- Published on 30 May 2017
Independent hearing care practice owner Dr. Gyl Kasewurm has made such a success of her business in St. Joseph, Michigan, USA, that she now spends time coaching and advising other hearing care business owners how they can make their practices more successful. We caught up with Dr Gyl at the American Academy of Audiology 2017 conference to gain some insight into this highly successful business woman.
How did you get started in Audiology?
I’m from a small community and when I became an audiologist I was already married and there were no audiology jobs in the county. So at that time the Occupational, Safety and Health Association was mandating that any employer that had sound levels over 85dB had to have their employees tested once a year. So, I went to the bank and borrowed money and I started with my industrial business where I just went around, knocking on doors, saying to people, you need what I have. I would go to the factories and test their employees, all three shifts, so sometimes it was an 18 hour day.
At this time, phones were tethered to the wall, so I would sit in my kitchen surrounded by books of industries that I knew would need testing. I wouldn’t let myself get up until I had made 50 calls every day. That was 33 years ago. [Dr Gyl’s practice now employs three audiologists, three audiologist’s assistants, six office staff and a dog!]
Your hearing care practice generates 10 x more revenue than the average practice – how?
One of the things is that we have written goals. Most people don’t. We have written goals that we review quarterly. Everybody in our organisation has Key Performance Indicators that they have to work towards and they are incentivised for them. We push those goals by the quarter, by the month, by the day. We will get in a huddle during the day and look at the opportunities we have and what we need to go after them. Some of our growth came by chance, some came by being a little unique, some by being very vocal and involved in the community and some of it came because we pushed for it. We’re coming off a quarter that wasn’t as good as it should have been and I said to my COO ‘the next one will not be like that’, because we are going to do what it takes to make things work. We look at what is going right, what we are doing wrong, what we need to change. I love nothing more than at 3am when i wake up with a new idea. My favourite thing! I love reading about new ideas, innovations, with all the things changing at the moment, the opportunities. There are obstacles but obstacles are really just opportunities.
Now, you have a second business?
I had always written and given a lot of presentations, but about three years ago I thought it was time to spread the message. Many private practitioners went to school to learn how to be audiologists or hearing instrument specialists but they know nothing about business. Like most people, I didn’t go to school to be a business woman so I sought out help from the brightest and the best to make myself a business woman. If you can’t run a business then it’s hard to stay in business.
I’m constantly growing and figuring out ways to do things better; I have used assistants for 30 years. This ensures the professional’s time is used for revenuegenerating activities and solving problems. We grow almost every year. We had a dip in 2008 when the economy tanked, but we worked through it. There is a saying ‘high water hides the stumps’, when you have a lot of cash flow it’s easy to let your expenses get out of line. And when the cash goes down you start seeing places where you spend too much. I had to let some employees go, I had to change some pricing strategies, I had someone who was writing money off, so I had to get in a billing person and billing software. We came back 35% stronger in a year.
Did you go back to college to study business or did you learn from others?
When you work with people you have a lot of good resources. I have patients that have been chairman of the board, of a billion dollar company in one case. I have always read that you should always take one patient to lunch a week. Now, I don’t quite do that, but I have an advisory board. I would ask their advice and they would say, ‘Gyl, you need to do this, you need to do that’. I am a voracious reader and I talk to a lot of people. I don’t have to know everything; I just need to know where to find it.
So you have an advisory board for your hearing care practice?
We change it periodically so that it is not the same people, but it is usually 10-12 people from different walks of life. We meet once a quarter and we ask them ‘have you heard anything about us from your friends?’, ‘what do you think of our marketing efforts?’ One gentleman who is particularly helpful to me managed 22,000 employees at a company. In big companies the advisory board gets paid. If you think through your patient database there are many people with great expertise that can really help you and if you ask them, and they like you and trust you, they are more than willing to help for free. It’s a very good resource for a business.
How much of your time do you spend doing the consultancy?
I’m still seeing patients 3 days a week, but to be honest that is going to change. It’s nice to get a feel for things and know how things are going but I really have some other ideas. I’m looking at running workshops that are about empowerment for females. In the US, despite the fact that the majority of hearing healthcare professionals are female, they still make 30% less than the men. So, we need to understand that the only way that is going to change is if we change that. Women typically aren’t very good negotiators; I love to negotiate.
It’s very difficult. Most offices are one professional and one support person, so it is very difficult to work in your business and still have time to work ‘on’ your business. Even if you take a day a week, or a half day, it will make all the difference in the world if you are really watching those numbers.
Who uses your consultancy services?
I give talks for manufacturers but most people that come to my seminars are people that own a small business that is not progressing, it’s not doing well, they’re not watching their numbers close enough. They probably don’t charge enough. Many people in this profession are so likely to give things away for free; they are afraid to charge people. Managing employees is difficult whether you have one or 50 and that takes time. They have to have specific job descriptions and that takes time. So most of the people are people that are working really hard but they’re just not going anywhere.
After people come to seminars, do you go into their practices?
They come into my practice! It’s nice for people to come to us − seeing as our office is unique and very large − to see how we do things, to walk through the processes, how we schedule things. Then we have fun at night and then the next day we talk all about it and when people leave we give them a zip drive of all the resources they need to go and do it.
We get 70% of our new patients from our patient referral programme but if you go home and you’re busy what is it going to take to create that programme and the materials that go with it? Most people just don’t get to it. So we say, ‘here’s the cards, already designed, all you’ve got to do is put your logo on it’. We stay in touch to see how it’s going.
Audiology has afforded me a life that is unbelievable but I’ve always known what I’ve wanted and I go after it. I work very hard but it is my passion, it is what I love. Most people have one thing they do better than anyone else and if you can take that one thing and harness it, you will be very successful in life.
Dr. Kasewurm’s practice generates 10 times the gross revenue of an average US practice. She is a Past President of the Michigan Academy of Audiology and served on the American Academy of Audiology Executive Board for five years. In addition, the American Academy of Audiology honoured Kasewurm for her innovation and contributions to the profession by presenting her with a Distinguished Achievement Award in 2007.