1First, tell us about the impact COVID-19 had on your practice.
I tried to close but was coming in to mail supplies, so that didn’t last. I had the office phone calls forwarded to my cell so that I could run into the office, if needed, but I think I wound up spending more time in the office than I did at home. I tried to reduce our hours to 10am-2pm, but that wasn’t convenient for people. I received a lot of questions from other practice’s customers because the only other dispensing office near us was closed. I saw patients from all over the area. There were even people coming in on ferry boats from the small islands in the area, just trying to find somebody that was open who could help with their hearing aids. We will still do some curbside services if the patient prefers, but we’re open for in-person appointments.
2What do you think has been most instrumental to your success these past few months?
The weekly sales trainings with Ed [Anthony] have been extremely helpful because they got me back on track. I need to be shown something several times before it really sticks - so I take away something from every sales call. I want to keep the momentum going for as long as I can. I guess that’s just my competitive nature. I’ll try anything.
3Is there anything specific you and/or your Director of Operations (DO) have learned from the trainings that have made a major difference?
I learned that I should demo hearing aids in-office versus having patients leave with devices (which is what I was accustomed to doing). I had to get it in my head that it’s not my decision to make if the patient is ready for new devices. My DO, Samie, says the training has helped her become comfortable with asking and encouraging patients to bring a Third Party. Our Third Party rate for July was 67 percent!
4You also have weekly calls with Ed Anthony to discuss tracking. What would you say to a practice owner who doesn't think tracking is important?
Why would you not want to know what you're doing? I had my bookkeeper pull up our P&L [Profit & Loss Statement] for the year, so it can show me what we are making. We're trying to look at the tracking and say, ‘okay, this is what happened, and here’s what we need to do.’ I can fit patients; I can encourage them to make the investment in better hearing. It's the back-office side that I really need a lot of help with and that's what I've been getting from Consult.
5How has using Consult’s Marketing services and the collateral on Consult MarketSource made your job easier?
The marketing team is great. They helped me design new patient paperwork and physician referral documents. I didn’t know where to start so having those templates and then having them customized was essential. All I have to do is send an email saying, ‘I need this, can you redesign this, put my logo on it, reword some things,’ and I get it back quickly and it’s professionally done and 100% complete.
6You also use the Consult Digital and Database Programs. Are you happy with the results you’ve seen?
Definitely. What both programs provide is basically a full schedule of people who are really interested. We’ve used the Database Program twice. I think the calls that go behind each of the pieces after they go out are one of the biggest reasons the program works. And patients weren’t annoyed by the calls!
7What’s one thing Consult provides that you can’t imagine running the business without?
My Account Manager, Diana [Dobo]. She helps me make sure all of my key performance indicators are in line so that I know where I’m at and where I need to be and keeps me moving forward. She also helped me get everything set up before I opened my practice. She flew in and was like, “Do you need a place? Here’s some real estate. You need this? Here’s a number. Call these people. Let’s get your paperwork going. Let’s get these credentials before you open.” I believe her support was huge because when you’re first starting out you think, ‘Okay, I'm going to open a business. Now what?’
8Is there anything else you could not run your practice without?
Alcohol? [Laughs] You must have systems—processes and procedures. I had some in my previous job, but when I opened my own practice, I needed new systems. Now that I have Samie back full time, I’m having her help set those up since she knows our processes. But we still need to get them down on paper—something we could provide future employees so they can easily figure it out.
9What’s one accomplishment from this year that you’re especially proud of and one that you’d like to accomplish in 2021?
My personal record for devices sold was 42 in a month, but then I sold 47 in July. I wish it was all private pay patients, of course, but 47 is still a great number for one provider. My long-term goal is to run a million-dollar practice.
10What inspired you to open your own practice?
I was unhappy working for a retail store—my previous employer was bought out by a franchise and after six months, things were not getting better. My Oticon rep, Tammy, had been encouraging me to go out on my own for about five years, but I always held back. I wanted to stay in my community. I’ve been living in the Stanwood area for over 17 years now—these are my people! I didn’t want to lose all the connections I made with patients. Now those patients seek me out!
11What advice would you give to anyone thinking about opening their own practice?
Do it. There is so much to be said for working for yourself. Any of the headaches I’ve experienced the last the year-and-a-half since opening my own practice pale in comparison to what I dealt with before.