begin very different probably than a usual career track military person


([08:23]): Let’s go into the so then you pivot out of an, a transition way from being professor to professor and business owner. Exactly. Yeah. And so let’s talk more, which you alluded to the business owner part, which was multifaceted businesses. So there was two or three businesses within this construct. Tell us a little bit more about this and you started it really with two other, was it two others? Yes.


([08:50]): Andrew Bennett and Larry bends. And so the idea became to on a run in the fall of 2003, I didn’t retire until 2005. So over 2004, I realized a I’d like to get it started early. And Andrew, I couldn’t think of a more talented, energetic young therapist and Andrew Bennett, but he hadn’t moved. We were served together at Wilford hall. He had moved, gotten out of the air force and was in Louisiana. We had a conversation and as we began to plan, we had a few other people that were involved as well. And of course, that kind of thing, it gets a little hard to manage when you have that many people and you’re just vision casting, but then it wasn’t long until we went into the weeds of the process that I reached out to Larry bins, who he was also a military guy, but for four years, and then he left and I knew him from like 1991. We did some training together. He went to Kentucky and he was a CEO of court, physical therapy at the time 60 clinics. And he’s an amazing man.


([09:45]): So you went from kind of somewhat bootstrapping this, you have evidence motion, right? So Texas physical therapy specialists, Hey, let’s start that physical therapy practice. That’s the physical therapy practice that we got stood up in 2004 a year before I stepped out with Andrew Bennett. I’m an educator, I’m a teacher man at heart. And so I wanted to bring my whole reason for that practice was to bring best practice physical therapy to the public. We did a ton of clinical research. That’s what I did. And I just saw my students and the therapist that they graduated into following that, being stifled out in the community, physician owned practices, docs, dictating treatments, which again, in some cases, collaborations required and other cases, you know, really the therapist is going to know what the best practices would be. And so that was the impetus for that. And so that impetus resulted in us asking the question, who do we hire? And we saw that very quickly. We had one or two, but what do you do after that? Well, let’s, let’s start training our own people. And that’s how evidence in motion started with John Childs. That’s where John became a, he, he helped with text BTS initially, but then he was really, he was doing some things in his graduate program at the university of Pittsburgh, which he followed me there in his PhD program. And so he lived up the street to


([11:03]): That makes sense for those that are just tuning in, you’re listening to retire in Texas. And I’m your host, Darryl Lyons. We’re here with Rob Weiner, who we’re continuing down this story of pivoting several times in life. And for those that want more information, we do have an ebook@paxfinancialgroup.com. And you can grab that e-book, it’s called retire in Texas. So Rob, you’re now out of military, out of the academic world, and now you’re running a business,


([11:34]): I’m still in the academic world and I’m still running, partnering in the business again, Andrew’s the operator, I’m the innovator. I’m helping with John working to bring educational practices. And I’m still up at Texas state two days a week. I was there for nine years and had tenure when I left. So I was doing all of that, but it all had the common theme, best practice, educate therapists to implement best practice and now provide best practice physical therapy to,


([12:00]): So tell me the growth that you experienced in this PT from. Yeah. So we went from the one clinic and I remember Larry when he came down because he still lived in Kentucky in Andrew and I were riding in the car and he just said, what do you guys want to do? Do you want to grow? Or just, you know, be in our first clinic was in new Braunfels and we really didn’t know what we were saying yes to, but grow and sounded good. We said, let’s grow. We started our clinic in Selma, I think. And then we started had partnered with Chris baker who became a partner as well. So, you know, there are a lot of partners that began to get involved because we always wanted people to have a stake in what we were doing. John Sams opened the Selma and then when open Bulverde, and then after that, it really took off because we acquired a failing practice in Austin and we had always wanted to be in Austin.


([12:48]): And so it was either a buy or make and we decided to buy and, you know, we pay for own success on the back end when we bought the other person and other partner out, but it proved instrumental to skyrocketing our practice. Where’s it at today, today, Texas physical therapy practice partnered with many other like-minded practices across the country and rolled up into confluent health in 2014. And so confluent at that time then became a network of physical therapy practices. They kept their own name. We kept local ownership. And as of today, we stretch all the way last I heard from Rhode Island to Washington state, probably 3,500 employees and about 360 clinics.


([13:34]): And in 2021, after all this growth and success, there’s a new chapter in confluent, but it’s not going to include you. And so you made it a decision to do another pivot in 2021. What made you decide to make the change when you’re a part of a growing company and you decide, look, I’m going to go do something different. How did that come about?


([13:55]): Yeah. So the beginning of that story really happened when confluent formed. So I’d held a number of roles in the company and what I decided would be best, at least in talking with Larry who was our CEO and some other partners was for me to go through a coaching executive coaching program. So we could have a build what would be called a coaching culture. In other words, think small, stay local. When you have a lot of practices, like we do it, doesn’t top down instruction in what we wanted. We wanted people to own their own practices, treat them like they were their own. So the best way to do that is to develop leaders. So from that point, after graduating from UTD, under my promise, my wife, that would be the last educational program I would go through. And it kinda sorta was. So I began building a coaching culture and talent development program.


([14:42]): And that was my main role within the company and only role. And as that got bigger and scaled, I had a partner that was a colleague that helped me build a Daphne Scott amazing person. But in 2021, I began to realize that my work had confluent was complete. I knew I wanted to pivot. And in 2021, although I would have pushed that back because of COVID. And then there were some things, some disagreements about me being vaccinated and a couple of other things in terms of my work role. And we just decided, just decided at that point, based on some discussion with the CEO that, Hey look, okay now would be a good time for me to exit the company and pivot again, did you get support from your spouse


([15:25]): Or Diane? You know, she’s wonderful. She supports me in every way. It has all along the way and not, you know, she’s very willing to hold a mirror up when I need to see, you know, a reflection I don’t like. And at the same time, very supportive. I’ll give you one example. You know, there were a few decisions that were, that could have really put us in hard financial times. One was when we had that first cash call, we’ll start in a private practice. I have nothing about business, nothing. That’s why one reason we partnered with Larry among many. And then the other was when I left the university, so I was making six figures and we’re rolling up. We don’t know how that’s going to go. And now I’m going to coach do something new. And so once I got rid of those golden handcuffs, I mean, you always hear that term. I experienced knew what that meant, because as soon as I made the decision, she was an agreement. Wow. That was a good decision.


([16:19]): And where did you decide to retire or pivot to where did you decide to live? Yeah, so that was a process of transition. We had our eye on some property, bought it, and then it had a vision for what we want that property to become. And financially confluent was succeeding. We had a couple of other transactions that allowed us to build that out on a cash basis going forward. So by the time I pivoted, I really was already, we, we, I had to look and really go back and hone my vision because the 45 acre property that we have and the structures there in terms of both our home, our guest house, and then my office and conferencing area, I’m like, okay, wow, what do I want this to be next? And that’s kind of where I’m at now. Is it considered Bulverde or Bernie


([17:00]): Bernie address, but it’s actually in Bernheim, that’s halfway between Bulverde and Burnie, but the Bernie addresses. So we’ve had a lot of neat life experiences globally. And so were there any challenges that you had growing up that has made you the man you are today that are going to be important for you to express in some fashion in this next?


([17:24]): Yeah, I can think of two in particular, one. It’s always interesting. What sticks out to us from our childhood. I tried to become a pole vaulter in the seventh grade that did not go well. And I was scared. I couldn’t even get off the box and I don’t know why, but one Saturday I was determined. I took an old steel, literally steel pole way too heavy. And I just started trying to get a little lift in the backyard and I kept doing it and it kept doing it. And finally, I was able to clear a bar, long story short. I actually was able to pole vault all the way up to the ninth grade. I got a little bit too heavy, one place to district meets and all that kind of stuff. So what that taught me was that even though you may not be very good at something to begin with perseverance, there is nothing that will replace that.


([18:06]): And you just got to keep at it. There probably is a point. And I may have had that with some experiences where you recognize that’s really you’re doing it for some other reason than one that would be worthwhile, but if not, perseverance, nothing beats that the second thing is when I got my knee messed up and had that surgery, he gave me the option of playing again. He said, you can, but if you at 18 do this again, you’re going to be looking at a total knee. And we don’t like to put them in people at that time, any younger than 65. And so what that Tommy was flexibility, man, I’ve got to pivot, you know, so you got to pivot and it was the best pivot that I made. And now that I look at my situation now, I didn’t really expect this to happen this suddenly, but it did.


([18:49]): And I see nothing, but the opportunities on the horizon. So now what, yeah, good question. I’m reminded of something I read. And I think I shared this with you before, out of Dan Crenshaw, his book fortitude. So he, as a young man was working on a hot Texas summer, down on a ranch, not far from here. And there was a retired air force, Colonel and Dan was busy picking stuff up and doing rock where, I mean, just moving rocks, basically really hot sweaty work. And the guy came up to him and he, he looked at him and he goes, if I recall, right, I I’ll probably we’ll get this wrong, but here’s what stuck with me. Wow. How did you get to do and be what you are now? And he goes, well, you know, here’s how I kind of started out when I was your age and younger.


([19:28]): I was an ambitious man. And then when I became a fighter pilot in the air force, I was a serious man. And then he said, now that I’ve used the word retire, now I’m a fun man. I just want to be now. I want to be fun, but I also want to fuel people. And not just that they have to come to me. I want it to be a renewable. So, you know, renewables have a long way to go. But anyway, to use the metaphor of a fuel, so to be able to learn, create, and then relate in the terms of mid kind of coaching, teaching and mentoring, I think that’s where God’s leading me.


([20:02]): I can see that there’s a lot to offer there. So this has been great. There’s so much to unpack here in a short amount of time, you gave us some great content, but before we leave, I have to ask you the most important question. Yeah. What’s your,


([20:15]): Oh my gosh. I’m all over the place. Cause I like options. So kind of pick to the, I going to go between them. So the red sauce, that last bill office of I 10, I mean, I don’t know why, but that store, man, it’s really good. And then our was in spring branch area. It’s like a red sauce. It just like, it will make you overeat chips.


([20:37]): I do that. It’s hard for me not to that’s my bias. This has been great. Thank you, Rob. I’ve really enjoyed this. And for those that are listening, thank you for tuning in to retire in Texas. Be sure to grab the ebook@paxfinancialgroup.com. And remember you think different when you think long-term,


([20:55]): This is the podcast factory.com.


Retire In Texas eBook

Ready to have a real conversation about securing your future?

Schedule a free no-strings-attached phone conversation.