Businessperson of the Month: Chris Walker Relishes the Career That Chose Him
Most people choose a career. In Chris Walker’s case, the career chose him.
Walker had worked as a nurse where he grew up on Long Island, New York, and was studying physical therapy when his sister was struck and injured by a street sweeper. Returning home in the late evenings after his shift, he heard her cries as she dealt with the pain of her injuries. Then one night she wasn’t crying.
That day, he discovered, she had visited a chiropractor, which had eased her pain. That changed Walker’s thoughts about physical therapy, and within a few weeks he was working for that chiropractic practice. Soon after, one of the chiropractors took him aside.
“He said, ‘I think you’re wasting your life. If there’s anyone who should be a chiropractor, it’s you,’” Walker recalled. “I always say that chiropractic chose me, I didn’t choose it. It was not even on my radar.”
But helping people without using drugs was important to him, because even then he could see the beginnings of the opioid crisis.
“Coming from a nursing background, I could see people going away from pain management to opioids,” he said.
With the help of the chiropractic practice, he enrolled at Life University in Atlanta, where he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree and made valuable connections with some of the top chiropractors in the country. That led him to work in a practice in Detroit, where eventually he oversaw three clinics. That helped him learned the business side of the chiropractic business.
After a year in Detroit, Walker returned to Atlanta, and soon after took a position with a chiropractic practice in Augusta, where he treated patients for three years before striking out on his own.
It was during that time that he met his wife, Winter, who had been a project manager for the natural gas pipeline that was built from Savannah to Anderson, S.C. Together they decided that they had a firm foundation of friends in Augusta, and they were able to negotiate a lease for a building previously occupied by a chiropractor. They opened Walker Chiropractic in 2010.
Walker credits his wife for helping in the success of his practice.
“She’s the detail person and I’m the dreamer,” he said. “Somehow together it works.”
Friend and business strategist Bruce Klassen gave Walker advice that helped the business grow, but Walker did ignore him when it came to developing the practice’s tagline: “We move the bone, God does the healing.”
“He said he didn’t think that in this day and age you could (mention God),” Walker said. “About two years later, we’d reached a milestone, and he called and said, ‘I was wrong. I’m glad that’s one piece of advice you didn’t take.’”
Walker said that tagline has held him and the practice to a higher standard of service.
“It tells people who we are,” he said. “When they open the door, I’d better be a mirror of that. As a chiropractor, my job is to make sure the brain and body are communicating the way they’re supposed to. We already have the greatest healer.”
A big component of Walker Chiropractic is patient education. He takes time to discuss a patient’s X-rays and develop a treatment plan before starting on any treatment.
“We can help a lot of people who don’t need to have surgery,” he said.
His education efforts have spread into the community and include other health care providers. That has created a symbiotic relationship with some that provides better patient care.
“Ten years ago, an orthopedist would have never sent us a patient,” Walker said. “Now we get two or three a month when they see it’s a non-surgical case. The goal ultimately is to get the patients well.”
Some states are now considering laws making it mandatory that patients see a chiropractor for pain treatment before they can be prescribed opioids.
“Instead of covering up the pain we’re getting to the root of it,” he said.
In his own words
What are you passionate about in your business?
“Serving and helping others. I haven’t worked a day in 15 years. Going to school was work, but laying hands on people and helping them get well isn’t work. I’ve never felt like not getting up in the morning and going to work. We lost two children (most recently 2-year-old Zeke last December), and work is one of the things that helped me heal. There’s nothing like helping others to soothe the soul.”
Who inspires you?
“The biggest inspiration is my wife. She’s the strongest person I’ve ever known. What makes me strive to be the best every day is that I promised both my kids on their last breaths that they can look down on me and be proud of me. Every day I ask God to give me the strength to be that person.”
How has the loss of your children changed your outlook on life?
“I’m living every day to live life to the fullest possibility because life is just too short to waste it on unhappiness. Unhappiness shouldn’t be an option.”
How do you unwind?
“Luckily, I married my best friend, and we spend a lot of time together. I play golf — I don’t play it well, but right now it’s really fun because my 10-year-old is getting into golf. It gives us a lot of father-son time. I love to read, either something spiritual or self-help or some kind of weird cop novel. I love to cook. My wife bought me a smoker, so I smoke a lot of things and I do a lot of Italian cooking.”
How do you give back to the community?
“We give to numerous charities. My wife and I didn’t grow up with a lot, so we’re always trying to do things to help others. We get inundated with requests and we try to do as much as we can. Our Got Your 6 program offers reduced rates to first responders and military whose insurance doesn’t cover this. Recently, in honor of Zeke, we raised $11,000 for the NICU that will be managed by nurses so they can get kids some of the things they need that might not be covered by insurance.”
What does the future hold for you and your practice?
“Last year, we expanded the building and brought on Dr. Anna Story. If we bring on another good doctor, we’ll look into opening another location. Personally, I’ll probably never retire, although I might change my hours. As long as I have the ability to improve someone’s life, I will continue to do so. I want to watch my son grow up, and I would love to have another child. And I’d like to finally break 90 in golf.”