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Alumni News Kevin Storr September 26, 2014

*This story originally appeared on the UAB National Alumni Society website

UAB alumni share success as TherapySouth and Godspeed collaborate on a unique business model.  Both Birmingham-area businesses benefit from the concept they are working together on.

It started as a vision. Steve Foster (PT, LAT ’80) wanted something where he could help younger physical therapists grow in a highly competitive industry.

“It’s hard to go out and open a single clinic and compete,” Foster said about the competition.

Foster knows what it takes to be successful in the industry. After graduating from UAB he worked for Physicians Physical Therapy before forming an out-patient private practice physical therapy company. He had that company for 13 years.

With the knowledge that he gathered, Foster worked on getting those younger physical therapists help they often needed.

“By giving therapists an opportunity like this, it can also increase their motivation to work harder because it’s something they can call their own,” Foster said.

What he got is something that has blossomed more than he could imagine.

In 2006, Foster started TherapySouth. The company was founded with his original vision in mind and gave those younger physical therapists an opportunity they likely wouldn’t have otherwise.

TherapySouth was developed to specialize in hands-on care for its patients with locations close to their home or work. Having convenient locations gives patients the chance to improve their daily functions two to three times per week with physical therapy.

With his vision and plan, Foster placed clinics in Birmingham and the surrounding communities. Soon, TherapySouth strategically dotted the landscape with locations in practically every sizeable Magic City suburb and gave the company tremendous early success.

“We grew faster than I had thought we would,” the TherapySouth founder and president admitted. “With that in mind I sat down and came up with a strategic plan.”

That plan was drafted in 2011 and included opening 20 clinics by 2020. TherapySouth’s rapid growth continued. In the last 16 months, Foster has opened four clinics. With 18 clinics across Alabama and the southeast, Foster is just two clinics shy of the goal he set in that strategic plan and has more than five years remaining on that timetable.

Much of the success Foster has been able to enjoy is because of the people he has hired. He hasn’t forgotten about UAB. TherapySouth currently employs 31 therapists who are UAB alumni. Many of their physical therapists have advanced certification in orthopedic physical therapy and even specialty areas like manual therapy and women’s health.

“It’s because of the exceptional academic experience UAB students received and the post graduate success they achieve as a result,” Foster said of why so many UAB graduates are hired at TherapySouth. “We aspire to hire the best physical therapy graduates to help us build our practice. We are fortunate to have those students right in Birmingham.”

The UAB ties are not just internal for TherapySouth; Foster’s latest clinic has proven that.

Earlier this year, another UAB alumnus approached Foster about taking part in a campus environment practice.

Lance Rhodes (BS ’06) has been helping train athletes since his football playing days ended as a wide receiver for the Blazers.

He started his business in his parents Hoover, Alabama basement. Like the success Foster saw with TherapySouth, Rhodes has seen his business grow.

In March, he moved Godspeed (formerly RPM) into a new facility with the desire to have a physical therapy group on campus with his business partner and best friend Blake Prime (BS ’06 MBA ’09), also a UAB alumnus.

“We researched other facilities that were doing what we wanted to be doing,” Rhodes said. “We wanted to incorporate physical therapy and an environment where we work as one.”

JoethrowingFormer UAB quarterback Joe Webb works out at Godspeed during the offseason.At any given time on any given day you will find active life athletes taking part in CrossFit or high school athletes working on balance and flexibility. The Godspeed staff works with a diverse roster of clients that range from youth athletes to 65-year-old weekend golfers to professional athletes like former UAB stars Roddy White, Joe Webb and Darrin Reaves.

Their primary focus is to prevent injury first and then progress health and performance.

Rhodes started Godspeed under the name RPM (Rhodes Performance Methods). It began with a high school kid or two in the basement of his parents’ home in Hoover.

Then, Rhodes saw his clientele swell to more than two dozen. With the growth, Prime, who played football with Rhodes at both Hoover High School and UAB, was recruited to help out.

Having outgrown the basement within five months, it was time for RPM to branch out.

Looking to find the cheapest place he could find, Rhodes wound up renting a facility from his parents.

Growth continued. CrossFit was added in 2010 and by 2012 the new facility needed renovating. Eventually, plans to build and open a larger facility for the duo came about. They wanted to be able to do even more with their clientele. In March, that spot opened up across the parking lot and with the new location a new name, Godspeed.

One of his clients at Godspeed is Sandy Edwards (MS ’92) who is also one of TherapySouth’s clinic directors. Rhodes told Edwards his thoughts on partnering with a physical therapy group and to have the practice on location.

Edwards took the idea back to TherapySouth and set up a meeting between Rhodes and Foster.DSC 0037Having a physical therapist on-site means TherapySouth's Chris Allison sees clients from both businesses.

“He’s wise and processes things in their entirety,” Rhodes said of Foster. “There wasn’t a smile. I couldn’t read him.”

“The timing was right,” Foster said. “They were looking at building their current facility and it made sense.”

The partnership allows TherapySouth patients to have a facility across a small parking lot where they can continue their rehabilitation and fitness prescription after they are discharged from physical therapy while Godspeed clients have a physical therapy clinic conveniently located to receive treatment allowing them to continue their fitness program with little or no time away from training.

The new venture allows for strong communication in talking about where a client is at in their situation and what limitations they may or may not have in working out.

TherapySouth is able to have athletes with serious injuries who are rehabilitating at their clinic get their progressive strength and conditioning done at Godspeed after their physical therapy session is completed.

Likewise, Godspeed sends athletes to TherapySouth to progress their health performance and even to identify, correct and progress possible deficiency movement or structure with the athlete.

RPM and Therapy South(L to R) Prime, Rhodes and FosterEntering just its third month, the model TherapySouth and Godspeed have developed already has Foster looking ahead.

“We’re talking to Lance about reproducing this location elsewhere,” he said.

TherapySouth and Godspeed are from two different industries but they share many core values. That includes focusing on the patients and athletes they serve. It is because of that the partnership has worked well so far.

The reach of whom they will be able to touch will continue to grow. That is something TherapySouth and Godspeed currently are doing separately and together. In its current form, the partnership’s reach goes beyond their footprint in Hoover and includes helping athletes from other Birmingham communities. Replicating the model formed by the pair of UAB alumni and entrepreneurs elsewhere only makes that footprint and reach larger.

As for now, Foster and Rhodes continue to watch to see how their collaboration grows but they also know their unique business model ultimately will help many athletes as well as non-athletes throughout Alabama.

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