Andy Thomas is the founder and director of Physiquipe, based in Manchester, United Kingdom (UK). He launched Physiquipe in 2012, after working as a sport and exercise scientist and distributor of high-tech rehabilitation equipment within the National Health Service (NHS), elite sports world, and to universities and private healthcare clinics. Five years later, the company now has seven global partners (including HawkGrips) with the same goal – to raise the standards of healthcare. Physiquipe does this by hand-picking the best rehabilitation technology, and providing educational training and courses to ensure both clinicians and patients get the most out of the equipment.
How would you describe Physiquipe as a company?
We’re primarily a distribution company. But we also have a rehabilitation clinic and training academy. The clinic has been operating for about four-and-a-half years and we actually treat patients there with all of the same brands of equipment that we sell.
When did you first become aware of HawkGrips?
About three years ago. Ken Johnson is a physical therapist and friend of mine who now works as the Director of Rehabilitation Therapy Services Outreach at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We were talking about these new tools he had started utilizing that really changed the way he treated patients. At the time, it just so happened Physiquipe was looking to align with a partner that produced equipment at around the same price point. Something that could be utilized by a variety of clinicians and at the same time be a high-quality product.
At first I wasn’t convinced at all, because I had seen instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) being practiced before in a way that looked really aggressive and potentially painful to patients. But I trusted Ken’s opinion, so I looked into it more. [HawkGrips President] Frank Osborne and [HawkGrips COO] Sean MacNeal sent us some samples, which I gave to my team to try out, and the feedback from them almost immediately was really good. So then I had a very positive conversation with Frank and Sean, who are great guys. And since then, basically for about two-and-a-half years now, we’ve been working with HawkGrips directly and it’s a really good relationship.
To which countries does Physiquipe generally distribute equipment?
The vast majority of our clients are in the UK and Ireland, but we’ve also done work in continental Europe and the Middle East. We sometimes link up with clients in Australia and the United States as well, along with some African countries.
What kind of feedback have you heard from clients about HawkGrips?
The feedback has generally been very positive. We’re working with a lot of big organizations now, including many English Premier League [soccer] teams, as well as some of the top national teams in the UK such as rugby, big healthcare providers, and smaller practices. I actually just sold some HawkGrips instruments to a guy who’s setting up his own fitness training clinic after receiving treatments in our clinic. So it’s great because our clients range from individuals and small practices to some of the biggest brands in elite sport.
Which English Premier League soccer teams are currently utilizing the instruments?
Hull City, Burnley and Crystal Palace are a few of the clubs that immediately come to mind, and the response from them has been really good. We actually just had a sale resulting from a Hull City staff member taking one of our courses and then participating in an instrument trial. I had gone over there to speak with them about something else, and he said it was really good timing that I stopped by because they needed to buy HawkGrips.
So we received a purchase order in less than a week. All of their physiotherapists, sports medicine and soft tissue specialists said it would really make a big difference in their treatments. Since Ken Johnson works part-time as a HawkGrips Instructor now, we also had him come over a few months ago to conduct a workshop specifically for Liverpool Football Club. In terms of rugby, the national teams already utilizing HawkGrips include Wales and Scotland.
What kind of clinics or facilities are you distributing HawkGrips to outside the sports realm?
We’re in the beginning stages of distributing HawkGrips to the NHS here and we have some ongoing trials with them. We’ve also been asked to run a workshop at the British Association of Hand Therapists annual conference, which is really exciting. But I’d say the majority of our clients utilizing HawkGrips at this point are sporting in some capacity, whether it’s elite, amateur or general outpatient musculoskeletal/physio.
How does being a HawkGrips distributor align with the mission of Physiquipe?
Basically we’re approached every day by people who want to promote their equipment. We have really good relationships with all of our clients, including some people I’ve been working with for the past 10 years. So we want to be almost an extension of the services offered by clients. We’re not looking specifically to phase out their systems because we think what they’re doing already has value. Rather we only want to bring products to them that we believe will genuinely impact and enhance what they’re doing.
So we currently work with only seven manufacturers, and the vast majority of them aren’t necessarily the cheapest in their market, but we think they’re the best and will have the most impact. HawkGrips absolutely fits perfectly into that. It’s a really good company to work with. They provide very good marketing support and their branding looks great. We like how HawkGrips focuses on educational courses as well, because that aligns with our goal to emphasize course attendance as a way to help promote the instruments.
There are three main areas of the business at Physiquipe: the distribution side, clinic, and training academy. So we’re not just about selling equipment, but rather developing and advancing the art and skills. We want to ensure that once somebody buys equipment from us it’s only the beginning of the relationship, because we’re going to provide them with ongoing support. We don’t want anything we sell to just start gathering dust, so that’s why we offer so much support to clients and really work closely with them.
What are your future goals for distributing HawkGrips in terms of markets you’d like to enter and how soon?
We’ve started a very exciting IASTM training partnership with a large private healthcare group, so I’m really looking forward to developing that. One of our other goals is definitely for every Premier League team to utilize HawkGrips, as well as teams in lower-level sports leagues. For example, the English Football League Championship is the next level down from the Premier League. Then the same for clubs in the English Rugby Union and League as well. Those are probably the short-term goals, with very specific targets.
As far as other specialties, hand therapy practitioners have been very receptive to HawkGrips and we have a strong background user base of hand therapists. So we’re focusing on hand therapy in the NHS, which is a massive organization. We’ve also been speaking with [HawkGrips Director of International] Nicky Archer about other geographic territories, so we’re doing more work in continental Europe and exploring opportunities to provide workshops there.
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