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Erik Mickelson walks the talk

Erik Mickelson walks the talk

YAKIMA, Wash. - Erik Mickelson, ATP, has hung up a shingle as a consultant, saying there's a vacuum of consultants in the HME industry who are also business owners. Here's what Mickelson, CEO of Howard's Medical Supply, which does more than one-quarter of its business in complex rehab, had to say about how he's helping to lift up independent providers like himself.

HME News: How have you set up your consulting business?

Erik Mickelson: We have a three-tiered approach. The base level is our mastermind groups; the mid level is consulting over the phone; and the top level is in-store consulting. We also have a weekly podcast that is free. It's a good way for people to answer, “Who is this guy and why should I listen to him?” The idea for the set up was, when I started out, I couldn't afford Medtrade, but I could afford to pick up the phone.

HME: I've never heard of mastermind groups.

Mickelson: It's $50 a month, and it's a group of three to six like-minded providers who dial in once a month for an hour. I navigate the discussion and we share problem areas. I love problem solving. It's basically a team meeting but with other providers across the country. I saved $100,000 for my business by being part of a mastermind group, so I know it works.

HME: How'd you save $100,000?

Mickelson: We outsourced part of our business to offsite team members in Manilla, in the Philippines. When we had some billers and customer service reps leave—they were doing data entry—we moved that work offsite, cutting down on payroll costs and increasing our productivity.

HME: You acknowledge that there are a number of good consultants in the industry but none to your knowledge also currently run an HME company. How does this set you apart?

Mickelson: We run four stores today, and we are actively involved. Our stores are in rural areas and they're in non-rural areas, and we have issues related to that. There are team member issues, reimbursement issues, billing issues—we're still in all of it. I'm also an ATP, so there's also the whole complex rehab side.

HME: What consulting topic are you most passionate about?

Mickelson: I've been teaching a four-course workshop here on how to grow leaders. I've made some major staffing mistakes over the years and every time I've course corrected. A friend in the industry recently asked me how I was doing with turnover; she had heard we had had some turnover. I corrected her that not one executive team lead has left us in over a year. We've all had some turnover on the bottom end, but we've thrown ourselves into developing leaders, because that's how you grow.

HME: Broadly speaking, where are HME companies today going wrong?

Mickelson: One of my biggest opinions is that you stay positive until things turn around. People are exhausted; they're bummed out; and they think they're the only ones. People want a silver bullet, but there is none. You have to fire your guns so many times in so many different areas, before you hit a target. It's day in and day out, working on things and tweaking them.


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