My Person! My People! Building Partnerships, Expanding Your Practice

Are you a TV watcher? I am. Big time. I love TV. And because of that, more often than I care to admit, I draw inspiration from TV shows and characters. (As a side confession here, we’ve been binge-watching The West Wing, and have found that comparing it to today’s presidential politics is like marrying whiplash to an out-of-body experience. Right? But I digress….)

Today we’re going to draw inspiration from three very different, very diverse TV personalities or characters: weatherman Al Roker from the Today Show, Elmo from Sesame Street, and Meredith Gray of Gray’s Anatomy.

Stay tuned… we’ll return to them in a moment after a word from…

Partnerships. Yes – that’s today’s word: partnerships! If Elmo was here, that’s what he would tell you. Today we are emphasizing the concept of partnership and collaboration.

This is a topic I’ve raised before, but it definitely bears repeating. In the past few weeks I’ve had several reminders of this, when I’ve heard questions from new or wanna be advocates and care managers such as:

  • What do I do if someone asks me to do something I can’t do?
  • My client asked me to get her insurance claim approved. Who do I call?
  • Where can I take a course in medical billing adjustment and negotiation?
  • If my client wants me to research clinical trails, where do I start?

So what it is all these questions have in common? They stem from two ideas that require rethinking:

  1. That one advocate can or should perform every service a client needs. He or she should not because they cannot possibly be competent in all areas of advocacy.
  2. That learning how to perform a difficult service such as medical bill reconciliation, or claim resolution, or shared decision-making can be learned from taking a course. Taking a course is a great start, but observation and practice are also necessary before making promises to a client.

There are three important reasons those ideas require adjustment.

  1. It is against our Health Advocate Code of Ethics and Standards to perform work outside one’s competencies. If you aren’t skilled at performing a service, you need to find someone else to do it for your client. Period. End of story. You should never – ever! – attempt to provide a service yourself if someone else could do a better job, or if you don’t feel confident performing it yourself.
  2. It would be extremely difficult for one advocate to build a successful practice without drawing on the capabilities of other advocates or care managers who have complementary skill sets. Building a team is the best way to service clients.
  3. Contracting with other advocates to support the needs of your client is one of the most effective ways to grow a healthy advocacy practice.

Yes – that’s the key to today’s post. Finding partners to complement your skills because it’s the best way to serve your clients and grow your practice.

So how do you do that? You take a page from Meredith Gray’s playbook – you find Your Person. Your Person is (yes) the person who always fills that need for you when it needs filling. It’s the person who is there for you and your client when that’s exactly the service needed and it’s not one you can perform. If you are a med-nav advocate, it’s the person who can step in when your client needs medical billing or healthcare negotiation services. Or vice versa.

There are several good resources for finding Your Person. In fact, you’ll probably need several of Your Persons. You’ll need one for each of the skills that may be required by your clients that you do not perform – well – yourself. We have a great list of advocates who work with clients specifically through other advocates listed on the myAPHA site. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding a new partner in the AdvoConnection Directory.

So how, exactly, does this sort of partnership work? How do you commit to working together to make sure your clients are well-served and you continue to derive revenue? Aha. That’s the secret sauce that we have spelled out right here. It’s a contracted relationship that spells out the work that will be done, the amount that will be paid, and outlines the relationship between the primary advocate, the contractor-advocate, and the client.

So, now, you’ve pulled together your partners. You’ve built a team. When you put this team together you’ll have (with a nod to Al Roker) Your People! (AKA “My People!”) These are the partners you will call on, over and over again, to help your clients, and in doing so, you’ll be growing your business. They will always work with you, they might end up collaborating with each other. They may ask you to work with them for their clients. You will all work with others sometimes, too. But the point is that you’ll all be growing your practices while providing the highest level of service to clients.

Partnerships. Teamwork. Collaboration. Win. Win. Win. Now watch Elmo dance with happiness!


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