Archive for month: May, 2016

Making A Prediction Is Easy. Making It Believable Is Hard, Especially For An SEO Program

Categories: Articles

If you heard Kevin Ashton who just spoke at the TAG GA Technology Summit, you know you could apply this comment to weather forecasting as well as an SEO campaign or sales forecasting.   About the only time you can be confident in a prediction without knowing how believable it is, is if the prediction is about the end of the world not happening now or ever (because nobody will be around after the end to tell you that you were wrong).

nl3-30-02Making a prediction or forecast about SEO’s impact is hard.   Chances are you have received one or two solicitations this week to do an SEO campaign or fix your website.  Have you noticed the growing number of SEO agencies that say they will get you on Page 1 for something, or guarantee X number of leads?  That’s a prediction.  They don’t know your business or your competition.  So just how believable is that SEO agency prediction?

One NicheLabs client said they were forecast that the SEO agency could get them ranked on Google’s page 1 for 5 keywords by providing extensive content.  Good prediction.  Believable?  If the keywords are keywords that nobody is searching for, and thus, not competitive, it becomes a believable SEO campaign – but who wants to use keywords that nobody searches for?

The ‘extensive content’ was for 30 blog posts, which should be a good strategy given what we know about Google’s current algorithm.  Believable?   When the price was $500, or about $15/blog post, and considering this was an agency, account manager and writer, that’s not much money to write a blog post.  And can you think of 180 things to write about on your website for the initial 6 months that you’d want your visitors to see?

INSTEAD, find an SEO agency that is believable.  Content is a very good SEO campaign strategy.  Google likes it and if properly targeted and well written, visitors will like it and stay longer.  Getting your content linked to by other websites is the Daily Double.  What used to be called PR or public relations, but may not be sexiness anymore so it’s referred to as being Social Media, or Social, should be your target.  Write it. Get it shared.  Get back links.  Then you have a believable prediction that you will get ranked.

As with any great SEO agency, we welcome an initial consultation so you can determine if we’re believable.  We welcome your questions because the more you know, the more you appreciate what is involved, and the better decision you’ll make for an SEO campaign, a Google AdWords campaign, or any other marketing program you pursue.

We predict that you’ll call us at 888-978-9254.  If that prediction turns out to be wrong, we invite you to send us an email using our website contact form.  Either way, you will find your time talking with us to be very worthwhile.

Provided by Hal Schlenger of NicheLabs, (770-335-0077 or hschlenger@nichelabs.com).

Looking for Labor: How the Labor Shortage is Increasing Costs

Categories: Articles

Construction of homes and commercial buildings is up significantly this year. But the industry would be blazing with production if it weren’t for a substantial labor shortage.

With unemployment on the decline, the overall improved economy and labor market seems to be back on track, with everything running smoothly.

But with a lack of skilled workers, construction firms are struggling to grow. Especially considering several workers left the field during the recession and have no desire to return to the labor market.

Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported 85 percent of construction companies in the Northeast have a difficult time finding qualified employees.

The industry took an exceptionally hard hit during the recession and saw a significant loss in jobs during. The unemployment rate in construction has not fully recovered from the recession and is still up compared to pre-recession lows during 2005-2007.

The projects are there, but the labor crux has caused firms to turn down new business, which especially affects building activity and economic growth.

Perhaps the largest effect is the raising cost for home building and commercial projects, which has a rippling effect throughout the industry.

Meanwhile, the pipeline of new workers has thinned over the years.

Several high schools have gotten rid of shop building programs as more people pursue 4-year college programs and white-collar careers.

Not to mention, it takes companies a significant amount of time to fully train workers to get them to fully qualified.

Firms have used varying techniques to combat this trend, including an increase in pay, benefits and bonuses as the most common.

Using subcontractors and staffing firms have also increased for construction companies.

Given the current shift and upcoming labor shortage, construction firms will face a challenge in where the find eligible workers to complete jobs and projects.

In order to keep competitive labor costs in control, one likely trend in the future to manage labor shortages will be companies and associations banding together in an effort to train employees and create the skilled workers themselves.

But the issue remains: The shortage has pushed up labor costs and will increase construction durations.

Commercial builders are using computer modeling, GPS systems and drones to become more efficient in an effort to do more with a scarcity of workers.

And not only is the deficiency hurting builders’ ability to increase revenue, it is starting to affect their ability to take on projects, while increasing costs significantly.

 

Provided by Steve Sperling of Schoppman Company, Inc.,
(770-564-3462 or steve@schoppman.com).

Fewer of Us Save, More Are Confident of Retirement. Are We Crazy?

Categories: Articles

New survey is studded with striking facts about Americans’ finances, dreams, and desperation.

The retirement confidence of Americans has come a long way since the recession. The percentage of workers either very or somewhat confident that they will be able to afford a comfortable retirement now stands at 63 percent, up from 51 percent three years ago and 49 percent in 2011.

But it isn’t because of a surge in the number of people who are saving, according to the 26th annual Retirement Confidence Survey released today by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

The percentage of workers saying they or their spouse saved for retirement is 69 percent in 2016, down from 75 percent in 2009. That number has bounced around a lot, between 57 percent in 1994 to as high as 78 percent in 2000. Whatever the reason for the significant decline this year, it’s bad news for our retirement prospects—as is the fact that fewer than half of workers (48 percent) have even tried to figure out how much money they’ll need to live on in retirement.

“We’ve seen a decent amount of awareness around retirement issues, but the issue is whether that awareness translates into different behavior,” said Luke Vandermillen, vice president of Retirement and Income Solutions with Principal Financial Group, a retirement services provider and one of the longtime underwriters of the survey.

One likely force behind some of the rise in overall confidence: the housing market. A recent Federal Reserve report showed that since the market hit a low in early 2009, the value of homeowners’ equity has more than doubled.

2016_05_graph

Ownership of homes is much wider than ownership of stocks and acts as a “kind of stealth offset to falling stock prices,” said Ian Richardson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in this recent Bloomberg story.

Here are some highlights from the EBRI report.

Confidence means having a retirement plan at work

Workers with a retirement plan contributed the most to the higher overall confidence numbers. Many of the “very confident” have, or have a spouse who has, a defined contribution plan, an IRA or a defined benefit plan from a current or previous employer. Twentysix percent of workers with such savings plans were “very confident” about being able to afford retirement, compared with 10 percent of those who don’t have accounts.

People without any of those options were more confident, too. The percentage of workers without a plan who said they were “somewhat confident” rose from 21 percent last year to 29 percent this year. One possible reason is a decrease in the unemployment rate, Vandermillen said.

Still, there’s a big savings gap between those with access to a retirement plan and those without: 34 percent of respondents with a retirement plan who answered a survey question about savings said they had saved at least $100,000. Just five percent of those without a plan said they’d saved that much. Only 9 percent of workers with access to a retirement plan reported savings of $1,000 or less; it was 67 percent for those without a plan.

What a nice retirement will cost, as a percentage of income

Workers were asked to estimate what percent of household income they’d need to save annually, from 2016 until they retire, to have a comfortable retirement. This year, far fewer people said they don’t know— 22 percent, down from 27 percent last year.

The largest chunk of workers surveyed, at 17 percent, said they’d need to save 20 to 29 percent of annual income. That’s down from the 19 percent who said the same thing in 2015—which was down from 22 percent in 2014.

2016_05_graph01

At the extreme end of what people think they need to save for old age, 19 percent of workers who have no access to a retirement plan estimate they’d need to save at least 50 percent of their income annually. Among those with a retirement account, 9 percent said they’d need to save half their income.

Four percent of respondents said they actually managed to save 50 percent of their income last year. The largest chunk of respondents (27 percent) said they’d saved under 10 percent of income.

What all that saving needs to add up to in dollars

A nest egg of half a million dollars or more is what 46 percent of workers think they’ll need to retire comfortably. Twentysix percent think they will need less than $250,000. Those who have actually tried to calculate how much they need set higher goals. This year, 31 percent of workers who have made that effort figured they needed at least $1 million for retirement. Among those who haven’t thought it through, 18 percent estimated they’d need at least that much.

2016_05_graph02

In a charming testament to human nature, while not enough people are saving for retirement, they’re definitely thinking about what they’ll do when they retire. Sixtyseven
percent of workers said they had thought about how to occupy their time. Just 36 percent said they had talked with a financial adviser about retirement planning.

Provided by Joshua C. Harper, CFP®, CLU®, of WealthMD (877-Our-MDPlan or jharper@wealthmd.com).

Exceeding Expectations- The Mantra for 2016

Categories: Articles

At the start of this year, I made a declaration. The mantra of the year is not something new or original; it just came about after reviewing the good and bad of 2015. That mantra is “Exceeding Expectations”. We’ve all heard this before over the years, and many of us live by this rule daily. Some implement it from time to time. It reminded me that I had seen an article online regarding “Relationship Marketing” and how it can add value to a medical practice.

That article started out talking about how the internet and social media is impacting the reputation of a medical practice and how “relationship marketing” can help level that playing field.

Most small business owners understand the benefits of a long-term relationship with their clients, and how important it is to keep them happy. This leads to referrals, brand loyalty and increased revenue. The same applies to physician practices with additional benefits. For the practice, this could increase patient referrals and appointments, which leads to increased revenues. The patient gets healthcare services they are happy with. As we all are well aware, patients are better informed and more empowered than ever. If a patient is unhappy with their treatment, they can take that dissatisfaction online. On the flip side, just like any other business, a positive experience can make that patient an advocate for a physician or a practice’s services.

121This article then talked about following the “patient first” policy. Obviously, “the primary goal of all healthcare providers should be patient care and satisfaction. Providing patients with best possible treatment and healthcare services and sending them back home with satisfaction should be on the top of the priority list. During the treatment, if patients sense that profit earning instead of patient treatment is the main goal, they are unlikely to revisit the hospital/practice again. When these patients talk about their experiences on social media or physician-review websites, their opinions resonate. Therefore, all efforts should be directed towards providing the best experience for the patients.” This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? I have had the experience as a patient of feeling like a provider might be “cut-happy”, or only interested in follow-up visits for the co-pay. And, as a patient, I have looked elsewhere for comparable services. I equated this policy with a very strong business policy of NOT trying to sell a customer more than what they need. While that can be more lucrative on the front end, it does nothing to solidify a long term relationship.

The subject of “the first appointment” was addressed very simply with the old adage that the first impression matters the most. We all know that, don’t we? Surprisingly, this article says “Train your staff to provide the best possible assistance and experience to the patient. If satisfied, the patient will form a positive brand perception and can become a loyal brand advocate about your practice.” I would have thought this was standard operating procedure, but the author felt it necessary to spell out, so I guess it isn’t, but it should be. In our small business world, new customers are always looked upon as a “gift”, and we just try to make certain that they enjoyed the experience of working with us enough to come back.

customer_serviceLastly, the subject of communication was addressed. As a patient, I believe I have seen some improvement in this area with the implementation of that “patient portal” we are all encouraged to use. Of course, it’s rare that I ever hear back from the physician; mostly it’s either a nurse or some type of mid-level. That really doesn’t remove the “doctor-patient disconnect” that has been an issue for many years, but it is improving. Communication in small business falls into a few buckets. We all hate the automated attendant and the maze of trying to contact a doctor, nurse or a practice administrator. We should avoid these at all costs for our businesses. As often as possible, a live body should answer the phone. Email correspondence should be acknowledged quickly, even if it’s just a simple “thank you for contacting us. We will get back as quickly as possible regarding your request…blah, blah”.

The bottom line is that relationship marketing, or “exceeding expectations” is the approach that has the best chance of success, in business and in healthcare. It’s the foundation upon which a successful medical practice or business is built. This is especially important in today’s ever-changing healthcare market.

Provided by Sheila Fox-Lovell of Shandy Creative Solutions (770.951.0305) or sheila@shandycreative.com

Practice Manager of the Month

Categories: Practice Manager of the Month

Carie Free, Practice Administrator
Chatuge Family Practice

Carie Free is the Practice Administrator at Chatuge Family Practice located just over the border into North Carolina in Hayesville.  The practice is run a bit different than most doctors’ offices.  Chatuge Family Practice is a rural practice non-profit 501c3.  It is run by a community board of 19.  The doctors do not own the practice, nor are they the boss; both doctors and practice manager are employees and answer to the board and the community.  The practice has a team approach to total health care and provide a variety of services from acupuncture, acute care for adults and children, dermatology, family planning, lab testing, minor surgery, and well visits.

Carie was raised in the medical management environment. Her grandmother worked in administration at the local hospital, and her mother managed several medical offices. So she knew this would be her path as well. She started working for an Internal Medicine group at the age of 15.  Carie started in Medical Records in high school and after college came back and worked her way up to Billing Manager.  She finished her Degree in Health Care Management and became an office manager for a local Orthopedic.  When his practice was bought, she became an employee of the hospital.  When Chatuge Family Practice had some financial/leadership troubles, Carie was asked to step in and manage the practice.

The two tips that Carie would provide to other Practice Administrators is to accept change and have a big picture mindset.   She states, “You can get caught up sometimes in the little details, and it will bog you down. I try to get the big picture in my head and then collaborate with others to get those fine details down but without a vision your practice will no longer be viable.” Carie knows that medical is constantly changing whether it’s the alphabet soup game, trying to stretch each dollar, staying in compliance, or juggling the insurance companies.  She warns other Practice Managers and Providers that complaining too much and fighting the system is truly a losing battle.  Accept the change and be the ‘poster child’ for the program so that you can help your employees to embrace the change to keep the focus on helping the patient.  She enjoys the constant change and fixing problems as she gets bored if everything is running too smoothly. Carie feels that she has gained her best advice and knowledge from scripture reading of the bible and prayer life. She treats others like she would want to be treated and she would never expect them to do a job that she wouldn’t do herself.

Carie’s passion and hard work in her job are noticed by the doctors that work around her.  Dr. Jill Brinke states, “I think the reason I like working with Carie so much and the reason she is so good at her job, besides being organized, motivated and resourceful, is that I know that I’m appreciated.  Or more specifically the work I do is appreciated.  She understands the complexity of our job and realizes it is more than just diagnosis and prescription writing.  We are trying to heal people and give them better quality of life.  She shares that focus and is an amazing advocate for our patients.  We are incredibly blessed to have Carie and I am so glad she’s here!”  Similarly, Dr. Heaver shared, “She has worked long (uncompensated) hours, taken the initiative, researched and generally bird-dogged ways of providing services for our patients and community–grants, collaborations, etc., all while keeping us afloat! Kudos!!!”

Carie understands the benefit of working with others and building relationships in groups such as Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and Accountable Care Organization (ACO.) She believes in sharing her knowledge and learning from others on how best to manage the practice.  Her nominator, Bart Segal Tri-Med Solutions, has been one of the valuable partners she trusts.  She met Bart at an on-site workshop for the software company on meaningful use.  Her representative did not show, but she heard Bart speak and sought him out with additional questions. As she says, “Bart is truly one of a kind and his company is as well.” One of the best things about Bart is that he is just like an extension of her office.  He is genuine, honest, and visible such that her employees know who he is and if there are issues, Bart and his company are the people she calls first. Carie knows that if his team cannot figure out the solution then they pull from their network of other VARS to get that answer.

Carie is active in her community.  She is a Sunday school teacher for teenagers and loves to sing in the choir. Her six year old daughter also keeps her active as team mom for cheerleading and going to Girl Scouts and Basketball. Her daughter also does natural pageants and works very hard for the community service awards that are with pageantry.

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