How do you know if you're thinking clearly?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Our first goal as business owners or managers is to bring clear thinking to our companies. Every day, ideas and decisions come from our desks that result in hundreds of ideas and decisions from the professionals in our organizations. As an owner or manager, how do we know if we are thinking clearly about our day-to-day decisions?  

I am always interested in hearing what other business leaders are thinking and doing. I read books and articles. I engage business mentors and friends who are successful. Day to day, I rely on an honest relationship with my partner and my operations manager. Success for our team is a daily struggle to defeat the demons that pop up from our routines and slowly shifting focus.  

The areas I have been interested in lately break down loosely into four areas: people, motivation, skills and technology. All of these ideas may not be practical for your business model, but they can stimulate your thinking, which is always a good thing.

People: Work together

How your people work together is critical to the success of your organization. Building processes that encourage communication is the key. The most efficient path is not always the direct path to success. For example, review is a work process not an after-event. Working in teams multiplies brainpower, improves quality and saves time. Staff members are each other’s best teachers. Their work is so interrelated that peer groups or work teams that constructively review each other as a normal part of the process can predict or solve problems effectively. Encouraging peer groups and mentor relationships strengthens your staff and better processes will result.

Motivation: Hire for attributes, then give free rein

People are motivated differently. It is difficult to institutionalize a plan that motivates your professional staff in a manner that promotes sustainable growth. Consider a hard stop for profit in your process as an alternative for profit-based incentive pay. When a hard stop for profit within a small team structure is standard procedure, then everyone will get with the program or they will have a great deal of frustration working with their team. Look for ways to promote the factors that ensure long-term sustainability and growth. Timeliness is our focus. We grade on the scale of how quick we can execute a quality plan of care. Reducing the time between intake and billing is how we determine if we are healthy. For me, hiring for these attributes and then giving my best people the reins created the desired organizational culture.

Skills: Dominate as niche experts

Developing and growing your business is tough work. Usually we think of adding more folks or a bigger territory. Consider developing areas of expertise and growing your business to dominate niche areas. Grow sales and define yourself as a professional/medical entity rather than a wheelchair store. For example, develop a pediatric acumen. Pediatric seating has a bad rap: “It is not profitable,” “The follow up and rework is a killer,” etc. If you train and develop the professional staff to support the business profitably and properly, pediatrics can be a steady addition to your company’s bottom line. Children and their families are repeat customers and have great loyalty if you handle them with a medical/professional orientation. Another growth idea is to develop a complex shapes practice. Molded seating can be profitable, when you take the time to develop the correct model, train the right professional staff and use the correct product for this type of practice.  

Technology: Go full bore

Technology and administrative control through that technology are now a way of life. This discipline has kept us alive through the dark days. Technology is very helpful to those companies that embrace it and decide to develop a comprehensive plan. That plan can be phased in over a couple of years but it is difficult to be half paper and half electronic, and really reap the benefit of the technology. We went paperless. Going paperless required discipline to really define our process and get everyone on board. Just a warning: Paperless does not mean no more filing. Success and saving time with a paperless process really depends on how you measure it. We found that our computer screens are now our desktops and had to go to dual, high quality monitors so our professional staff could work quickly with the imaged documents. We did not plan for that cost but are happy with the results.

These are all areas that I have been working on in the last year. What are your areas of expertise? Where do you need to strengthen your skills? Iron sharpens iron and until I am ready to quit the fight I will always be looking out for a better way to do the work we all love. hme

Jim Noland, SMS/ATP, CRTS, is the founder of Presque Isle Medical Technologies and Conduit Technology, the parent company of the web-based documentation tool LMN Builder and the forthcoming cloud-based clinical documentation tool Conduit Office. Reach him at