Referrals, Revenue & Retention Tips – 30 Minutes with Steve “The Hurricane”
Steve “The Hurricane” is here to talk about agency owners biggest challenges with recruitment/retention, sales/marketing and increasing existing revenue streams. He’ll share a few of his professional coaching tips that can increase revenue, decrease turnover and boost your team’s morale.
Welcome to Vision | The Home Care Leaders Podcast. This is Miriam Allred with Home Care Pulse. While you might be familiar with us from the Home Care Benchmarking Study, our weekly blog or this podcast, our day job is actually helping agencies improve their quality of care using monthly client and caregiver surveys and caregiver training. Learn more about us at homecarepulse.com. Enjoy the show! Let’s just dive in. I want to hear a little bit more about your background for the most part. I’d imagine most of our listeners know who you are and what you are and more about hurricane marketing. But for those that don’t, you know, tell us about your role and your personal brand.
You got it. So first and foremost, the company is Hurricane Marketing Enterprises. The Enterprises is an important part of it for multiple reasons, but the biggest one being that we have multiple divisions, we help small businesses. We have a nonprofit arm called the Institute for dignity and grace. And then obviously our main focus is helping home care, businesses, scale and grow. We put an emphasis on marketing, but we also help with recruiting and retention of caregivers and operations in running and managing your office staff. Because if all three components come together, that’s, what’s going to allow people to scale and grow. And then my, my personal background and my role in the company is I’m the owner of it, but I’m also the CEO, my professional stage name and its trademark is Steve, the hurricane. And I got that nickname in 2006 when I used to be a marketer for a home care company. And I took this company from, we’ll say $700,000 a year in revenue. And in four years I grew it to over $5 million in revenue. I became the vice president and part owner of that company. And then two years later, we flipped and sold that company for several million dollars before I started hurricane marketing enterprise. So I’ve been now in the home care space for over 15 years.
That’s awesome. As much as I love recording podcasts and audio, you also have a personal, you know, style of brand people recognize you for your outfits at conferences and in live events. Tell us a little bit about that.
So I have to give credit where credit is due. I’m the owner of Cypress Home Care. I cannot remember his name off the top of my head right now. I’m drawing a blank, but I absolutely love whenever I see him at events cause he’s another speaker. And he came up to me after one event and he said, you are a master of branding everywhere I go. I see hurricane this hurricane, that hurricane Steve hurricane see the hurricane. And it really truly was a nickname that my business partner gave me in 2006 when I was his marketing rep. And I just took it and ran with it. And I’m a local scene here in New Jersey. Everybody knew that ‘hurricane guy’, that hurricane guy. And so when I wanted to my company, hurricane marketing enterprises, I just said, you know what? If I’m already known as Steve, the hurricane locally, and everybody loves it, why not take it another step further?
And so we’ve I created the first image in my basement. We then fast forward a couple of years where we had some real revenue coming into the company. And then I invested in getting a professional logo. And now it’s at a point where I actually sell shirts. We sell merchandise, people call us like, I want to buy one of those shirts. I want to buy one a year neck gators with the whole net. Everybody’s wearing masks now. And so we sell this and with my personal fitness, I’m actually talking to a company about creating an entire fitness line of hurricane logos and logo wear because everybody wants, they see me wearing it in the gym and they see me posting it online. Like where can I get that fitness shirt? Where can I get those pants? So it’s very exciting how this is transforming.
That’s amazing. Oh, I love it. But it’s so cool. So yeah. Thanks for sharing a little bit about your company and what you do and who you are and a little bit about your background. Let’s kind of dive in to the meat of the conversation. Like you said, you’re talking to agency owners all day, every day. What are the biggest challenges that you’re hearing from agency owners right now?
So the biggest challenges that I’m seeing is like three parts in there. There’s one part of, I can’t Mark it the way that I used to because everything is locked down and you’re not allowed to come in and it’s, it was already hard now. It’s like impossible. That’s the first thing. The second thing is getting caregivers and keeping caregivers, whether it was the unemployment benefit that they were giving out with the extra $600, which that recently ended, or it was just trying to find caregivers, or even when they get caregivers, people are afraid to work because of COVID. So caregivers are a huge challenge. And then the last part is, how am I going to run my business itself? And my office staff, some office staff are afraid of coming in. A lot of people are doing things remotely and they weren’t used to doing things remotely. How are you going to continue to run? Yes, we are an essential business, but you know, w w we also have our own anxieties and fears as well. So it’s kind of like a three headed dragon right now that I’m seeing that’s, that’s what I’m finding are the three biggest challenges. Okay.
Yeah. Let’s, let’s dissect each of those a little bit. So, you know, you’re working with these businesses, you hear these challenges, let’s talk about each and talk about, you know, tips that you’re coaching them through. Let’s start with the caregiver recruitment and retention piece. You know, that’s top of mind for a lot of people right now. What, what are some suggestions that you’re making to these businesses about recruiting and retaining right now?
The biggest advice I can totally give on this is actually something I said on a webinar like three weeks ago when I was in Tampa. And it was that our business, this is something that I learned from one of my bigger clients. Who’s in the eight figure, a year realm, you know, doing over $10 million in revenue and the mindset of this business. And in one that been teaching to all of my clients around the world is we are a home care company that specializes in recruiting, meaning our service that we offer as home care. But we specialize in recruiting the best caregivers. And that has to be the mindset of the owners. And it has to filter down into the office staff. We have to do a lot of, I call it a self evaluation or a mock survey where you serve at your own organization and see what the potential caregiver, the caregiver prospect sees about my company.
And we have to do an internal investigation and take a look and think to myself, if I were a caregiver, would I want to work at this company, meaning your own company. And if your answer is no, then you have to make some major changes in your organization. If you think that your agency is pretty much comparable to everybody, else’s agency on a recruitment side, then you have to make major changes in your organization, because there are companies out there that are recruiting left and right, but it’s all about how you’re attracting your caregivers and what you’re doing to retain your caregivers. So think about your marketing effort that you put forth to try and obtain a patient. If you put the same effort in marketing and recruiting for your caregivers, that is going to give you the results that you want, make your agency attractive to caregivers, and you will get caregivers who want to work with you and who will stay working with you.
Yeah. That’s great advice. When you talk about, you know, specializing is that internal messaging, you know, internal communication that you have with your staff, or are you saying, you know, push yourself out and, you know, have external messaging around that.
So I was saying it more of an internal thing. You can definitely make it an external thing, because again, everything I love to talk about is sales and marketing related. So if this is how we attract caregivers, why not let the, let the world know about it? I think back to when I used to own my own home care company in the first decade of the century, and when I was out and about talking to referral sources, or I was talking to patients, one of the questions that they always asked was where do you get your caregivers from? How do you get your caregivers? So me knowing all the things that we did for our caregivers, I mean, knowing how we recruited our caregivers and our referral bonus program and all the things that we offered for them, which is why we had such a great retention rate in the first place. I use that as selling points to my referral sources, into patients who are considering working with us. And then they ended up referring us because I gave them answers that no other company was able to give. So it can definitely be used for marketing purposes, but it was meant to be like the internal mindset of everybody who works here is we are a home care company that specializes in recruiting.
Awesome. Yeah. I appreciate the clarification. I think you’re exactly right. Internally, externally, just putting that out there, that you specialize in hiring, you know, great caregivers that stay with your agency is so key. So let’s move right into that. One of the other challenges you mentioned was how the marketing game has changed. You know, everything looks a little bit differently right now. What are, what are you telling agencies? How can they, you know, move forward when the game has changed?
So it is it’s, it’s such a, that’s such a loaded question, but I’ll give you some highlight tips. And then I know we’ll talk about the Boot Camp coming up. Cause that’s, that’s where I’m going to go over all the meat and potatoes. But the biggest thing that I’m telling everybody is while there’s a shift into virtual virtual is not the end game. Virtual has to be used to obtain the face to face. The face to face marketing is where the trust is built. It’s where they get to know you. It’s where they get to understand the person who’s delivering the service. When people are making a referral to a company, they make a referral to a company that they know like and trust, well, how do they know? Like, and trust, they know the people who run the organization, they trust the results that they’ve received with other referrals that they have given.
The only way you can really build that is through face to face marketing. So what we have to do now in our challenge is even stronger now than ever because of the lockdowns is we have to use virtual means to get face to face visits him. I just saw this morning, one of my former power partners that I used to do a lot of business with. Who’s an administrator of an assisted living community here in New Jersey. He did a drive by hotdog stand partnership with a senior center in his town. And basically it was for all the seniors and it was free hotdogs. And they came out and he dressed up as a giant hotdog himself. The, it was funny, but it was also fun to sr. I have all these pictures of seniors with mass. He’s wearing a mask and they’re outside of the building, the assisted living community that he’s the administrator of, and they’re giving it must have given out like 200 hotdogs and all these people came to to the event and it was an amazing event.
And so he used the digital world to promote, to advertise, sending emails, doing Skype, joining virtual networking meetings, to promote his live in person event. And then people showed up at the event using the good weather right now because it’s nice weather here in New Jersey. He used that to his advantage, and then he ended up getting a bunch of leads and people showed up. It was a successful event for him. So that’s a huge example of how we can use virtual marketing to get people, to give us the face to face visits where we can then develop relationships and move forward.
Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that example that I was going to ask for an example, but that was just perfect, you know, using the means that we have the technology that we have to still get out there and, you know, have that virtual face to face contact is so important. And that probably plays into last challenge. You mentioned, which is running an office, you know, managing your office staff. Some of that can be done virtually some can’t. You know, what advice do you have for just overseeing the office right now?
So this was like one of the, I mean, obviously we’ve all been going 2020 is a year that we’ll never forget. Right? And with everything that we had had happened, and some people did a hundred percent virtual, some people are kind of doing like a hybrid, some virtual, some, you know, live in person. And some people are trying to keep everything alive in person. I truly feel that our offices are small enough office staff wise, where there’s only three, four, maybe five office staff members. And we have enough space if your company has like my company, hurricane marketing has, I have 13 employees, but seven of my employees work remotely. Those are my coaches and everybody else works here in an office and everybody has their own private office. So we’re not on top of each other. There’s, there’s a couple of common areas, but we’re not on top of each other.
And we keep our social distance and everything down. But when we first returned back into the office, there was definitely some anxiety and some fears, people weren’t sure if they wanted to come back and I’m like, we have to come back. We have to be able to continue to support our client. Like we have to do these things. And so I read an article and I forget exactly where I saw the article, but the article basically said in short is go to the ridiculous to make your staff and your patron and your, your clients feel that you went above and beyond when it comes to the cleanliness. So I went to the ridiculous. I literally bought all of these cleaning supplies. I was cleaning the office at the end of every single day. I bought masks with company logos on it, for everybody in the organization.
I made sure that we had plenty of social distance, adequate arrows and things on the floor. I went to the ridiculous, even buying elderberry and vitamin C tablets and putting it by our kitchen, that area so that everybody like, like you name it, we did that. And that got everybody to feel comfortable coming back. I even staggered like the hours in the beginning, where it was like two people at a time in the office, you know, alternating days until eventually we all came together. And now that we’ve been this way for two or three months operating everyone is comfortable. We’re still doing all those practices. Like I’m not stopping him because I don’t want anybody to get it, but we’ve been a hundred percent clear. And in, in, in, in the, in the positive and moving forward and making things happen and the same thing for my clients.
So, you know, if you’re not operating where you’re all together, I highly recommend getting to that point and just make sure you look at everything. The CDC says, take a look at what practices are doing and make sure you do the same thing to make sure that your staff feels safe. If they feel safe, then you can operate. And then the only other thing I’ll add to that as a second part is make sure you’re doing things to boost morale. The morale of our industry is so low. Right now you have hospital workers and nursing home workers who have seen patients die from this. So they’re, they’re operating under lockdown situations. I mean, here in New Jersey, our state, we are, we were the worst hit state from a nursing home standpoint, meaning the number of residents who live in nursing homes, we had the highest percentage of nursing home fatalities.
So I couldn’t imagine being an employee in a nursing home where I walk into work every day, knowing that, you know, 10, 20% of my residents died from COVID. And that’s a very morbid reality check that I get every single day while the same thing goes for my kid, for my office staff. You know, there’s, there’s the morale of the industry. Caregivers don’t want to go to work. They’re afraid of getting COVID. Some of us are dealing with patients that have COVID we ourselves may not want to get COVID and know that every person is different on how they feel, but this could be going on in our office. So I have to make sure as the employer, then I do everything I can to boost the morale of the people who work for me, do things like have, you know show up with coffee on Wednesday morning, by lunch on Friday afternoon, maybe let them close the office early on a Thursday afternoon, electrical, go home and be with their families.
If there’s nothing going on, little things like that will boost the morale and appreciation for the people that you have, who work for you. And it goes so far before you and I jumped on this call to do this recording, Miriam. You know, you asked me about my vacation. I was on vacation for a month. I haven’t stepped foot in my office since July 28th. And here it is, September 3rd is the first time I’m stepping foot in my office. Since then my office operated, we had a record August. One of our, our best August we’d ever had was this past August was this August. And I wasn’t even here. I wasn’t even part of it because we do so much to boost the morale and I’m doing things remotely. And my executive director is running the company and she is doing things in context. And yeah, we would probably spend like 500 bucks to do morale boosting employee appreciation type items. That $500 help us have a record August like it’s money well spent. It’s never a bad thing to invest in your people. Always, always do that and put that in first, your entire organization lives and dies by our office staff. So give them all the love you.
Yeah, I appreciate you adding that whole second piece. You know, boosting morale cannot be overlooked right now. And like you said, investing in it, you know, investing money month to boost the morale of your staff is so key. You mentioned the vitamins and the elderberry. I can’t even get over that. That’s probably the most creative thing I’ve heard in an office, but, but Hey, stuff like that is what keeps employees happy and keeps them safe and, you know, just boost that morale and that confidence. So I absolutely love it. Shifting gears, I want to just kind of hit on two more points. We’ve covered a lot of great stuff. But I want to talk a little bit more about generating referrals right now. You know, that’s a, that’s a sensitive topic and we kind of hit on it with how the marketing game has changed, but how, how are people still networking with referral sources and who should they be turning to right now for referrals,
Definitely using the Home Care Pulse, using your top 10 referral sources is where you want to spend the most amount of your time. And I love the way you break it down between you have your top 10 for everybody. And then you have the top three for the masters and the masters of the people who have really mastered this business. They’re generating more than $5 million a year in revenue. They’re by my business standpoints. They are no longer considered a small business. They’re considered a mid sized company and beyond. So they’ve truly mastered this, this type of business. And so, you know, using that information, your, your skilled nursing facilities, your assisted living communities and your hospitals, one, two, three, those are your best referral sources even still. And so we have to do everything we can to get in there. The, the, the first thing and calling backtracking to what we had said earlier is use everything virtual.
You can. I get involved. I’m in so many different groups on Facebook, but for Houston, for San Antonio, for San Francisco, and obviously here in New Jersey and Orlando, Florida, you name it, I’m in all these different groups. I see all of these groups have had professional live in person, networking events that have been going on for years. And then they all converted to virtual for a period of time. And some of them are going back to the live in person format. Recently, you got to go and participate in it. I see the screenshots where there’s 20, 30 people on a virtual networking event. When you, when you go to a networking event, you want to then do what I call book a meeting from a meeting. If you’ve ever heard any drink with the hurricane videos that I’ve put out, you heard me speak at a conference.
I always talk about book a meeting from a meeting. What that is is if Miriam, I go to a virtual meeting and there’s 25 people and you and I started chatting a little bit at that meeting. Well, that’s, that’s a start. I’m not going to be able to get it all out because there’s 25 30 people here. But what I am going to do is maybe shoot you a direct message and say, Hey, Miriam, can I talk to you after this call for five minutes? And you might say, yes. So as soon as the virtual meeting ends, you’re the first person I call. And now I’m on the phone with you. I want to talk to you for like seven, 10 minutes, briefly, nothing too long, because it wasn’t, it wasn’t like it was planned ahead of time. It was like a, on the cough on the fly kind of a thing.
But then when I get that, then I’m going to then ask you, you know what Miriam, if, and this is the key. If I think you’re somebody that either I could develop a referring relationship where we’re referring back and forth, that’s a power partner or you’re somebody that could be a potential referral source for me. Then I’m going to try to book a meeting from a meeting where I would invite you out to a cup of coffee, or maybe a breakfast or lunch or something at a local restaurant outside, you know, practicing social distancing and everything else, but you get that face to face. And then that’s when you talk for 45 minutes to an hour, and then you plan more things moving forward that that’s the tip of the iceberg. But again, it’s all about using the virtual to get the face to face and then bring value to those face to face meetings.
My clients, they’re doing lunch and learns still in-person lunch learns not just dropping off food and do it in virtually. They did that too, but they’re doing in-person lunch and learns now, but they’re getting them scheduled by doing virtual events, working their way up the food chain with people at these, at these communities and these facilities so that they have these face to face meetings. And then they’re doing things for, and with them to boost the morale of those places. And then they’re leveraging that to get the lunch and learns. And that’s how they’re getting the business. It’s as simple as that.
And that’s so relevant right now, you know, with fall coming up, we’re moving into conference season. You know, we see virtual events in the industry popping up everywhere, whether it’s, you know, state associations or corporate events, you know, there’s, there’s tons of virtual conferences right now. And yeah, you just have to put forth the effort to engage and participate. But you know, a lot of them have these networking opportunities to shoot a, you know, a quick message to someone there at the conference and, you know, start up a conversation. And like you said, book a meeting from a meeting. There’s so many opportunities to do that right now. It just takes the one to engage and to initiate those conversations, but it can be done. So, so great stuff there. As far as this is kind of shifting gears again a little bit as far as tracking, you know, we at home care, polls love data. You know, you are a big fan of the benchmarking study and love the data as well. What are, what should agencies be focusing on as far as metrics and tracking and reporting goes right now?
So it’s kind of a two part, and you obviously have your, like your, your obvious KPIs, how many referrals are coming into the organization tracking how many starts of care, and then taking a look at it average agencies, I’m going to say around the country, not your home care pulse because your home care polls people tend to be the people who participate in the study tend to be better than the ones who don’t track stuff. So taking all of that into consideration, most companies are usually converting about one in four inquiries. So that’s 25%. A good agencies are usually converting around 30 to 35%. And then the best agencies are converting like 40 to 50% of their inquiries. So if you get 10 inquiries, you get four or five patients that actually start services with you. Those are the best of the best. But the other things that I would track besides those KPIs would also be, what am I doing from a marketing initiative standpoint?
How many networking events have I gone to? How many events like in person events have I done for the month? You know, you should be doing at least one event a month. Really? I’m trying to get people to do four events a month, which that is a full time marketing effort. And that’s what it takes to really grow your business. But yeah, if you have a full time marketer and that is out there, they should be doing some kind of event once a week for their organization. How many lunch and learns are you doing in a year? You should be doing a lunch and learn a week. That’s 50 lunch and learns a year. If you’re not doing those kinds of numbers, don’t expect to get crazy results. You know, one of the things I looked at this morning taking a look at statistics and talking to my clients and getting my feedback.
My clients on average are up about 33 to 40% where they were in revenue last year, this time. So a 33% increase when the industry average is down. Why is it because they’re tracking these things that we’re talking about, and they’re still doing them. If they miss lunch and learns, they double up the week after the lunch and learn is the only time where you’re going to have an audience of people who are there for the sole purpose of learning about your company. If you’re not doing them consistently, you’re not going to be getting the referrals. It’s as simple as that.
When we talk about budget, our agencies hesitant to be spending on sales and marketing, or are you here, you know, are they okay to be spending or do you feel like people are cutting back right now? What, what have you heard there?
So it’s interesting. So I’m going to say the general consensus is when the economy goes bad, people cut budgets, right? And they pull back on, on, on sales and markets, like one of the first things that they pull back on and that I will tell you is the biggest mistake you can ever make. Don’t take my word for it, right? Like, like, like, forget me. Let’s look at like some really big, giant, right? Let’s take a look at target. Let’s take a look at Walmart. Two giant corporations that every single person listening to this knows if you go back to the end of the first decade of the two of this millennium, right? 2007 through 2010, we’ll say that three, four year window, the economy was the worst it had ever been since the great depression. That’s how bad it was then. And everybody cut their marketing budgets except for the bigger corporations like target and Walmart.
Well guess who’s also hurting during those downer economic times, the advertisers were hurting. So target Walmart, they’ve been through bed economies before they know that when the economy is bad, we have to spend more money to get the same dollar coming in. They’ll be okay with breaking even for a couple of years, spending more money on sales and marketing to get more inquiries and get more attraction because the company will survive the down period. So they increase their marketing efforts. But guess what also happened? Because the advertisers were hurting. They gave sales and deals that they normally wouldn’t. So they got like twice the advertising for the same dollar that they were spending. And as a result, they not only survived the downfall, they thrive. And even to this day, with everything that happened with COVID, Amazon is thriving, target, and Walmart are thriving. They were essential businesses. And so they, they totally capitalized on the opportunity presented before them. And yeah, you see all the commercials, you can come and pick up stuff, order it online, pick it up at Walmart, order it online, pick it up and target. That’s what they’re doing. They don’t cut their marketing budget. They shift the way that they’re doing it, but you never cut your marketing budget. The day you cut your marketing budget is the day you begin closing down your doors.
Yeah, I’m glad we got that in there because I know it’s a sensitive topic for a lot of people, but addressing it head on is, is so important. We’ve talked about so much good stuff today, Steve, I’m really glad we could make it happen. Especially your first day back in the office. Before we wrap up, tell us about this upcoming Boot Camp that you’ve got coming up in September.
Yes. So it is September 17 and 18. It is going to be just massive. We’re over 200 people right now, and it’s still two weeks away. And this is when they usually get the most amount of people joining in the last two weeks before. So I’m expecting around 400 people are going to be on here live. It is all about scaling and growing your business during this pandemic period. So the lockdowns, they’re not going to end anytime soon, even until well, after a vaccine. And they know it’s safe for our elderly, it’s going to be a good 12 months before things go back to the way that it was before. So there’s an emphasis on sales and marketing, how to be able to do the virtual things that I was talking about earlier and what are the right virtual things. And then how to leverage that, to get those face to face and get your lunch learns and get your community events and networking events and all of these things going.
That’s one focus. Another focus is going to be on converting the inquiries and getting people to not only sign up for services to start, but stay on services for the long haul. One of the biggest challenges a lot of people are finding is they’re getting a client, they start services and then three or four days later, they discontinue and they don’t continue to move forward with the plan that you put in place, which means you’re doing a lot of work upfront and not getting your return on investment. So that’s another part of it. Then we’re going to shift, focus and talk about the best recruiting practices and understanding the KPIs behind recruiting and retaining our caregivers. Finally, we are going to be talking about the operation and the office staff themselves, your office. Have you heard me say, if you want your business to be successful, invest in your office of how we manage and run. Our operations is everything for the success of the business. And we’re going to be covering that as well. So it is everything you need to scale your business. You can get the tickets now, before the event sells out, can we have a max number of people we can have online with it by going to my website, which is homecaremarketing.net/virtualbootcamp.
Yeah. September 17th and 18th. And it’s virtual. So no, one’s got to travel out to New Jersey. Thank goodness. So, yeah. Thanks for, thanks for adding that in. You know, thanks again for taking the time Steve, we have been longterm friends in the industry and we’re, you know, excited to continue the relationship, but thanks for taking the time to speak to our listeners and share some great insights today.
I hope you enjoy today’s episode with Steve “The Hurricane”. If you want to listen to more episodes of vision, head over to our website, homecarepulse.com/podcast to subscribe today. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.