Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Older Clientele

I heard from an old friend this past weekend that we met some 63 years ago. He and his wife are the same age as Thelma and I. Naturally the first question we asked one-another was, “How are you feeling?"
All four of us are octogenarians and are grateful that we are able to enjoy every day the GOOD LORD blessed us with. It is people like us who are the best market available for DME/HME providers. Today, we are the fastest growing segment of the population and the greater bulk of us have more discretionary dollars than those before us.
You must cater to this market. In previous blogs I have made it a point that your showroom must always be brightly lit. Senior citizens, many of them who have poor or diminished eyesight, are attracted when things stand out. Take notice how Target and other major companies do this. All aisles must have a sign explaining what type of products they contain, such as diabetics, BP, first aid, or paper products.
While checking how to get more light into your showroom, remember to have every visible item on display “price-marked.” If not priced, you may lose that sale. I know that Thelma and I never ask for a price. If it is not visible we walk on. This can be true for many of our peers.
Be sure every one in your establishment is wearing a nametag. You and your sales people should greet all customers, not just seniors. Never address by a first name unless they are personal friends.
Give your senior citizen clientele all the attention possible. Their family caregivers often stop in to look at items their patients would like to obtain. This happens very often and the family caregiver will make the purchase.
I give this message at least twice a year. I feel this market, senior citizens, must become a prime one for every DME/HME dealer. You can make that happen.

Monday, October 28, 2013


iWalk 2.0
by iWalk-Free
An exciting new addition to Medtrade was the “Retail Design Center”. Since most of the blogs we send are about OTC cash sales, this was the place everyone needed to stop and visit.

These displays were not “Simple Simon” showing his wares. In this arena they opened a “Pandora’s Box” filled with exciting new products that would be very appropriate for DME/HME, and that I knew would be perfect for OTC cash sales.

But if you did not see them in person and think about your clientele, then you could not truly appreciate the opportunities. I believe there were 21+ manufacturers who brought their new goodies, and to me this represents 21 new profitable items. I even saw “underwear” and next generation “socks” that your clientele would love.

There were many more OTC items available on the exhibition floor, but you had to have been there. My words are insufficient; seeing is believing. I will only name the five companies who were winners of the awards:

Royal-EZ – ComfortTek Seating
iWalk2.0 Hands Free Crutch-  iWalk-Free
EVE - Joint Solutions
Next Generation Socks – Nufoot

Wellness Briefs & Underwear – Unique Wellness
Nufoot Next Generation Socks
You didn’t have to seek them out; HMENews reported this on the front page of the second show daily.

I am going to present HMENews the first “Shelly” award (somewhat like a Pulitzer Prize) for the yeoman task they do at all the Medtrade shows. It is always been a must to read what HMENews provides. Thank you!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Write A New Business Plan

A new business plan is the equivalent of drawing a map with directions to reach your goals. I learned this as a freshman in college and have since put it to valuable use; preparing a new business plan annually.

When I graduated from Brooklyn College of Pharmacy, I sat down with my wife, and together we wrote a "business" plan. I had a job paying $50.00/week working in my father’s pharmacy and she was hired to teach 3rd grade in East Meadow, NY earning $2,400 a year (no joke). In 1950, believe it or not, we felt like we were “in the chips.”

We sat down to etch a plan for our future. My goal was to open my own pharmacy and she was prepared to support everything we decided to do and have children. We succeeded in doing both. It took about a year before we had the courage to open our first pharmacy. My partner was a classmate, a decorated veteran who fought the war in the Pacific. Teamed together we were very fortunate. We opened in a very small village, Rosedale, NY, and our pharmacy flourished. I am sure you know the rest of the story.

The point I wish to make here is that we wrote a new business plan every December. My partner and I spent many hours sketching out where we thought our best paths would take us. By this careful planning, we were able to grow much faster than we anticipated.

We sat down with our accountant to determine where the bulk of our sales came from, the average profit of each segment and the amount of inventory needed. We studied our market. We looked at every business in Rosedale and at our competition. By undergoing this process, we were able to see many new opportunities.

I can assure you that if done diligently, it will enable you to expand your annual volume. Think abut the opportunities with OTC cash sales. Think about sending out salespeople and think about your showroom.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Should I?

Many of the dealers and providers I spoke to at Medtrade had questions which I tried to answer. There is no doubt that these are trying times, and we must be able to make changes. The principals of DME/HME companies are frightened by the Competitive Bid legislation and wondering how it will affect them when it arrives in their town. Very often our conversation started with this question: “Should I try, or should I look the other way?”

If you decide to give it a try, that will keep your name on the bidder’s list. If you do not, whether for the current legislation (competitive bid) or any other offered, your company may be removed from the solicitation list. So please look at every request that comes your way. Please submit your answers with fair prices; you don’t want to be the lowest bidder - there will always be a company willing to give away the store! That company often will provide poor or no customer service and may fail. However, when you are still on the bidders list for CMS, Medicare or whoever requested pricing, they will then turn to you.

If you have been awarded a bid, make sure you maintain sufficient inventory to give STAT service. Since you are a winner, be sure you regularly call on who sent you the request. If it was CMS or Medicare, be sure all possible referral sources are visited, especially the physicians. Be sure to notify all your customers that your company has been accepted as a vendor. Now you want to solicit to all the business that emanate from them. When I say “solicit,” I mean not just the items that were bid for, but also for the multitude of other items they may require.

When I was in New England, I won a small bid for some items I routinely sold (stethoscopes, BP monitors etc.) for the prisons in Massachusetts. There were about a dozen jails scattered throughout the state. I made it a point to visit each at least once a month. They had the ability to purchase what they required as long as it did not exceed a maximum which I believe was $500.  We always made a great deal of sales for the other items, which were not on the bid list. The sales for those items added up to BIG dollars. We soon discovered our company was the only one who routinely called on the prison system routinely.

So should your company bid for new business? The answer is YES!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Reflections: A Different Medtrade Part 3

These are very trying times for DME/HME dealers. The ability to eliminate the “Competitive Bid” legislation, which is constantly on everyone’s lips, is the problem we face.  I spoke with many dealers on the exhibition floor and almost all were concerned.  What is happening can be addressed, but this requires much more than “what can I do?”

I asked every person that I talked to if they belong to AAHomecare and their state DME association. A great percentage of them did!  These are the folks have always been the backbone of our profession, but they are in a minority because far too many providers or dealers do not belong!  I am comfortable that after this Medtrade many more will realize that if they do not belong there will be no one to fight for them.

Cara Bachenheimer (Invacare) once again delivered a positive message.  Her session assured us that CMS would do the right thing; the “face-to-face” requirement is a problem.  But Cara is satisfied this will be moderated.  After hearing her, I am sure many of the attendees will now become team players.

Mark Higley (VGM) spoke a great deal about the current ACA legislation.  There will be many

changes made by Congress but he feels (as I do) that the Affordable Care Act will prove to be beneficial for DME/HME.

I was unable to attend many of the talks and classes I would have liked.  But when speaking with attendees, they were all very pleased with what they saw and heard.  This ability to meet and speak with the staff of AA Homecare and with state association officers is the key to why it is imperative that every DME/HME dealer attend.  Medtrade is where you find out what to do, where to go and who are your allies.

Mal Mixon (Invacare) reached back his day as a Marine Corps officer: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  With people like Mal on our team there is no question this year at the Medtrade Exhibition was so important.  We all can make changes that we should have done years ago.

Many attendees had the opportunity for delightful refreshment at the BEER GARDEN (thank you Infopia USA). We all worked hard, but even more important is that we all join forces.

If we are to get the politicians in DC to respond, we have to show them that we are all working together and the problems we ask them to resolve are not just from DME/HME dealers or providers. We have tremendous support from all our customers, patients and family caregivers. They have to understand that we work closely with the physicians, nurses, hospitals and rehab clinics in our communities.  DME is an integral partner in the chain of health care support in the United States.

What we have is formidable, the ability to help elect or re-elect those who support us.   A vote is more important than a dollar to keep those Congressmen who support us in office.  Let us all follow the lead of a few dealers in Florida who met with their Congressman and he is now a good friend.

You can see that Medtrade is a great deal more than just vendors and dealers sharing time.  DME, rehab, IV, PT & OT and every facet of healthcare is addressed.   The cost to attend; carfare, room and board is so minute, but the ROI for this investment is that your company will continue to flourish and grow.  That is what MEDTRADE means!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Reflections: A Different Medtrade Part 2

As it could've been expected, there was slightly less traffic at Medtrade in Orlando. However, the attendees that came were ready to do business and looking for solutions.  They were planning to survive & thrive (as VGM put it) in this new landscape.  They came to Orlando to seek new opportunities and other products, which their company could feature to develop new OTC cash sales.  

Opportunities galore! Upon arrival, I sashayed to the new product pavilion. This was like a magnet because dealers were standing in line waiting for their turn to see all the “goodies.” There were many!
You know, if I still were a dealer, one of the ideas I like was to start selling inexpensive clothing designed for use in any facility.  I saw from some vendors new clothing items that are easy to wash and dry and comfortable for the patient. There also was a vendor bringing linens designed for use by patients at home or institutionalized. These items are very specific, sturdy and easily maintained. I can see the bed-ridden patients and senior citizens at these facilities that would benefit from these special items for their comfort.  There were the vendors bringing so many new items and approaches and I tried to see them all.
Another sight for sore eyes was the “Emerging Company Pavilion".  This to me was a high spot!  You are able to make a great living without depending on “competitive bid” dollars. Keep what you already have but put all your efforts to develop more OTC cash sales.  That is the path to be on!
I participated in the “welcome” session for new attendees. It was a pleasant surprise that so many attendees got up early.  Kevin Gaffney outlined what could be found on the exhibition floor.  When I spoke to a number of these entrepreneurs I saw the future of  DME/HME growing in their good hands.
The “Washington Update” followed this; Jay Witter (AAHomecare) brought everyone
up-to-date on what is happening in DC, which can affect our business. He made it very clear that”:

1.)   Yes, we face many difficult times!
2.)   We can beat them all by working together.


It is reassuring when we all heard what Jay and the teams at AAHomecare are doing.
I left that session with enthusiasm recognizing how much AAHomecare means to the entire health care industry. We must all give them our 100% support. They are in a position to get results and this new team led by Tom Ryan will do just that! I would like to see every dealer or provider become a dues paying member of AAHomecare (as well as their state DME association).
When Tom Ryan spoke, I relaxed, and recognized that he is the person we need to guide our industry. If you have not already signed on, please do so STAT.  It was the largest attendance that I can recall. We met so many friends and associates and got more hugs and kisses than ever.
Tuesday evening the staff of HomeCare Magazine had a “meet the new team” get together for the Board with the staff. They are filled with refreshing ideas and the magazine will stay in the forefront as a leader.
Thelma and I next went to the annual AAHomecare STAND UP FOR HOMECARE RECEPTION fundraiser. AAHomecare awarded Scott Meuser (Pride) and yours truly for our contributions on behalf of the profession. All I can say is “thank you”, however the award should have been given to Thelma. All these years she has kept me on line and worked as my partner!
In the Show News Daily #3, published by HME News they reported “GET IN THERE”, a small gathering of DME providers (all located in Florida District 8) and reported how they contacted their Congressman Bill Posey.  They have earned his full support for HR1717 and he is helping get additional help from Congress.
Colleen Hunter (Browning's Pharmacy) and Gene Sego (Sego's Home Medical Equipment),
both independent dealers from Central Florida, led the session.  There were other passionate HME/DME providers also in attendance at the meeting including Donna Sammon of Browning’s Pharmacy; Kamen Jenkins of Wuesthoff Home Medical; and Greg Bonenberger of Brevard HME.  

Colleen Hunter said, “We want to let everyone know it can be done.”  Gene spoke about how much the beneficiaries are suffering, as we are so aware.  Congressman Bill Posey (R FL-8) sent two of his staff to attend and visit Medtrade.

My hope is this effort will be replicated throughout the United States with the co-operation of the state DME associations.  We must get HR 1717 passed and the “Competitive Bid” eliminated.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reflections: A Different Medtrade Part 1

The Medtrade Exhibition and Conference meetings are a reflection of the country and of the economy.  Times are rapidly changing and so is Medtrade.  This was reflected this past week in Orlando.

Despite what was happening outside the exhibition hall, activity inside was running rapidly without missing a step!  Since I have been fortunate in having had the ability to attend every Medtrade since it’s inception, I CAN say that for DME/HME there is “no other important opportunity available which rivals Medtrade!”

To be able to meet with peers from all over the U.S. coupled with the ability to work with vendors is the heart of the show.  This is a very important ability for your company. 

How many seminars were made available to attend? OVER 100 and most lecture rooms were filled to capacity!
How many vendors were displaying their wares and with new products? OVER 550!  And, there were over 80 new exhibitors with unique products from last year. 

The ability to speak with and work with the officers of the associations who keep our industry stable and your company informed is very important.  These days are filled with problem after problem, which have to be resolved.  Your participation will keep them effective to accomplish this.

Thirty-six of the states associations that make up the United States of America were in attendance and had representatives at their desks on the show floor.

AAHomecare, the D.C. center of activity, was working diligently for as many attendees as possible.
  The industry must understand and appreciate the horror of the current legislation and when it reaches every one it will be too late to do anything!  If the “competitive bid” legislation is not changed to the pending MPP bill (H.R. 1717) it will affect every recipient and all your clientele.  Every patient and their family caregiver will then have great difficulty in obtaining their supplies and oxygen from you. 

Ask them to join with you in these efforts, otherwise they will be running all over to find the “lowest bidder”. The low bidder will only care about  money not at all about the patients. You must become active! This catastrophe must not be allowed to happen.
If you currently are NOT a dues paying member of AAHomecare and your state DME association please join now.  Then, we can meet again at Medtrade Spring in Las Vegas.

Yes, this was indeed a different Medtrade.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

WOW: Medtrade 2013

The ribbon cutting at the AA Homecare Washington Update
Tuesday October 8th (Day 1 of the show) Having attended every Medtrade since its inception, I was always impressed by the high quality of the speakers and the attitude of vendors who were introducing new opportunities.  But to truly appreciate Medtrade, nothing can show it better that the enthusiasm of the attendees.

Dealers and providers came to Orlando to get a better understanding what is happening in DC with CMS and Medicare.  They are aware there will be a continuing number of independent dealers  “falling out” which will leave the beneficiaries and family caregivers (their customers) to shift for themselves.

The vendors all understood this problem and the speakers addressed them.  AA Homecare and the state associations all are geared up to maintain the DME/HME industry as a solid profession.  I know how often I have stated there are far too many companies whose livelihood is at stake. These dealers and providers must give AA Homecare and their state association the support the need by joining with all the other dues paying members!

The vendors brought the attendees new products and  new means of marketing and I am back to WOW. The great number of opportunities for OTC cash sales that could be found on the floor was phenomenal. There was something for everyone! By the time the showroom closed I realized there will be some superb changes in direction for many companies and they will harvest a bountiful crop. I look forward and see you again next year!
My wife, Thelma, and Christina Brown, my blog partner & the social media director of Medtrade.

Monday, October 7, 2013

CALM, Monday Evening, October 7

I always try to arrive at the Medtrade Exhibitions one day early. The show officially opens tomorrow, October 8, at 9:00 AM, when Kevin Gaffney and his team slice the red drape and a swarm of dealers and providers pour through the door to the exhibition floor.

This opening experience has always been one of the moments that I relish. Today, Monday, when I arrived at the Convention Center, there was a certain calm, which I still found very reassuring. More than 350 dealers came to participate in a day filled with additional special training classes.

When I go into the empty exhibition area and see the crates and boxes arriving from all over the country, I am filled with delight! The hammering, displaying, and activity at each of the locations converts a barren room into the one place that every DME/HME provider awaits. Anything they could possibly need to help their business grow and develop new profits will be waiting for them. All the unfilled space becomes alive and each of the exhibits becomes a special arena where all the action will happen.

To date, 2013 has consisted of months of very diligent work by an industry to bring about change regarding how we are reimbursed for our services and supplies. AAHomecare and the state DME associations have spent hours making telephone calls, writing letters, appearing in Washington, D.C. on behalf of all DME/HME providers.

Over the next three days, I look forward to seeing an industry continue to roll up its sleeves and work in tandem with their state association and AAHomecare to make the changes we need. HR 1717 must come out of committee; so far 157 Congressmen have signed on. When we all co-operate with diligence this will happen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Opportunities Galore

No matter where your company may be located, whether you provide service to your customers in a small village or a big city, the very same opportunities are there.

At Medtrade you will find many seminars on subjects which are appropriate for your company. Schedule to attend those which answer your interests. On the showroom floor find those vendors who will provide additional guidance and show you how to increase volume with them!

Our population is aging; there are more senior citizens now than there ever have been! They are a major stepping stone to further growth and consequently better profits. Arrange to speak at “senior” gatherings. Most Houses of Worship sponsor these “clubs.” Make yourself available and they will roll out a welcome carpet to hear what you can offer.

A rapidly expanding opportunity is with “obesity.”  Many dealers sponsor special classes in their showroom (usually on a Saturday mornings from 10:00am until noon). Invite local speakers such as dietitians,  RNs,  PTs,  or physicians, and invariably there is a full house. But they also, wisely, have all types of bathroom scales and similar items prominently displayed.

There is no end to the topics you can offer. Think about diabetics, home tele-health, smoking, COPD, and EMTs. I know that at Medtrade you will be presented with many new ideas. As they say in the Good Book, “Seek and ye shall find – opportunities galore.”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Another Look

AAHomecare has always been in the forefront fighting the Competitive Bid legislation and all the other onerous things emanating from CMS and Medicare. Here is an opportunity to make a rather small investment, of only $150.00, that will help your company remain in business despite all the bedlam. Bringing your check will benefit you with a fantastic ROI; your future as a DME provider.

Be sure to attend (with your check) AAHomeare’s annual Stand Up for Homecare fundraiser Tuesday, October 8, 5:30-7:00 PM at the Baterbys Art Gallery located at 9101 International Drive (across the street from the Convention Center).  I will be there with Thelma, and we look forward saying hello to all our friends.

At Medtrade there are many seminars you and your staff be able to attend. You have the privilege of choosing those that will guide you through the coming year. Several attendees bring staff members who plan on each attending different lectures. When back at home, they share all the material they gathered.

I spoke with a dealer I know from Missouri. He, his wife, and two employees plan to attend 12 or more seminars each day! Note from Shelly: His company is one of the most successful!

Meet the new team at AAHomecare and CEO Tom Ryan. They want to hear from you. Help them increase their membership.  If you are not a dues paying member, please join AAHomecare now. Get on board to stay in business and continue to flourish. As their membership expands, so will the services they perform.

It’s not all work at Medtrade. You are invited to participate in the HME Christian Fellowship's “Purposeful Prayer Breakfast” Wednesday, October 9th, 6:30 AM to 8:00 AM, room W311E.  David Miller, an old friend, is doing this for the third year at Medtrade. 

 This is another look at all the wonderful opportunities waiting for you in Orlando at Medtrade.