Editor's Note

Success by the Numbers

Given the will, incentive and information, HME providers can foster phenomenal change.

Being able to measure things means being able to change things. In fact, if you study and monitor a problem or a challenge, you can completely turn that situation around and turn it into a success story. That’s why we’ve devoted this issue’s cover story (starting page 24) to retail performance metrics that any provider with a cash sales business should be using.

I didn’t truly grasp the power of information until I was in college, but when I did, it that lesson was burned into my brain and has helped me my entire life.

Sometime around 1988, I needed work that would let me go to college during the day, and work nights and weekends. After several day’s hunting, I landed what was probably the perfect job for a young guy like me: working swing shift and weekends at a Kinko’s Copies shop in Southern California.

Yeah, I know, Kinko’s sounds like one of the lamest, most uncool jobs a college kid could have, but the perks were ideal for a student. Besides the university friendly hours, working swing shift meant that I was running large orders for customers such as law offices and insurance companies, which kept the machines humming for extended periods of time. That freed up a good portion of time to sneak some study breaks if there wasn’t other work to do, or customers in the store. Additionally, the employees got almost free discounts on copies and binding, and free computer time, which was crucial for a commuter Journalism student who had reams of stories to write, but was still saving for his own PC.

But in addition to the perks — and vastly more valuable — were some solid lessons I learned about prioritization, managing time, customer service, and above all, I learned what a motivated team can do if it is given the right information.

A Not-so-Hot Start

That said, our team wasn’t always so motivated. In fact, a lot of us were pretty disconnected from the job. To much of the staff, the shop was just another place to earn a paycheck, and few were invested in the work at all. Most employees’ performance was middling at best and the turnover was high. They just didn’t like the job all that much, and couldn’t care less about whether the store performed well or closed up for good. It was just another job in another strip mall.

But then the company had a brainstorm: It implemented a profit-sharing program. If the store performed above its goals, then the employees would get a share of the profits. Suddenly, employees that had only looked forward to quitting time were invested in the store’s performance. The clock-watchers and time-killers were now incentivized into caring.

But incentive was only half of the plan’s brilliance. The second component was information. Every week, the company provided everyone in the shop with detailed data on the store’s performance. Thanks to careful coding at the cash registers, we knew how well we were performing in virtually any category. We knew how well desktop publishing services were doing. We knew how well our shiny new full-color copier was performing in terms of sales (that thing was a cash cow). We could even drill-down as far as to be able to tell whether or not single-sided copies on pastel paper were on-target.

Revolutionary Change

The volume of information was vast — and it was powerful, especially considering that we were financially motivated to see the store do well. We immediately were able to identify where we were performing well and where we needed to improve. It let us see how high-ticket items could really help push revenue as well as how some of the more commodity items, such as plain, old black-and-white copies, could help foster dependable cash flow.

The bottom line? We tripled the store’s profits in three months. That’s no lie. A simple profit-sharing program, paired with a ton of regularly updated data totally reinvigorated the staff and practically turbo-charged our store’s revenue.

That lesson — having the right motivation to improve; determining the right metrics to measure that improvement; and then regularly tracking and trending those metrics — has helped me throughout my personal and professional life.

And it’s a lesson that any provider can apply to its business. How can you motivate your team? How should you measure your company’s performance? How can you track those indicators? The answers to those questions can be downright revolutionary.

This article originally appeared in the September 2016 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/dkopf/ and on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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