The DME industry has been hit with significant challenges that leave most owners and managers, well, not in a partying mood. Those of us in the industry for decades remember the days of big Christmas bonuses and lavish holiday parties. Profit margins aren’t what they used to be. As the year winds down and the holiday season approaches, it’s important to reflect on the positive and what we DO have rather than what we don’t.
“Good business” and “holiday cheer” can still exist together. The holiday season is a time with some opportunities—for both profitability and good times. So, wrap the year up in style and have some fun spreading holiday cheer while finishing up the year with some extra sales.
So, here are some tips tying together good business and holiday cheer:
- Cash sales are king—grab patient/customers with Flexible Spending Accounts and Healthcare Savings Accounts with “specials” and holiday sales. FSA’s and HAS’s offer insured folks the opportunity to spend pre-tax dollars on their healthcare. The rules are complex, but suffice it to say that many of these accounts have provisions that require the covered person to spend what they’ve saved or a portion of what they’ve saved by the end of a given calendar year. Depending on the limits and how much they’ve spent, some recipients of this coverage end up with “use it or lose it” dollars to spend in December. If you have a retail showroom, many of the items on the floor can be bought with these dollars—even if they aren’t typically covered by insurances. Scooters and lift chairs are in this category, but even smaller items like reachers, canes, and blood pressure cuffs may qualify.
- DME makes a good, useful gift. It is okay to make money selling DMEPOS, after all! Children buy their parents lift chairs and walkers with seats all the time, so why not promote them. If you advertise, time your newspaper, radio, and TV ads to run in late November and early December. Offer specials—free delivery, 10% off, or something similar. One DME I spoke to actually offered to have “Santa Claus” (a delivery technician in suitable red coat and hat) deliver larger items like lift chairs on Christmas Eve and had quite a few buyers take them up on it.
- Deck the Halls -- decorate your business! If you have a retail space, this is a no brainer. The rise of mail order and internet shopping hasn’t wiped away the American custom of retail therapy shopping. Even if you don’t have a retail space, decorating still lifts spirits for employees and also for anyone that stops by for any reason. You’ll make your mailman’s day and employees will be happier as well. “Christmas spirit” really is a thing; and it sets the tone for what should be a friendly, pleasant, happy time of the year.
- Throw a party for the staff. You can call it a “holiday party”, a “Christmas party”, a “year-end celebration”, or whatever you want to call it, but do something significant to show appreciation. Christmas bonuses are nice, but most human beings respond to a visceral need/desire to be appreciated, and appreciation can come in many forms. Bonuses, a day off, a gift card, along with some kind words can be priceless to staff. Some token of your appreciation will go a long way to building staff loyalty and contentment. And a loyal, contented employee is a productive employee. With this one, you also have the added bonus of the good feeling you get from giving, be it gifts, money, or kind words.
- Remember your patient/customers during the holiday season. In our industry, our “customers” happen to be patients—folks with some healthcare issue that needs treatment of some kind. The fact that we take care of these patient/customers at a time in their life when they are most needy and often very vulnerable is worth reminding ourselves from time to time. There is perhaps no greater gift than making someone feel better, providing comfort, and easing pain. Hopefully, everyone in the industry remembers that it is a privilege to care for someone and our very livelihood increases our own humanity. Tell your patient/customers you appreciate the opportunity to serve them and wish them peace and happiness during the holiday season and going forward into the next year.