After 20 years in HME, she's hittin' the road

Monday, July 31, 2006

Medtrade 2006 attendees may notice that there are several new seminar speakers in the educational line-up this year, and Velma Goertzen will be doing her best to stand out among the crowd. Although she's a rookie speaker at Medtrade, she's really a veteran HME executive who is branching out into consulting after 20 years in the business.
Goertzen will be stepping down from her management post at Hutchinson, Kan.-based Med-E-Quip at year's end to devote more time to her fledgling consulting firm, A Step Ahead. It has been about a year since she first hung out her consultant's shingle and during that time she has gained a loyal following. She will host three seminars at Medtrade on a trio of topics: HME retailing, activity-based management and handling change in a proactive way.
Goertzen recently talked about her career change and what she hopes to accomplish as a consultant to HME providers.
HME News: You have spent your career as an HME provider. What steered you toward consulting?
Velma Goertzen: I have used consultants over the years and found them to be very valuable. They are another set of eyes to look at your business. Sometimes you're too close to the issues to fully understand them. We brought in consultants for billing, audits, finances and operations to look at the overall company to see where we could improve. I was always looking for ways to improve processes. The reason why I wanted to do it is because I have gotten a lot of calls from my peers who knew I was in the business for a long time, asking how we did things. Our retail business has been successful for us and they wanted to know why. So I think there's a need out there.
HME: Why is now the right time to go in this direction?
Goertzen: I'm retiring from my position here at the end of the year. I wanted to develop the consulting business while I'm still active to see if there was a niche for me. I don't plan on doing it full time, but I will be available for at least couple years to share some of the insights I've learned over the years.
HME: What are your key areas of expertise?
Goertzen: Retail is a big one, but not my only one. I also focus on diversifying revenues, leadership training for middle management, activity-based costing and activity-based management. ABC/ABM is a tremendous tool to prepare for competitive bidding. It consists of much more than just figuring out the cost of gas for the delivery van and the driver's wages. There are many other expenses associated with the business.
HME: How have you channeled your professional experience into teaching?
Goertzen: It's been part of who I am for many years. I've been at the business a long time. Part of my management style is teaching and educating team members.
HME: In your view, where do HME providers need the most help?
Goertzen: Process improvement--changing the "we've always done it that way" mentality. There's a new playing field and what we've always done is not going to work anymore. We've got to think differently--using technology to greater advantage, getting away from manual documentation and paper, streamlining processes from order intake to delivery and reducing the number of hands that touch each order. Is it easy to make these changes? No, but it needs to happen.
HME: Consultants often complain about the grueling travel schedule that comes with the job. Do you have any reservations about that?
Goertzen: Not really. I don't need to stay home to look after small children; and I like to travel.