Gen X Entrepreneurs

Gen X Entrepreneurs

Stuck somewhere in between the retiring Baby-Boomer generation and the “Hipster” Millenials is my generation. I am on the tail-end of Gen-X. I am 38 years old. I am an accountant who happens to be credentialed as CPA since I was bored and decided it would make me a more rounded accountant (which I think is partly true). My career took the traditional path of any CPA – I took an audit position with a mid-sized firm in Minnesota. After passing my CPA exam and “getting my two years in” at a public firm, it took me a couple jobs before I found the right fit…non-profit and healthcare accounting. A beast upon itself. 

My career progressed I was promoted, started a family, but didn’t feel fulfilled. I had an “ah-ha” moment shortly after I took my current position at a large hospital. THIS is what I LOVE DOING! I LOVE working with non-accountants and getting their departments of little joint ventures on track.  I love helping them plan financially for equipment they might need a couple years down the line. I love calculating how many patients/customers it will take to break even or make a return on their initial investment. That is what I love. 

Never in a million years did I imagine I would be sitting here about to kick-off my new business and venture in my own. A friend who has an entrepreneurial mind encouraged me. My husband has supported this pursuit and my kids are tolerating my mood swings. 

I feel my generation was not taught or given the opportunity to think a different way that might lead to new businesses. Now they teach entrepreneurial classes in college and grad school. Everything I have done to set up this business has been self taught. I have poured my heart, my soul, and my whole self into this business. I am a different person. I am confident. I am able to talk to people I have never met. I am able to make connections easily because I listen. I am a Gen-Xer and I am an Entrepreneur. 

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Small Business – Strategy Team

Small Business – Strategy Team

Does your business ever feel held back by circumstances around you or the industry? You have a passion for what you do, you do it well, you might even have a faithful customer base.  But, there is something in you that wants to share your talent on a broader scale. Get new patients in or open a new location.  Perhaps you are like me, I’m introverted.  Now when I sit down and talk with people they would not think that as I am confident and excited about what I do for a living and it makes me light up as I talk about it.  However, I get anxiety prior to sitting down with people over coffee to talk business.

How do you grow and expand your practice when it is difficult to take those first steps?  You need an team – an army of people/advisers who support your vision. You got this far…if your gut is telling you to serve more people thoughtfully consider it.

Small business don’t have and in-house attorney, a human resource director, or a CPA on staff.  They look for trusted advisers to fill those roles, or they do it themselves.  Let’s say you have a tax accountant – they might or might not have their CPA. You tell them (as most people do) you want to pay as little to the government as possible within the letter of the law of course).  They prepare your return and show a loss over the last few years. Now that voice inside you says you want to expand with a location in the neighboring town…you go to your local bank naturally.  They ask for your financial statements and/or tax returns.  They take one look at your returns and say they can not present this to their underwriters because you would be considered “high risk” since you have not shown a profit.

Ask your lender how often that happens…I bet they will say it happens fairly often.  Tax accountants KNOW TAX LAW very well. I honestly do not. I have someone prepare my tax returns or in the past have walked through Turbo Tax and many millions of people do. My company FinanSynergy adds value to independent and small group healthcare practices by developing a map to help guide the practitioner through growth so they are able to reach those goals they may have had in mind while still in school.

In healthcare I have learned how the payer system works – completely different than any other industry in the United States. I have done medical billing, contract negotiation, etc. The system is set up to benefit the big players – the hospital systems and large clinics. How does the independent practitioner or small group get a bigger piece of the pie – which includes not only money, but clients as well – being part of their network. You need an expert such as FinanSynergy (FinanSynergy.com) to come to bat for your.  Your tax accountant won’t do this, your lawyer will review the contract and help negotiate…but you need someone who knows what you need in that contract – or what needs to be left out.

Do you as a small business owner have this team – consider it your leadership team – built?  Leadership teams work together, collaborate, strategize, to meet the vision and the mission of your business in the most efficient way possible.

Follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/finansynergy/ or twitter @finansynergy.  My website will be live at the end of this month – so check that out too http://www.finansynergy.com

Please leave comments below I would love to hear what you have to say!

Passion – Light Your Fire

Passion – Light Your Fire

The journey continues as I build the foundation of my newly founded start-up. I am squarely in the relationship building stage. Other cogs in the machine are already moving, now my turn to move. While networking events are great for the masses…relationships are built in a more intimate, one-on-on setting. I am in the process of building my referral network. Coffee shops, lunches, offices, anywhere just you and another person or two. I get to tell my story – what do I do, why am I doing it, and who do I want to serve? I get to listen. Listen about what they offer their clients and think about how I might help their clients.

It speaks volumes as I go through my spiel and the people I meet with are actively engaged asking questions and suggesting industry/specialty groups to me. Today I was asked if I ever considered looking at a specific healthcare segment as a customer – I had not. I now have added it to my list for research. Of course I want it to be a win-win, so how can I help them? I am not one to just take, take, take…we will figure out a way to become a collaborative team.

I envision a team that includes banking, strategy, investments, legal, bookkeeping and tax. Every small business should have a list of advisers to whom they can rely on. I am selling myself as part of a package. Right now, I am building that package…building the relationships…teaming that team where I can say Joe Law can help you with human resource issues, Maddy Banker can get you started with business accounts and loans, Abby investments can put your dollars where they need to be to make the best return…and Katie (I) am your strategist. I will work with the rest of this team to figure out a timeline to get your goals done.

Strategy – now that is an interesting word. It is a defined as a “plan, method, or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result.” A year ago – I had no strategy – I had no plans – I had no specific goals, I was wandering not knowing who I was or what I wanted to do. I went through interviews for jobs I was overqualified for, under-qualified for, and generally qualified for…NOTHING excited me. I finally had a fantastic interview for the hospital I presently work for. I saw a light, a glimmer of hope…that I finally had started to figure “it” out. I learned, I observed, I listened…I liked what I heard, I liked what I observed, I LOVED was I was learning and found the fire inside of me.

Working on strategy is FASCINATING to me. If you think of a hospital as each specialty area being a small business – I get to work with all these people who have a passion for what they are doing. If they want an expensive piece of equipment – we look at how they have been doing in the past and what this equipment could do for them in the future. Maybe they want to develop a new program – what expenses will there be? What types of revenue will it generate? Who is their target customer/patient?

I get so excited! The speed of my typing just increased as I starting writing these last couple paragraphs. I finally found my passion – and it has made every part of my life better. No question about that. Passion.

Bleeds…and Psycho Geometrics

Bleeds…and Psycho Geometrics

Over the past few months I have been laying the foundation of my start-up business.  Research, business coaches and advisors, incubator-type of groups etc.  I have learned about my target market and what they actually need. Most of this came from a) asking my target market personally, or b) asking bankers – who I perceive as one of my sources for client referrals. I’ve learned doing business plans around what you think you should sell and what your perspective clients will pay for might be completely different – therefore you ask. I’ve used a tool – the Business Model Canvas to help organize my thoughts. Strategyzer.com has this tool – and is highly recommended by myself and the wonderful group of entrepreneurial women I meet with regularly.

Through this process and with the help of other free tools recommended by the Small Business Development Center, I feel my service is solid, my target market is underserved, and I’m at the right point of my own career to do this thing.  As an accounting professional I have the finance part of the whole plan figured.  I have different scenarios to keep business slow – or to attract more as needed.  Part of attracting perspective clients is of course marketing.

I met with four separate marketing firms.  I had positive experiences with three and pricing took my options down to two choices.  Both were local firms with great reputations. The difference was one wanted to re-brand me.  No – not now I thought, maybe I did do things out-of-order a bit and lucked out when FinanSynergy.com was completely available along with the FB page, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. I chose my brand colors purple and orange for a reason.  Purple has always been my favorite color.  My birthstone is Amethyst and I’m a MN Vikings fan. Skol!  Orange was just a nice accent color to the purple. I love sunsets – both colors can be seen in breath-taking sunsets. The pyramid for my logo stems from a leadership class I took early in my career that used psycho-geometrics to help identify personality traits.  I am a triangle.  The class taught us how to identify and collaborate with the different personality types in our work groups.  Very useful – and years later I find a very strong identity with that triangle.

I have now met a couple of times with the marketing firm I have selected.  They have begun work on my webpage and I am thoroughly excited! I’m confident my website finansynergy.com will be launched by the end of August.  In the mean time I paid to be a sponsor for a fall conference on September 15th.  Another solid deadline for me (I need deadlines – otherwise I will just drag my feet). So I think about the conference – ok, what do I need.  I need a banner and some handouts perhaps.  Hmmmm.  That requires a designer. So circle back with my marketing firm – yup ok.  Conference call.  This call was full of terms that were foreign to me – things I definitely did not learn with my degrees in accounting or management – or my masters in public administration. So they emailed me what they needed.  I have to call printers and ask for their banner templates and requirements for bleeds for the edge of the banners/handouts.

I have learned a lot. However, I have also confirmed – there are experts at what they do and to use them. I spent a decent chunk of money to be a sponsor – I do not want to be embarrassed.  I know my marketing team with take my content – make it flow with my website and everything they put together. They are on my side – they want me to succeed, not bleed.

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ACRONYMS

ACRONYMS

Business is quirky. Do you remember you first few months at a new job – pretty much any new job? Co-workers and administrators would start throwing around acronyms or funny sounding words – internal code…but what did it mean? Did you have to be initiated into the club to figure out what all these acronyms meant? Every industry and perhaps every employer is different.

I have a hypothesis about how this became commonplace. Just my theory – it would be an interesting discussion. Thinking back to my days in elementary school, trying to remember the Great Lakes, we learned the acronym HOMES. The lakes – Heron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior, not in order, but at least I can still name them. Although this is technically a mnemonic since it spells a real word. The lakes in order is less impressive SMHEO – Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. From a young age we were taught to memorize, memorize, memorize.

Healthcare professionals were taught mnemonics and acronyms in school for the order of bones, muscles, and ways to make what they write even shorter – Rx – prescription. I had to look up why we as a modern society still use Rx as an abbreviation for prescription. It is derived from the Latin work “recipe” meaning take. Today we use acronyms, mnemonics, and symbols because they are deeply rooted in history or maybe because it truly shorter – NASDAQ is an acronym for… National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations.

We use so many acronyms, abbreviations, mnemonics, and symbols it’s as if we are speaking another language. Which is some situations it is perfect. In this global economy having a shared understanding of responsibilities is critical. While preparing documentation for my new business FinanSynergy LLC it was pointed out that small business owners may not know what KPIs are – and I shouldn’t include them in a description without a definition. So what are KPIs since I brought it up? KPIs are the Key Performance Indicators of any business. Each industry has different standards and different targets. These are essentially well defined goals that are measured on a regular schedule.

Common KPIs across all industries may include operating margin, the number of days of cash on hand, the average days it takes to collect money owed to you (accounts receivable- A/R), and a debt to equity ratio. There are indicators related to productivity that include employee hours or FTEs used (full time equivalent employee) worked compared to production or number of services provided.

Does your organization currently track various indicators on a regular basis? If not…start from the beginning of your company, what was the original outcome you wanted to provide with this product or service. Statistics is where you start – how many did you sell? How many services did you provide? How much did it cost you to sell those products or services this month compared to how much you made (operating margin). How many hours did you pay employees this month? How many hours on average does it take to make or perform the service? You are able to determine productivity standards using that technique.

If you are staring at all these acronyms and have no idea what they are it is extremely important to ask. They very well might be the pulse of your organization. Learning how to read and understand these terms are critical to the communication in your work environment. As a manager – share these statistics with your employees. You may be surprised some may be fascinated with them – others may feel like you are big brother watching over them – but it does convey an environment of cooperation.

Collections – the Good the Bad the Ugly

Collections – the Good the Bad the Ugly

In my past life I spent 7 years managing patient accounts for a growing healthcare agency. During that time due to rising healthcare premium costs families started choosing higher and higher deductible plans and plans with higher and higher out-of-pocket expenses.  Also the agency service the pediatric population and they had the state of mind that remaining bills would be covered by our state Medicaid program.  That soon started to be very untrue and patient bill ballooned.  We moved to an online platform to standardize the look or our invoices and allow on-line credit card or direct pay options.  That was a step in the right direction.  However, the on-line process flow still did not account for delinquent accounts.

Medical Billing is different – since there is typically an allowance for charity care and are typically generous with payment plans. That aside, we still needed cash flow to pay our bills too. I developed a process which was professional and we had less than 1% write-offs per year each year in my role. For the sake of this blog I am going to assume your business is doing their own billing and not outsourcing the billing (yet – that will be a later post). I also am going to focus on Healthcare billing both human healthcare and pet health – Veterinary Medicine. I am going to outline below the most important aspects of billing and collecting from patients/families.(Insurance again – that will be a later post).

patient-registration

  • The first encounter with the patient is the most important in terms of collecting as much information as you are able. These are where those annoying forms come in. My only advice with forms – is try not to duplicate the same information on different forms, no need to write their address five times.  Make it so the forms may be shared with whomever needs the information. Critical information to collect:
    • Patient name, Responsible party name, address(es), phone numbers (as many as you can get), at least 2 other non-household member information
    • Insurance information – get copy/scan of card front and back *be sure to ask for ALL insurance* if they only give Medicaid or Medicare card as if there is any other coverage – your sheet for information should also note that the responsible party is responsible for unpaid balances if all payers are not disclosed at time of treatment – otherwise you will be burned due to timely filing guidelines with your payers.
    • Ask for the Driver’s License number for the responsible party(ies) and get a copy of their state issued ID/DL.
    • Employment information is seen on most applications – in billing I honestly never used this information. My ethical code does not feel it is right to hound people at work for money – if it is one of the phone numbers they give fine, but people change jobs, and this information wasn’t kept up to date.
    • Clearly disclose payment terms – if co-pay is known, COLLECT IT UP FRONT! If it is a co-insurance/deductible situation, you should be able to collect some money up front based on their current deductible balance and depending on the procedure.*unless you are subject to EMTALA laws you may decline service based on non-payment*
    • Clearly disclose any interest or late payment penalties
    • Contract with a translation service to review forms with non-english speaking patients

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  • Subsequent visits
    • Ask for co-payments due from patients as they come in
    • Ask for balance due from patients as they come in….”Your records states you have a balance of $x.xx, how would you like to take care of that today, credit, check or cash?”  Make note an any or all payment arrangements or if a manager needs to get involved BEFORE treatment is given.
    • ASK every-time if they have new insurance

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  • Billing
    • Determine the frequency of patient billing – monthly, as the payments are posted from their insurance, weekly, etc
    • Determine your definition of past due – for example sake after two statements have been sent and no payments, but before the third..
      • Follow up phone call reminding them of their balance and asking how they would like to take care of the balance today – an intern can do this (have them practice first)
      • Consider if you are willing to accept payment plans – document and follow those closely especially if they are still receiving treatment, you want your arrangement to REDUCE the balance not allow it to continue to grow.
      • Follow up with a letter to the patient/family disclosing the agreed upon terms over the phone (and reference original intake form payment terms) also provide your contact information (or that of a decision maker for the business) in case the situation changes
    • If phone call/follow-up letter does not work document all the dates you have been attempting to or actually been in contact with the patient or client.

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  • Collections – If payment still is not satisfactory at this point, the approach I take is:
    1. Send invoice with a Delinquency Notice with my contact information and payment terms from intake or from phone conversation asking for a response in 15 days
    2. Send invoice with a Final Notice – again with my contact in and payment terms from intake or from phone conversation asking for a response in 15 days
    3. Contract with a collection agency – you will either receive nothing (if nothing is ever collected) or you can negotiate your rate with the agency, try to get between 60-70% of the original balance
    4. You may also pursue the balance in Small Claims Court make sure you have all your documentation in order.
  • Thanking
    1. By no means do you have to send an invoice saying they are paid in full (unless they ask) – that is a WASTE of your TIME and RESOURCES.
    2. Always make sure your front desk staff thank the patients for their payments – or if on the phone always thank them for their time and payment of services.
    3. Treating your patients with respect will leave an impression – and bring you LOYAL customers.In healthcare you want loyalty and trust…if the patient or the family does not trust you they will find another provider who they will trust.

In subsequent postings I intend to go into depth about cash pay patients – this is affects almost every Veterinarian. I pay cash to my vet for my dog.  How do you as Vets keep those patients/families and more importantly treat the health of the pet if the family has sticker shock? Dentists face this issues as well to a lesser degree.  Dental insurance covers certain procedures but not others – patients might delay treatment due to affordability making things worse…I want to know what some other concerns might be.

Healthy Paws Savings Plans

Healthy Paws Savings Plans

It’s exciting to announce our new, exclusive “Southern Hills Healthy Paws Savings Plans”. Our health savings plans were developed with the desire to provide our pets and pet parents with more than just a discount on vaccines. “Southern Hills Healthy Paws Savings Plans” are designed to provide the comprehensive care your pet will need based […]

via Southern Hills Healthy Paws Savings Plans — Southern Hills Animal Hospital