Scoring Big: Joel Makovicka Leads Team to Rapid Growth

As the most-decorated fullback in Cornhusker history, Joel Makovicka learned early to look for openings and hit them at full speed. These skills led him to contribute to the fortunes of the Big Red as part of three National Championship teams and also served the 2010 40 Under 40 honoree well in business.

Makovicka Physical Therapy has more than quadrupled in size and locations over the past decade. And it’s all thanks to broad field vision that helps Makovicka and his team identify and maximize opportunities.

“We’ve never just said, ‘Hey we’re going to focus on sports,’ or, ‘We’re going to focus on geriatrics,’” he said. “We see the continuum of care, whether that’s orthopedic pediatrics all the way up into geriatrics; we do sports injuries, rehabilitation, physical therapy.

“That’s continued as we have grown, enabling us to offer things that we haven’t offered in the past. We do aquatic therapy. We do vestibular rehab. Balance and fall prevention, blood flow restriction, we do women’s health now. We’ve always wanted to see a wide range of people coming through our doors.”

The company now operates 19 locations in Lincoln and Omaha and has about 185 employees. Makovicka said prospecting the next expansion — and there are more to come — is nearly constant.

“Ninety-five percent of our growth has been organic, clinics we started ourselves, which is not to say in the future that won’t change,” he said.

“We’re always looking for opportunities, where something is the right fit for us. If some existing location contacts us or wants to talk about their succession plan, we will talk to them. But it has to fit our model and our vision of how this company moves forward.”

Part of this “Makovicka Way” is investing in the growth and development of employees, which the company achieves through career mapping and a mentoring program.

- Advertisement -

“A priority for us is continuing to recruit the best professionals out there. We take pride in that,” he said. “It goes back to my roots of being an athlete and being on championship teams; you go out and you recruit the best and if you have the best professionals and the best team, you will continue to be a leader in your profession.

“I think that’s a big part of how I see Joel leading, along with the partners,” said Kathy Byrnes, director of business development who’s worked at Makovicka Physical Therapy for five years. “He takes the potential that people have and really helps to develop that fully. That creates the opportunity for people to grow personally and professionally and become really good therapists. And they take great pride in that.”

Team members are also invested in Makovicka Cares, a formal service and philanthropy program that keeps team members connected to the people they are there to serve by investing in the community.

“One of the things we do unbelievably well is our community involvement,” he said. “Last year, I think we had almost 750 hours of community service where our employees went out and volunteered. We engage our employees by committing volunteer hours at different events and activities throughout the community. That’s something I’m really proud of, because that means you have the right people on your team who are willing to do that. It just makes for a great company.”

Makovicka’s own development as an entrepreneur, and as a boss, has at times been a struggle, particularly when it comes to delegation and work-life balance.

“Very difficult,” he said, describing learning to delegate. “It’s very difficult for a lot of people who go into business and start it. I don’t think you can ever completely step away from that if you’re someone who enjoys what you’re doing. But that is the biggest learning curve.”

“His life balance is certainly a project in the works, as it is for many people,” said Business Partner and Vice President of Finance Natalie Harms. “Being from a farm family, his work ethic is over the top and very focused. But at the same time, that’s what pulled me onto the bandwagon in the first place, is that relentless work ethic. That, and he’s very authentic. He believes in doing the right thing and it shows.”

Makovicka said one of the things that pushes him so hard is his desire to serve the people of the state that has given him everything.

“I will always continue to be involved in this organization and hands-on as much as I can because that is something I love to do,” he said. “Nebraska has been very special to me; I grew up here, went to college here and Nebraskans have been great to me. I want to give that back by building a great company that can help and touch the lives of a lot of Nebraskans.”