Foresight is 20/20 (or it better be)
What’s the outcome you are looking for?
by Mike Sperduti

I like the phrase, “What’s the outcome you are looking for?” I use it all the time, with my family, my partners, my clients and myself. It’s a sharp, no-nonsense jab that gets right to it, and forces you to focus like a laser on getting the result you want. I want to make sure HomeCare Magazine readers are focused on specific, successful outcomes in every area of business, because if you are not, you might as well turn out the lights.

News flash for those who have just awakened from a coma: Competitive bidding and reimbursement cuts have created a hyper-competitive healthcare market. Every day is a battle. As the Navy SEALs say, “The only easy day was yesterday.” The good news—plan correctly, and you can win the battle before it starts. You need only two weapons, so long as these are true and infuse everything your company does: You need commitment and vision.

Now here’s the thing; your vision can’t be based on hunches, hopes or little hairs on your neck. You can’t cross your fingers and long for the old days, or rely on what you thought you knew about the industry. Your vision of your company has to be based on actual market conditions and needs. It has to be researched and substantiated. It has to be viable—and it absolutely, positively cannot be fake.

Here’s a little quantifiable proof of the power of proper vision and commitment. I get calls every day from healthcare manufactures, distributors and providers around the globe that trust Mike Sperduti Companies when they want to accelerate sales growth. It is a privilege and an awesome responsibility. One of my favorite engagements was the 10 months I served as interim sales chief at a major healthcare provider. This company was a recognized as a leader in the industry, but had hit a prolonged snag. Revenues had been flat for years, and profits kept going down, thanks largely to declining margins. You may recognize the story: an uncertain future, the looming dread of knowing you need more profits and the suffocating realization that you just can’t make them.

That’s what I found when I arrived: A company in desperate need of an entirely new vision and new leadership. The old school (in mentality, not age) executive and operating team simply did not have the talent and skills to take the company forward in today’s challenging environment.

When I left 10 months later, the VP of sales and the sales manager were replaced and several sales and operations positions were eliminated. The company enjoyed a 50 percent reduction in sales overhead, and, despite those manpower cuts, a 20 percent increase in revenue. In addition, we installed a new success culture that has carried them forward with consistent double-digit performance ratings for the last three years. What I left them with was powerful—a new winning culture with strong performance standards, and every department focused on specific activities that produced predictable and outstanding outcomes.

Commitment and vision, broken into five simple steps that any company can handle.

1. Architect a Winning Business Model

Thoroughly and honestly evaluate your company’s viability and determine its ongoing core business, one with a true competitive advantage. If you can’t, you don’t have one. This is priority one.

2. Assemble the Best Team

Let’s be honest: There are people in this business who were successful in the past simply because they were at the right place at the right time. This business used to be like a New York City street—a pizza place on every corner. On any given city block you can find several pizza joints. How do they survive? Demand is greater than supply, just an in the old days of HME. There used to be several HME providers in every town, demand was still greater than supply and everyone was happy. Today, you have to compete for everything, and the people who have been in business for years don’t necessarily have the skills to do so successfully anymore. Go out and bring in new talent. Only hire the best for each position and immediately get rid of all negative and incompetent people.

3. Establish Clear Processes

Everyone on your team knows what is expected of them. Now salespeople can predict revenue and adjust their tactics accordingly. You can trash the 80/20 rule (80 percent of production from 20 percent of staff) and expect everyone to contribute. This is not just a step for your sales department, but for every department.

For example, Certificates of Medical Necessity (CMN) are one of biggest holdups in the business. You can’t help patients or move product without them, and for whatever reasons, doctors and clinics are never in a rush to return them. One company I worked with was getting back about 800 requested CMNs a week. When I left, it was over 2,000. How? I gave our representatives the right words to say and had them imagine that the patient they were helping was someone they deeply loved. They kept pictures of loved ones nearby. The company made a profound mental shift. They were not fighting for the document; they were fighting for someone they loved whenever they called about a CMN. When they called, they were thinking about their dad or mom or daughter, and they prepared relentlessly with language patterns that worked. How hard would you fight to get your loved one what they needed? Just that energy alone, along with a well-engineered conversation strategy, generated amazing results. It was a winning process—a combination of conviction, real emotion and persuasive language patterns.

4. Training Forever

You have the best people; now it’s time to turn up their skills and get them to execute flawlessly to meet their new performance standards. Training is more than cramming everyone in a room for an eight-hour PowerPoint. Training has to be interactive. Training is role-playing with practical examples and real life scenarios. It’s recording phone calls and analyzing them as a group. Performance training demands testing. If your team can’t do it in practice, how will they perform in the game? And it never stops: Derek Jeter never stopped batting practice and examining his swing until the day he retired.

5. Accountability Always

You can’t just announce higher production standards; you have to enforce them. Absolute commitment to new standards must start with the president and CEO and filter down. You’ve devised your core strategy; you’ve hired the right people; you’ve determined the best processes and trained your team well. You’ve elevated your game. Now hold everyone to it. This is no place for the squeamish. The moment an employee falls below your higher standards is the moment you step in. In this market, every interaction is critical, and when standards aren’t maintained you either diagnose and correct a training issue, or you diagnose a rogue employee and get ‘em onboard or fire them. Hey, it happens, and it has to be addressed immediately. I’m not downplaying the emotion of dealing with a substandard employee—it can be difficult—but I can’t think of a better example of the ultimate commitment to excellence required in this business. You’re either in business to win, or you’re not.

So, what’s the outcome you’re looking for? Whatever it is, it had better start with vision and commitment.

This article is the fourth in a seven-part series. Each segment will focus on retail and marketing techniques to promote profitability. Read the other articles in the series here.