Friday, July 24, 2015

Life Experiences: Top 5 Travel Eats

Hi everyone!

Today, I'm finally getting around to a series on Life Experiences, to which I've been really looking forward to. It's actually the stuff that motivates me more than even business, marketing strategy, and consulting... which says something!!

I've been blessed in life to have experienced quite an interesting mix of things in life so far. From surfing, travels to Asia, Africa... snowboarding in Canada -- to helping out at a distant orphanage Mexico. I've had a round about journey in finding my martial arts identity. Also, I was once an avid surf angler (fishing) and obviously still a devoted foodie and theme park junkie.

To all this, I'm sharing because I want to be a positive reminder; that life isn't about things. Life is about experiences. At the end of it all, rarely do you hear about people who regret having accumulated things. You hear them regret having failed to experience more life.

So, today! I'm opening up this Life Experience series with..........!!!!

Top 5 Travel Eats

1. Chai. Now, "chai" is very closely related linguistically to the Asian languages in its pronounciation of "tea" as "cha." Most places don't call chai, "chai tea." That's a bit like saying "tea tea." It's just chai. When I was traveling in Africa, one morning I was tired out of my mind. The traveling conditions we were under weren't exactly amenable. We got a bit dehydrated and had a little bit of caloric deficit to the point where you forgot you were hungry and forgot you were thirsty. You actually had to be reminded to eat and drink. Well, this morning, I was introduced to the way tea was made in Africa. Suffice to say: MIND-BLOWN. Chai is interesting here in the US. However, over there, it had more flavor, more character, and strangely more class despite the ghettoness of it all. I have a suspicion it was made with whole milk, fresh milk, or even cream. Served out of thermos like container into busted up porcelain cups, after several days of hard travel it was like nectar from heaven. I'd love to experience that again.... minus the travel that came with it.

2. Ugali. Yet another experience from my trip to Africa. In Tanzania, ugali is a common food stuff of the land. On our last night in the land, we found one of the few places that was open. That was a task in and of itself. Getting there safely was another concern. Nevertheless, this place was open to weary travelers where we were served stewed meat, canned veggies, ugali, and something else I can't quite remember... all on a metal mess tray. Actually, the meal kind of looked like this:
In any case, it was absolutely delicious. Being how tired I was and that I still wasn't used to having that much food in me, I had to eat this slowly to avoid over stuffing and feeling ill. Traditionally, ugali is eaten by hand and I stuffed my face in as controlled a way as I could.

3. Vegas pizza. I don't even remember where this pizza joint is. All I remember is that we were starved. My wife and I eventually decided to take a Vegas trip. Sure enough, all things went to crazy and we got in super late, starved, and with no food options. It wasn't until we got into our hotel room that we saw a local joint delivered. We ordered the biggest pizza they could muster. And, as was customary practice for a young couple counting every penny, we made that pizza last something like 2 or 3 days worth of breakfast. Gross... haha, but ultimately truly memorable. I'm pretty sure I remember barely having enough cash to tip the poor guy who delivered it out at like 330am. Sorry... I *do* remember tipping you more the next day we ordered pizza for dinner. Thanks for your patience.

4. Stinky Tofu. I've traveled to Taiwan a good handful of times throughout my life. One of the consistent cuisines which I always try to get to is Stinky Tofu. Stinky Tofu... well, it stinks. It is fermented (hence the smell), then typically deep fried into lovely goodness which has a texture someplace between potato chips and ... something else. Typically served with a side of pickled veggies and some house sauce, it remains one of my favorite travel comfort foods when going to night markets in Taiwan.

5. Triple Play Reuben. I first learned of this on TV with Man vs Food. Available only at the Maize & Blue Deli.... Go Blue! This is the killer of all Reuben sandwiches. In my most recent trip back to Michigan, I was able to experience several things (finally!). First, a Michigan game where, several years back, we creamed SDSU. Good game. It was a little weird being from San Diego though... awkward being that I'm from Michigan, got my MBA from Michigan... people thought I was there to sell my soul to SDSU. Well, in any case, I had to be sure to try this place out. Being that I've only heard amazing things of the deli and saw it on TV... there was a certain assurance that the experience would be as good as it looked. AND, it certainly was. One half of that Triple Play would've been enough to feed a starving teenager. Both, basically would put anyone into a 2 day food coma. Suffice to say, I enjoyed it thoroughly... that along with football sized deli pickles which are hard to come back in Southern California. Yum!


So, that's it for now! Keep your eyes peeled for more Top 5 Life Experiences as I hope to post at least another 4 or 5 episodes in the near future.

Take care!
-Ben

Friday, July 3, 2015

2015 New Grad Physical Therapy Job Market Outlook

It's called a "Compensation Package."

Say it with me: C-O-M-P-E-N-S-A-T-I-O-N  P-A-C-K-A-G-E.

It's everything. It's your pay grade/rate, your benefits, your perks (fringe benefits), the mentorship program, the CEU reimbursement, the tuition assistance program, the opportunity, the upward mobility, the brand name association, the exposure... everything. It's the whole kit-and-caboodle when it comes to making a judgment call on accepting, rejecting, or counter-offering a job.

But, what's normal? How do I figure out where my baseline is? Well, today you're in luck! Thanks to a #DPTstudent conversation on Facebook, I'm going to share a mid-2015 baseline for the New Grad Physical Therapy Job Market.

Here is..........!!!

The 2015 New Grad Physical Therapy Job Market Outlook

Ahh... fake out! First, there's a LOT I can speak on this topic. In fact, I could probably give a weekend seminar on this. That said, I come at this topic from the perspective of a strategic consultant as well as a former rehab director. To this, I'll highlight the interesting numbers in the top 3 categories of interest. Then, I'll close out by talking about the 6 dimensions of compensation. Enjoy!

1. The Pay
For every business model, there exists a cost of business and acceptable profit margins which they can operate within to hire employees. Those employees must live within the means of their own cost of living and acceptable work-life-balance. Essentially, employees can not cost a business more than they can pay out, and, employees themselves must be willing to work in the conditions given. Thus yields a healthy economic ecosystem.

For Physical Therapy, there are 4 major segments where pay is severely different for operating reasons. They are:
  • Outpatient
    • New grad PT ranges from $27-35 per hour.
    • New grad PTA ranges from $20-25 per hour.
    • On a regional level, the suburbs pay the best followed by urban then rural.
    • On a principles level, outpatient makes 15-25% less than in SNFs.
    • OP makes the lowest revenue per volume, which means scale is severely important. The more capacity and the more patients a business can process in their supply chain, the more money they will make and the more money they are able to pay you.
  • Acute Care Hospital
    • New grad PT ranges from $30-37 per hour.
    • New grad PTA ranges from $22-27 per hour.
    • The same regional & principle variations exist.
    • As hospitals make a lot of money, it's all about the split for them. Which department gets to keep how much of the pie per patient. This becomes a function of departmental leadership clout as well as the general job market. Most places yield a happy medium because of cost of business vs. cost of living. Eventually, no one wants to / can work at a place which pays too little. This means companies end up contracting out very expensive temp staff. After a while, upper management takes the hint and raises the pay grade.
  • Skilled Nursing, Long Term, & Acute Rehab
    • New grad PT ranges from $38-45 per hour.
    • New grad PTA ranges from $27-33 per hour.
    • Again. the same regional & principle variations exist.
    • Generally, PTs make $10/hr more than PTAs.
    • The wiggle room in negotiation has to do with the CFO's operational budget. They have set a profit margin which they basically promised the owners/shareholders which managers must make. The revenue per labor in SNF is the highest and historically (although this is changing) most stable of all the settings. For this reason, this setting pays the best -- along with the fact that this setting is the least "fun" (perk!) to work in... and more frequently than not, has questionable ethical boundaries. (Wait?! Who said that?!)
  • Home Health
    • This is the most variable in pay.
    • Many companies do not pay by the hour; rather, they pay by the service. In essence, you keep a piece of the pie for the work you do. As such, I'll translate out a full time equivalent which again, is highly variable.
    • Example: For a treatment, a PT can earn $60. For an OASIS start of care, they can earn $180. It's not time dependent but completion of service dependent.
    • New grad PT ranges from $40-50 per hour or ~$100,000 if productivity is met.
    • New grad PTA ranges from $30-40 per hour or ~$80,000 if productivity is met.
2. The Benefits

Health Benefits
Health benefits are typically one of three kinds. A classic HMO, a PPO, or a high deductible PPO with an HRA or FSA account. Typically, working for health systems like a hospital base or medical group based company will yield an HMO. The same types of firms will also offer a PPO which means you pay a lot out of pocket until you reach a magic number.

A lot of companies are going lean and are headed towards the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). This is excellent for very healthy individuals with no history (including family) who have a low risk lifestyle. The HRA and FSA accounts also offer some tax benefits but may require more calculation... sometimes this means you end up putting money away you never get back.

Retirement
Most companies offer a 401k while some offer a 403b. Regardless, you don't really get a choice. The retirement plan is the plan and the company has made a contract with their wealth management company to provide options in a very specific way. The key is when these plan kick in and how much of it is matched. Companies that tend to pay less tend to match more; it's not uncommon for companies that pay poorly to match 5-8%. In contrast, firms that pay handsomely match none the first year, 1% the 2nd year, 2% the 3rd year, and finally 3% the 4th year of your loyalty to the company. Worth it? Meh... it's free money, right?

Adjunct Insurance
To me, this isn't really important to the new grad. Honestly, there are better options via life insurance agents. In any case, the same deal occurs here. The plan is the plan; you can't really change it or negotiate for it. For the most part, this is just a way for any given firm to be more competitive compared to the next in hopes of retaining or attracting the best talent. This is also a way for a company to protect itself from too much work comp and/or litigious complications. "Hey, we offered... you got disabled on your own." #ClassyOfThem

CEU Reimbursement & Tuition Programs
Some companies will offer unlimited CEUs while others only give a percentage of a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars worth until you reach a certain level of seniority. Again, the same idea for retirement funds run here -- the better they pay, the less likely they will pay for your education. On the level, most corporations will give you $1000 as a good baseline. $2000 if they don't pay you all that well. If they run percentages, you get 50% of each bill reimbursed the 1st year of loyalty, 75% the 2nd, and finally 100% of all CEU costs the 3rd and going forward.

BEWARE!
Many companies require you work one or two FULL CALENDAR months before benefits kick in. Be VERY clear about this because you may work on the first Monday of a month. However, because that date is say... March the 2nd... you will not get benefits until MAY!!! So, be crystal clear about when benefits kick in and WHY.

3. The Opportunity 
So, this is where I'm going to talk about balance. Every compensation package has 6 dimensions:
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Fringe (aka "Perks)
  • Balance (work-life-balance)
  • Culture
  • And, Opportunity
They are coupled in triplets; Pay, Benefits, Fringe (vs) Balance, Culture, and Opportunity. As such, there is an overall value of compensation any business can give. And, in healthcare, particularly in PT, there is certainly a limit. After all, unless creative billing or strained operations is involved... outpatient PTs all have 8 hrs to bill a max of 32 units, right? So... there exists a maximum revenue per labor unless you start taking advantage of the 8 minute rule (another talk for another time).

As such, the higher the pay, the lower the benefits and fringe. The higher the benefits, the lower the pay and fringe. The same exists for balance, culture, and opportunity. For a new grad, opportunity is very important.

The opportunity for new grad who wish to climb the administrative ladder need to pay attention to culture and balance upon interviewing/hiring in. Poor balance leads to stressed out employees and a sad culture (ie. low moral, back stabbing, grumpy people). This environment leads to lots of turn over, and therefore, the opportunity to move up and get that promotion. HOWEVER, you're not immune after the fact. You'll likely burn out just as quickly as your former boss just did. Nevertheless, it is something of interest in getting that early promotion so you can transfer laterally to a more favorable situation.


So...........! My fingers are tired. I hope that answered some questions for you students who have coursework to answer for. I also hope this helps those of you in the process of looking for a job or on the edge of graduation, taking the boards, etc.

As always, if you have ANY questions... I'm only a Tweet or Email away (too tired to link).


So, until next time, I remain yours in service!
-Ben

If you want to learn more about the hiring, applying, interviewing process... here are some links:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

What's Your Brand Appearance?

Does how you look really matter? It's not a matter of "should it," because the answer is... IT DOES! One's appearance matters because of hardwired consumer biases we have, such as the Halo Effect. Effective brand management requires that marketers labor to continually press the congruence between their brand appearance and their brand image.

And so, today we're talking...!

What's Your Brand Appearance?

First, let's define our terms.
  • Brand Appearance is the physical look, and in the case of e-commerce, the experience of browsing, researching, comparing, purchasing, and re-experiencing a brand. The scope of brand appearance reaches as far as a business logo to a brick-and-mortar ambiance, to the physical look of the staff. It serves as the first impression gauge to which all other impressions are then measured.
  • Brand Image is the conceptual construct to which your consumer base imagines your brand to be. When someone asks you if you want a cup of coffee, you think... Starbucks. If someone wants a recommendation on workout gear, you may say... Under Armor. If you hear the word "Costco," you may think... cheap/buying-in-bulk. Rolex? Luxury. In all cases, whatever image flows into the mind's eye of the consumer, THAT is your brand image.

The connection is then clear. Your brand appearance is the first stop shop of developing your brand image, and ultimately, the creation and completion of your brand promise.


Therefore, it's crucial to consider these three brand experience tenets:
  1. Aesthetics. Be it a physical location, website, app, or portal, your appearance must match your brand image's brand promise. A minimalist, time saving service/product should have a similar look throughout the continuum of brick-and-mortar into the website structure. A service brand which trumps a 5-star experience should project an image of happiness and satisfaction beyond measure. Your look is part of the brand experience that you give your customers; therefore, it fully carries over to the conversion of consumer purchase. Perhaps more importantly, it translates to customer retention. Loyalty, is many times, far more important.
  2. Voice. In many similarities to a dating experience, looks are many times the first impression a brand will give to the prospective customer. Yet, once we get past this point and interest is gathered, it is the voice and tone throughout the first date that seals the deal for date number two. Companies express their voice via blogs, website content, social media posts, ads, labels, etc. Just about anything with printed image or published multimedia serves as a brand's vocal expression. Therefore, a brand's voice must also match the brand's appearance and identity to maximize the congruence of customer expectations of the brand promise. Welcome based brands should have a voice which is conversational, minimizes jargon, and encourages community. Solution based brands should offer small teases and pearls of wisdom as it pertains to actionables. Experience based brands should assume a tonal posture which gives customers a platform to share their own wonderful experiences as a strategy of perpetuating brand equity elevation.
  3. Flow. Keeping with the dating metaphor, the flow of the first date is crucial to landing the second date (customer loyalty). If the date goes bad with awkward silences and the like, it ultimately sullies the experience itself. The same goes for a company's brand experience as it relates to the initial appearance of the brand. If the first impression of the brand appearance is that of cost savings, what it is really communicating to the consumer is that this brand will save you time. Therefore, the experience must be polished, streamlined, and exceptionally efficient. Wait times will betray the brand promise. Similarly, if the first impression from a brand appearance is that of catered customization, a lack of fleshed out options and a poor browsing vehicle will also betray the promise and brand experience itself. 

So, I ask you: What's Your Brand Appearance?
  • Is it in line with your brand identity?
  • Does it create synergies with your brand promise?
  • And, is it congruent with your brand image?
If your answer to these three questions were, "YES!" Congratulations! You have created a wonderful threshold to nail the brand experience from the get go.


Announcements & Mentions!
  1. If you haven't heard already, it's official! I will be joining UpDoc Media with several heavy hitters including that of Dr. Gene Shirokobrod, Dr. Erson Religioso, and more... so stay tuned! As a teaser: my focus will be on a section called "Business Fung Shui: Doing Business The Fung Way." To hear more about it, go to the Therapy Insiders' Podcast HERE. Just remember, at UpDoc Media, you will find the "Content you NEED to know, delivered with clinical precision."
  2. I'm continuing my vlog episodes in spurts given kiddo management ;) And, as you've noticed, it's more about having fun. Still, if you have anything you want covered, just let me know via email or tweet me @DrBenFung.
  3. One final mention, I want to thank FreshBooks for the inspiration for this post on brand appearance. FreshBooks specializes in cloud accounting and is a great resource in keeping your brand experience fluid, seamless, and consistent. After all, who wants to have a great brand experience only to get tied up and fumble at the end when invoicing and accounting is concerned? Save time and check out FreshBooks. After all, time is money!

ALLLLLLRIGHT! That's all folks. As always, if there is anything you want covered or talked about, please reach out. I'm only an email or a tweet away!

Take Care!
-Ben