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Total Balance Physical Therapy & Fitness

Apr 13, 2022

The story of Total Balance begins with one unlikely object: a gumball machine.

It was this gumball machine that inspired Dr. Dan Johnson to open the doors to his entrepreneurial mindset and propose his business plan idea to his peers on the school bus: purchase 1,000 gumball machines, place them in high traffic areas throughout his community, and make thousands of dollars. While his gumball business never came to fruition, this moment was the very beginning of Dr. Johnson’s journey as an entrepreneur.

All throughout graduate school, Dr. Johnson knew he wanted to start a private physical therapy practice of his own someday. When he wasn’t studying, he was researching and drafting a business plan, one step at a time. It wasn’t until two years after graduating, however, that he began pursuing his dream. He found a classmate of his, Dr. Mark Laraway, who was interested in partnering to open a private practice.

A gym came up for sale in North Fargo, and before he knew it, Total Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness was open and ready for business.

“I’m entrepreneurial-minded…it’s what makes me tick.  And when I saw a huge need for these types of services in the Fargo/Moorhead area, I couldn’t help but move forward. It’s just the way that my mind works and who I’ve always been as a human.”

Total Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness officially opened in November of 2017 and has been growing ever since. It’s growth and success are attributed to its unique business model, which focuses on combining the best parts of physical therapy and fitness center. “There are people who perform therapy in a gym setting without owing the gym, and a lot of people who run physical therapy clinics, but very few physical therapy practices own the fitness center that their clinic is based out of,” explained Dr. Johnson. “Because of that, very few practices have been able to grow in the way that we have.”

Within two years of opening, Total Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness expanded into two additional locations: South Fargo and Hawley.


But the growing doesn’t stop there! A native of Moorhead, MN, Dr. Johnson knew firsthand just how important it is to have quality, thriving businesses on the east side of the Red River.  When he saw how supported and successful his Hawley, MN location was doing, he knew his next step: expanding into Moorhead. All he was missing was the capital to do so…

In 2021, Dr. Johnson worked with Dakota Business Lending and Alerus to utilize the SBA 504 loan program and purchase a building in Moorhead to house Total Balance’s fourth combination gym and fitness location. The program offered a lower down payment and longer term, all at a fixed, below-market rate, making this expansion possible and affordable. “The SBA loan is a great program for larger projects like ours,” shared Dr. Johnson. “It allowed us to pursue the location in Moorhead that we potentially wouldn’t have been able to before. It made it affordable to grow in this type of way.” Dr. Johnson stated he will highly consider utilizing the program again in the future if needed.

“The overall process was an extremely positive experience. The SBA 504 program is so complex, but Dakota Business Lending substantially lessened the burden that we had to do ourselves. They did a phenomenal job of being a guide through that process and I am very appreciative of that.”

Moorhead location

Total Balance has received incredible support at all four locations and is proud to serve its communities. Dr. Johnson continues to give back in any way he can and is a proud sponsor and supporter of St. Joseph’s School in Moorhead and other organizations and nonprofits throughout the FM area.

What started out as an idea and two founding partners has now grown to a thriving private practice with over 20 full-time and close to 30 part-time employees, and with it has brought a huge learning curve.


“The internet has become the great ‘equalizer,'” shared Dr. Johnson. “It’s amazing what you can learn from other intelligent people throughout the world.”

He encourages other business owners to do their research, seek the wisdom of those who have done something similar, and apply what they can to their own business.

But all in all, Dr. Johnson loves the challenge.

“When you own a business, you’re constantly reminded that you always have the ability to be better.  I love the problem solving, complex problems, and critical thinking that comes along with it. I’m constantly looking for creative solutions and ways to grow, which makes every day new and exciting.”

For more information on Total Balance Physical Therapy and Fitness, visit their website.

This article was written by Dakota Business Lending with permission from Total Balance and is not to be edited or redistributed without permission.