Oct 27 2014

The Best Way to Find New Clients

womanbooks… Isn’t by osmosis.

An email arrived this week – one that is representative of dozens, maybe hundreds of others just like it I’ve received in the past few years.  It asks “why can’t I find any clients?”  It represents others that have asked that same question, or similar, like “how can I market my business? or “how can I get my first client?” or “what am I doing wrong?”

I receive these frustration emails 2, 3, 9, 10 times a month.  Frustrated not-quite-advocates who want to start and grow a health advocacy practice…

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Oct 20 2014

Monetizing, Scaling – Making Smart Choices Affects Your Advocacy Practice and Income

businessgrowth

An email this week comes from one of our APHA members, who I will call Bernice, who reminds me of how easy it is to lose sight of what is important to us when it comes to building our advocacy practices.

Bernice is in the process of entering a business plan competition which, if she wins, will provide her with a $10,000 grant to help her grow her practice.

Her concern is, that in order to win the money, she is going to have to write a business plan that’s about “going big.”  From her email to me:

“We have retired execs who are mentors, and they
just don’t see how I’m going to go “big” with this business.”

So she wanted to know if I have suggestions for how to build that in.

“So, as I push forward to make this a “winning” business plan entry, what do you see as the most viable way to monetize our businesses to take it up several notches?”

A few important points for all of us to consider:

Bernice is asking about two aspects of growing a business:  monetizing and scaling. Monetizing simply means finding more ways to maximize the income from the work she is doing. Scaling refers to the growth of a business – more products or services, more employees, more customers and of course, bigger income to support all of that (and hopefully more profitability too.)

To which I say… whoa!  Wait a minute!  Who says any of that is important?

Now, at first I expect you’re reading those words and laughing. Of course they are important! (you’re thinking.)  Who doesn’t want their business to make more money and to grow bigger?

To which I will respond…  Making more money? Of course.  But growing bigger?  Maybe you DO and maybe you DON’T.

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Oct 13 2014

Health Advocacy Ethics – Conflict of Interest? Or Important Service?

elderlywomanA recent conversation with a handful of knowledgeable people, people I respect a great deal, yielded two different outcomes – either a loud “yes, of course!!” or a loud “no, no way!”

So I want to know what YOU think.

As a prelude to the story – the question I will ask you at the end is:

Should Gwen become Mrs. Smith’s healthcare proxy?
Can she ETHICALLY make that shift?

(We are not asking a legal question here – only a question of ethics.)

Mrs. Smith is 90 years old and until recently was quite healthy.  She is alone; her husband died many years ago, and they never had any children. She has a few nieces and nephews, but hasn’t seen or heard from any of them in years.  She lives in the country and has no neighbors nearby.  Even her close friends from church have all passed away.

Gwen has been Mrs. Smith’s health advocate for several years now, accompanying Mrs. Smith to doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and whatever was needed for her care. About three years ago, Mrs. Smith was hospitalized for a brief time;  Gwen sat by her bedside and was a liaison between the hospital staff and Gwen for the duration.

Over these years they have become very close. Mrs. Smith trusts and values Gwen’s opinions more than anyone else on earth and thinks of her almost as the daughter she never had.

Now Mrs. Smith has asked Gwen to help her make the healthcare decisions that she will designate in her advance directives.  Included is a request to Gwen to become her proxy – that is, the person who will, if Mrs. Smith becomes incapacitated, make any decisions that regard end-of-life care on Mrs. Smith’s behalf. (“Proxy” is one term used – others could be agent, representative or power of attorney.)

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Oct 06 2014

Ripped from the Headlines…. a Warning for Health Advocates, Too

commonsenseA kidnapping and murder last weekend raises questions for all professionals who work one-on-one with strangers….

If it can happen to a real estate agent, it can happen to a health advocate, too.

I’m referring to the headlines about Beverly Carter in Little Rock, Arkansas.  She was a real estate agent who had gotten a call from a stranger to show a home she had listed for sale.  And then she disappeared.  Her body was found several days later in a shallow grave.

See that second sentence?  “She was a real estate agent who had gotten a call from a stranger to show a home she had listed for sale.”  It could just as easily have said, “She was a patient advocate who had gotten a call from a stranger to discuss the problems he was having with his medical care (or medical bills.)

Like real estate agents, the nature of the work we do is to help strangers.  In fact, if we don’t help strangers, then we won’t stay in business for long – it’s not a choice, it’s a necessity.

Common sense should tell us never to just show up at a stranger’s home – and yet, I have no doubt that many of you reading this post have done just that.

And as you read this post, you are thinking, “well, sure, but….. ”

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Sep 29 2014

Cruel to Be Kind and Kind to be Cruel

cruelI received an email from a woman named Irma. She wants to become a health advocate, to assist people in her community who have Alzheimers. (Bless her for that.)  But she was laid off from her job, and doesn’t have any money. She asked me if I would let her join Alliance of Professional Health Advocates for free so she could “learn how to do it.”

Irma’s request was not the first I’ve received over the years.  I am also asked to give people free copies of my books, and even loan or donate money to help them get started with their practices.

In the early years of building this patient advocacy profession, I used to struggle over the answers to these requests.  Should I support these folks to help them get started when they didn’t have the means to do it themselves?  If I said “yes” – would that really help them?  If I said “no” – would I be hurting them, and would I feel guilty?  How much did I owe to the profession to build a strong foundation?  How much did I owe compassionate people who want to help others?  How could I even determine which answer served the requester, the profession, the organization, or me the best? Would one answer serve them all?

It took a lot of soul searching…..

And ultimately I came to one conclusion, one point of view that helps me answer them all.

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Sep 21 2014

It’s Not Marketing. It’s Teaching.

Mans hands on a chalkboardWe’re in the final stages of putting together the Advanced Marketing Handbook (scheduled for release in early October) – and as I was reviewing parts of it this week, I had a thought to share with you that may make your marketing a bit easier to digest.

Here’s what I know (based on the dozens, maybe hundreds of conversations I have had with advocates over the past few years)…

Most of you appreciate marketing on about the same level as nails on the chalkboard. (Oh dear, I digress, but do they even put chalkboards in classrooms anymore? !!)

Yes, I recognize that it’s not only NOT your favorite part of being in business, but that you regard it about one step below a necessary evil. If only you could be left to advocate for people all day long and never have to worry about marketing or business…

OK. I get it – at least as someone who really just loves marketing can!  I have to make a concerted effort to put myself into your shoes (as any good business woman who must understand her target audiences must) – and I realize that my love for the sport of marketing isn’t shared by most of my audience (you!)

So I gave some heavy duty thought to how I could actually make it a bit more palatable to you.  How can I help my marketing-averse advocates begin to see marketing as something that helps them help their clients (and therefore help those advocates dislike it less?)

So here’s what I have come up with:

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Sep 15 2014

Chutzpah! Know When It Crosses the Line

chutzpahOne of my favorite words:  Chutzpah!  Pronounced “hoots-pah.” A Yiddish word translated as “shameless audacity” or “supreme self-confidence,” as in (according to Merriam-Webster) “personal confidence or courage that allows someone to do or say things that may seem shocking to others.”

….  and sometimes a trait required by the most effective of health and patient advocates.

  • Do you have chutzpah?
  • And more importantly, do you know how and when to use it?

I ask this because I think there are appropriate times, and inappropriate times, when an advocate needs to showcase his or her chutzpah.  Lately I have experienced both, and I wonder how that translates to its use for clients.  I know some of you experience it, too.

Having chutzpah, and being able to use it, means you have enough confidence in what you are asking for that you believe you are entitled to, or possibly deserving of the outcome you request.

An example: your elderly client is in the hospital, sharing a room, and a single room comes open across the hall. You know your client would be much happier in that single room, so you ask to have him moved. Of course, they have already determined that someone else who is private pay is going to get that room, but you make the case (just enough of a stink) and ultimately your client finds himself alone in that single room.  Yes, you demonstrated your chutzpah. Now your client is happier.

Another client-related example might be when that same client gets the bill for that single hospital room, which wasn’t approved by Medicare, and for which you now argue with the billing department to have the extra charges removed from his bill.  After all, you believe it was crucial to his ability to heal.  And, oh, by the way, you’ll do your best to be sure he doesn’t need to return to the hospital within that 30 day window, meaning they won’t lose money on his readmission. <<wink wink>>

That’s chutzpah!  But – does it cross a line? Is it more like bribery? or blackmail?  or….  ?

That’s the big question.  Where is the line? And is it appropriate to cross it?

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Sep 08 2014

Babbling Will Get You Nowhere

rejectionMargaret needs help for her aging father who lives 600 miles away from her. She wants to find someone to accompany him to doctors appointments, someone who can review and organize his medical bills as they arrive, and someone who can discuss his medical needs on a three-way phone call (Dad, Margaret and an advocate) once each week.  Dad is happy with the idea and is willing to pay for the service.

The “perfect” client, right?

Here’s how I know Margaret’s story:  She sent an email to our “info” email address at AdvoConnection, asking for the best way to find an advocate.  We sent our automatic reply that explains how to use the patient’s zip code, and the services needed to find the right person in the AdvoConnection Directory.

Margaret replied that she had already done that, and had called the only advocate listed in her father’s location.  However <quote> “All she did was babble on about herself and her own medical problems. She dissed a couple of doctors in ____ (the name of the town) including Dad’s doctor who is a family friend!  I don’t want to work with her. I need someone else.”<unquote>

OUCH!

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