Wednesday, December 18, 2013

End of the Year Budgets

The year is quickly speeding to a close.  Many buyers have budget they want to use up before the year end. Here are some tips to maximize your remaining budget before the new year ball drops!

Most Purchased Items
Take inventory of items purchased the most frequently. Can you stock up and obtain a bigger volume discount? Keep in mind the needed product storage or your distribution center warehouse space.  Review with your teams anticipated usage that might impact the need for higher or lower quantities.  If you can afford to hold the inventory, it might be worth the savings for a bulk price and freight to buy now.

Highest Spend Products
Are there products that are a big hit to your budget? If it is something you purchase every year, evaluate if your current excess budget might cover it now.  This will keep the expense off the books next year and allow funds to be used for other items.

Vendor Closeout Savings
Keep your eye out for vendor promotions or special offers.  Many suppliers want to get products off their books and are slashing prices.  Keys to success are to evaluate if you need the products and if the savings is truly a value. Evaluate price per unit, carrying costs, install expenses and all the incidentals. Once you crunch the numbers you might score some great deals.

Negotiate Terms
Many suppliers are willing to negotiate for bigger ticket purchases. Discuss more favorable terms or spreading out payments. This can help with cash flow is tight. Vendors are happy to record the sale before the close the year and typically are willing to work with you.  Another option is to work closely with your Controller. Many companies want to part with cash before year end for tax purposes.  Ask your vendors for pre-payment discountsby pre-paying up front. You shave off some cost and enjoy the tax break.

The New Year will be here before you know it. Don't delay. Now is the time to use those budget wisely!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Small Business Stress Buster Tips

Stress is a normal part of each day. As manager or buying agent you're burden with the accountability of the buck stops here. You likely feel elevated levels of stress during the holiday busy season. Here are some tips to keep your stress in check to survive, thrive, and enjoy the season!
Small Business Stress Busters - Action Bag

Set Priorities
Shooting from the hip can create chaos because your team has no defined course of action. Having a plan is half the battle. Set yearly- quarterly-monthly-weekly-daily goals. This allows you to break down your goals into smaller pieces and work through them on a manageable level. Start each day by reviewing your priority list. This keeps you on schedule and you know you are covering your bases.

Re-evaluate Results and Goals
Don’t set it and forget it. Check in with how you are tracking towards your goals. Did something change where your goals or tactics need to be reconsidered? Maybe your buying contract didn't pan out to the savings you needed or your medical supply shipment didn't arrive. Be prepared to come up with plan B such as a back up vendor source or re-evaluate your analysis for additional savings. Revisiting goals will nip concerns in the bud before they become bigger stressors.

Uncover the Root Cause
Stress can cause us to overact to challenging situations or be upset at the messenger. Remember to take a deep breath and attempt to get at the heart of the matter as quickly as possible. What caused the effort to fail – billing error, shipment issue, patient usage estimate was off, or was it a staffing issue? Try to put the issue in perspective with the big picture of your business. Attempting to stay calm and look objectively at events can steer you to the right solution faster.

You are not alone. Your staff or co-workers are there to support you and make the business a success. Train them well and empower them to take on more responsibilities. Reach out to them when your to-do list is overwhelming. Letting go of your internal control-freak can be the best thing for your stress level and helps your staff grow.

Get a Life
You need a life beyond your business. When you leave for the day check out of business mode. Enjoy your family, friends, hobbies, and outside interests not related to your work. Decompress and let your mind enjoy other topics. This refreshes your body and soul to tackle the next business day ahead.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but with a little pre-planning and getting down to the root causes of challenges you can overcome stress and drive your business to success. A little chocolate can always help too!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Personal Touch

Technology creates efficiency, streamlines operations, and makes our jobs easier. However there can be a draw back to all this digital communication. We often lose the interpersonal communication that drives a deeper understanding of others. Consciously utilizing a more personal approach can build better relationships with your coworkers and business partners. 

Why are stronger relationships important?  Businesses need coworkers and partners to work closely together to succeed. We all inevitability need a favor or extra effort to make goals reality.  Tapping our strong relationships, we can pull off these magical business feats and both savor the success!

Here are some easy ways to add the personal touch to your communication.

Handwritten Notes
Written notes are memorable.  Did you get help on securing that new buying contract? Did a coworker work overtime to finish up that demanded report? Pop a handwritten thank you note in the mail or place it on their desk. You will be amazed how much people appreciate the small gesture and it takes mere moments to do.

Phone Call
Instead of sending your 100th email today, why not pick up the phone and have a conversation with your business partner. Pepper the call with personal questions about their family, holiday plans, or their weekend.  A call might take more time than firing off an email, but can have a lasting impact on your relationship. Strategically target a few a day with your key partners or with coworkers. Much more might be accomplished in a quick call and you are building rapport.

Instead of the same blah-blah message, make yours more memorable.  Change it up each day or each week. Match your personality such as a quote of the day, or the latest sports score, or what the weather is like where you are at.  Keep it short but a bit difference than the rest.  You might find people are disappointed to get you on the phone because they are dying to know what you said on your message!  This is all about adding your personality to your work.

Think of ways you can be memorable and take a more personal approach to your communication. Building stronger relationships will help you succeed - and have a bit more fun along the way!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vetting your Vendors

If your a medical or purchasing buyer, you likely are swimming in a sea of potential vendors.  From cold calls to contracts you are inundated with choices.  How do you make the right choice?  Having a solid vendor vetting solution is the answer!

Did you find this potential vendor off a quick google search? Did your networking pal pass you the source, or were they referred to you by one of your buying contracts?  Evaluate the validity of your source and weight appropriately.  If you simply took a cold call, they might be reputable but more research is need.  If you have approved contracting partners pre-vetting suppliers for quality and savings, there is a higher probability you are have a proven partner.

Market Understanding
Consider the track record of your provider. If they are new kid on the block, will they be able to consistency meet your needs? History in the complicated healthcare supply chain is needed to navigate effectively and efficiently. A strong grasp of market forces, an understanding of your customer needs, and experience in making it happen are a requirement to score the right vendor.

Firm Guidelines
Both partners should clearly state expectations. Set firm product pricing, deadlines, and product/service standards. Define penalties for non-compliance. A crystal clear agreement leaves no room for ambiguity and drives a successful business relationship.

Cost - Benefit Analysis
Create a cost-benefit analysis that aligns to your organization's needs, goals, and company vision.  Are your goals to provide a certain percentage of business to a particular buying contract? Is your mission to cut cost to a certain level or do you need drive a targeted percentage of diversity business? Craft a list of desired benefits and associated costs.  Don't be afraid to ask a vendor for a value-analysis.  Most suppliers are willing to provde this free of charge in order to earn your business. Weight your most important objectives first and evaluate.

Feel confident you are making the right vendor selection by creating a vetting process.  Have other vetting tips? Please share below! Happy Vetting!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Supply Chain Success

Maximizing success is top of mind for most supply chain managers. Ideas on how to-do something more efficient or reduce costs constantly bombarding our days.  Supply Chain excellence is never something one can check off the list as done, however there are some tips to keep continuously improving! 

Build Relationships
In today’s digital world we get lost in a sea of emails and voice mails, but if we are honest with ourselves it all driven by people.  Get outside the email and meet them in person. Take time out to build relationships with your partners by having a quick cup of coffee or grab lunch.  We all need to call in favors at one time or another. Having personal relationships goes a long way in finding the magic answer in a time of need. Also networking will provide you with access to new resources and ideas that will improve your performance.

Get Dirty
Step away from the computer and get to know your team.  The front lines can be a wealth of information that can help you do your job better.  Are there things happened day to day that you can make a simple change to save time or avoid errors? Seeing aspects of your objectives through the eyes of others allows you to see things different and drive new solutions.

Cross Functional Projects
Partner with other departments on projects.  Connecting with others in the organization will allow you to see things from their perspective and expeience their department culture. This will improve our inter-department communication ultimiately driving better results, improved efficiency, and an overall better working experience for all parties.

Time Zone Management
This is an easily forgotten piece to planning success. By managing time zones with your work load and meeting vendors on their best targeted times will maximize your deliverables and make the most of your work day. We all keep getting busier so make the most of every moment.

 Have more tips for driving supply chain success?  Please share your comments below.  


Friday, July 26, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness Promotions

Oct is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The dog days of summer are the perfect time to start thinking pink! Take advantage of the slower time to plot out your support. Here are three easy P’s to create your perfect pink ribbon promotions!

Decide if you want to align your promotions to a charity such as the Susan Komen Foundation. A popular idea is to promote a donation drive. Offer awareness band bracelets for every donation received. You can print off pink ribbons and for each patient that donations, have them sign your name to the ribbon. Hang these ribbons around your location and watch the chain grow! Another idea is to present a potion of sales to the designated charity. You could also host a VIP after hours party complete with goodie bags with discounts for all who donate. Calendar when you will start the promotion and when it will end. Create a goal for donations and an advertising plan to get the word out and keep the support coming.

Coordinate additional support with your partners. Get staff involved in the planning process and implementation. Work with your suppliers, network partners, and neighboring businesses to ask for their participation in co-sponsored promotions or events. Order any supplies you need such as the awareness bands, signage, or postcards. Have a marked up calendar of who is doing what when and send it to everyone involved. This sets clear expectations and keeps everyone on the same page.

Get the word out about your promotion early and often. Broadcast you event via social media, emails, signage, a postcard mailer, your website, staff and clients. Keep up the momentum by announcing weekly updates of your goal target and the biggest contributors. Keeping a high level of excitement and awareness will drive engagement. Finally communicate the success and thank everyone who has supported your effort. Handwritten thank you notes, shout outs on your digital media, and on location signage are excellent ways to show appreciation for those who supported your cause. Don't forget to send some local PR following the event to local news outlets. Share the good deeds.

Have other successful promotion ideas, please share below. Think pink and support a great cause while growing your business!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Stay Motivated

All of us experience times where we want to hit the snooze button and go back to bed. We get burnt out and lose our fire.  Here's how to get your passion back and get busy being awesome!

Attitude of Gratitude
Take a few moments as you start each day to reflect on the wonderful things in your life - your health, your family, friends, having a job or a home.  So many are less fortunate. Counting our blessings can inspire us to do more.  Write down 5 things you're grateful for. Stick this note on your bathroom mirror or on your computer at work.  When the days starts becoming stressful, glance at your blessings. This helps puts things in perspective and re-energizes our motivation.

Continuing Education
Never stop learning.  Growing your skills, whether in professional pursuits or personal interests, challenges your mind in new ways and drives inspiration in all aspects of your life.  If there are new areas in your career you want to tackle, research free or low cost classes in your community or online.  Sign up for that photography class in your community or go to that yoga class with your friend. You can meet new people, learn something new, and potentially enhance your career.

Look back on pass accomplishments. You earned those successes with hard work and determination. Remember the passion, the sweat, and drive that got you there. Use those memories to motivate you over the next hurdle on your current goal.

Challenge Yourself
It is easy to get stuck in routine that provides comfort and a sense of security, however challenging your mind in new ways keeps you fresh.  Create a goal that you want to achieve at work (increase sales, decrease costs, improve efficiency etc...). Give yourself a window of time to brainstorm 3 possible solutions.  Bounce ideas of your networking pals or coworkers. Develop a improvement tactic and put it in motion. Evaluate results. Then set the next bar you want to reach. Setting challenging goals provides a target to aim at and drives our focus.

Motivated yet?  It takes work to be your awesome self so get out there and make it happen!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Stay in the Know

Staying on top of news and trends that can impact your business is vital.  It can be hard to keep a pulse on the latest happenings when your nose is to the grind stone getting things done.  Here are some tips on how to stay in the know and still accomplish your daily to-dos.

Info Sources
Endlessly searching for information can waste a lot of time and go no where fast. Securing trusted sources of industry information is the key to success. All industries have targeted publications, associations, various blogs and informational sites. Get connected. Sign up for emails, magazines, or RSS feeds.  Set up Google Alerts are key topics, competitors, or industry terms. These alerts send emails directly when these key words are indexed by Google. Tap your LinkedIn profile and join industry groups. Set up automated email alerts for new postings and actively participate in these communities.  Most participants are willing to share when you get involved.

Now that you have all these great sources of data how do you handle it all? The trick is keeping organized.  For emails and RSS feeds set up rules in your email to automatically move things to pre-assigned folders.  This saves you time spending all day sorting your email alerts and keeps the info in one place.  Sort your direct mail and segment your industry publications separate from day to day correspondence in their own tray or folder.

Time Management
Of course the question on every one's mind is when do you have time to go through this info. The answer is you make time.  It is easier to do than you think.  Have a quick 10 minutes before your next meeting? Open up your industry email folder and scan through ones you feel are of interest or open up that industry magazine and mark articles worth diving into.  Set aside some time early in the morning or before you head out the door in the evening and go through your news sources.  The more you do this the better you will become at scanning headlines to weed out the fluff and get at the valuable data efficiently.

Now that you marked what you feel is important and before you close the email or toss the publication make a decision on what you are going to do with it, who is involved, and when you will do it by. This is an essential step or you wind up with piles that you never tackle. Ask yourself is this share worthy and if so who is the appropriate audience? Is this info actionable and what are my recommended steps? Then take the 2 minutes to share the the info via an email or memo or keep a running list of info to share in a monthly or bi-weekly meeting. 

Make this a daily habit and the system will flow. It will become second nature. You will be on top of your game and in the know!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Top Tips for Better Meetings

We have all been there - the endless meetings that seem to go no where or a calendar so pack with meetings you don’t know how you will do the work that comes from the meetings. Let’s stop the insanity! Here are the top tips to improve meetings for better results and shorter time frames so we call get more done.
Rules of Engagement
Set the ground rules of how your meetings will be structured. Don’t allow phones, tablets, laptops unless needed for presentation purposes. This avoids distractions and allows participates to be fully engaged. No meeting should be over an hour. Attention spans wane. If a topic needs more time, then break it up into pre-scheduled meetings or adjourn for a continuation meeting. Start meetings on time. Late comers have to jump in and don’t recap. They need to be respectful of everyone’s time.

Laser Focus
All meetings must a defined, measurable goal. This could be determine a new vendor, evaluate the potential for a sales contract, or brainstorm 3 ideas for new sales tactics. Whatever the meeting is for its goal must be measurable, meaningful, and define. This drives the why of the meeting. Drill this home with a focused agenda. Send the agenda to all parties as early as you can prior to the meeting. The agenda needs to highlight the goal of the meeting and detail the questions or topics to be reviewed.

Tricks of the Trade
Send out support materials ahead of time, preferably at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. This allows everyone to absorb or at least skim your talking points. This drives educated questions and streamlines meeting time by avoiding diving through the details and going straight to questions and actionable decisions. Don’t forget the follow up. The person that held the meeting is responsible for achieving the meeting’s goal. A summary email following the meeting bullet pointing the topic and the measurable results (or lack there of) not only keeps everyone in the know, but also keeps the meeting host accountable.  

Try these tips and share if you saw improvement. Have other ideas? Please share below. Happy Meeting!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Handling Complaints

Pleasing all the people all of the time isn't reality. Learning how to handle complaints and unhappy patients is a valuable skill to keep the integrity of your brand and business. Here is a sure fire method to turn complaints into satisfied customers!

No matter what happened or how it happened apologize upfront. Even if the customer isn't always right they need to feel heard and their opinion is valued. Don't be defensive. Hear out their concern and respond back validating what you hear. The magic words to conclude the customer's concern are to thank them for their complaint. Reinforce that your business values continuous improvement and we can't improve without knowing what to fix. Many times these customers are geared up for a fight, but these magic words tend to diffuse the situation instantly.

Once you understand the concern, recover the patient's confidence. You don't want to feel taken advantage of but generally the offer of a voucher, a discount, or a free service will appease the client. Another approach is ask the customer, "What can I do to make this right?". This lets you know what the customer feels is fair retribution. For the most part people will be fair and not demand the world. Try to meet them at least half way. If you have a repeated complaint, review the true cause and brainstorm solutions with your staff. Proactively educating customers and staff on your policies via  printed materials, website, and posted signs can go a long way to create expectations and a collective understanding to prevent some incidents from ever occurring.

Things will go wrong. Complaints are going to happen. Reframe complaints as an opportunity to grow, improve, and wow a customer with how your business responds. Also be aware that there are serial complainers out there. These are people aren't happy unless they are unhappy about something.  If you experience a continued complainer, a suggestion is to have an honest conversation with them. Explain they are always welcome, but your services might not measure up and they might prefer another provider better able to meet their needs. 

Learn to see complaints as an vehicle to drive better customer satisfaction and you will increase patient loyalty and build a positive business image. Do you have other tips for how you deal with complaints? Please share below.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Greening the Supply Chain

Being green can mean more green. A socially responsible businesses not only helps the planet but also drives are more economical and sustainable business model.  Here are some tips to greening your supply chain to become a more eco-driven business while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

Vendor Support
Many contracting agreements and GPO's are driving Environmental Preferred Purchasing agreements and partnering with vendors that offer greener alternative products. Explore what options are available andbe amazed at the not only the green offerings but also the savings that are to be had. Remember to keep in mind long term savings. An eco-product might cost more upfront but evaluate the potential for savings overtime.

Create Review Criteria
Draft a policy for reviewing potential new products or services. Look for eco attributes or eco-options and evaluate potential cost savings remembering the long term sustainable approach. Creating a green scorecard and a green purchasing policy has helped many organization. Keep in mind that sustainable approaches tend to have long tail savings but can add up to signification numbers over time.

Team and Partnership
No one can be a lone soldier. Create a Green Team to help look for new areas in the value chain that can be greener.  They can create policy, help spread the word, and drive support through the organization. Partner with outside groups such as Practice GreenHealth. Learn what others just like you are doing to become more green while meeting the savings battle cry. There are resources, tools, and assistance waiting to make you successful.

Track your results and your savings. As with anything - what gets measured, get done. Outline from the start your goals and metrics and it will easier to track down the line. Even small green changes might not seem like a lot but tracking savings and environmental impact can be excellent tools to use to support broader bigger initiatives in the future.

Acknowledge wins when eco-minded changes are adding value, driving savings, and creating a more sustainable business model. Holding quarterly or annual awards for green supply chain efforts will highlight the work through out the organization and motivate future winners creating a sustainable process for continuous improvement. 

These tips will get you started on moving towards a green supply chain. Remember small changes can have a huge impact.  Is your business employing exciting methods to green your supply chain? Please share below.