You Can’t Do Life, or Business, Without Plan B

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You know Plan B. Plan B is your go-to option when what you thought would work, didn’t.

It’s the answer to the question, “What will you do when life gets in the way?”

I was reminded of Plan B last week when, after days of internet problems due to some new construction in the area, the internet was finally stable, and I had taken a very relieved deep breath and settled into a nice big project online….

…When BAM! Down went the internet again! Only this time the outage was caused by some workers next door digging up the edge of the neighbor’s garden, and slicing our underground internet wiring in two. Poof! And it wasn’t like they could fix it! Of course not! (Not to mention how rude they were about the whole thing – another story for another day…. )

You can imagine what came next. Since the outage was caused by a crew that was digging, who had not gotten permission to dig (which I’ve since learned is against the law!), there was absolutely no hurry on the part of our internet service provider to fix it. It wasn’t their fault, and we were only one customer. They had other bigger outages affecting many more customers to attend to. When I phoned, they said they would put us on the schedule for next Wednesday…. WHAT? OMG!

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A Rose by Any Other Name Might Ruin a Client Relationship

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Words matter. Descriptions matter. Names matter.

And we, as advocates, need to pay attention to words, descriptions, and names – and take steps to use them correctly, and as desired. The problem is – sometimes we don’t know when we’re violating that axiom.

I was reminded of this a few times recently, not the least of which caused my husband some consternation.

He and I have different last names. We were older when we married, and because I was already professionally known by my maiden name (Torrey), I didn’t want to change my name. Before we married, we discussed my wish to keep my maiden name, and he was surprised I would consider doing anything but keep it! So that was that.

However, in these ensuing 10+ years, my maiden name has caused him some pause and opened his eyes. Last week, for the umpteenth time, he was called “Mr. Torrey”, and later that day when our postal mail arrived, and there were two pieces of junk mail addressed to “Mr. Warren Torrey”… Well – let’s just say that he didn’t look favorably upon any of the guilty parties. It’s not HIS name, and he takes umbrage to someone assuming it is.

Women, especially, get that.

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Advocates Are Afraid to Do This – Until They Love to Do It

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Earlier this year we hosted one of our APHA Workshop weekends*, with about 30 individuals who are somewhere in the process of growing an advocacy practice.

The APHA Workshops were originally designed to support the BUSINESS of advocacy only. The idea was that most advocates have abundant skills and abilities to advocate – they’ve advocated for themselves and loved ones, and sometimes non-family patients for years. What they didn’t know was how to successfully start and run a sustainable business / practice to allow them to do their advocacy work.  For five years, we hosted those original workshops all over the country, and student-advocates provided feedback indicating they were worthwhile.

Until… about a year ago it became clear that there was one major piece in the teaching of the budding profession of advocacy that was missing, a piece that no one had really named yet. Those of us who are leaders in the profession could describe it, but we had trouble honing in on a concise description, or definition, or better yet, a single word that would allow us to communicate about it.

This became even clearer at this year’s first workshop, mentioned above, where we added a component to address that missing piece. Some attendees, those new to advocacy, struggled to solve the real life patient / caregiver problems we posed. Observing some of the struggle helped me figure it out….

So today I’m going to name it, describe it, and then ask YOU to provide examples.

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The Most Expensive Business to Start

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It’s entirely possible to start a new business on a shoestring. We know this, because every publication worth the paper or website it’s published on tells us so:  Forbes, USA Today, Entrepreneur, all of them.

It requires time, grit, determination, attention to detail, great word-of-mouth – oh – and money! More about this in a minute.

The truth is – the concept of starting a business on a shoestring depends on the size of your shoes and therefore, the length and strength of their laces. It certainly doesn’t hurt if they are made of solid-gold, and you can sell them for your seed money.

If you hear a sarcastic edge in this post, it’s for good reason. It’s born of frustration, the feeling that I’m shouting into an empty cave.  I’ve just heard from one more person who has closed up her advocacy practice because she can’t afford it anymore; this on the heels of a conversation last week with one of our APHA Mentors who asked me, “Why do people think they can start an advocacy practice with no investment? Why do they think they can do it for free?”

Good questions. GREAT questions. And sadly, representative of too much reality and too much failure. And, for today, it means I’m going to try to provide this reality check one more time.

Let’s look at that shoestring for a minute. 

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Part IV: The Dirty Dozen Skills, Abilities, and Attributes of Successful Health and Patient Advocates and Care Managers

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And, finally, the fourth and last in our series of skills, abilities and attributes that all successful advocates and care managers must.

We’re wrapping up with 3 additional concepts that are important to the success all private advocacy and care management practices.  Yes – I know the total will be 16 (and we promised only a dirty dozen!) – see Part I about my inability to count 🙂 )

Which of these describe you and your abilities?  Which of them do not?  Where do you go from here?

Do your own assessment! 

 

14.  Never forget  your Allegiance. Allegiance is the foundation of a private, independent advocate’s or care manager’s work; that is – because the patient or caregiver (or someone else whose sole allegiance is to the patient) hires you, your entire focus is on what’s best for him or her.

That is the one major distinction between private, independent professionals and those who work for an organization that profits from the healthcare system. Hospital advocates, insurance advocates – their allegiance is to the companies and systems they work for. While their hearts may be in the right place, and patients may THINK they are being helped, these system-paid advocates are too often, even frustrating to them, unable to offer the best help.

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