Weight-Loss Clinics on Rapid Growth Diet

Article excerpt

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

Did you hear the one about the weight-loss doctors who went into business with the restaurant guys?

It's no joke.

A group of doctors who started up a weight-loss clinic last year in Eugene knew how to help overweight patients drop pounds, but weren't sure what to do when it came to expanding the business. So they connected with a pair of former restaurant executives who knew how to build and operate a multi-outlet chain and run a business.

Now the business, Monarch Medical Weight Loss Centers, has embarked on an ambitious growth strategy, opening five new clinics this year with plans to open four more by year's end.

The story began in April 2006, when seven emergency room physicians and a nurse practitioner from McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center opened up a medical weight-loss clinic at 1680 Coburg Road.

The clinic's program is modeled after a program used by a Redding, Calif., doctor named Raymond Powell. Each patient is given an individualized plan that involves cutting caloric intake, increasing physical activity and making weekly visits to the clinic to be weighed. In addition, some patients are prescribed stimulants to curb their appetites.

From the start, it was clear that the clinic was providing a service in high demand, said Dr. Robert Graham, the clinic's administrative medical director, driven mostly by word of mouth as patients who had success with the program passed the word to friends and family.

"We saw lots of people from the very beginning and it just continued to grow far beyond our expectations," he said.

From the start, the original partners were thinking about opening additional clinics.

"We saw how well that was working and we wanted to try to replicate that," said Dr. Richard Lindquist, the clinical medical director. "We started to look around and realized we didn't have the business expertise. ... Doctors are good at some things but not necessarily at other things."

Enter Bill Service and Bruce Davis. The two men are partners and former executives in the Elmer's restaurant chain; Davis was president when Service was CEO and became CEO when Service left the company. They had no medical background, but they knew how to open and manage multiple sites, how to deal with builders and city planners, how to do payroll and accounting, and how to manage technology.

Dr. Dick Abraham, one of the doctors who started the weight-loss clinic, contacted Service and asked him to look at the clinic and "to consider what this small group of doctors could do with the concept," Service said.

Service and Davis began researching the weight-loss industry from a business perspective, doing "an extensive amount of due diligence." They found that some physicians had had success with the medically directed weight-loss programs in Michigan and Southern California, but there were no regional chains, Service said. …