Success: When Patient Advocacy Thrives

by Linda Adler*

As the founder of Pathfinders Medical, an established private advocacy company, I’m fortunate to mentor new advocates**. It’s the best part of my work, as I love promoting our profession and I take pleasure in seeing great people growing our field. My mentees are terrific, capable, passionate people who ask great questions. But they too often miss one of the most important ones:

What do I do if I’m successful?

They don’t realize how often companies flounder just as they hit their stride, when they weren’t able to handle the surge of clients that came their way. The ?I’ll worry about that if I’m lucky enough to get there? approach can be a giant mistake.

There are some common obstacles that arise when a business starts to take off:

  1. Daily operations require a big set of adjustments to accommodate the increased business
  2. Burnout is a continual threat
  3. The skillset needed to start a business is quite different from the one required to maintain it

In any new business, the day-to-day operations are naturally heavy on the marketing side. In addition, the founder is probably doing everything: billing, taxes, research, web updates, record-keeping, etc.. There is usually a strict budget in place, and hours must be devoted to client acquisition and retention. Once a business starts to take on clients, however, the advocate’s focus must necessarily shift to serving them: leaving little time to handle the daily business operations. Who is going to take on those duties? Is there a plan in place to accommodate this?

Many advocates start with a solo practice, and single handedly juggle a number of clients simultaneously. Inevitably, they find themselves handling a number of challenging and often upsetting cases. Some of their clients die, sometimes more than one in a matter of weeks. Put a difficult client or two into the mix, lots of late nights at the computer, and a bunch of business responsibilities, and that advocate is in danger of some significant burnout. Have they prepared for this possibility? Will it impact their passion and enthusiasm for their businesses?

Finally, there’s a reason why brilliant CEOs are often fired by their boards once they execute a successful business plan: they don’t have the skills to take the company forward. How will advocates plan for this phase? Will the transition from start up to maintenance be smooth, engaging and successful?

As you move forward, I hope you’ll continue to ask those of us who have been in the trenches for help. But don’t just ask us about our business and marketing plans: ask what we did when those plans actually worked!

~ May 4, 2016

*Linda Adler is CEO of Pathfinders Medical Advocacy and Consulting.

** Find a mentor for your patient advocacy practice.

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