Wednesday, May 16, 2018

20 Survival Strategies for Your Small Business


As a business owner or manager, during the last 18 months you have been faced with shrinking profit margins and fewer customers lining up to purchase your once thought to be “hot products or services.” The question of how to survive these seemingly tough times usually results in answers such as…”we have to lay off more workers” or, “…let’s close the office located in Suburbia”.
    
The problem with this approach is that…when the economy rebounds, you will be looking to re-hire those very people you laid off in the first place. Unfortunately, you may discover that they have moved on to other jobs, gone back to school, or start their own businesses. You have then put yourself in a situation where you have to now hire and train a new employee or hire a more experienced worker who can “hit the ground running”.
Laying off employees during economic downturns should be a “last resort”. Well, at least not until you have explored all other avenues, namely trying the strategies I have outlined below. I will even go one step further. If you have already implemented some (if not all) of these strategies, or have made them an integral part of your company’s operating culture, chances are you have not cancelled your long-planned vacation to the Bahamas.

Additionally, although these key strategies can be adopted by businesses regardless of size, they are primarily geared towards Small Businesses. The definition of a small business will obviously vary by industry and, more importantly, it may depend on the business owner’s personal assessment. Regardless, you can find out the classification of your business as defined by the Small Business Association (SBA) by going to http://www.sba.gov

Survival Strategies

1. Schedule Weekly Budget Meetings. The assumption is that you have a budget. You may be surprised at how many small businesses either (a) don’t spend the time to develop a proper budget or, (b) don’t have a regular budget review process. Use the meeting to challenge managers and supervisors to find ways to reduce expenses in their respective departments (and reward them). Have the managers call in via conference calls if you have satellite offices in various parts of the country or globally. Make sure they are prepared with arguments to justify the budgets of their various departments and plans on how to cut costs.

2. Set up a Profit Committee/Task Force. This should be employee-driven. Challenge them to contribute ideas but, more importantly, reward them for good ideas that actually get implemented.

3. Revamp your performance reviews. Are the employees (especially Senior Managers) objectives aligned with company goals (i.e. increase sales, reduce expenses, improve customer service)? Are the goals more than simply rhetoric or “feel good” words? Simply put, are the objectives specific enough and…can you really “MEASURE” the progress?

4. Review your “Turnover” ratios. Profits are quickly eaten up by idle inventory a late-paying customers. Incorporate these items as a part of your budget review process. Work closely with your vendors to reduce case packs, or get simply get rid of items that don’t sell! Offer to settle with your late-paying customers or arrange for installment payments on outstanding receivables. Getting something is better than nothing in tough economic times.

5. Rely on the leverage you have with your vendors. Partnerships should be more than just “talk”. Negotiate better terms, i.e. try to increase “days to pay” for your invoices. Even taking an extra 5 days per month on a base of business valued at $1 million annually can earn your business extra interest of over $3,000, after taxes. That’s real money!

6. Change your Payroll Cycle. If you are on a weekly payroll cycle, consider moving to bi-weekly. If you are paying bi-weekly, consider moving to semi-monthly (15th and 30th). Perform a cost-benefit analysis to make sure this makes sense for your business. You can reduce payroll processing costs which can be significant especially if you have a fairly large employee base.

7. Get on the “green” bandwagon early. Become more energy efficient. Who knows…you may even qualify for tax breaks. Get employees in the habit of turning off lights when they leave conference rooms. Installing sensors for rooms or areas used infrequently may be something to think about. Turn off computers and unplug office equipment at the end of each day. According to the government’s ENERGY STAR program, 40% of the electricity that home electronics use is consumed while the products are turned off. I would imagine this applies to office equipment as well.

8. Meet with your banker. Set up a meeting right away. Not only will you be building a critical relationship (one that too many managers neglect), but ask them for ideas. They have the benefit of seeing what works (or doesn’t) for other businesses so feel free to pick their brain. Best of all…it’s free advice! Discuss things like…putting extra cash in Money Market accounts, CD’s etc. See if you can move your operating account to an interest bearing checking account. While the interest earned may not be “earth shattering”, it is still money earned without doing anything different. If there is a limit on the amount of checks that can be written in such an account, analyze the fees that the bank may charge vs. the interest that can be earned. Pay bills electronically and offer direct deposit for your employees to reduce any check writing fees. Also, are you carrying too high balance of a balance in your checking account? Work with your accountant and take a look at your cash flow to see if some of that idle money can be earning interest elsewhere.

9. Trim your travel budget (if you still have one). Telephone and/or Video Conference will save you tons of cash. Also, are the seminars and conferences you attend every year really paying off? Maybe attending 2 instead of 4 will reap the same benefits.

10. Renegotiate contracts. Bring in service providers (telephone, software, etc,) and consultants to discuss current contracts and reduce fees. Take a look at your leases (office equipment, rent, etc.). Also, are you taking full advantage of any “hidden deals” and/or discounts? Have you been paying attention to the invoices in an effort to avoid “overcharges”? Take advantage of the economic downturn. No one wants to lose a customer at this point. Where appropriate, bring other providers in to bid for your business. Caution: don’t hire them simply because they are cheap!

11. Tax strategies. If you invest a lot in equipment and are incurring high business equipment taxes Explore states with business-friendly tax codes. There are benefits to setting up an “equipment holding” company in a low tax state. Business losses and write-offs may also result in your business qualifying for various tax breaks and deductions. Talk to a good tax attorney about how to maximize these and other tax deductions for your business.

12. Budget for “reserves”. In other words, have a “contingency” or “miscellaneous” account as a line item in your budget. A good starting point would be to set aside 5% – 10% of all your total expenses for unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind, if we could predict the future, we would all be millionaires. Incorporating the “reserve” account as an “expense” item is simply good business policy.

13. Look at your health insurance benefits. If you haven’t spoken to your Insurance Rep in a while, now would be a good time. You should be reviewing your policy every six months anyway. A slight change in your workforce level can have a significant impact on the employer (and employee) is your contract coming up for renewal? Can you break the contract without incurring any fees? You may be able to find a good deal out there without sacrificing coverage.

14. Conduct annual invoice audits. Look closely at the invoices received from your vendors. If you don’t have a good system for monitoring the invoices before they are paid, you may be surprised at the number of duplicate or erroneous payments that can occur. An extra “0″ added to a $1,000 invoice results in a $10,000 payment and a $9,000 mistake. Incentivize your employees when they discover these errors. For example, if they recover monies, split it with them. It’s a “win-win” deal!

15. Go after abandoned customers. If a competitor closed its doors, that should spell “O P P O R T U N I T Y”. The customer may be cutting back, but when things get better or they find a new job, they will be back. You will want to make sure you are well positioned to fill the gap left by your competitor.

16. Explore new sales markets. As strange as it may seem, an economic downturn is the perfect time to look for opportunities in new markets. Territories once shunned (especially overseas) now deserve a second or third look. Again, get ideas from your employees.

17. Stay involved in your community. Don’t cut back on your sponsorship of community events and charitable donations. The money spent on the uniforms for the Little League Baseball team is “big deal”. People remember this stuff. Those people are potential customers or good referral sources. Actually, its worth much more than the tons of money you spent for the sign at your local Major League Baseball stadium. You know…the one that nobody notices!

18. Do you twitter? Do you have a presence on the social networking sites? Yes, I do mean Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Are your employees set up on LinkedIn? Even if you are a “Mom and Pop” type businesses, consider paying one of your tech savvy employees 15 or 20 cents extra a week to post updates and monitor these sites for you if you do not have the “know how.”

19. Part-time and Independent Contractors. Before you consider laying off, explore the possibility of reducing hours or changing the status of an employee to “Independent Contractor”. The employees will still appreciate having an income and, at the same time, you will save money on payroll taxes and/or health insurance contributions you were obligated to.

20. Finally…be honest with employees. Don’t tell them today things are great, and then tomorrow start laying off. On the other hand, if things are really tough, let them know. If you build an honest relationship and take the time to let you know how much you appreciate their effort, they will “go to bat” for you during the tough times. If you do have to resort to laying them off, they will understand even if it hurts. Chances are, if you have implemented the other 19 strategies mentioned her and made them an integral part of your company’s culture, your employees will be the ones saving your company from going under in an economic downturn.


Author: Donald Harper
Article Source: EzineArticles.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 13- What Else Should You Consider?


I started out in Part 1 talking about customer service and I am sure you know by now that when your customer service fails then no matter what you do to gain new clients or appease current ones you are not going to be in business for long.

I also posted about the following ways to help your client or patients find you:
        Using the Internet
        Social Networking
        Pinterest
        YouTube
        Blogging
        E-Newsletters
        Webinars

        What’s Left?
        Pod Casts
        Radio shows
        TV interviews
        Seminars and exhibiting
        Community specific marketing
        Out-reach education


All of these can be used interactively with your social networks, websites and blogs
 Although all of these external marketing techniques are ways to reach new patients and educate current clients, great customer service along with a warm, compassionate attitude from you and your entire staff can never be replaced.
Obviously I have not elaborated nearly enough throughout this 13 part series on reaching and supporting your patient or client,  however that is because each  company is run differently and addresses issues in a very unique way. This is because we all have a different reasons why we are in the Third Party Reproductive field and have different ideas regarding  how to actually achieve our business goals.  This is where a knowledgeable consultant like LaMothe Services, LLC can come in and assist you in redefining your business plan and helping you implement a few of the ideas I have outlined in this blog. Feel free to contact me via e-mail at LaMotheServices@aol.com or call 727-458-8333 to set up a free consultation!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 12- Mobile Phone Marketing


What Do People Use Their SMARTPHONE’s For?
  • Time on mobile is mostly app time: People are spending an average of 3:23 per day in apps, and only 50 minutes on the mobile web.
  • Nearly 75 percent of US adults will use a smartphone in 2017, as market penetration continues to increase
  • Smartphone users spend approximately 10 percent of their time — over 20 minutes per day — on mobile social media.
SMS= Short Message Service MMS=Multimedia Messaging Service (You Tube, Webinair) ipad, iphone, android …Smart Phones ….How about just plain texting? All ways to get the all important client/patient attention! Again, if you have Facebook or Twitter your clients can access your updates and tweets via their mobile phone.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 11-A Note About E-Newsletters or


You can reach potential outside your immediate geographic area with a E-Newsletter. An e-newsletter may open new business channels for you as you gain greater exposure.


How an E-zine can Help Your Business Grow
(E-mail Marketing)
        E-zines connect you with people who’ve expressed a positive interest in your product or service.
        Your e-newsletter establishes you as an expert in the field if you publish high-value information.
        E-zines are far less expensive to produce than direct mail, are read by a far higher percentage of recipients, and are completely trackable.
        You can take the same content you create for your e-newsletter and re-purpose it for print. (website, social net)
        Accepted wisdom is to publish no fewer than four times a year. (once a month would be ideal)
        Constant Contact is one of many affordable ways to reach your customers with Email marketing
You can have people sign up on your website, Facebook, Twitter, You Tube or in your office to receive your E-newsletter. Remember Email marketing continues to be a an affordable as well as "green" way to share information or a special promotion with your customers and target audience. 

Extra TIP**You can also use your blog posts in your newsletter or vice versa.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 10- The Webinar

A Webinar (web + seminar) provides a convenient opportunity to learn from experts without having to travel. Webinars combine three means of communication: phone, online presentation, and a chat window for typing questions.
Webinar's can be either live – great for audience participation – or pre-recorded. They work incredibly well as a marketing tool because they can bring together powerful elements with a high engagement level such as audio, images, video, music and live action. Webinars can help you to stay connected with your target audience, get in-depth insight on their motivations, needs and desires, and use this information to figure out how YOUR business can serve them best.
Tips for Putting Together a Successful Online Presentation
         Choose a topic that will resonate with your target audience.
        Promote the webinar (Here is where your social media will come in handy!)
        Practice your presentation
        You can use free webinar sites (up to a certain number of attendees) such as AnyMeeting or paid services like GoToWebinar
        Learn the software


Some ideas are better suited to the webinar format than others. For example, the following would be a good fit for a webinar:
  • A detailed examination of a niche topic from a fresh angle
  • A panel discussion of a timely, news-based issue in your industry
  • A thorough, example-driven “how-to” tutorial
  • An adaptation of a presentation from a conference speaking engagement
  • An interview with an industry thought leader
On the other hand, the following probably wouldn’t make for a particularly compelling webinar:
  • A minor product release or update
  • A news-based webinar with little or no new information/opinion
  • A broad, “content thin” webinar on a general topic
  • A webinar focusing on a tired idea or concept (e.g. “content is king”)
  • A straight-up sales deck/product pitch
*Source: Word Stream
Again this is where your social networking will come into play with the promotion of your webinar and then later posting it on You Tube.
Have you ever put together a webinar? What tips would you like to share? What questions would you like to ask? Please comment here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 9- Pinterest


  • There are over 75 billion ideas on Pinterest.
  • 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest.
  • 72% of Pinners use Pinterest to decide what to buy offline.
  • 67% of Pinners are under 40-years-old.
  • Over 5% of all referral traffic to websites comes from Pinterest.
  • Pinterest said 80% of its users access Pinterest through a mobile device.
  • 93% of active pinners said they use Pinterest to plan for purchases and 87% said they’ve purchased something because of Pinterest.
  • Two-thirds of pins represent brands and products.
  • Food & Drink & Technology are the most popular categories for men.
  • An average Pins made by an Active Female User is 158.
  • Recipes: There are more than 1.7 billion recipe Pins.
  • Shopping: Every day nearly 2M people Pin product rich Pins.
  • Articles: More than 14 million articles are Pinned each day.
  • Average time spent on Pinterest per visit is 14.2 minutes.
*Source: Omnicore
Why am I telling you about Pinterest? Because a lot of people in the reproductive field have yet to think of this as a great marketing tool!  Below are some thoughts on who you might be able to reach via advertizing on Pinterest:
        Women interested in becoming Egg Donors
        Women interested in freezing their eggs
        Women interested in Surrogacy
        Women who may need IUI or IVF
        Women who need sperm donors
        Women interested in taking place in clinical trials/studies
        Women who are already experiencing infertility and need support and guidance
Remember!! The Pinterest annual household income of $100,000 or more, almost 73 percent are female…..This is the reason I am giving Pinterest a separate plug….it is a great marketing avenue.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 8- What About Blogs?


Now I don't want to insult anybody's intelligence but I am going to start out with the blog basics and move on from there so please bare with me!

If you don't already have a business blog then the following tips will help you set one up:
       An interesting, creative title to draw attention
       All of your contact information
       A short biography of you and your business
       A picture of you and your office
       Introduction to your staff
       Useful resource links
       Links to your Social Network page(s)
       Include fresh content at least once or twice per week
*There are many Blogging tools and sites including Blogger.com, Typepad.com and Wordpress.com~ All have a do-it- yourself approach. Your website may also provide a component for your business blog
I have several business and surrogacy related blogs out there plus I write for other people's blogs. I love reposting from other bloggers too. All of this can help your brand and business grow.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 7-More Ways to Use You Tube






        Create “how to” videos to help your patients (How to give yourself an injection for example)
        Post solutions to common problems or issues
        Embed videos on your web site on appropriate pages, including customer support and product tours.
        Post a blog entry discussing a problem and include a video for visual support.
        Go the extra mile by adding closed-captions or subtitles to your videos. Remember that not everyone can watch or hear videos in the same way
As you can see You Tube is a valuable tool for your marketing tool box. It can take some time to get a polished product up and running but it will be well worth it in the end.  Other how to video's can include what to expect in an egg retrieval, an embryo transfer, what does a 3 day embryo look like, a tour of your offices or lab, or meet a satisfied client. The sky is the limit!



Friday, February 23, 2018

Update on SB6037, the Washington State Uniform Parentage Bill on Compensated Surrogacy Arrangements

SB6037 has now been heard in the WA House and will be voted on next week with no real wrinkles that I am aware of. With the testimony of Jennifer Tammen (Former IP), Jon Tammen (17 year old son born via surrogacy in CA) and Melissa Flaherty (The wonderful CA Gestational Carrier for the Tammen's who has now testified twice this year in favor of our surrogacy bill), are among the many who have offered both the senate and the house their support of SB6037 and have encouraged the members to think of those suffering from infertility here in WA state and how much of an emotional and financial burden it is to be so far apart during the surrogacy process. 
2018 Jon and Melissa
Jon Tammen and Melissa Flaherty in Olympia 2018

Below is the Brief Summary of Engrossed Substitute Bill. I will be sure to post more about Bill SB6037 as it goes for a vote next week!
Surrogacy Agreements.
New provisions are established governing both gestational surrogacy agreements and genetic
surrogacy agreements. A gestational surrogate is a woman who agrees to become pregnant
through assisted reproduction using gametes that are not her own, while a genetic surrogate is a
woman who agrees to become pregnant through assisted reproduction using her own gamete.

In order to act as a surrogate, a woman must:
*be at least 21 years of age;
*have previously given birth to at least one child but not enter into more than two
surrogacy agreements that result in the birth of a child;
*complete a medical evaluation and mental health consultation; and
*have independent legal representation of her choice throughout the surrogacy
arrangement.

Each intended parent under a surrogacy agreement must be at least 21 years of age, complete a
medical evaluation and mental health consultation, and have independent legal representation
throughout the surrogacy arrangement.

House Bill Analysis - 5 - ESSB 6037
A surrogacy agreement must comply with the following requirements:
*at least one party must be a resident of the state, or at least one medical evaluation or
procedure or mental health consultation must occur in the state;
*the agreement must be in a record, signed by each party, and attested by a notarial officer
or witnessed;
*counsel for the woman acting as a surrogate and the intended parent or parents must be
identified in the surrogacy agreement;
*the intended parents must pay for legal representation for the woman acting as a
surrogate; and
*the agreement must be executed before the occurrence of a medical procedure related to
the agreement.

A surrogacy agreement must also comply with other requirements, including that: each intended
parent immediately upon birth will be the parents of the child and assume financial responsibility
for the child, regardless of the number of children born or the gender or mental or physical
condition of each child; and the woman acting as a surrogate must be permitted to make all
health and welfare decisions regarding herself and the pregnancy. A surrogacy agreement may
provide for payment of consideration, reasonable expenses, and reimbursement of expenses if the
agreement is terminated.

Genetic surrogacy agreements must be validated by the superior court in a proceeding
commenced before the assisted reproduction. A party may terminate a surrogacy agreement at
any time before a gamete or embryo transfer. Under a genetic surrogacy agreement, the woman
acting as a surrogate may withdraw consent to the agreement at any time before 48 hours after
the birth of the child by providing each intended parent with notice. A woman acting as a
surrogate is not liable for a penalty or liquidated damages for terminating the agreement except
in a case involving fraud.

Upon birth of a child under a gestational surrogacy agreement, each intended parent is by
operation of law a parent of the child and neither the woman acting as a surrogate nor her spouse
or former spouse is a parent of the child. Each intended parent under a court-validated genetic
surrogacy agreement is a parent of a child conceived under the agreement.

Where an intended parent dies before the gamete or embryo transfer, the intended parent is not a
parent of the child unless the agreement provides otherwise and the transfer occurs not later than
36 months after the death of the intended parent or the birth occurs not later than 45 months after
the death of the intended parent.

A party may institute a proceeding for an order or judgment regarding parentage under a
surrogacy agreement. Provisions are established governing the effect and enforceability of
surrogacy agreements, including the effect of nonvalidated genetic surrogacy agreements and
remedies available for breach of an agreement. Unless otherwise ordered by a court, a petition
and other documents related to a surrogacy agreement are not open to inspection except by the
parties to the proceeding, a child conceived by assisted reproduction under the agreement, their
attorneys, and the State Registrar for Vital Statistics.

Information About Donor. More specific standards are established regarding the requirement for
a gamete bank or fertility clinic to collect and maintain records of a donor's identifying
House Bill Analysis - 6 - ESSB 6037
Information and medical history. A gamete bank or fertility clinic must obtain a declaration from
the donor regarding whether or not the donor agrees to disclose the donor's identity to a child
conceived with the donor's gametes once the child turns 18 years of age. Upon request, a gamete
bank or fertility clinic must make a good faith effort to provide a child conceived by assisted
reproduction access to nonidentifying medical history of the donor and identifying information
of the donor unless the donor signed a declaration stating that the donor does not agree to
disclosure of identifying information.

Other Provisions. The act applies to a pending proceeding to adjudicate parentage commenced
before the effective date of the act for an issue on which a judgment has not been entered.
Regulations are established governing a surrogacy broker that arranges or facilitates surrogacy
transactions if: the surrogacy broker does business in Washington; a surrogate who is a party to a
surrogacy agreement resides in Washington during the term of the agreement; or any medical
procedures under the agreement are performed in Washington.


Appropriation: None.
Fiscal Note: Requested on February 14, 2018.
Effective Date: The bill takes effect on January 1, 2019.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Modernizing the Patient Experience in Reproductive Medicine: Part 6-Making You Tube Work for You and Your Clients/Patients


Let's start off with a You Tube Hot Fact:  Social media-related YouTube stats are impressive. 

YouTube Statistics – 2017
  • The very first YouTube video was uploaded on 23 April 2005.
  • The total number of people who use YouTube – 1,300,000,000.
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute!
  • Almost 5 billion videos are watched on Youtube every single day.
  • YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day
  • In an average month, 8 out of 10 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube.
  • By 2025, half of the viewers under 32 will not subscribe to a pay-TV service.
  • 6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV
  • The total number of hours of video watched on YouTube each month – 3.25 billion.
  • 10,113 Youtube videos generated over 1 billion views.
  • 80% of YouTube’s views are from outside of the U.S.
  • The average number of mobile YouTube video views per day is 1,000,000,000
  • The average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes. This is up with more than 50% year-over-year.
  • Female users are 38% and male users are 62%.
  • User Percentage by Age 18-24 – 11%, 25-34 – 23%, 35-44 – 26%, 45-54 – 16%, 50-64 – 8%, 65+ – 3%, unknown age – 14%.
  • More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices.
  • YouTube’s mobile revenue is up to 2x y/y.
  • YouTube overall and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • The number of hours people spend watching videos (aka watch time) on YouTube is up 60% year-over-year, the fastest growth we’ve seen in 2 years.
  • You can navigate YouTube in a total of 76 different languages (covering 95% of the Internet population).
  • YouTube has launched local versions in more than 88 countries.
  • 9% of U.S small businesses use Youtube
  • Approximately 20% of the people who start your video will leave after the first 10 seconds. Create a damn good intro.
*Credit to Fortunelords 

Let You Tube help you brand YOU!



Now that you have let that sink in, below are some tips for making You Tube work for you and your patients/clients:
        Set up a channel to reflect your brand and engage with others.
        Create short videos of valuable tips of interest to your clients and prospects to show off your expertise.
        Share slides from presentations that weren’t recorded. (which, by the way, is exactly what I am doing here!!)
        Put together a creative video explaining your services.
        Promote your events using recordings of previous events.
        Introduce your staff to add authenticity.
        Post links to your videos on various social networks.
        Display company information in every video including name, URL, phone number and email address.

More You Tube tips on the next post!