When Is Potential Competition the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Your Business?

(Posted February 2, 2012)

One of my favorite restaurants is an Italian place called Dominick’s. The food is always delicious, the pasta, sauces and dishes are homemade (you cannot beat their meatballs!), the wait staff is always friendly and the prices are fair, too. It’s a family place, with a busy bar and a glass-fronted bakery case with the most sinful-looking desserts. There’s only one Dominick’s, and sometimes it’s so busy that the wait can be well more than an hour. (I’ll bet you have a Dominick’s in your town, too, even if it’s called Antonio’s, Nick’s or Enzo’s – great places to eat!)

Just up the same boulevard as Dominick’s is the Olive Garden. Of course, the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant, too. Even though the food is quite different, it’s also excellent. There are many similarities to Dominick’s; the Olive Garden is a family place, may require a long wait and often sports a busy bar.

But as we all know, the big difference between Dominick’s and the Olive Garden is the difference between the personal and the corporate. There is one and only one Dominick’s. There are hundreds of Olive Gardens. While you might find very personalized service and delicious food in both restaurants, their approach to their businesses and how they grow their success is very different. Yet, they co-exist up the street from each very nicely, both serve their customers very well, and both are very successful.

So now you’re wondering what Dominick’s and the Olive Garden have to do with health and patient advocacy, right?

Last week, we announced a new partnership: AdvoConnection and a newly launched company called CarePlanners. CarePlanners will be providing advocacy services across the country to clients who need any sort of service to make their interface with the healthcare system work more smoothly, from helping them dissect and learn more about a diagnosis, to sorting out or reducing their medical bills, to helping their doctors coordinate their care.

For those of you who received an email from me (and if you are an AdvoConnection member, you should have found that announcement in your email), you know that my excitement about this partnership is the fact that CarePlanners will put health and patient advocacy and navigation on the map. CarePlanners’ outreach will change the conversation from “What is a patient advocate?” to “I need to find a patient advocate.”

Most of the response to this announcement has been very positive. “Woo Hoo!” came one response. “This is great news for all patient advocates!” from another. “Thank you for helping us get the word out.” Very enthusiastic reactions.

But one of the advocates who responded is more tentative about CarePlanners’ launch. Her reaction was more lukewarm, as in, she fears the competition. She explained that while she understands the enthusiasm, she is mostly worried about the impact CarePlanners could have on her business. She’s not sure she buys in to “the rising tide lifts all boats.”

And I suspect she’s not alone in her concern. She’s just the only one who voiced it.

My response to her was that different clients have different needs and different wishes, even if they actually require the same services. Some are looking for “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Others, needing a place to refresh and socialize, will choose Starbucks, where they can still hang with their friends, but appreciate knowing ahead of time exactly what to expect whether they live in Portland, Maine or Escondido, California or anywhere in between.

Or maybe they’ll choose Dominick’s or the Olive Garden.

The real key is that they know that some days what they want and need is Italian food – and immediately know which restaurants will qualify. Or they need and want to socialize with friends while enjoying an adult beverage (alcoholic or not) and they immediately think of Starbucks and their local version of Cheers. Then they choose, according to their own tastes.

Not everyone’s taste is the same.

And someday they will know they need and want a patient or health advocate, and they will learn that they can choose your company, or CarePlanners.

(Of course, all this assumes that you are still doing what you need to do to build a reputable business. Certainly you can’t be your local advocacy Cheers or Dominicks if clients aren’t satisfied by the services you provide to them.)

The bottom line is that whether or not CarePlanners will ever be your true competitor, it will also be a blessing to have CarePlanners arrive in your area. CarePlanners’ arrival will step up the conversation, and will make the concept of advocacy more mainstream. Instead of worrying about what to do next, patients in your area will ask “where can I find a patient advocate?”

And that is a major (huge) step in the right direction.

Perhaps you can think of additional great metaphors to describe the very positive news about the launch of CarePlanners? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments section.


8 thoughts on “When Is Potential Competition the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Your Business?”

  1. Heres my issue Trisha.

    I and all the other members of Advoconnect are paying you an annual membership fee to not only be listed in your directory but to promote us. This new company that you are now in partnership with is just that…a NEW company with NO experience, NO clients and NO track record.

    You state on the Advoconnect website home page: Or, perhaps you’ve already decided to become a patient advocate or navigator, but you don’t yet have the track record to be listed on the AdvoConnection Patient Advocate Directory website.

    So why are you promoting them on Advoconnect? They do not yet meet your criteria for membership and I would appreciate if you would please focus on promoting Livingwell Care Navigation and your other paying members.

    Continuing to promote them on Advoconnect provides them with unwarranted exposure because of your business partnership and that would be a conflict of interest.

    I wish you and your partners the best in your new business venture but your new startup is nothing more than interesting to watch. Not a threat and not of benefit to me or the other Care Navigation and Patient Advocacy businesses.

    Thank you.


    1. Hi Barbara – good question and I’m glad you raised it. There are several important points to make in response.

      1. There is no promotion of CarePlanners on AdvoConnection (please note – AdvoConnectION, not AdvoConnect). There is no link to it anywhere from the public AdvoConnection site. (Last week’s announcement can be found by members, but it is not public.)

      2. The section you quote from the AdvoConnection website refers to PACE members (Patient Advocate Career Exploration). We have hundreds of PACE members who take advantage of many of the benefits of membership, learning to start and build their private advocacy businesses. But not one of them is listed in the directory. They cannot be listed in the directory until they have built that track record.

      3. You are absolutely right that anyone found in the AdvoConnection directory must be experienced. That will never change, not for any reason.

      4. Currently two of our members are working with CarePlanners as advocates, both experienced, both with great track records. One is a nurse practitioner turned private advocate, the other a billing specialist. Both joined AdvoConnection long before their affiliation with CarePlanners, and when they decide they would like to switch their directory listings to reflect CarePlanners affiliation, it will be switched. But that is their decision, and not mine. (And I should note that both of these folks are now affiliated with CarePlanners due to their listings in the AdvoConnection directory.)

      I hope that clarifies for you. I understand how frustration can arise from misinformation, so I apologize if I wasn’t clearer on these points.

      As far as promoting YOUR business – as you may know, we are launching Private Professional Patient Advocates Week (and yes, I know you have applied.) This will be a huge promotion for AdvoConnection’s Premium members. None of them are involved with CarePlanners.


  2. Thanks for the response Trisha.

    As you know, every positive mention anywhere on the web is of benefit and a promotion. Your posts are also tweeted. Was asking for you to please be mindful of not promoting your new startup in this space.

    In response to your request for input re the benefit of your new startup to all the other care navigators, I have been involved in many business start-ups as both a founder and as a business consultant, coaching new entrepreneurs through their start-ups. Having previous start-up experience and funding certainly is a great advantage but there is no guarantee of success.

    What you have is the intention to become a national or international entity that will deliver care navigation services and be successful both financially and otherwise.

    There is a tremendous need for the types of services we all offer and over 70 million boomers with both chronic disorders and elderly parents. More than enough business for everyone.

    May you and your partners be successful in your new endeavor. And may every client you touch, benefit from the support you provide.


  3. As someone who has been involved in the healthcare industry as a patient, an employee and a healthcare advocate for a lengthy period of time I am appreciative of any help that I can get in promoting (MediHelpz). From what I have read so far about Care Planners I can see how it has the potential of being a great assistance for the the African American community that I service. I look forward to hearing more about Care Planners and how Medihelpz can become a part of the Care Planners/AdvoConnection business venture. I also welcome any assistance that I can get from LivingWell. The way I see it strength comes in numbers. Banding together has a strong potential of providing a win! win! situation for the patients and isn’t that what patient advocacy is all about? Empowerment of the patient and for the patient.

  4. Dr. Bert Bergland

    I’m sure that many AdvoConnection members may view this relationship as a threat. I will withhold judgment for now, but it certainly does raise the question, “why did I invest in membership” only to learn that a “Walmart” is moving into my community. We all know what happens to small business when that happens.

    1. Bert – If, for one moment, I thought this new company would be akin to a Walmart, I never would have gotten involved. If you want to make a department store comparison, I’d say it’s more like a Macy’s – great quality, fair pricing, and doesn’t get in the way of the designer boutiques that offer a very different experience (even though they, like Macy’s, sell clothing.) There is more than enough room for everyone to be successful.

      You’ve only been a member of AdvoConnection for a few weeks, but if you ask other members (best to do so in the AdvoConnection Forum at LinkedIn) – you will find that I am trustworthy, provide only the best for AC’s members, and that my support for advocates’ work is unwavering. We will continue to support and grow advocates’ capabilities and possibilities because that is how we will help the most people who need the help.

  5. Great discussion! It is so interesting, because I am sure ALL of us are wondering: “oh my goodness, is this company going to steal all of our business away>!!!” However, I personally would encourage ALL of us to relax and take a deep breath! This is WONDERFUL news! As Barbara pointed out, there are MILLIONS of people who need patient advocates/healthcare navigators (whether these patients realize it or not!) In fact, many patients have NO IDEA that they need advocates! They think they can “go it alone” BUT they are wrong. So if CarePlanners can help to popularize the “profession” of the “patient advocate”, and help patients (and doctors, nurses, other professionals, and MOST IMPORTANTLY the GENERAL PUBLIC) understand WHY they need patient advocates, then what a wonderful thing that is for ALL OF US! As long as we each provide FANTASTIC, COMPREHENSIVE, OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD services, then we will not have to worry about the competition! And IF we CANNOT provide such magnificent services, then perhaps we should not be patient advocates to begin with. As the saying goes: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The market will either keep a company IN business or force the company to go OUT of business, depending on how GOOD the company IS! So BE GOOD!! Provide the BEST patient advocacy services that you can, and you will not have to fear the competition! 🙂 –Dalia, Health Care Navigators, LLC

  6. A little over 20 years ago, my brother-in-law and I travelled to Birmingham AL to investigate a franchise opportunity with Sylvan Learning Centers – a relatively new kid on the block at that time. We were two of around 50 prospective franchisees at that meeting. Sylvan’s corporate presentation to us prospectives was polished and compelling! And then…one prospective franchisee stood up and posed an interesting challenge. “Sure, you say Sylvan will offer us a guaranteed geographic territory; but what if another learning center company – say Huntington- moves in right down the street>! Sylvan’s response was: “You should get down on your knees and pray that they do!” Are you getting it? Well, it too me awhile.
    At the time, learning centers such as Huntington, KinderCare, Sylvan, etc. were a relatively new concept. It seemed to be a part of Sylvan’s business use case that a a rising tide would float all boats. And I think they’ve proved to be right.

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