Published - May 2001

By Dave Jakielo


Hi everyone. It's Spring again and time for renewal. We should look to renew the various aspects of our lives, not just from a business perspective, but on a personal note as well.

Spring reminds us of the eternal cycle: even though many things may have died during the cold and blustery winter weather, just when things seem their bleakest, BAM!, trees and shrubs come to life in all their splendor.

Similarly, we should take advantage of this burst of energy found everywhere around us and start afresh. So what are our plans for 2001 and further into the future? As I visit various companies around the country, the number one deficiency I encounter is lack of a plan. But unlike the spring vegetation that surrounds us, we should take care not to fall into the cycle of renewal and then death.

What I mean is that the spring greenery starts fast and is in full stride in a few months. Then, just at its peak it starts to slow down, then die. This is what I see happening to many business plans.

Here are the typical steps of small business planning:

1. A company realizes it is stagnant and in need of a change.
2. The owner attends a conference--hopefully the Owners and Mangers (by the way there are two more this year).
3. The owner becomes reinvigorated by learning how to develop and implement a business plan.
4. The owner gathers key players together and develops a plan including market assessments, strategies, goals, and an implementation plan.
5. The new team works like gangbusters for 4 or 5 months implementing the plan.

However, just like a tomato plant, when the fruit is the biggest and brightest and in full bloom, the nights turn colder and it stops producing. This is the same pattern many companies follow. The plan they developed begins to work, produces fruit, but after they achieve some success the plan turns cold and dies.

Why this happens is quite simple: it's human nature. Whenever we have some successes or are on a roll, we grow complacent, and the efforts that went into our burst of success are taken for granted. We stop fertilizing ideas. We just sit back and enjoy what the fruits of our labors have produced, short term. So how can we keep our momentum once the harvest begins?

Here are a few tips to ensure growth even though the weather will eventually turn cold. We don't want our business plans to turn cold, too.

Track your progress against the plan you have developed. Don't be afraid to tweak it to make sure you are still on target.
Make sure everyone in the organization has been exposed to and understands the company's plans and goals. Remember, it is hard to get the boat to a certain spot on the other side of the lake if everyone with an oar doesn't know the destination.
Reward successes. Positive behavior will be repeated if rewarded.
Get everyone's input. The more people who have the opportunity to contribute to a business plan the more buy-in you'll receive.

Here are some industry trends I've encounter in my travels in the past few months. As you are developing your plan, keep the following in mind:
1. For those who have office-based clients: In some parts of the country insurers are abandoning capitation. This will increase billing expenses as we will have more small balance office visit encounters to bill, follow up and collect.
2. Denials are still increasing. The newest trend is for Coordination of Benefit Letters (COB's) to be sent to patients inquiring about potential coverage by another insurer. If the patient doesn't respond to the letter, the claim is denied--but the biller is not always notified of the denial.
3. One advantage: As the economy slows we should be able to find qualified candidates to join our workforces.
4. Another benefit is that the referral-authorization requirements are changing for the better. Some insurers are reducing the list of procedures that need pre-approval. This should improve cash flow and reduce denials. Only time will tell.

Hopefully some of the above will help you with your SPRING growth and renewal-and get you through the winter. Personally I need to revisit my plan and make adjustments now that I have finished the classes required to obtain my Masters and have achieved a personal goal in my drive for professional development. For now I'm just going to kick back and take it easy for a few days. Then I will return to the planning process to implement the next steps in my personal career plan. Keep in mind I'll be happy to address any issue of importance to you. So keep your questions and suggestions coming.

HAPPY SPRING EVERYONE. It's time for growth.

This monthly feature addresses topics of interest to you. If you have questions or would like additional information, or have ideas on topics, contact Dave Jakielo, Seminars, Training and Consulting, 86 Hall Avenue, Pittsburgh PA 15205-3214. Phone and Fax numbers are 412-921-0976. Email Web page (which includes past articles):

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