How You React to the Current Circumstances Could Define the Future of Your Business

What do you get when you mix a global pandemic + unprecedented unemployment + peaceful protests for social justice mixed with destructive riots? The answer: a world in crisis mode. How does that make you feel? Defeated? Like there’s nothing that you can personally do to change the course of events? Of course, we all feel that way to a certain extent. It’s the easiest, most natural reaction to everything that’s happening. So, then I ask myself, “what can we tell Associates to keep their staff motivated?” When their business has been significantly impacted and they’re considering how to keep the business afloat, what should they access? What steps should they take and what changes should they make immediately? What can they do to bounce back? And, how does a setback impact overall goals for the year?

The conclusion that I have come to is comprised of two things:

  1. Stay positive and motivated
  2. Focus on what you can control

Staying Positive and Motivated

Staying positive (and motivated) amid a crisis is difficult, but it can be done. When is the last time that you paused to think about why you do what you do?  How often do you share that with your staff? Do you have a mission statement? Does it effectively communicate your passion for helping people to sustain a higher quality of life? During this crisis, healthcare and connections with loved ones are more important than ever. While hearing may not be a life or death matter, it is directly linked to mental health and cognition. Has there ever been a time in recent history when it is more important for anyone, especially patients in our target demographic, to do all they can to preserve a sound mind (no pun intended)? So, start by reminding yourself of why you do what you do, and communicate that to your co-workers. After you do, you might find that their reactions will inspire and motivate you in return.

Focus on What You Can Control

Next, we need to remember that there are factors we can control and factors that are out of our control. Let go of the items that are out of your control and focus on the three items that you can control:

  1. The thoughts you think
  2. The images you visualize, and
  3. The actions you take.

Every person in the practice can control certain aspects of their day, including how they interact with patients. There will come a time (or several times) that we all need to take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we did everything that we could to help our patients move forward with hearing treatment. Keeping in mind those items that we can control, I’ve compiled a checklist for some of the key players in the practice:

Checklist for Front Office Professionals:

  • Proper phone etiquette
  • Triage to determine the proper action (remote care, curbside service, or an appointment)
  • Identify out of warranty patients requesting service and schedule the appointment appropriately
  • Convert opportunity calls into appointments
  • Ask for a Third Party (companion) for every opportunity appointment (in-person or virtually)
  • Follow confirmation protocols to minimize no-shows and last-minute cancellations
  • Identify areas where you could sharpen your skills and ask for help

Checklist for Providers:

  • Follow a sales process to ensure consistent inpatient experience
  • Conduct the evaluation using the Third Party (companion), whether in-person or virtually
  • Make a solid recommendation for the solution if hearing loss is identified
  • Provide “Care After No” by conducting tested-not-treated follow-up phone calls
  • Provide “Care After Yes” by conducting follow-up calls to patients who chose to accept treatment
  • Ask for testimonials and referrals
  • Identify areas where you could you sharpen your skills to motivate patients into a treatment plan and ask for help

Checklist for Owners/Directors of Operations:

  • Define the business’ strategy for utilizing remote care, curbside services, and in-person appointments
  • Routinely review your financial situation: monthly P&L review and weekly or bi-weekly update of the cash-flow analysis/projections
  • Implement tracking procedures for opportunity creation and other key performance indicators
  • Amend your marketing budget and plan considering the altered circumstances
  • Implement a block schedule that reserves time for enough opportunities to reach the business’ financial goals
  • Monitor the block schedule for compliance and achievement
  • Communicate responsibilities and practice goals with the staff
  • Utilize the daily huddle to create a culture of accountability and teamwork
  • Encourage staff development by offering opportunities for skill development
  • Celebrate wins/achievements
  • Identify areas where you could sharpen your skills as a leader/manager and ask for help

In the chaos of our world today, we know that the hearing industry will continue to change and fluctuate, but we also know that more and more patients continue to struggle from hearing loss.  The changes in society and our industry are out of our control. The number of patients seeking help for hearing loss in these crazy times is also out of our control. However, our actions in response to the people who are seeking help are 100 percent within our control. By tackling this checklist, you can be confident that you are doing everything you can to effectively provide a solution for your patients’ hearing challenges. If and when you ask for help, rest assured that Consult YHN has the knowledge, skills, resources, and experience to guide you through any and all of the items on this checklist. We, too, are focusing on what we can control so that we can help you to do the same. Taking these steps together should give us all peace-of-mind that our businesses will continue helping more people hear well – both now and in the future.

About the Author

Dr. Kari Londo joined Consult YHN in 2019 with more than 12 years of experience as a clinical Audiologist. She received her doctoral degree in Audiology from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. Kari has a deep understanding of the hearing industry, having previously worked directly with patients in private practice and ENT, as an Account Manager for a hearing aid manufacture, and now on the business side as a Consult YHN Account Manager. She is passionate about improving the lives of individuals with hearing loss and helping hearing practices grow by helping these individuals. When she’s not working, Kari can be found playing volleyball, socializing with friends, or enjoying the outdoors.

Telehearing Care: Party Like it’s 2020

In the March/April 2020 issue of Audiology Today, the magazine published by the American Academy of Audiology, an article titled, “Party Like it’s 1999,” featured a comparison of 1999 predictions on the future of the audiology profession from top leaders in audiology with today’s 2020 professional status. Revealing their hindsight perspective on those predictions, the authors humbly and humorously fessed-up to whether they were on or off the mark of where audiology would be 20 years into this new millennium. The reflection views on the then versus now are enlightening.

Lisa Hunter, Ph.D., professor at the University of Cincinnati, cautiously remarked that 20 years ago she predicted that the doctoral status of audiologists would grow slowly into the title through the integration of evolved procedures that define best practices in audiology. Unfortunately, commenting on her current students’ externship experiences, she indicated that to her things had not progressed in hearing care at all stating, “By and large, these students are witnessing audiology practices similar to what I saw 30 or more years ago.” The tone in the statement reflects caution in the lack of progression in the profession. In a similar light, David Fabry, Ph.D., Editor in Chief of Audiology Today, commented that, “Telemedicine is easier than ever and yet clinicians have not adopted it widely as a means to combat commoditization of their role in hearing health care.”

Dr. Fabry’s sentence springboards the discussion of, “Can I still party like it’s 1999 in 2020?” Well, “not really” is the answer. However, you can party like it’s 2020 in 2020.

The hearing healthcare environment is rapidly changing, and hearing care providers must change with it. The best way to adapt is to implement modern methods of providing services. Utilizing technology in the form of Your Telehearing Care is the most logical and easiest method to pursue. There are so many reasons why this modern method of hearing healthcare can benefit a practice and the patients they serve.
First and foremost, preparing for the now. When limiting the exposure of human contact is required, such as with COVID-19, the use of smartphones for remote basic programming and counseling is a huge benefit for patients. However, the ability to examine patients to determine needs or to apply sophisticated programming adjustments requires patient access to in-clinic services. With Your Telehearing Care, minimal human exposure is achieved. Essentially, a practice owner or provider, centralized at home or at a main office, can perform 360º of audiology services to new and current patients located at another practice site with the help of only one other person in the office where the patient is located. By combining minimal physical contact with proactive infection control procedures, a clinic can adhere to best practices in a safe environment. Approaching business operations the same way as in 1999 isn’t viable in today’s hearing healthcare payor landscape.  Seniors continuously move from private pay to third party payor/administrator (TPA) entities, as made evident by expanding Medicare Advantage enrollment over the past decade. At the same time, networks that manage the hearing aid benefits from the TPAs entice enrollment by offering significantly reduced and inclusive hearing aid pricing to their members with the members purchasing the hearing aids directly from them. The in-network provider simply receives a dispensing fee to deliver and service the hearing aids. In order ensure a successful business today and in the future, clinicians must modernize operations by maximizing schedule efficiency and utilizing human resources effectively while maintaining quality patient care. Your Telehearing Care is the solution to navigate this modern landscape. Another 1999 tradition still prevalent today is that practice owners service patients who travel up to 90 minutes one-way to receive care or the owner/employee travels a similar amount of time to a satellite office to provide services in that area. The question is “Why?” Isn’t that what we did 30 years ago? Windshield time is a significant obstacle to a productive day, and can have negative side effects for both the provider and the patient.
Driving a long distance in order to make it on time to an appointment typically includes time-robbing obstacles – bad weather, heavy traffic, needing to stop to refuel, etc. And, senior patients face additional personal challenges including eyestrain fatigue from poor eyesight, frequent stops due to incontinence issues, and securing transportation for the trip if they don’t drive themselves. The inconvenience of extensive travel for anyone promotes negative emotional side effects of increased anxiety, stress, fatigue, and frustration.
Implementing Your Telehearing Care within hearing care clinics stops bugs on windshields…and more. Patients welcome innovations in healthcare, especially amidst COVID-19, that are designed to secure their safety while maintaining comfort, convenience, and quality of care. Complete 360º audiology and hearing care, delivered interactively from provider to patient, enables providers to continue to be the experts in hearing healthcare now and in the future. Survey responses from patients who have experienced Your Telehearing Care are overwhelmingly positive regardless of age of patient. Let’s get the party started.  

About the Author

Suzanne Younker, Au.D. is a 30-year audiologist with extensive experience in Quality Assurance, Customer Service, and Operations in the corporate environment. In the past 7-years, Dr. Younker has devoted her career to cultivating full-service TeleHealth/TeleAudiology methods in the hearing healthcare industry including research, education, protocol development, implantation, provider and facilitator training, and patient engagement techniques. Currently, Dr. Younker is the Director of TeleHealth for Your Hearing Network, leading a team with a turnkey solution for a modern method of healthcare towards a successful outcome for your practice.

How to Lead Productive Company Meetings Online

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) forces more employees to work from home, businesses are adapting to new remote work business models as quickly and effectively as possible. Many of you are already adjusting to a workforce that performs some duties at home. Although technology makes this process easier, organizations are looking for ways to replicate their in-office culture, including moving face-to-face meetings to audio and video conference calls.
Technology-based meetings are not always the easiest to conduct, especially if you’re not accustomed to them. It can be more difficult to make sure everyone has a chance to speak up, to read body language, and/or to make sure that each attendee is paying full attention. We all know how easy it is to check email or browse online when no one can see you. So, if you conduct virtual meetings the same exact way you do in-person meetings, the result will likely be less engagement and therefore an inefficient use of your team’s time. By following these two simple steps, you can run productive video meetings where employees remain attentive, contribute, and finish the call ready to get things done.

1. Set clear expectations.

It’s important for the leader to set basic ground rules, such as asking attendees to join the call on time, closing out email and internet browsers, keeping their video on, and muting their microphones when they are not speaking. You might consider instructing employees to raise their hands when they want to contribute or ask questions. Setting clear expectations sets the tone for your team to be engaged, and shows that you respect their time and perspective.

2. Focus on dialogue and interactions.

During your virtual meeting, you’ll be sharing information just like you would in a face-to-face meeting. The information flow should be two-way — it is essential to encourage questions and discussion from all attendees. When planning the meeting, structure the agenda to discourage any one person from dominating the conversation. Predetermine which team members might be subject matter experts with information valuable to the group.
Now that we’ve discussed what you can do to ensure that your virtual meetings are as productive as your in-person meetings, let’s focus on one of the most important meetings: the Company Meeting. It’s likely that you’ve already led at least one Company Meeting to discuss the COVID-19 situation. Your staff members are living through uncertain times and are starving for information. Over the next several months, you’ll need to meet regularly with your entire team to discuss what’s happening currently (in your practice as well as the industry, your city/state, and the rest of the world), and what needs to happen moving forward. If your practice is currently closed, then your first Company Meeting upon reopening will be crucial in setting the stage for how your practice will emerge from this crisis and be successful in the future.
There are several key topics that Owners should cover during their upcoming Company Meetings:
  • The Current State: Where is our practice now and how are we preparing to come out of the pandemic?
  • The Future State: Where is the industry headed and what’s our company vision for how we will thrive?
  • The “New” Customer: How do we prepare for customers who may think differently about their needs and expectations? How will they define value?
  • The Comeback Plan: What are our steps to get back on track, and what are the expectations for each team member’s contributions moving forward?
  • Goals for 2020: What are the revised annual targets, and how do we plan to ramp up and recover lost business?
  • KPI Tracking: What are the key indicators that identify how we’re tracking progress toward our desired goals?
  • Mindset: How do we need to change the way we think about how we do our jobs?
  • Individual Productivity: How do we increase and track productivity while maintaining high levels of patient care?
  • Training: How do we ensure each staff member continues to develop his/her skills to be as efficient as possible while prioritizing patient care?

Consistency of communication is critical, so you should hold these meetings on a routine basis. Partner with your Consult YHN Account Manager to develop a schedule that works best for you and your team.

In future Company Meetings, revisit the same themes:

  • Discuss industry updates and the impact on the business
  • Reinforce the importance of what you do for patients
  • Reinforce the emergence of the “new” patient and his/her changing expectations
  • Emphasize what the goals are and how the practice is performing against those goals
  • Review your comeback plan and adjust as necessary
  • Emphasize everyone’s role in achieving the plan
  • Motivate your staff to reach the practice’s goals together as a team

As Owners and leaders, communication with your team is the most important element in helping your staff work through this crisis. Their lives have changed and they’re looking to you to lead them through the uncertainty. Their ability to handle anxiety and fear about the future is affected by what you say and how you act in navigating through an uncertain future. Right now, your words must lead to action. Now more than ever, your staff needs to know the “why” behind what they do to give purpose to their work and exemplary service to your patients.

If you have any questions about how to effectively conduct your Company Meetings, reach out to your Account Manager for guidance!

About the Author

Kenneth Gregory joined Consult YHN in 2014 and currently serves as a Training Manager in the West Region. He is a retail veteran, having previously worked for such giants as Target, Starbucks, and CVS in multiple leadership roles. Ken rarely puts pen to paper but is always thinking about how to make businesses thrive by leveraging the best asset within their four walls: their people. He works with field staff but is equally comfortable in front of audiology practice employees at all levels. Ken also loves an audience and enjoys being a classroom facilitator. While taking topics like this seriously, Ken likes to laugh at himself on occasion. However, his greatest gift might be his ability to get his three-month-old grandson to laugh.

Block Scheduling: Questions to Ask Yourself Now to Prepare for the Future

When building our new home, the first thing they put down was the foundation. Homes in Texas aren’t built with basements, so pouring a concrete slab seemed like it should’ve been a quick and easy process. But it took two whole weeks while I watched the contractors level, spread tension cables, pour the concrete, and conduct four inspections. I didn’t realize that Texas had such sandy and shifting soil. The proper slab, while not the most glamorous part of my home, was both the most complicated and essential piece. Without it, our beautiful new home wouldn’t be able to stand the test of time.

A hearing clinic is no different. Your business needs a sturdy foundation to withstand the shifting sands of an ever-changing industry. And few things have changed both the industry and business, in general, more than the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The foundation of a practice’s success is its schedule. It provides the template for growth and helps to drive revenue and profit. The Consult YHN Block Schedule has been the bedrock of practices for over 25 years, and the need now is greater than ever. Although times have certainly changed, our Block Schedule process is both structured and flexible enough to remain a business-standard.

As part of a comprehensive comeback plan, Owners need to:

  1. Determine the “catch up” goals necessary to recover lost business and hit their revised 2020 financial targets.
  2. Calculate the number of revenue-generating appointments (or opportunities) required to recover the lost revenue and achieve the full year targets.
  3. Create the scheduling capacity to best serve customers and reach those goals.

The Block Schedule serves as the visual representation of the structure necessary to make your comeback plan work. Without it, practices risk making an uncertain financial situation even worse.

The Block Scheduling process is time-tested with proven results. The post-COVID-19 customer might have understandable concerns about being in close proximity to others in a waiting room. Practices must be sensitive to these concerns, and work with their Consult YHN Account Manager to determine how to address them.

When it comes to scheduling, below are items you should consider…

As you revise the Block Schedule template…

  • Do I need to think differently about the space in my waiting room? How should I schedule appointments to limit social contact?
  • Do I need to create different types of appointments to meet the needs of different patients where some are comfortable in my waiting room and some are not? How many onsite appointments do I need? How many virtual ones?
  • Do I eliminate walk-in hours to prevent multiple people from showing up at the same time and crowding my waiting room? Or do I leverage technology to conduct virtual walk-in hours and minimize customer overlap?
  • Is Telehealth a necessity for my business and my patients right now?
  • How long should each appointment be?

When implementing the Block Schedule…

  • What does my patient prioritization process need to look like? Where do I place new patients, existing patients, Out of Warranty patients, and repairs? Does everyone on my staff know the importance of each opportunity type?
  • Have I set expectations with my staff about having a sense of urgency to fill the opportunities on my schedule?
  • Are we using a waiting list to pull appointments forward to fill opportunities and to better serve our patients?
  • Should I think differently about having a companion for appointments? Should I require onsite Third Party companions, or should I also consider using video technology such as FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangouts?
  • How do we minimize no-shows and cancellations? Is my current process for confirming appointments effective?
  • Is my front office staff attending Consult YHN teletrainings to sharpen their skills on the Block Scheduling process?
  • How can learning and following the Professional Sales Presentation (PSP) allow my providers to effectively use appointment time and maximize the schedule’s potential?

When monitoring the effectiveness of your revised scheduling procedures…

  • Am I using the Daily Huddle to monitor staff behaviors and track scheduling outcomes?

At Consult YHN, we’re helping our Associates prepare their schedules to thrive in this new business environment. For many Owners, implementing a Block Schedule may have been uncomfortable or considered unnecessary in the past. But due to COVID-19, many “nice to do” processes are now “must do.”

The most successful practices will be the ones who commit now to making the changes needed for success in the future. Defining and implementing a Block Schedule will help you recover lost business and position your practice for long term success.

Contact your Account Manager to create your Block Schedule today!

About the Author

Kenneth Gregory joined Consult YHN in 2014 and currently serves as a Training Manager in the West Region. He is a retail veteran, having previously worked for such giants as Target, Starbucks, and CVS in multiple leadership roles. Ken rarely puts pen to paper but is always thinking about how to make businesses thrive by leveraging the best asset within their four walls: their people. He works with field staff but is equally comfortable in front of audiology practice employees at all levels. Ken also loves an audience and enjoys being a classroom facilitator. While taking topics like this seriously, Ken likes to laugh at himself on occasion. However, his greatest gift might be his ability to get his three-month-old grandson to laugh.

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.