By Lisa Wells, vice president of marketing, Cure Medical
I'm not sure my career would be where it is today if it weren't for the HME News Business Summit hosted by HME News. I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't live where I do now if it weren't for the event.
A decade ago, a quiet shift happened in the HME manufacturing industry. It was the advent of direct-to-consumer marketing, led by a few product categories like compression therapy that already had mainstream retail sales. I joined the HME world when SIGVARIS recruited me from dotcom-land to help launch their digital marketing programs for non-prescription compression therapy garments.
A few months into my new role, my HME News representative Jo Ellen Reed paid a visit. Talk about a bundle of energy! Jo knew all of the movers and shakers [and still does] and more importantly, she had an eye for talent and opportunity. Fortunately, she saw both in me.
Jo Ellen encouraged me to write advice articles for HME News on best practices for digital marketing, social media and more. [Remember, this was 10 years ago, and at the time Facebook was only used by college kids who were avoiding their moms on Myspace.] Jo became my mentor, introducing me to opportunities that she advised me to take.
So I did. I wrote and wrote for years, free of charge, contributing articles in HME News and countless other publications. (I still do.)
It wasn't long before Jo called again, this time with an invitation to speak at a new event the magazine was hosting called the HME News Business Summit. "It's the C-level event for the industry," she told me, saying it would be a great way to teach the masses. She was right!
My first HME Summit, in 2009, was a whirlwind of Who's Who in HME. While there in Nashville, I learned about a new program called Competitive Bidding. Trying not to pass out in my chair from sheer embarrassment and intimidation because I had no idea what CB was, I sat at a large table listening to the wise counsel being offered on the subject by industry leaders like Carol Muratore, former President of McKesson Medical-Surgical.
Sitting beside me at the speaker's table, a kind soul noticed I was quietly turning green. He leaned over, said something ridiculous and became an instant friend. Rick Glass, famed M&A authority and business broker, had just kept me from throwing up at my first industry event!
He too took me under his wing, explaining the flawed concept that was Competitive Bidding. Rick boosted my courage before I stood on the stage the following morning. Then he sat in the front of the audience during my session, cheering from his seat.
Rick became my advocate and mentor, along with Jo Ellen, introducing me as a "smart kid" to everyone he knew. I didn't just survive with his help, I thrived. And, I kept going back to the Summit, aiming to serve the industry while I learned.
Someone else cheered from their seat too as I presented at the Summit. Unbeknownst to me, Craig Stevens, President of UroMed, was in the audience. On the spot, he decided to ask me to help his business when we both returned to Atlanta.
I joined UroMed soon after, not knowing that Craig had stepped into big shoes a short time earlier after their long-time leader Jim Weatherford had passed away in a tragic accident. Craig and the UroMed management team had been rocked by losing Jim, and they had made a hard decision to sell the business. They asked me to help raise their visibility to improve their chances of selling at a top price, with the goal of providing a stable future for their employees and families.
So I did. For years, even after they sold, I've continued advocating for friends who use wheelchairs because of learning so much from my peers there who rolled, like UroMed founder Bert Burns, VP Chris Malcom [who now leads At Home Medical] and Customer Care Leader Todd Robinson.
UroMed connected me with two more mentors, Doug Harper who led Invacare Supply Group and now leads NDC Home Care, and John Anderson, President and CEO of Cure Medical.
As mentors, Doug and John offered a constant source of valuable insight just like Rick and Jo did. They were always willing to share their time and advice to help me grow in the right direction.
Soon, I was invited to take the stage at the last Invacare Supply Group Customer Summit in Newport, RI in 2012. Doug knew I was planning to leave UroMed upon the sale, and he singlehandedly re-launched my consulting business by giving me an opportunity to teach the ISG audience. Within six weeks following the event, I had more potential clients for Get Social Consulting than I could possibly help.
But my heart remained committed to serving people with disabilities. Several non-profits had called after I stopped running UroMed’s non-profit program LASCI, asking for help in creating more online resources for their members.
So I did. I built a website one night while sitting in my living room, determined to offer more support and resources to people who roll.
As my mentors and HME business friends heard about this new site, many offered to pitch in because they too share the passion of helping people excel after a life-changing injury or condition. John Anderson from Cure especially rose to the occasion. He wrote a check during our first conversation about the program, saying "put it toward doing good, Lisa, I know you will."
That's how Wheel:Life was born, thanks to donations from Cure Medical and Hollister Incorporated. A social community and digital magazine, Wheel:Life skyrocketed in less than 3 years to become one of the leading outlets online for people who use wheelchairs.
When the time came to sell the business, my HME mentors Rick Glass and Doug Harper circled back to help.
Doug put me in touch with potential buyers. Rick led negotiations and guided me wisely through the acquisition process, fighting for the best deal until the day it closed. It was a fantastic deal, and my employees financially benefited from the sale too.
A few months after selling Wheel:Life, I learned via text message that my business had been sold again as part of a larger acquisition -- right before my management contract ended. That text opened the door for new opportunities. John Anderson heard I was leaving and invited me to work with an even larger community of people who rely on HME for independence. The chance to grow was waiting if I was willing to move.
So I did.
That's why I'm living today in Las Vegas, serving as the VP of Marketing for Cure Medical, the only medical device company in the world that gives 10% of their net income to fund paralysis research…in pursuit of a cure.
Looking back on all the good that has come from participating in the HME News Business Summit, I’m grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward. A key part of living in gratitude is "sending the elevator back down to lift others up." That's why I actively seek out ways to mentor young professionals.
Please allow me to introduce you to a few younger HME stars that possess the same talent, passion and ethics that Jo, Rick, Craig, Doug and John recognized in me. I hope you'll reach out to these growing stars, plus other talented young people, to help propel and guide their careers.
Justin Racine—Today, Justin is the Marketing Director for Geriatric Medical, and chances are you've seen him on stage teaching the finer points of marketing do's and don'ts. Justin was an intern for ISG when I first met him, but he's taken the industry by storm—propelled by his appearances in HME News and at the HME Summit.
Amirah Salim—Amirah began her HME career as a teenager, working for her father Masood at UroMed as he made her load boxes in the warehouse and answer phones while she learned. Amirah attended her first HME Summit with me in Minneapolis a few years ago. Today, she's an accomplished sales/recruiting professional and a proud mother.
Olivia Frederick—Olivia began her medical device marketing career at Graham-Field, and recently launched her own marketing/design business, Creatively Olivia. She's working long hours these days, assisting a variety of HME providers as well as People for Quality Care. Olivia is a savvy and principled star in her own right, and I'm so happy to be on the front row cheering for her ongoing success.
Looking for a way to boost your own business or career? Join us at the HME Summit in September!
Rick Glass, Doug Harper, John Anderson and I will all be there, teaching and serving the industry with ways to help our business partners grow. Our educational sessions are listed below. Jo-Ellen Reed will be on hand too offering her wise advice! We’d love to meet you in Cleveland.
Manufacturer-provider relationships: Rules of engagement amid shifting business models
Last year, a number of supplies manufacturers bought providers in anticipation of these products being added to the competitive bidding lineup. CMS no longer has immediate plans to make supplies part of the bid program, but the aftershocks remain. Then there’s Inogen, which has been negotiating the fine line between manufacturer and provider for years. What are the macro-economic factors that are forcing manufacturers to rethink their business models? Most importantly, what does all of this mean for providers? How do they mitigate the risks of manufacturers shifting their business models? These panelists brainstorm ideas on how to make it work for everyone in the mix.
Lisa Wells, vice president of marketing, Cure Medical
Doug Harper, president, NDC Home Care
John Anderson, CEO, Cure Medical
Scott Wilkinson, CEO, Inogen
The 11th Annual HME News/SRA Financial Benchmarking Survey
Each year, hundreds of HME providers participate in this study to see how they stack up against their peers in everything from net revenues to DSO to employee expenses. Insights from last year’s session include 35% of respondents reporting revenue growth of more than 10% in 2015, and 62% reporting revenue growth year over year. What happened in 2016? Come find out. Bonus: Analyst Rick Glass will zero in on data from 2013 through 2016 to give us a look at the impact of Round 2 of competitive bidding, when the program expanded from nine to 91 cities.
Rick Glass, president, Steven Richards & Associates
About Lisa Wells
Over the last 20 years, Lisa Wells has designed numerous digital marketing programs and strategic marketing plans for healthcare organizations, HME providers and medical device manufacturers worldwide. Frequently published as a subject-matter expert in Marketing, Lisa was also ranked the #1 speaker for two consecutive years after presenting at the 2010 & 2011 HME News Business Summits. Today, Lisa serves on the board of directors for United Spinal Association and as the Vice President of Marketing for Cure Medical, a leading manufacturer of intermittent catheters and the only medical device company in the world that gives 10% of their net income to fund paralysis research…in pursuit of a cure.