Medtrade keynote: Don't miss change

Thursday, November 18, 2010

ATLANTA - Three words sum up Clifford Schorer's advice for HME providers during the keynote address at Medtrade last week: "Don't miss change."

Quoting Charles Darwin, Schorer, the entrepreneur in residence at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business, told providers, "It's not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones who respond to change."

Schorer also sits on the board of Landauer Metropolitan, a large regional HME provider based in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

With example after example, Schorer showed what happens when even the largest and most experienced corporations miss change. Take IBM. In 1990, the company had 400,000 employees and $69 billion in sales. But when it didn't recognize the shift to desktop computers and software, it collapsed. In 1992, only two years later, it had 300,000 employees and negative $6.5 billion in sales.

"(This) happens because (companies) don't know what's going on in their marketplace," Schorer said.

Of course, IBM rebounded. After bringing in new management and polling its customers on what they wanted from the company, it became the largest consulting company in the world.

So what can HME providers do to make sure they're not, as Schorer says, standing on the shore, watching the ship sail away? He advised:

*    "Make sure you're surrounded by young people," he said. They're better able to see change coming and the opportunities it creates.

*    Take an aggressive approach to the market and cut operating costs.

*    Seek out new products.

*    Learn from the best of breed (See IBM above).

*    Step back and think about how to use emerging technologies in your business. Brooks Brothers, for example, has equipped all of its sales associates with Apple iPads so they can better serve customers on the spot. If the item of clothing the customer wants is out of stock, the associates can find another Brooks Brothers store that has it. If the customer needs a tailor, they can find one. If the customer wants to file a complaint, they can do that, too.

"These things are powerful and open the door to opportunity," Schorer said.