When Dr. Mila McManus became a medical doctor, she assumed she would learn how to cure the many chronic ailments that had plagued her since youth. Instead, by the end of her residency, she found herself on 12 prescription drugs and feeling worse than ever. Once she discovered functional medicine, she found real help for herself and for her patients. Now, Mila runs The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness, where she empowers her patients with education and functional, holistic therapy for improving their health. Her interview inspires us to focus on our existing patients, clients, and database to help nurture our referral systems.
What inspired you to become a holistic entrepreneur?
I was very sickly my entire life and thought I would learn how to cure my ailments (chronic allergies, eczema, constipation, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, acne, PMS, headaches, brain fog and being overweight, to name a few) by becoming a doctor. Boy was I wrong. I only learned how to band-aid more symptoms with more prescription drugs. By the time I finished residency, I was on at least 12 prescription medications and had never felt worse, or weighed more, in my life! And when I was in my first year of private practice, I noticed a disturbing trend in the number of patients presenting with similar complaints and realized I had nothing to offer but to prescribe medications to band-aid their ailments. This is when I discovered functional medicine, and my health and future were forever changed. It is absolutely tragic how broken our conventional medical system is today. In all my years leading up to finding holistic medicine, not one time did any doctor, teacher, or colleague suggest that fast food, Cheetos, and canned tuna might be the root of my problems.
Tell us about your business.
The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness is a place of healing and learning. I want to make sure my patients are educated about their health, as well as nutrition and what it takes to achieve and maintain optimal health. While we do offer bio-identical hormone therapy and supplements, we lean heavily on attention to gut health and every aspect of nutrition. My nutritionist on staff and I are certified GAPS practitioners. Our healthcare providers specialize in adrenal and thyroid dysfunction and treat men, women, and children for just about every symptom and condition one can imagine. One of our newest technologies is ONDAMED, a PEMF device that has been an incredible benefit to our patients.
How would you describe your current business model?
I have two PAs who work with me and we all see all patients. I see our new patients for initial visit most of the time. A new patient spends about 3 hours at our office for the initial assessment. Before the appointment, the patient completes a 17-page medical history questionnaire electronically which I review before the appointment. Labs are ordered, the extent of which depends on the program the person selected and the symptoms he or she has. Patients are followed closely by medical staff during the first 6 weeks while they are going through a 4-week cleanse, learning how to eat healthfully, starting a regimen of vitamins and supplements and, if applicable, bio-identical hormones. We also offer virtual appointments after the initial visit. We do not currently offer a membership type of program, but it’s being considered. We do not contract with insurance companies, as it’s impossible to accomplish what we need to do with, and for, our patients with our hands tied by insurance contracts.
Can you share any strategies you’ve found to be particularly effective for growing your client base?
Our best advertising is word of mouth, by far. We’ve used just about every modality you can think of for advertising, such as pay-per-click ads, facebook ads, facebook page with posts, website content, print ads, commercials, etc. Once we realized that direct referrals were really driving our growth, we redirected some marketing funds towards more opportunities to improve customer service and experience with more opportunities to communicate with our database.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running your business?
Where do I start? Time management has been very challenging. I never realized going in that I would spend half my time on the business side and half my time on patient care. If I had known this ahead of time, I would have gotten an MBA to go with my MD before opening a solo practice.
How have you overcome those challenges?
It’s a constant work in progress. I’m not the best delegator, but getting better at it. I’ve also learned to block my schedule far in advance to have a day off here or there, and plan my conferences early so I can block my schedule before it’s full.
What were some of the first mistakes you made that you would tell a new holistic entrepreneur to avoid?
I’ve hired people hastily over the years out of desperation. I’ve learned the hard way that it is critical to thoroughly interview candidates, have them meet with other staff members, do thorough background checks, and screen them with personality tests. Hiring the wrong people will cost a lot in the long run because of time spent dealing with drama in the office.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received as an entrepreneur?
Being told to do what I want and what I think is right, and not worry about detractors telling me that it can’t be done or that I would be unwise to leave my family medicine practice and insurance contracts behind.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up very early, usually 4:30am, make a cup of coffee, sometimes bullet proof, and take a handful of turmeric capsules. I get situated in my comfy chair with my laptop and lap desk, and get to work. This includes responding to numerous emails, reading important articles, reviewing charts for the patients I’ll be seeing for the day, working on monthly newsletter, and lots of back and forth with my practice administrator about everything from HR issues to marketing and financials. At 6:30, my husband and I go for our morning walk/jog session. Upon our return, it’s time to shower and dress for work. I listen to educational podcasts during this time, and take a 10-15 min break somewhere in there to read. Then I head to work and usually arrive 8:30-9.
What is your favorite indulgence?
A couple of squares of 78% dark chocolate with some mixed nuts and fresh berries, and a glass of cabernet.
Most exotic thing you’ve ever eaten?
Oh boy, I wish I had an exciting answer. Snake gourds!
Most memorable place you’ve ever visited?
I can pick only one? The Greenbriar in West Virginia
Last book you read?
Why isn’t my Brain Working? By Dr Kharrazian. Great book! I recommend it to all of my patients.
If you could only have one kind of food for the rest of your life, it would be…
If health is irrelevant, perhaps pork—ribs, bacon, carnitas. If you’re asking what kind of food in the functional medicine healthy realm, then avocados.
What is your go-to breakfast?
2 poached eggs with sautéed spinach or baked asparagus. If you want to know what I wish I were eating for breakfast every day, it would probably be a honey bun with bacon. hahaha
What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?
Being my own boss.
Mila McManus, MD is a Functional Medicine Specialist and Board Certified Doctors based out of The Woodlands, TX. You can find out more about Mila and her practice, The Woodlands Institute for Health & Wellness, by visiting www.TWIHW.com and www.facebook.com/TWIHW/.