Living the dream as owner of The Hearing Center in Stratford, Canada
For many of us, the dream of running our own business is just that – a dream. For Sheri Hazzard, Hearing Instrument Specialist from Stratford, Ontario, in Canada, her dream became reality on March 6, 2017. After 11 years working primarily as a clinic manager for a large company, she opened her own clinic, The Hearing Center.
“I was looking for more flexibility in providing my clients with the exceptional care and service that they deserve,” says Sheri. “Having my own clinic means I can do what I love – help people rediscover the joy of sound and operate a clinic in the best interests of my clients and my local community. As a business owner I feel I can give back to my community in the service of my clients – and that’s important to me.”
More time to connect with clients
According to Sheri, as a clinic owner, every day is different. Each day brings new clients and challenges. One of those challenges is balancing the time spent on administrative tasks with time spent with clients.
She begins her day early – around 7:00 – when she takes care of the business side of things, including correspondence, advertising, updating programs, office management, pricing and so on. Her husband Brian Hazzard, who is part owner, helps with accounting and financial activities. Client appointments start at 9:00 and continue until around 4:30PM.
“We see approximately five to six clients per day with a variety of new clients and hearing aid fitting and follow-up care appointments,” says Sheri. “New appointments take between 60-75 minutes and include a full assessment and review of hearing aid options and accessories. What is important for me is having the freedom to allocate the necessary time for each client. Counseling is a huge part of what we do. I want to be able to connect with the client – chat with them, determine exactly what their needs are, and help them understand that hearing aids do not just amplify sound – they really can improve hearing in a variety of listening environments that are important to each specific individual, enabling them to stay connected with what brings them joy. This kind of service is what helps us stand out from the competition.”
Sterling service makes the difference
For Sheri and her staff at The Hearing Center, having advanced systems and equipment is important to ensure the client’s journey to enhanced hearing with hearing aids is as professional and pleasant as possible. Sheri Hazzard uses the hearing aid fitting and verification solution Aurical® with the audiology software platform Otosuite® – both from Otometrics.
“I love using Aurical and Otosuite and having that connectivity. It is efficient, easy to use, accurate, and saves me time. Clients are happy from the very first fitting, which is crucial for the success of my business as it reduces the number of follow-up visits and increases client satisfaction.”
Sheri has a testing suite in her office where she performs fittings using Aurical.
“Everything is connected and works together with one software program. I never have to handwrite an audiogram, manually enter data or do the manual and tedious tasks of documenting a visit. The test results show up in Noah automatically – with no errors. I bring the clients into my office and I can pull their record up on my computer. They can easily view pictures of their ear canal taken with the video otoscope, as well as the results of their hearing tests, right on the large screen. The technology impresses them – they can see they are part of a complete process and this helps them feel secure in knowing they are receiving an accurate assessment with up-to-date technology – and that, in turn, makes my staff and I look good.
While there have been many challenges since opening The Hearing Center earlier this year, Sheri has no regrets about her decision to become her own boss.
“There have been and continue to be so many confirmations throughout this journey that I made the right decision at the right time for me. Being able to do what I think is the right thing for my clients in order to help them rediscover the joy of sound makes the effort worth it every single day.”
Five things to consider before opening your own clinic
- You have to want it. It is a lot of work to set up a new business and then an even bigger task to keep it going. Once you have your own clinic, it is always top of mind. Evenings and days off – you are constantly thinking about how to improve what you do, how to reach more people, the next ad campaign and so on. It becomes your life.
- Be organized. There is an enormous amount of paperwork to document, file, submit and approve. Organization is key.
- Find support. You need emotional support from family and friends, as well as work-place support such as administrative staff, accounting assistance, graphic design, advertising design, social media and website content design, etc. Also, try to connect with someone who has opened their own clinic successfully and ask questions, and perhaps visit their clinic. Establishing a network with other business owners – not necessarily in the hearing aid business – is also beneficial.
- Do the research. You have to research the details around location (so important!), the audiology equipment you want to use, office equipment, office management systems and many other things that go into running your own clinic.
- Make a plan and a budget. How do you foresee the first five years? Make a detailed plan and be sure to understand the financial investment and commitment required before making any decisions.