Sunday, November 19, 2017

Decibels 180 Consulting: Our Story

If you happen to be in need of some business help and have considered checking out the Decibels 180 website, here is what you will find about our story and how we got here.  Fellow ear nerds, you can make more money and have more time to vacation and walk around Target aimlessly... the dream is still alive! 

Our Story... 

Chances are, you’ve found yourself here because you’d like something to change.

Maybe you’d like to make more money. Maybe you’d like to work less. Maybe you’re frustrated with your employees. Maybe you’re frustrated with your marketing. Maybe it’s all of that and more.

The good news is, we can help. We’ve been in your shoes.

When we started our practice, we had a goal of someday selling 25 hearing aids a month. Last February, we did 10 times that many units in one month alone.

We know what it takes to build a practice from nothing to an astounding success.

We know about surviving and thriving in one of the most competitive hearing aid markets in the country. We know about the challenges that come with managing staff, hiring and firing, working with your friends and family… and the particular challenges that come when you work with your spouse. We know about the struggle to find and fit great hearing aids from manufacturers that support independent private practice. We know that sometimes you need to come home at the end of a long day and just cry. We think we can help you to cry a whole lot less.

In 2009, we had a baby. He was cute and cuddly and so much more work than we expected. At that point, Mark owned an IT Consulting business. April worked as a Regional Training Manager for Sonic Innovations, which required an enormous amount of travel. Looking to get off the road and find a way to spend as much time with our little guy as possible, we opened our private practice, Decibels Audiology.

We had no idea what we were doing. We lived off Mark’s salary and invested everything we made at Decibels Audiology back into the business for the first 2 years. We never took on debt and we never lost money, but our growth was small and consistent compared to other offices that were taking on manufacturer loans and other forms of debt. We stuck with the slow and steady approach.

In 2011, we had another baby. Once again, our growing family forced us out of our comfort zone. We had to hire staff, we had to train them, we had to keep them busy. We had to start spending some of the money that we had saved to market and drive traffic to our office.

Again, we had no idea what we were doing, but we had the good fortune of hearing a private practice consultant named Greg Sanchez speak at a training event. His fee was $2500 a day, which was money we did not have. We hired him on the spot.

The thing about a consultant is that they can see things with fresh eyes. They can spot problems you can’t see in an instant, and they can work with you to fix those problems. They can force you to define processes and protocols for your business. They can give you an outside perspective on your office, your staff, and your perceived success.

Greg Sanchez whipped us in to shape. We increased our business 125% in our first year after working with him. And even after he went on to bigger and better things, we never forgot the impact that a private practice consultant had made in our lives.

In 2012, Mark sold his IT company and came on board as the CFO of Decibels Audiology. He brought with him IT and accounting knowledge that revolutionized the way we did business. In his first year, we doubled our bottom line. In his second year, we tripled it.

As our business grew, it was important to April to set herself up to work on the business instead of in the business. No one wants to have a multi-million-dollar company that relies on one person being in the office every, single day. She had a dream… to make money as she was doing other things… dropping the kids off at school, wandering around Target aimlessly, and traveling the world in her RV.
Mark didn’t so much care about the Target part… but he was all in for the RV adventures.

Many practices have growing pains on the journey from one provider (usually the owner), to multiple providers. As business owners, we always seem to know just what to do. But how do you pass down that knowledge and empowerment to your employees? The answer is simple: you must have a process for everything. Successful process is built around best practices.

As our staff grew, April used our processes and protocols to train our Audiologists, Audiology Assistants, and support staff to work efficiently and competently… without her hovering over them. In 2017, as Decibels Audiology posted its most profitable quarter to date, we were on the sidelines… watching our staff make it rain.

Having done daily consulting in the past, we knew that this was the right time to launch Decibels 180. Decibels 180 is a consulting group for Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dispensers in private practice. We focus on turning process into profit.

Maybe you’ve owned your practice for 30 years, maybe you just inherited it yesterday. Maybe you’re making more money than you know what to do with, or maybe you’re barely making payroll. Our goal is to meet you where you are and get you where you want to be. We can’t wait to get started!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Welcome Home... Love, Irma

Where do we begin?

Shit is hitting the fan in Florida, folks... although to taunt any sweaty Floridians with the promise of a fan is just cruel. In case you've been out of touch, a big, fat hurricane named Irma hit our little town of Naples and pretty much all of Florida. The anticipation leading up to her arrival was dramatic, confusing, overwhelming and terrifying. To evacuate? To not evacuate? So many questions. And then, on Sunday, September 10th, she made landfall.

A lot of people ask us why we write this little travel blog... which gets over 1000 views per post but only 4 Facebook likes... LOL... Come on, people! Click the "like" button after you read! The truth is, it's not for everyone else, it's diary of sorts that we hope to someday pass on to our kids. All these adventures, all this time, all this planning... we just want them to know how much we love them and how blessed we are to be able to explore the world together. Of all our adventures, though, we're sure that these last few days will forever stand out in their otherwise carefree minds. Here it is, kiddos.. the story of your first hurricane.

It's hard to believe that just 3 weeks ago we left beautiful Bar Harbor and faced the 1,800 mile drive home. We cruised through beautiful Maine, stopping at LL Bean for school supplies, and then scored one of the most delicious meals we have ever had at the Old Stone Trattoria in Chappaqua, NY.

Having driven almost 10,000 miles in total this summer, Mark was exhausted. His shoulder, specifically, was bothering him. He had injured it during a Jiu-Jitsu workout in Newfoundland a few weeks earlier, but was determined not to expose himself to Canadian health care.

I know what you're thinking, ladies... he cooks, he cleans, he's an Eagle Scout, he can fix computers, he's super handsome and he's got mad fighting skills... but he's all mine :) 

He's also now 37... being that he celebrated his birthday on August 21st, the same day as the much anticipated 2017 Solar Eclipse. Being that Mark was super excited about the eclipse, and that Andrew was super excited to visit Antietam National Battlefield, we combined the two into a box-on-our-heads-wearing, battlefield exploring, solar adventure.

We had an amazing day, but we had to admit to ourselves that we were tired of the open road and ready to be home. We missed our house, our dishwasher, our laundry room, our DVR, and, most importantly... the boys needed to go back to school! 

Naples has had a lot of rain this summer, and our drive home and subsequent arrival was no exception. Standing water everywhere, mosquitoes, and humidity so thick that when we exited the truck after having last been out of it in the Carolinas, it literally took our breath away.

What is this dense, soggy, substance I'm breathing? Is this air? Good golly... Why do we live here? 

We may have been soggy, but we were happy to be home. As always, our house seemed huge after spending nearly 3 months in an RV.  The kids ran off to their rooms to reunite with their toys as we relaxed on the couch... just kidding... we spent hours unloading the RV and then stayed up until long after midnight to prepare for Max's 6th birthday the next morning. He wanted a Mario cake and balloons, and (thanks to the fine folks at Decibels Audiology running around and getting those things for us), that is exactly what he got. Happy Birthday, Maxer! 

Do you know what Max wanted for his birthday? A pet. Do you know what Andrew was asking for at least a million times a day? A dog. Do you know what Mark is desperate for? A dog. 

Put this puppy-obsession together with the fact that our friend Terri had a friend who was in need of a home for some Portuguese Water Dog puppies, and you've got the makings of this heartwarming Target video. Fun fact... April's parents surprised she and her sister with a puppy in the exact same way back in 1980-something. It was a day they will never forget, so we had to recreate it!

As the video describes, we had to wait a week between picking out our dog and picking up our dog from the breeder, so Mark took this "down time" as a chance to go get his shoulder checked out. Long story short ... Mark found out after several doctor appointments, a physical therapy session, and two MRIs that he had torn his left pectoral tendon off his arm bone. Ouchie. Serious. Expensive. 

Surgery was scheduled immediately, and the reality that mark would be able to use only one arm for the next few months set in. No driving, no dishes, no lifting, no strenuous exercise. That's fine... it's not like any large weather events were forming out in the Atlantic or anything.  

The day after Mark's surgery, the kids were finally back to school! Here we come, 1st and 3rd Grade! 

While the kids were at school, groggy Mark and driver April pick up our newest bundle of joy.. Gatsby. 

Gatsby, who is both cuter and smarter than any other dog, busted in to our lives with cuddles and licks and a bladder that just won't quit.  For those who say that puppies are like babies... I can say that babies are definitely harder... but only because you can't put them in a cage.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but just reading all this nonsense so far makes me tired. It's a lot, right? It's just a lot to take on... but we weren't done yet! Hurricane Irma was pitching a fit in the Atlantic and threatening to get all up in our town.  The national news was dramatic and terrifying. The local news was like "Here we go again. Get some water, you fools." We were in the cone, and then we were out of the cone. We were all going to die, and then we were all for sure going to be safe. With a forecast that assured us we were in the clear, April boarded a plane to Minneapolis for a quick work trip to Starkey, assuring Mark that she'd be back to help in less than 48 hours.

By the time April landed in Minneapolis, CNN informed the world that Naples was very much back in the damn cone. Talk began of THE SURGE... and how Naples would certainly be destroyed.  Too late to fly home, April called Mark as soon as she could and learned that his Dad, Ray, was already headed down to Naples to save the day and help one-armed Mark board up the house. Anxiety showed up.

Ray then drove Mark, the kids, and Gatsby to Lakeland, where they rode out the storm surrounded by awesome family.  Did Gatsby poo on Ray and Martha's white carpet? You bet he did. Whoopsies.

While having an otherwise awesome time at Starkey, there was nothing April could do but stare at the TV and try not to vomit.  Waking up on Saturday morning to the news of an expected Category 5 direct hit to Naples literally brought her to tears. Watching it make landfall on Sunday morning was excruciating. But, through it all, Mark kept the kids and pup safe in Lakeland and Starkey treated April like gold, taking care of her every need. Looking back, it's hard to believe how much time this kind of impending doom takes up.  It's hard to get anything done other than worry.

On Sunday night (as Irma was still beating up Florida), a flight suddenly opened up to Atlanta. April threw her stuff in a bag and headed to the airport, getting to the gate just as they were boarding for an early departure due to... you know... the giant hurricane. One bumpy ride later, Starkey had the Atlanta Airport Embassy Suites waiting for her as she settled in for more CNN coverage of THE SURGE.  

Morning in Atlanta and Lakeland brought an agonizing wait with no information about our house, our RV, our businesses, or the whereabouts of our friends.  So many people had stocked up on supplies to survive the storm, but didn't think about living through the aftermath.  No power, no supplies, no food, no running water. You may have a generator... but there is no gas to run it. No stores, no services. Flooding, downed trees and power lines, curfews. Cell towers either destroyed or without power. In a world of information overload, the sudden lack of communication is a shock to the system.  In short, folks, America is not ready for the zombies... no matter how much Walking Dead you've binged. 

Slowly but surely, messages came in. Good friends and neighbors rose to the occasion and surveyed the damage.  We are incredibly blessed that our structures were all spared. Our pool cage was destroyed and our trees are down, but everyone is safe. As grateful as we are, we are sensitive to the fact that this is really hard for so many. It's hard to work and rebuild in one hundred degree heat. It's hard to have no income. It's hard to have your kids out of school with no electricity or running water. It's hard to find gas or supplies. It's hard to sleep. It's hard to read that it will be 10 more days before FPL restores power. But it's also a time to help each other and thank God that Irma fell apart before the second half of her took our homes and livelihood with her. So grateful. So happy. 

Decibels Audiology on Immokalee Road... with Ryan "reporting" from the scene: 

Decibels Audiology on Michigan Avenue: 

Our kids' clubhouse, pool cage and yard... not too shabby! 

So, that was our summer! Happy to be home and ready to clean up and get back to work. Hug your family, hug your neighbors, hug your friends... but not until after the AC comes back on and they've all taken a shower. Feeling incredibly blessed in Naples. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Classic Case of Bar Harbor

Having just spent 45 days in Canada, we crossed the border with a renewed love for America. American food. American grocery stores. Legit cell phone coverage. Miles instead of Kilometers. The Eastern Time Zone.  All of it.  

We had just crossed into Maine when we spotted our first wild blueberry stand and broke out our dusty, forgotten American dollars to purchase a $5 pint.  The lady at the stand snickered "That's a lot of rig to be hauling all the way over here for just one pint." 

Indeed, Lady. Indeed. 

If you've never had wild blueberries from Maine... you are missing out.  The legend and lore is true... they taste nothing like store-bought blueberries. Instead, they taste like little balls of blueberry candy. We ate them by the handful as we cruised through northern Maine and on to Bar Harbor. Delicious!

We set up camp at Mt Desert Narrows Camping Resort as the nightly food trucks cruised through the campsites and our kids ran off to make new friends. At Max's request, we bought a blueberry pie for "later" or "soon", as he says whenever he wants you to make or buy him something that he has no intention of eating.  We set the pie aside in favor of barbecue from Mainely Meats. God Bless America.  

As the sun set and the mosquitoes descended, we called our sweaty babies inside for showers and dinner, barely getting food into their bellies before they were asleep. A few episodes of Master of None later, we turned in as well.  Lights out. Windows open. 

Lying in the seaside darkness, we nodded off as the fifty-degree winds whistled through our little Jayco. 

Suddenly, our early bedtime was interrupted by our neighbor screaming something that rhymes with "DUCK!" 

Panic ensued in Site 88.  Thuds. Screaming. 

What was happening?

We shot up from our slumber and, of course, pressed our faces to the screen... wondering if we needed to call the police.  Minutes went by. More movement. More sounds. More screaming. Suddenly, the door of the 1982 Class A with a neon pink decorative stripe opened.  Two semi-clothed older folks stumbled out.  The man was wearing only boxer shorts. The woman, a t shirt with no pants. Neither had shoes.  

For what seemed like an eternity, they padded around their campsite. Examining the surrounding areas, under their camper, and around their picnic area. 

Eventually, they retreated to their rig. Moments later, they were back outside... this time with more clothes, flashlights, bug spray, and a renewed zest for their very heated argument. 

"But she doesn't know where she is!" the husband screamed. 
"Well, I'll just wait right here by the door," the wife replied. 
"The door? The door! The door means nothing to her! She's gone. This is stupid. Stupid. Stupid. THIS IS THE CLASSIC CASE OF HOW YOU LOSE A CAT!" 

Ohhhhhhh good it's just a cat and not a dog... we're going back to bed. Kidding... kidding.  

Now... this is probably a good time to tell you that these people were already a little weird. We'd tried to make friends upon their arrival and they were not having it. They had also parked their RV backward (causing us to be door-to-door) and, to level the poorly parked rig, had put their front two tires up on cinder blocks. This is just not done. 

So, even though our first instinct would have been to get out of bed and help our new neighbors find their cat... we held back when we remembered that they were unfriendly, partially clothed, and had taken on an impossible task. After all, that cat clearly wanted out of that RV... and was not coming back any time soon. Also, we are both allergic to cats. Also, the mosquitoes. These were all the ways that we assuaged our guilt as we remained in our cozy, mosquito-free bed. 

But the search kept going... and going. They spent the better part of an hour flashing their lights into trees and under cars. Their footsteps on the gravel outside began to sound more and more desperate. We couldn't take it. We had to help. We began working on a plan to explain why we'd waiting so long to come outside. Mark agreed to get up and get dressed. 

Then Screamy McScreamerton got all sorts of pissy again and grabbed his wife by the arm and made her go inside. He told her to go to bed and turned off all of the lights in the camper. If he didn't want her help, we decided that he certainly didn't want ours.  We closed our windows and discussed the great life that this cat will now lead as it wanders oyster beds and enjoys the Bar Harbor lifestyle.We discussed the man's observation that this was a "classic case" and wondered how many other cats had been lost in this manner. We told ourselves that we'd done the right thing.. but we were awake for hours listening for a "meow" in the night.  

Morning came and curiosity, though it may have killed their cat, was not going to get the best of us. Mark wandered outside, spying the neighbor, and went about his customary morning greetings. Screamy McScreamerton, though he was eager to talk about our Florida license plate, made no mention of the missing cat.  In fact, he made no mention of the cat for the rest of our stay in Bar Harbor. We decided that the cat must have been found... or at least that's what we told ourselves. 

Other than spying on Screamy McScreamerton, the rest of our week in Bar Harbor was spent 
relaxing, eating, hiking, exploring and enjoying the perfect weather.  Here are a few of the highlights... which are mostly food related :)

The Grub

Mother's Kitchen is the best sandwich shop...ever.  Boxed water, picnic tables, bumble bees buzzing about.  Perfection. 

Beech Hill Farm, part of the College of the Atlantic, is a fantastic farmers market. Look at those veggies! 

Rosalie's Pizza in Bar Harbor. Mystic Pizza vibe with Maine beers.  Love. 

Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound lets you pick your soon-to-be-doomed lobster and watch it be boiled alive. Like the neighbor's lost cat, you may feel badly about the entire process... until they serve it up 15 minutes later with some delicious butter!

Charlotte's Legendary Lobster Pound... a roadside stand complete with the best scallops ever, multiple fire pits for warming yourself against the chilly fog, a pet goat, and a wall of water guns with which to soak your brother in the nearby field. Just when you think things can't get any better, Charlotte herself comes out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron and making sure you loved your meal. Is she Gwen Stefani? Maybe? Retro chic and red lipstick rules. 

Wonderland Hiking Trail is short, flat and easy hiking. Cool trees, rocky beaches, and mysterious sounds emitting from the forest. Super fun! 

Thunder Hole... where waves roll in and make thunder! Boom! So cool! 

Beech Mountain Trail had us climbing up, and then down, some crazy huge rocks. People slipped. No one fell. No one whined. Amazing views. Even better work out. You can't beech that! 

Finally, people ask how we do all of our Decibels Audiology and Decibels 180 work while on the road. The answer is simple... Andy Schaps packs up our Naples life and overnights it to us via FedEx! Look at Mark carry that heavy box... he's so strong! 

Another great week in Bar Harbor, another long drive home ahead of us. Naples, here we come! 

Snarfs and Snoozes

While driving the 1772 miles home from Bar Harbor, April looked and Mark and said... "What should we call our last blog of the summer?&...