Define a Winning Business Strategy with Our Four Elements of C-A-R-E

Industry influencers are creating a defining moment for hearing healthcare businesses. Will yours be among those that rise to the challenge and thrive?

When you combine the economic decline created by the pandemic last year with the increasing presence and influence of Third Party Administrators (TPAs) and brand-name OTC options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the threats. So, what should you do about these threats? Well, any business coach worth his/her salt will tell you that the best defense is a good offense. That’s why it’s never more crucial to have a strategy for your business—one that’s focused on C-A-R-E.

Of course, patient care is always at the forefront of everything you do. And we’re all aware of the benefits of self-care (seeing to your own physical and mental needs). Those are both important, but they’re not the types of care to which I’m referring—I’m talking about business care!

How often do you really think about the wellness of your business? I don’t mean the day-to-day operations of working in the business. I’m talking about the strategies that safeguard you from the threats of matters like reduced reimbursements and unexpected shutdowns. I can’t promise an easy, magic solution. But I can give you an easy-to-remember formula that will help you to be more thoughtful about the current health and future of your business:

Let’s break down what it means to C-A-R-E for your business:

Create

Specifically, creating opportunities to help more people hear well. This one is fairly straightforward: it’s about marketing! Let the members of your community know who you are, what you do, why hearing wellness is so important, and why you and your practice are best equipped to serve their hearing healthcare needs. Here are some pointers for how to approach this with your marketing:

  • Establish a budget (as a general rule-of-thumb, we recommend 10-12 percent of your revenue goal)
  • Identify your strategy:
    • Diversify your communication approach, just like you would monetary investments. Direct mail, physician marketing, and community outreach are all still prevalent, among other traditional methods. It’s also more important than ever to have a strong digital presence.
    • Research the demographics of your community and identify target zip codes for mailers.
    • Strategize your reach and frequency with a calendar of marketing events.
  • Use call tracking software to assist in measuring return on investment (ROI) for each campaign.
  • Keep manufacturer co-op funds in mind. I heard a rumor that nearly 75 percent of co-op funds allotted to practices go to waste because they’re not used before they expire. Don’t let this happen to you!

If you’re thinking: “easier said than done,” talk to your Consult Account Manager about utilizing our in-house marketing agency for help with the planning, execution, and measurement of your marketing efforts.

Acquire

Once your marketing plan has created the opportunities, that doesn’t mean that your schedule automatically fills up. The purpose of a marketing plan is simply to get the phone to ring. It’s the responsibility of your front office staff to appropriately coordinate patient care and convert those incoming calls into appointments.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is each incoming call worth to your business? For example, I recently did the math with a practice, and we found that based on their average revenue per opportunity appointment, each time their phone rang, it represented a potential $950 in revenue.
  • Does your front office understand the importance of each incoming phone call?
  • Does your front office staff recognize their own importance? Have you told them? Not only do they often shape a patient’s first impression of the practice over the phone, but they set the tone as soon as a patient walks through your door.
  • Is your staff properly trained to triage calls and identify opportunity appointments?
  • Are there scripting and scheduling protocols in place that helps your front office staff set your providers up for success when patients come in for their appointments?

Retain

The typical hearing aid user will purchase an average of 3-4 pairs of devices in their lifetime. Unfortunately, customer loyalty is not a given. According to HubSpot’s research about customer acquisition and loyalty, 50 percent of U.S. consumers have left a brand that they were loyal to for a competitor. My point is that you should never get too comfortable, even when your business has a great number of loyal patients. Don’t underestimate the effort required to retain your existing patients. You should have a strategy for communicating routinely with patients in your database so that they don’t end up going elsewhere when they’re ready to purchase that next pair of hearing aids.

When keeping in touch with these patients, the focus should be on educating them about their options, so that they’re empowered to make informed decisions about their own hearing healthcare. A combination of letters and calls with targeted messaging is the key to success here. You can do it yourself, or opt for more turnkey approaches, like the Consult Database Program or Consult Upgrade. No matter the chosen approach, existing patients should make up approximately half (or more) of a practice’s hearing aids sales if said practice is five years old or over.

Expand

You should get the most out of the opportunities that you already have on your schedule. It’s kind of like working out. Some forms of exercise are more effective than others, depending on your goal. For example, the trainer at my gym taught me that if I only have 30 minutes, I should spend the majority of that time focused on strength training rather than cardio. How does that apply to your business? Well, if your goal is to help more people hear well, but there are limited hours in the week for you to do so, how do you make the most out of that time? Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Consider what you’re saying during your consultations. A study done by Hearing Health Matters found that patients’ perceptions and interest levels in hearing devices were significantly different pre and post-appointment.

  • Is it possible that what you are saying is making your patients uninterested in hearing devices? Are you doing the majority of talking instead of listening? Are you focusing too much on the features of the devices rather than the challenges/needs of the patient and the impact that the devices would have on their quality of communication? Have you considered that there might be a more effective way to conduct your consultations?
  • Improve your likelihood of success by including a companion. Are you making it easier on yourself to get patients to accept help by asking them to bring a loved one to their appointments and also involving those loved ones in the process?
  • Set up your schedule to effectively accommodate your patients. Does your schedule allow you to achieve your financial goals without sacrificing patient care? Do you know how many hours are required to do both?
  • Do you have a strategy for discussing purchasing options for patients who were not referred by a TPA? Do you verify benefits before each appointment to identify patients who are eligible for a discount program? Are your providers well-versed in discussing purchasing options with patients so that they’re providing price transparency and appropriately educating and empowering patients to make the choice that’s in their best interest?

Like personal wellness, one day of exercise a week isn’t going to get you in shape. Getting healthy and fit requires a constant and ongoing commitment. The same goes for your business. It takes continuous effort and some C-A-R-E. Can you get fit on your own? Sure, but it’s a lot easier and faster if you have a personal trainer to show you what to do, remind you how to do it right, and hold you accountable to your goals.

So, why not let Consult’s experienced team of experts act as personal trainers for your business?

About the Author

Ridgely Samuel joined Consult YHN in 2005. She has held several positions within the sales and operations teams but has found her passion for developing others in her current role as a Training Manager. Ridgely has experience working as a financial analyst for a former Fortune 500 company, holds a degree in Business Administration from Wake Forest University, and is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. When she’s not working or acting as a chauffeur for her two daughters, Ridgely can be found relaxing in a hammock with a novel, tossing tennis balls for her dog, or paddleboarding on the lake.

Own Your Success. Control Your Destiny. Your P&L is the Key to the Lock.

Whether you realize it or not, your business has a report card. Knowing how to read it and regularly reviewing it will empower you to control the performance of your business. Knowledge is power. It’s a cliché because it’s true. The more informed you are about the performance of your business, the better equipped you’ll be to make smart, strategic business decisions.

The report card in this case is your profit and loss statement (P&L), sometimes referred to as an income statement. When I start talking about P&Ls, often people’s eyes glaze over or they tell me “I’m not a numbers person.” The good news is – you don’t have to take a complex accounting course to glean helpful information from your P&L. However, as a business owner it’s important to understand the big picture of what it is: a report that shows the revenues and expenses of the business, and resulting profit or loss, over a specific time period (a month, a quarter, or a year).

Why is that important? And why can’t we just rely on your bank statement to tell us your profitability? Well, for a few reasons. The most important being that the P&L is the linchpin of the strategic planning process.

Step #1: Gather Information

Without a P&L, we either get stuck at Step One and can’t move forward, or we are forced to make some assumptions that may or may not be true, and therefore, compromise the validity of the rest of the process. With quality information from the P&L, you can gather several Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can then be compared to recommended benchmarks, including:

  • Average Selling Price (by payor types – private pay/insurance/third party administrators)
  • Average Margin per Unit
  • Gross Profit Percent
  • Expenses as a percent of revenue (i.e. advertising, payroll, rent, etc.)
  • Net Profit Percent

The analysis of these KPIs will give you an understanding of the financial health of your business above and beyond how much money is in your pocket at the end of the year.

Step #2: Identify Goals

Anyone who has read Stephen Covey’s bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, knows that you should always “begin with the end in mind.” So that means that before we can make a plan, we need to know what we are trying to accomplish. My question to you would be: How much revenue do you want your practice to generate? This is about the time that people switch from the glazed eyes to the dumbfounded look, and I often hear them say “I have no idea what’s even possible.” If you consider yourself to be one of those people, here are some guidelines that I would offer:

  1. Start with either your current revenue level or break-even point (the point at which you’ve covered all of your expenses and begin making a profit, which we can help you calculate).
  2. From that number, you should increase your revenue to the next desired level. When considering how much to add, consider either a percent growth rate or define the amount of money by which you need to grow to cover additional expenses. For example, are you looking to:
    • Pay off debt?
    • Incur capital expenditures for additional staff, locations, or renovations?
    • Purchase additional equipment?
    • Make personal investments (i.e. child’s college fund, retirement plan, buy a vacation home, etc.)?

When considering these or other factors, don’t just think short term. Whether you’re preparing the business for sale or planning to work in it for many years to come, we recommend identifying one, three, and five-year revenue goals.

As part of this process, Consult YHN’s P&L analysis tools and goal setting procedures will help you to create what we call Pro Forma P&Ls, meaning that they are projections of the future. As a result, you will have a figurative map with a big red star that says “you are here” at point A (current financial status) and pins at points B, C & D, which represent your destinations (financial goals).

Step #3 & #4: Devise Strategies & Implement the Plan

When choosing which strategies to implement, your Consult YHN Account Manager will help you quantify the financial impact of each option so that you can prioritize those that will have the most significant impact on both operational effectiveness and financial performance. Any changes to your processes, procedures, or marketing efforts should move you in the right direction toward achieving the agreed upon goals of your Pro Forma P&L.

Step #5: Track Results

While there are several additional KPIs that are important for measuring progress and evaluating behavior-based performance, the P&L should be prioritized as one of the tracking mechanisms reviewed on a routine basis.  As a parent, I pay close attention to my kids’ school report cards. I don’t want to wait until the end of the year to know how they did on any given subject. I want to know as often as possible how they are performing and whether or not there are specific subjects that need special attention to get them up to the scholastic levels where I expect them to be. In order to do so, I’ll either work with them myself or hire a tutor to make sure that they are getting the attention and support that they need and deserve. That way, by the end of the school year there are no surprises from final grades, and I know that I’ve done everything that I can to help them succeed.  Why would you treat your business any differently? By reviewing your P&L monthly, you’ll have an indicator of which areas need your attention and focus so that you can either fix it yourself or utilize your Consult YHN Account Manager to help, leaving you with no surprises and the security of knowing that you’ve done everything within your power to attain the goals you set out to accomplish. 

Another frequently asked question at this stage: “Is a monthly review really necessary? Wouldn’t quarterly be okay?”   Sure, quarterly is better than semi-annually or annually. But if you’re looking at your P&L monthly, and other tracking indicators even more often, then you have the luxury of knowing that you haven’t let too much time pass in case you’ve gone off course. If you wait too long, you may not be able to make up the lost revenue in time to achieve each target as scheduled. 

Step #6: Evaluate the Plan

Once you know how well you are tracking toward goal achievement, you can re-evaluate the plan itself: Are your goals still realistic? Is there anything that has thrown a wrench in the plan that requires you to re-evaluate? For example: Are you down a provider unexpectedly? Has your provider mix suddenly shifted due to a windfall of insurance or TPA patients? Did a pandemic strike the entire world and shut down the business for several weeks/months? In times like these, it’s critical to understand the impact on your P&L. You’ll need to re-consider your goals for the year, conduct a cash-flow analysis and catch-up analysis, and revise your business plan accordingly. Don’t worry if you don’t know where to begin with these tasks. That’s why you have a Consult YHN Account Manager.

A healthy P&L is important not only for the business owner, but for all of the stakeholders of the business. That includes the business owner/administrators, the employees, the patients, and by extension, the families of each of those individuals. By focusing on the financial health of your business and ensuring that you’re doing “All The Right Things,” you’re also doing the right thing for those who rely on your business to maintain their quality of life; whether it’s by means of a paycheck, better hearing, or improved communication with a loved one. Many people rely on your business to support them, so make sure that routine review of your P&L is part of your future plan to keep it healthy and thriving.

About the Author

Ridgely Samuel joined Consult YHN in 2005. She has held several positions within the sales and operations teams but has found her passion for developing others in her current role as a Training Manager. Ridgely has experience working as a financial analyst for a former Fortune 500 company, holds a degree in Business Administration from Wake Forest University, and is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. When she’s not working or acting as a chauffeur for her two daughters, Ridgely can be found relaxing in a hammock with a novel, tossing tennis balls for her dog, or paddleboarding on the lake.

Four Steps to Create a Dream Team

The most important asset that you have as a business owner/manager is the people that work for you. The lesson I’ve learned from any underdog sports movie (i.e. The Mighty Ducks, Dodgeball, Cool Runnings, Step Up 2, should I keep going?) is that you can take a ragtag group of misfits and turn them into winners as long as they have the right attitude, an intense training montage, plus a leader and/or purpose that motivates them. But it doesn’t just happen in the movies—I’ve seen it done in clinics all over the country.
Here’s what it takes to build your own dream team right in your own practice (no sports equipment or rigorous physical activity required):

Step #1: Hire for capability and train for competency

This is the “attitude” element of our underdog team analogy. Soft skills like emotional intelligence and the ability to make good decisions are paramount to professional success. Regulating emotions and correctly interpreting the verbal and nonverbal behaviors of others is a key strength in building rapport and trust with patients. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, 57 percent of senior leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills. An employee with a growth mindset has the capability for lifelong learning, which is at the core of agility, flexibility, and innovation. Training for competency comes in at Step 3.

Step #2: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Vision – Share the company’s purpose. Make sure every employee understands the company’s mission, values, and vision. Working from a shared philosophy for a common cause gets people excited about their jobs. When should you do this? I’d recommend annually or semi-annually during a company meeting.

Expectations – The behaviors and outcomes that you want from your staff must be spelled out, in writing. There are two reasons for this. First, they can’t read your mind. Second, they probably aren’t going to remember a passing conversation that took place between seeing patients and/or answering phone calls. Let’s face it, most of us can’t remember what we ate for dinner two days ago or even how old we are (admit it—you have to pause and think about it for a second). Expectation conversations can be kicked-off during a company meeting and then should be reinforced during one-on-one meetings between your staff and their direct supervisor. If your practice doesn’t have designated direct supervisors, it needs to be defined – even if it’s that two employees officially report to the business owner.

Feedback – Feedback must be behavior-based and timely. Provide it the moment that it’s applicable (if appropriate) or shortly thereafter. Changing behaviors in your staff is kind of like raising kids. We must be patient, we must be consistent, and most importantly, we must look in the mirror to consider which of their behaviors might be reflections of our own (eek!). My four-year-old is notoriously bossy. At any hour of the day, I may hear her walk into the kitchen and demand: “I’m thirsty. I need milk!” My routine feedback (after a deep breath) is always, “Don’t you mean; ‘May I please have some milk?’” It didn’t take a sit-down feedback session, but she knows that I believe there is a better way to handle the request. So, if you observe an opportunity to make suggestions for improved behaviors, do so while the situation is fresh in both of your minds (but not in front of others—embarrassing someone is bad for morale). These verbal feedback opportunities can be reinforced with written reminders or formal performance reviews as well.

Accountability – The best tool for accountability is a Daily Huddle when everyone on the team comes together to discuss how they will pull their weight in accomplishing the businesses’ overall mission/goals that day. Those underdog teams who end up victorious don’t adopt an ‘every man for himself’ attitude—they rally together before every play/inning/period to talk about each person’s role and how they’ll work together. Your business’ day should be no different.

Step #3: Invest in employee development

Developing your people doesn’t have to be a significant monetary investment. It could mean setting aside the time to allow them to take advantage of Consult’s Telelearning and Employee Development Programs (EDPs). When they take part in training courses, ask them to come back and report on at least one takeaway from the session. If you’re expecting them to change behaviors post-training, encouraging continuous long-term improvements is a better strategy than expecting radical overnight success. If you hire the right people with a growth mindset, you can train them to do the job the way that you want them to do it.

Step #4: Recognize accomplishments (big and small)

When your staff does something right, don’t let it go unrecognized. Remember my daughter’s demanding ways and the immediate feedback that I’ve been giving her? Well, there’s hope for her yet. Now when she walks into the kitchen, four out of five times she’ll say, “Mommy, may I please have some milk?” To which I respond: “Thank you for asking so nicely, yes you may!” With that one sentence, I’ve given feedback, recognized her accomplishment, and made her feel good about herself, therefore increasing the likelihood of her continuing to behave in this manner. How do you apply that to your staff? Perhaps you might buy the office lunch if they meet the prior month’s sales goal. Or it could be as simple as saying, “I heard how you handled that phone call. You do a great job representing us over the phone. Thank you, keep it up!”

You might be thinking ‘four steps – easier said than done.’ The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. The details within all of these steps are what the Consult YHN Account Managers help practices with every day. So, if I could add one final step it would be:

Step #5:  Ask for help! That is why we’re here, after all.

About the Author

Ridgely Samuel joined Consult YHN in 2005. She has held several positions within the sales and operations teams but has found her passion for developing others in her current role as a Training Manager. Ridgely has experience working as a financial analyst for a former Fortune 500 company, holds a degree in Business Administration from Wake Forest University, and is a certified Six Sigma Green Belt. When she’s not working or acting as a chauffeur for her two daughters, Ridgely can be found relaxing in a hammock with a novel, tossing tennis balls for her dog, or paddleboarding on the lake.