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.

How to Build Your Company Brand by Hiring for Culture and Engagement

It’s estimated that there will be 20,000 job openings for audiologists in the U.S. by 2028. Unfortunately, there are not enough licensed professionals in the field, audiology programs in the U.S., or students in those programs to keep up with accelerating demand. In fact, there may be more audiologists retiring from the profession over the next decade than entering it.

When you take this dearth of providers and factor in the cost of hiring new employees (an average of $4,000+ per hire), the cost of employee churn (fees paid, human capital involved with the onboarding process, downtime to train), and the damage done to your staff morale and patients’ perception of your practice, the price of failure becomes quite clear.

Ultimately, for your business to be successful, you need to be competitive in identifying, attracting, and hiring top talent. If you don’t hire the best people, your competitors will—it’s a zero-sum game. The upside is that when you get it right and hire the best, you’ll be in a great position to develop the culture you need to take your practice to the next level and become an “Employer of Choice” in the hearing healthcare field.

Hiring for Attitude & Culture

Your “brand” is who you are. It’s reflected to the outside world through the prism of your practice culture. It’s how your community, patients, employees, and competitors perceive you. For better or worse, it’s best reflected by the team you’ve assembled. The good news is that this is all within your control. Should you desire a different culture, a better brand, you can create it. And you do that by hiring the right people.

To define “the right people” in the context of hiring, we should start by reviewing the difference between skills and traits: skills are relatively easy to teach or develop while traits are very difficult to teach or develop. Now consider how you vet and weigh skills and traits when making hiring decisions. Why are skills so important to you and could traits be even more important? Remember: the traits of your employees will rarely change, the collection of traits across your entire staff is your culture, and your culture is what defines your brand.

Researcher Mark Murphy’s three-year “Hiring for Attitude” study of 20,000 new hires at over 300 organizations showed that most “misses” (bad hires) are not due to issues of technical competence (lacking skills), but rather issues around attitude, attributes, and emotional intelligence (traits). Of the 9,200 new hires that failed, the vast majority—81 percent—failed because they didn’t have the right traits for the job, resulting in poor cultural alignment to the organization.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since skills are relatively easy to vet. Did you ever hire an audiologist who didn’t work out? Did they have the skills for the job? Or was it something else that led to their failure—attitude, work ethic, emotional intelligence (EQ)? You need to identify which traits are most important to your organization’s culture and then vet for them during the interview process.

This is my own personal list (feel free to make it yours!):

  • Work ethic
  • Coachability
  • Empathy (EQ)
  • Respect
  • Self-awareness (EQ)
  • Positivity
  • Passion
  • Energy

It’s not always easy to resist the urge to overvalue skills due to cognitive biases at play. Those same biases can also cause us to minimize the importance of traits when we make hiring decisions. Have you ever described your ideal candidate to a recruiter as someone who can “hit the ground running” because they “have all the required skills” or, one of my favorites, “requires little supervision because I don’t have time to manage them?

I’ve heard these kinds of statements a lot in my 20+ years as a professional recruiter. And when I do, I know that it says far more about the hiring manager and the organization’s culture than about the candidate they’re seeking. If you have a sound grasp of what’s teachable and are willing to teach it, you’ll stand a much greater chance of hiring the right people and building your best culture. While it may seem like an arduous task to build skills in an employee, remember that it’s almost impossible to build or change traits, attributes, or attitudes.

Building & Maintaining Your Culture

As an owner or practice manager, don’t forget that you play a very important role in building and maintaining your desired workplace culture—you’re required to lead! Be mindful of how you carry yourself and how you interact with your staff and patients. All of your actions and behaviors matter. These are the behaviors that effective leaders exhibit:

  • Exude unerring positivity
  • Communicate with utmost clarity
  • Possess a clear vision and work tirelessly to gain alignment to that vision
  • Listen with compassion and empathy
  • Build trusting relationships with words and actions
  • Express gratitude

You should intentionally engage in these actions, behaviors, and attitudes every day. Great leadership is not accidental!

Becoming and ‘Employer of Choice’

You’ve hired all the right people, they’re all highly engaged, and finally, you have the culture you’ve always wanted and known you deserved. Congratulations! All that’s left to do is maintain the culture you’ve worked so hard to build and solidify yourself as an “Employer of Choice.”

The best way to do this is to first, identify your “brand champions” (i.e., the best of the best, the most engaged of all the engaged). They’re easy to find. Simply look for employees who:

  1. genuinely enjoy their job/don’t just do it for the money,
  2. look for opportunities to mentor, and
  3. demonstrate the behaviors of leaders (see above)

Second, give them additional responsibilities! Any good leader loves a good challenge. When you give these employees opportunities to mentor, encourage them to evangelize your practice through social media, community groups, and professional associations, and hold them accountable, they will value themselves even more, and then they will thrive.

Conclusion

Creating a great culture, one that emphasizes growth and development, will demonstrate your organization’s value to candidates. When you offer opportunities to learn and grow, when you can site real-life examples of employee development, and when you can identify an evangelist within your organization who can speak to your culture of growth, you will then be in a great position to attract additional, like-minded employees.

Practices that utilize Consult’s industry-leading human resources consulting and staffing solutions see incremental increases in revenue and the highest levels of measurable engagement. That’s because our experienced recruiters vet candidates for the highest skill level as well as aligned cultural fit.

About the Author

Ernie Paolini is responsible for Human Resources and Recruiting Services at Consult YHN. He has more than 20 years of experience in building and managing technology-driven HR and recruitment organizations. His areas of expertise include behavioral interviewing, employee relations, compliance, and onboarding.

Are You Engaged…To Your Business?

Did you know that seven of the ten most popular days to get engaged all fall in December? Perhaps not surprising given the pandemic’s impact on practically everything in our lives, the traditional engagement season (Thanksgiving to New Year’s) looked a little different last year. In fact, Valentine’s Day dethroned Christmas as the most popular day to pop the question in 2020 (most likely because it took place pre-COVID).

So, what does this mean to your business? Did you get engaged there as well? Do you have plans or are you alone? Are you feeling stressed or uncommitted? For the unattached or unengaged, the future can seem lonely. That’s why below, we outline the steps you can take to get engaged, plan the perfect spring wedding, then ultimately marry your plan for success!

Step 1: Meet someone.

Are you lonely? Can you meaningfully discuss your profit and loss statement (P&L) with your employee(s)? Office “romances” don’t work – find someone outside of your practice. A trusted business advisor like your Consult Account Manager brings perspective from the industry, shares what similar practices are doing right (and wrong), and minimizes the trial-and-error method of running a business. This was particularly true during the COVID crisis. Many of our members have reported that the sense of belonging and knowing someone cared—about them, their staff, and their business—were some of the most appreciated services of 2020. Talking to yourself in the mirror, brainstorming ideas, and trying to convince yourself everything was going to be “ok” probably did little to actually relieve any of the loneliness or confusion you may have been feeling. Fortunately, you don’t need to be alone.

Step 2: Pick out your ring.

A clear sign that you’re getting engaged soon is the conversation about what the ring will look like – the shape, the style, the size, and, of course, the price tag? Have you picked out your business’ “ring” yet? Think about the following:
  • Will you sell more private hearing aids or participate in more third-party administrator plans?
  • Are you expanding your business or selling it?
  • Do you have enough space?
  • Are you fully staffed?
  • Do you have the right employees in the right positions?
  • Do you want to be a low-cost/low-value or high-cost/high-value provider or emphasize diagnostic care?
  • Do you have a revenue goal for 2021, 2022, 2023, and beyond?
  • If someone came in and offered to buy your practice tomorrow, do you have a price in mind?
Asking yourself these questions will help you define the kind of business you have, the kind you want to run, and what you want its future to look like.

Step 3: Make a plan.

Did you look at your calendar on February 13th and realize you didn’t have plans for Valentine’s Day? Do you operate your business each day without plans for the next day? Despite the many industry changes, too many practice owners fail to adjust accordingly. For example:
  • Have you seen your marketing become less effective? Make plans to adjust your marketing budget and strategy to focus on more effective messaging and mediums.
  • Tired of shifting piles of paper charts off your desk? Make plans to convert to a practice management system (PMS).
Don’t just sit in your office hoping tomorrow will look different—decide to actually do something today! Define a goal then list out the steps required to make it a reality. Resolve that the stress of doing nothing can only be ameliorated by acting. Why sit idle watching other businesses marry their plans for success? Set a date and start planning!

Step 4: Commit.

An engagement is a commitment, so treat it accordingly. Define your business lifecycle. Make plans to attain any goals you set. Work with someone outside the business but commit to the people in your business as well. Are they being developed? Are they reaching their goals? Review your business regularly—you should study your financials monthly, not just at tax time. Spend time understanding the relationship with your business and make it work. Successful marriages don’t just happen—they take a continuous, concerted effort.

Don’t wait for the next engagement season—
get engaged today!

About the Author

Scott Berger joined Consult YHN in 2010 and currently serves as our Regional Sales Manager - Inside Sales/Hospital. Previously, he spent nine years leading our Sales Analytics department. Scott holds an MBA in finance from Hofstra University and has several years of experience working in operations, analytics, and supply chain in the medical device industry. He is passionate about working directly with customers in an entrepreneurial setting.

Seven Tips for Protecting Your Business’s Data

It’s Monday morning. You arrive at the office early to get a jump on the week ahead. You log into your computer, take a sip of coffee, and suddenly you have a sinking feeling as you read the message on your screen: “All your files have been encrypted. Pay the ransom within 72 hours or say goodbye to your files forever.”

This is something no business owner ever wants to experience. Maybe you can afford to pay the ransom. Maybe not. Maybe the hacker will send you the decryption key. Maybe not. Maybe you can get by without those files and still stay in business. Maybe not.

What do you do?

Ideally, you’ll never find yourself in this situation because you’ve taken preventative measures. Sounds complicated, right? Yes, cybersecurity is complicated. It can also be overwhelming and expensive. It’s certainly not fun (well, for most people). And while there’s no guaranteed protection from these types of attacks, the good news is, a few simple measures can greatly reduce your risk.

Let’s put things in perspective: protecting your data is a bit like protecting your home. You have no way of knowing if a burglar will ever pay you a visit or how he/she might attempt to get in, so you’ll need to make some decisions. You already have locks on your doors and windows, but you may also choose to install an alarm system, or video cameras, or get a large dog. Maybe you’ll opt for all of the above. The point is, whatever measures you take are better than taking no measures at all.

When it comes to protecting your business’s data, leaving your front door wide open shouldn’t be an option. At least consider taking these seven basic steps to boost your cybersecurity:

1. Be smart about your passwords.

Use unique passwords for all online accounts, and remember that when it comes to passwords, longer is stronger. Passphrases that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols work well. Something along the lines of “I’m so glad 2020 is behind us!” is far more secure than “mary88.” Using unique passwords for different accounts is important so that a hacker can’t access all of your accounts if he/she gains access to one of your passwords. I know what you’re thinking: “But remembering all those passwords is way too difficult!” That’s where a password manager comes in. Password managers can securely store your passwords so that you no longer need to memorize them. LastPass is a good option, but there are many others out there as well.

2. Use multi-factor authentication where possible.

Huh? Multi-what?? Multi-factor authentication (MFA) simply means a user will need more than just your username and password to access your account. The most common form of MFA involves entering a 6-digit code that has been texted to your cell phone after you’ve entered your username and password. In this case, a hacker would need your username, password, and cell phone in order to access your account. This is an important layer of security for your most critical accounts, including your financial accounts, password manager, and yes, even your email.

3. Keep your software up to date.

When Windows says it has updates to install, don’t put them off. The same goes for your anti-virus software (more on that later) and the operating systems on your mobile devices. The bad guys continue to find ways to hack into various systems. That’s why software companies are constantly releasing patches to plug the holes that hackers have exploited. Be sure to help them plug those holes!

4. Install anti-virus software.

Microsoft Defender comes standard with Windows 10 at no extra cost. Symantec and McAfee are also good options. Choose your software, install it on every computer in your office, and keep it updated. This may be your last line of defense.

5. Never share credentials.

Assign unique accounts (email, practice management software, etc.) to all employees, limit their permissions, and NEVER share your passwords with them. If an employee leaves, disable his or her account immediately. A disgruntled employee with access to your accounts can do a great deal of damage.

6. Lock your screen.

Getting up to grab a cup of coffee? Press the Windows Key and L on your keyboard before you get up. It only takes a fraction second. Never leave your computer unlocked. Remember that disgruntled employee we just mentioned? Don’t take a chance—just lock the computer and re-enter your password when you return. Again, it only takes a second.

7. Educate your employees.

Countless ransomware (and other cyber) attacks begin with a simple phishing email. This is an email that appears to come from a reputable source, maybe your bank, a vendor, or even an employee. These emails typically contain malicious attachments or links, or in some cases, they simply aim to start a dialogue with you in the hopes of tricking you into giving up information (account credentials, social security number, etc.). Learn about phishing and educate your team. Talk about it often. Sure, your employees will probably get tired of hearing about it, but they also might think twice before clicking on a link that promises a $100 gift card.

There are many more steps that you can take to protect yourself and your business from cyberattacks (data backups, secure Wi-Fi, firewalls, etc.). And although no one is ever completely safe from cyber threats, every step listed above will bolster your security and reduce your chances of becoming a victim. You don’t need to have Fort Knox-level security—just don’t leave your front door wide open.

About the Author

Bob Lind is the Director of IT and Project Management at Consult YHN. He joined the company in 2011 and has over 25 years of experience in the Information Technology field. When he’s not trying to mitigate cyber threats, Bob enjoys wine tasting with his wife and playing lead guitar for a local classic rock cover band.

2020 Year-in-Review

As we embark on a new year, let’s take a moment to appreciate the past one—2020 was a wild ride!

Together, we succeeded. We led our members through the pandemic. We leaned on and learned from one another – navigating all roadblocks while preparing to thrive in 2021 and beyond! Join us in celebrating our best moments.

Your success is our success. Here’s to even more in 2021!

About the Author

Nicole Finkbiner joined Consult YHN as the Marketing Communications Specialist in 2018 with nearly a decade of communications experience. Over the course of her career, Nicole has created a wide array of different content for various mediums and outlets—news articles, press releases, arts features, product descriptions, small business websites, e-blasts, social media posts, promotional materials, and more. In her free time, the Philadelphia native enjoys soaking up the city’s culture and binge-watching TV shows.

Opportunity Mindset: Why It Matters and How to Adopt it in Your Practice

What is an opportunity mindset?

I know what you might be thinking: “Uh oh—must be another one of those Consult buzzwords!” But, at least it’s not another acronym, right?

All jokes aside, opportunity mindset is essentially a way of thinking and doing—an intentional, positive, and action-oriented attitude. And it relates to everyone in the practice, regardless of his/her position. A person can only achieve as much as he or she focuses on. So, if you focus on finding, embracing, and seizing opportunities, eventually, you’ll enjoy more opportunities. Make sense?

What does it mean to have an opportunity mindset?

Great question! I can sum it up in one word: PROACTIVE. It’s all about being proactive in creating as many opportunities as you can, not only to grow your business but to help more people in your community hear well again.

It’s not sitting around and waiting for the phone to ring, but rather picking up the phone yourself and initiating a conversation with your patients. It’s asking patients who are satisfied with your services if there is anyone they know who could also benefit from them. It’s calling Mr. Jones after he failed his hearing aid evaluation and refused to commit to hearing aids to see how he’s doing and whether he has any questions.

Everyone in the practice has the ability to do these things—providers, front office staff, patient recall specialists, even directors, and owners. If you have one person on your team adopt this mentality, it’s a plus. But if you can get your entire team on the opportunity mindset bandwagon, your practice’s entire energy will shift, and growth will happen naturally as a result.

How does one adopt an opportunity mindset?

So, how does one adopt an opportunity mindset? First and foremost, it’s a decision to commit. Once you decide this is what you want for your practice and its future, YOU become the trailblazer. Leaders need to set the bar, dedicate themselves to the concept, and demonstrate what exactly an “opportunity mindset” looks like.  

To do this, your team needs to see YOU proactively:

The entire team needs to engage in this behavior for the culture to shift. Yes, you read that correctly: EVERYONE. No one is exempt. If you are not focusing on it and would like to make it a priority or would like support for the processes you currently have in place, your Account Manager and Consult YHN’s experienced trainers would be more than happy to help. However, the buck cannot be passed. The only way for a practice to adopt an opportunity mindset is for its leaders to set an example, make opportunity creation a priority, hold their staff accountable, and follow up. Once you accomplish those items, the magic will start to happen!

Why should my practice adopt an opportunity mindset?

Now more than ever it’s essential for practice owners to adopt this mentality, especially because many are trying to make up for lost time and revenue as a result of the pandemic. It’s one of the core fundamentals of growing a business. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything and is risk-free—you have far more to gain than lose by making a simple adjustment to your way of thinking.

Every Consult Account Manager is an expert in creating an opportunity mindset, whether it’s in a practice, Ear, Nose, and Throat clinic, hospital, or university. It’s what we do every day—just ask any of our thousands of engaged Associates. It’s also only one of many different areas where we can help practice owners grow their top-line revenue and bottom-line profit.

To learn new strategies on how to be more PROACTIVE and DRIVE more patients through your door, reach out to your Account Manager, join one of our weekly teletrainings, or contact Consult YHN today!

About the Author

Kate Thomas is an Assistant Account Manager and has been with Consult YHN since 2009. Before moving into her current role in 2016, she worked in the company’s Recruiting Department. Kate supports the East division and their accounts through front office and physician marketing trainings, community outreach support, and anything else needed to help practice owners achieve their professional goals. When not working, Kate enjoys gardening, yoga, meditation, running, hiking, cooking, and anything else that allows her to use her creative mind. Whatever she’s doing, it almost always involves her husband and three beautiful children.