Medtrade Spring preview: Don't let fear get in the way

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fear is what prevents more HME providers from offering home modification services, says Bill Stelzer. Providers are scared because they’re equipment people, not contractors, he says, and contractors are afraid because they don’t know HME. But that fear is keeping both from a lucrative business opportunity that’s primarily cash-driven, says Stelzer, the retired general manager of Green Bay Home Medical Equipment. He now coaches providers toward the home modifications market, and he’ll share some tips at Medtrade Spring. Here’s a preview:

HME News: How did Green Bay Medical get into the home modification business?

Bill Stelzer: What spurred us was that we couldn’t find anyone to do it for people. If we did find a contractor, it was three or six months before they could do the job. So we hired a carpenter of our own.

HME: How did you drum up business?

Stelzer: We started the carpenter out delivering equipment. He would see things in people’s homes so he could recommend modifications. Within three months, he wasn’t doing deliveries, and within three years, we had four people in that area. We did home and garden shows, and joined our local homebuilders’ association.

HME: What kind of benefits did you see in your business?

Stelzer: Within three years, we took it to $3 million—mostly cash or credit card. More than anything, it helped our reputation. People said, “That’s the go-to place.” Home modifications are things that a family will rally around and pay for.

HME: How should a relationship with a contractor be structured?

Stelzer: It can be done with a partnership or an agreement; I’ve seen it work that way. You have to decide how to divide the profits. When we first started talking to subcontractors, they said, “Sure, we can do it in three to four weeks.” That wasn’t fast enough for us. We hired our own carpenter and subbed out for electricians and plumbers. We said, “We’ll raise your pay from $60 per hour to $90 per hour if you can do the job within 48 hours.” They all jumped on it.

Name: Bill Stelzer

Title/company: Coach/owner, Bill Stelzer Consulting

Services provided: Home modification consulting

Session: “Home Modification and You—Home Accessibility Business Opportunities Within the HME/DME Marketplace”

Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 3:00 pm to 4:00 p.m.

Contact: 920.639.6993 /




Fear is the defining characteristic of every HME provider. Fear of medicare. Fear of ambulance chasing attorneys. Fear of whatever stupid "solution" congress invents this week. However long I was meant to live, I know I will die sooner because of the stress and anxiety of owning a HME company. It is worse than being in prison. I have to take a pill for anxiety and I have to take a pill to sleep at nights. I have chest pains. I have withdrawn from friends and family. Owning a HME company is hell. I would not wish it on my worst enemey.

Wow. It can&#39;t be any worse than sitting through an entire Kevin Costner movie, right? <br />
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Fear is knowing that if you do everything according to CMS requirements then you could still go out of business when they tie up 80K of your cashflow in an audit. You win the audits yet still lose your company due to the cash flow hit. Fear is spending 30% of every dollar collected on billing and accredidation and still not knowing if it will be enough. Fear is having chairs denied for immaterial technicalities that were never an issue before and wondering what the next immaterial technality will be that ties up more of your cashflow. Fear is not knowing when, if or how your reimbursements will be cut once again. Fear is giving your very best and never knowing if it will be good enough. Fear is having a scared, paniced feeling in the pit of your stomach so long that you have panic attacks for reasons you cannot even identify.

The single biggest regret of my life is getting into a business that relied upon payment from any government body. No other choice in my life has caused me as much grief, stress or heartache.<br />
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If you can get out of this business the run, don&#39;t walk. Selling pencils on the side of the road would be better than this life.

What sort of hit did this guy take on his general liablity premiums when he started doing construction? I imagine the exposure to lawsuits is intense and that would need to be factored into the pricing.

I fear all of these so-called consultants who have very little, if any HME operations experience. Now, all of a sudden, we have expert sales coaches and business transformation experts with NO hands-on HME experience.