Don't let fear stand in the way of you and your dreams.

Getting started

When I was kid, I wanted to be a teacher - my mom was a teacher and a lot of family members were teachers. A Speech Pathology and Audiology class I took in college turned me on to the discipline and I joined an ENT office. Although I only did the hearing aid side of things one day a week, I was able to increase the number of hearing aids I fit and sold over the years. The more success I had, the more I wanted to focus on helping people hear better. That meant opening my own practice.

Growing up, I watched my dad run his own business. I remember, once a quarter, my mom and dad would spread out all of the business receipts on the dining room table to look over for taxes. It was that "business" side of a business that scared me the most and held me back.

Into the lion's den

When I first opened the office, I was so anxious to succeed that I ran around in too many different directions and treated everything as an emergency. When we were out of printer ink, I ran right out to get more. When someone asked me a question about the business, I felt like I had to answer it immediately. I was stressed out and felt I lacked focus.

Although the business side was giving me fits, I still knew the clinical side of the business and was comfortable seeing patients.

Previously, at the ENT office, I saw a lot of patients who were at the beginning of the cycle - they were cognizant of hearing loss but probably not ready for hearing aids. A lot of those people tended to fall through the cracks because there wasn't a good process in place to follow up with them. We just tested those patients and their charts were put back on the shelf.

I was determined to make improvements to that approach.

Now, here in my office, we have processes in place to follow up with people who were tested and not sold. We are able to get them back in the door when the time comes. We follow a process when I see a patient. That allows me to look back and examine what I could have done differently or what I did that worked. With the PSP, I have a process that I can use when I do see those patients who are in denial or are ready for the next set of hearing aids. I like the fact that I can go into each appointment with a plan.

Gaining focus

Over time, I've learned how to delegate and manage the day-to-day activities. AHAA has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders. I feel like I have someone on my side to take some of those things I don't know about off my plate. Now, I regularly block out some time in my schedule to address the business side of the practice. I've learned what are our priorities - what we can handle and what we can't handle.

Developing relationships and getting to know the people in our community have been keys to our success so far. Being able to go around the corner and see a patient is a rewarding experience. I present once a month at the local senior center, visit the assisted living centers, and participate in all of the local health fairs.

Offering a hearing test free of charge as part of our presentation allows us to touch more people and provides them with a positive experience. Even if they don't purchase hearing aids, and even if they are not candidates for hearing aids, at least they had a great experience. They got to see what's out there and what we can do. When they are ready, they know what's available.

We also actively engage physicians to help encourage patients to have their hearing tested, just as they do their vision. Patients trust their physician and will go with their recommendations. We're helping physicians highlight the fact that hearing is just as important as patients' other health needs and they should be seen by a doctor of Audiology.

We recently hired a PDR to work with the physicians and the whole process was managed by AHAA's recruiting department. I didn't know anything about hiring a PDR - what we were looking for, what we wanted this person to accomplish, etc. Working with AHAA, we put a plan together and the recruiting department did the rest. We didn't have to take the time to weed through resumes - we were presented with the top three people and, from them, found our ideal candidate!

Onward and upward

I don't have any regrets about taking on the challenge of opening my own practice, but I am glad AHAA was there to assist.

For all the sleepless nights I put myself through, it has been exciting and rewarding. The challenges I have faced are all part of the process and it's made me grow as a person, a professional, a leader, and a businessperson.

My long-term goal is to branch out into other local areas while keeping the same brand and the same comfortable feel as this first office. I want to duplicate our efforts in other communities and create more awareness and a better perception about hearing aids. It could be five years or 10 years, but we are working toward multiple locations and monthly sales of 40 to 50 units at each location. I feel that's doable as long as we keep our process in place and remain committed to taking care of our patients.

Does Kristin's story sound familiar?

She had a desire to do more with her training and address shortcomings in the customer experience, but
an uneasiness with managing the "business" side of a practice raised doubts as to whether she would be successful on her own.

How about you? Is something holding you back from attaining your dream?

Tina Soika   |   800-984-3272 x306   |

American Hearing Aid Associates
800-984-3272 |