Problem Solvers

Making the Right Partner Match

How home access providers can create a successful partner network.

For home access providers, striking the right partner relationships is critical. No single provider can do all the work that can go into home accessibility upgrades and remodels, and that's when working with contractors, electricians, plumbers and other professionals becomes essential. How do they find the right companies and build relationships that work?

Part of HME provider Premier Home Care’s business revenue comes from home access services and products, a division of their company started about four years ago. With five retail stores that incorporate home access products and services into their business model, they look at home access as a major area for growth. Their most popular home access “job” involves selling and installing grab bars and the most revenue produced from their home access division comes from home accessibility, which includes bathroom remodeling (tub-to-shower conversions), installing stair-chair lifts, and renting, selling and installing ramps.

Premier Home Care completes about 90 percent of its home access jobs using its own full-time workforce, says Steve Carricato, Home Accessibility Manager, Premier Home Care. This leaves about one out of every 10 jobs involving what Carricato refers to as a specialty tradesman. This category includes plumbers, electricians, and tile and finish workers.

John O’Callaghan, Vice President of Home Accessibility & Caregiver Services, Premiere Home Care, says the home access jobs involving non-employees are very important to their business and because they involve outside labor, a solid network of trusted specialty tradesmen is important to have and maintain.

Properly Vetting Partners

From a family that used to own a homebuilding company, Carricato has a background in single-family construction, remodeling and light commercial construction. This makes him especially effective when vetting new specialty tradesmen who are being considered to work on home access jobs. This vetting process happens before anybody is added to Premier Health Care’s labor provider network. According to Carricato, to accomplish this very important step, he suggests asking the following questions to qualify new tradesmen:

  • Do they have insurance? Make sure that you obtain the insurance certificate from the insurance agent and not from the labor provider. And even if you have a great relationship with the provider, keep checking insurance, as it can lapse and be invalid since the last time you checked.
  • Are they properly licensed or certified?
  • Are their estimates accurate and without gaps? For example, are they claiming they can’t estimate the price for a requested service because they feel they haven’t done it yet?
  • Does their estimate look professional and on a proper form or it is scribbled on a sheet of notepaper?
  • Are they using quality materials?
  • Do they have a membership in their local homebuilders association?
  • Can they email and communicate effectively?
  • Are they running their entire company out of a truck?
  • How are their standings with the Better Business Bureau?
  • Do they have a client list and have you asked two or three of their past clients for recommendations?

“A lot of times, the clients we are dealing with are seniors in what we would consider stressful situations, such as rehabbing from a broken hip or just realizing they are going to have to use a walker from here on out,” says Carricato. “You can’t go into that situation with a typical contractor attitude, throw your tools all over the place, make a mess and walk out.”

Instead, Carricato says you need labor providers who are sensitive to the situation. For example, if working with oxygen patients, labor providers must know that they can’t create dust. He warns that labor providers need good common sense when dealing with accessibility in the senior market that is typically outside the normal labor provider sensibilities.

O’Callaghan points out that when dealing with seniors or disabled people, they don’t want you in their homes for two weeks, so you have to be precise and wellplanned going in. This includes informing any hired labor providers of that plan.

“We might be dealing with a patient or a spouse with dementia, so part of our vetting process is to work with trade specialty people who understand what we are doing,” he says. “We want people who are mature and empathetic to the situation.”

Once a labor provider passes the vetting process and then performs the job to Premier Home Care’s high standards, the provider is usually considered for other similar jobs. O’Callaghan says it’s better for his business to keep using specialty tradesmen who have already proven themselves.

“We don’t have a great big list of specialty contactors that we use,” he says. “Our network is very vetted and, therefore, understands what we are doing.”

He also said it is more difficult to build a network when first starting their home access division. When an HME provider is first looking to build a network, Carricato suggests local homebuilder associations, Angie’s List, local “ageing in place” councils or alliances, and other networking groups and local chamber of commerce.

Finally, O’Callaghan says that once you welcome new providers into your network, invite them to your store and give them a tour to let them experience your business, the equipment you sell and install, and the types of clients you help. It also lets providers know what you carry and how you can help his clients if the need arises.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Joseph Duffy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and a regular contributor to HME Business and DME Pharmacy. He can be reached via e-mail at joe@prooferati.com.

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