Learn from big business

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. – HME providers may associate Tom Cesar with accreditation, but it turns out he knows a thing or two about how to grow a small business. Cesar led ACHC for 21 years and helped to build up the company from two to 55 employees. HME News caught up with Cesar, who has started his own consulting firm, Tom Cesar Management Solutions, to talk about how small businesses can use principles from programs like ISO 900 and Malcolm Baldrige to grow through increased productivity.

HME News: What are your experiences with ISO 900 and Malcolm Baldrige?

Tom Cesar: I did something no one else did with an accrediting organization: ACHC was the first national accrediting organization to achieve ISO 9000—most people don’t even know what this is—and to start the process for Malcolm Baldrige. 

HME: What are some of the principles of these programs?

Cesar: These programs are all about best practices. Baldridge focuses on seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, true customer focus, workforce focus, operations focus, and then measurement, analysis and results.

HME: Are small businesses intimidated by these programs?

Cesar: Most small businesses believe you have to be big to use ISO 900 or to use Baldrige. They’re mistaken. Globally, a lot of small companies learn from these principles. These companies don’t necessarily earn the certification, but they pick and choose what helps them build their businesses.

HME: Where’s a good place for providers to start along this path?

Cesar: The first step for any company is doing self-assessments on the processes in their organization. When I go to the doctor’s office, it irritates me when I have to fill out forms and by the time you’re done, you’ve given them your address four times. That’s inefficient. That means the clerk is doing something four times, instead of once. They probably have processes that are repetitive that can be consolidated into a better system.

HME: Do these programs extend to not only processes but also people?

Cesar: Yes, are all of your employees aligned with the same view and moving in the same direction? If employees are not aligned and they’re working in independent ways, you’re going to have some hits and misses. There’s an efficiency factor from people, just not processes.

HME: Why should providers make this a priority?

Cesar: I know there are a lot of challenges out there. But there are 10,000 baby boomers a day turning Medicare age. They’re not going to go away and they’re going to need a lot of help from the HME industry. HME has a real bright future, but productivity is crucial to that. It’s not just cutbacks from the government that they need to be concerned about, it’s their back-end operations.