Coopetition – But Don’t Give Away the Farm

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Many of you know that prior to devoting my career to patient empowerment and patient advocacy, I owned a marketing company that worked specifically with professionals and small businesses. I had clients of every flavor, from manufacturing companies to hair salons, from lawyers to book authors, to cookie-bakers and small distribution companies – a gamut.

An important part of my work was mentoring – helping others who wanted to be in business grasp the basic concepts that were necessary, helping them apply those concepts to their own fields, then jump in with both feet. I truly enjoyed the many “a-ha” moments my mentoring created.

I heard one day from one of my mentees (I’ll call her Carla), a hairdresser.  Her shop had been open for about two years, was doing well, was very popular, and she was just getting ready to sink some big money into expanding it.  More space, new services, high-end products, additional personnel and more. Gangbusters.

About six months before that call, a young woman, Laura, had contacted her, asking to interview Carla about owning a shop.  Carla invited her to stop by and the two chatted for about an hour. She had enjoyed the experience and felt they had a lot in common.

But now Carla was beside herself. So upset!  Continue Reading →

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Why We Should Avoid Using the Title “Certified Patient Advocate”

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It’s a big question among patient and health advocates – whether or not someone is considered “certified” as a patient advocate. Last week I answered a question that came from an advocate about why someone would bother taking a course or finishing a program if they wouldn’t be considered “certified” at the end….

But there are even bigger considerations – some food for thought for those who disagree with my stand about claiming certification.

I believe the use of “Certified Patient Advocate,” in these early stages of the profession’s development has the potential of hurting both you, as an individual advocate, and the potential of hurting the profession, too.

Here’s why that “certified” title hurts both the profession and you, too: Continue Reading →

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Clarifications and an Update on the Schueler Compass Award

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Just so you know we pay attention, three important concerns have popped up about the Schueler Compass Award, the award recently announced at the AdvoConnection conference.  These concerns came in the form of replies to the survey we took after the conference was over.  Since the surveys were completed anonymously,  and since comments expressed by one person may represent the thoughts of many, we’ll address them here, publicly, on the blog.

Concern 1:  Posted among the survey results about the conference in general was the following:

There was alot of conversation about the KS awards going to 2 members who will be on this board. Most individuals I spoke to felt that if these 2 women were chosen, then they should not have been on the board to choose the candidates.

My response to this question:  I had hoped to be very clear during the conference announcement that the first three winners of the award were chosen only by Alexandra Schueler, Ken’s daughter, and me (Trisha Torrey). Our goal for the first winners was to find the people who, first, would illustrate the ideals the award stands for, and second, were good friends of Ken’s. Further, we needed to address the balance of clinical and non-clinical advocates. We hoped they would accept the award, and then agree to serve on the committee to choose subsequent winners.

And that’s exactly what happened.  Further, none of the three of them knew they were receiving the award until the day of the conference.  If you know any of them well, they were as surprised as anyone was!

Concern 2: From the same comment above, it continued:

It was not clear what the critieria was for the award & it seems to make sense to have the candidate also be someone who does alot of volunteer advocacy… Just some thoughts, but I believe some ideas should go out to the Premium Members… Several expereinced advocates seemed very disturbed by the way this award was handled…

The criteria are clearly spelled out on the website and on the application.  Of course, at the conference, due to time constraints, we listed only the titles for each of the attributes.

As for whether volunteerism should be included as one of the important attributes:  it’s good feedback and by all means, volunteerism can be considered in another year by the committee.  For now, if you want to include volunteer advocacy on your application, then do so in either the Empowerment or Community Visibility descriptions.

Concern 3:  Time. The original deadline for application for the Schueler Compass Award was December 1, giving advocates about one month to apply.  Complaints were made that we aren’t allowing enough time, especially with looming holidays… and because we don’t want someone to miss applying due to time constraints, we are moving the deadline to January 15, 2012, providing an additional six weeks.  You may nominate yourself (which is what we expect most of you will do) or you may nominate someone else.  The dates for decision-making and subsequent public announcements have been moved forward to accommodate for the new application deadline, too.

I hope this clarifies these concerns.  The award is meant to honor both the winners and Ken, too – but another important intent is to set a lofty bar for others to aspire to.  Recognizing individuals for their achievement of these high ideals elevates the entire profession.

We hope you’ll make application soon to be considered for the Schueler Patient Advocacy Compass Award.

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The Distinction that Can Make All the Difference

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Many of you, despite the fact that you are excellent advocates with outstanding patient advocacy skills, will not succeed as private advocates, because you don’t understand one important distinction.

Doesn’t really seem right, does it?

So what’s that distinction?  Well, it ties into the ongoing discussion about who does, or does not, have the capability to provide the skills patients need, and who will, or won’t, be able to do the work – that discussion about patients’ needs and fulfilling those needs.

Let’s look at it this way first:

Colleen has always loved houses, and has been the admin in a real estate company for almost 30 years. She has handled details upon details for others – from seller contracts to purchaser contracts, from arranging for home showings, to making phone calls to rustle up inspectors, to retrieving signs from a “sold” property’s front yard.  She knows her stuff, she’s done it all, she’s seen it all, and now she’s decided she wants to do real estate work on her own.  So Colleen quits her job, and goes into business for herself.

Colleen approaches her business very professionally, doing all the stuff she thinks she’s supposed to do.  She makes up business cards and some flyers.  She builds a website.  She lets everyone in her neighborhood and her church know that she’s got decades of real estate experience, and now she’s ready to help them list or buy a house. Yes, her phone rings on occasion, but… The business just doesn’t come in to support her well enough.  Eventually she takes a part time job so she can pay some of her bills.  But, of course, if she’s at work at her part time job, and people call her for help right away, she misses the opportunity.

Six months later, Colleen is forced to give up her dream of being in business for herself, doing what she loves and is passionate about.  She can’t support herself and the phone just doesn’t ring often enough.  But she just doesn’t understand it – Colleen can’t figure out why she can’t build a business.

What Colleen missed, the reason she can’t succeed, is the same reason many of you who read this will go out of business, too.  Until you recognize it and act on it, you are doomed to fail (unless, of course, you win the lottery and can be a patient advocate for free, with no worry about income….)

Continue Reading →

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The Option of Saying “NO”

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Several months ago I wrote about the tendency of big-hearted advocates to over-extend themselves with volunteer work; that when someone needs their help, but doesn’t have the means to pay them, they don’t know how to say “no.” We looked at some of the ways to get past that inability in order to keep our businesses moving forward.

Truth is, that is only one of the circumstances where “no” is the right answer.  That’s true whether it is us, as professional advocacy business owners who must choose to say no, or whether we must help our clients choose “no” if it is possibly the right answer for them.

The business “no” is not unusual and will seem very simple once you understand it.

But the client “no” is often overlooked – and you truly owe it to your clients to not only understand it, but to help them understand, and sometimes embrace it, too.

Here’s a business “no” example:

Continue Reading →

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