So long, Wallace Weeks

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MELBOURNE, Fla. - Long-time industry consultant Wallace Weeks will call it quits at the end of this year and devote himself full time to his commercial photography business. Weeks entered the industry as a consultant in 1993 after a stint in commercial banking and never looked back, becoming a popular speaker and guru of activities based costing (ABC). HME News held an exit interview with Weeks in mid-September.

HME News: Are you really leaving the industry for good? It's not going to be the same without you.

Wallace Weeks: I'm going to leave consulting, but I hope to do some photography within the industry. One of our clients (recently) asked, "When you retire, what if I need you to look at something for me?" It made me stop and think. You can't totally walk away and abandon the people you have worked with in the past. I probably can't say no, but it would probably be better for my photography business if I could.

HME: Do you think you'll miss consulting?

Weeks: No. I won't miss number crunching. I won't miss analysis. I probably will miss some of the strategic thinking, and that's because it draws on my creative side, which is why I love my photography business.

HME: You've always been big on ABC. Have enough providers adopted it over the years?

Weeks: I'd say enough have done it for the industry to be OK. But all of them haven't done it. Those are the ones who will suffer.

HME: What do you think will be the fallout from competitive bidding?

Weeks: As an industry matures its customers (payers) become better negotiators and have more power to negotiate prices--and that's happening in our industry. That leads to consolidation. I think what competitive bidding is going to do is lead to more consolidation. Consolidation is not just about mergers and acquisitions. It's also people throwing in the towel and saying, "I'm out of here."

HME: Will we ever see a big-box HME retailer?

Weeks: Yes. I won't say it is going to be a Lincare or an Apria or that it's out there today. It could be someone who is not on the horizon. You look at the big-box retailers--the Walmarts and the Targets--and we're going to see that in the DME industry, where they are collectively controlling half of the market share.

HME: It does seem like someone has to eventually emerge as a dominant player.

Weeks: I don't think it is all going to move to retail, and there's another thing I have begun to wonder about: Is there a view that the government should not be providing DME? In the back rooms of Congress and in the administrations, not just the current administration, are they saying: "We just can't keep doing DME. We need to get out of this business." It feels that way.

HME: What's your final piece of advice for HME providers?

Weeks: I'd characterize our industry as a high-touch industry. But no one is willing to pay us for that high touch. If no one is willing to pay for that, you can't be in business if you sell it. We're going to have to take technology and remove man-hours from our business model.