Episode #1: Fire Your $100,000 Client With Kate Meyers
Welcome to the first episode of Thrive to Serve Podcast, where we share real stories and proven experience from service business owners to help create sustainable, profitable growth for your service business.
Today’s guest is Kate Meyers, CEO and founder of Brown & Meyers, Inc., which offers medical, legal, and transcription services nationwide. In this episode, we get to hear Kate’s story going from a secretary to a proud owner of a growing business with employees and Fortune 500 clients. We tap into 20 years of experience to learn how and why to fire your $100,000 client, hiring employees, and differentiating your service business from competitors by offering superior customer service.
Tune in to today’s episode, it’s time to thrive!
Kate’s Contact Information
- Phone: 800-785-7505
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: brownmeyers.com
Kate Meyers: Good. Busy, crazy, but good.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always good to hear. Busy is always good.
Kate Meyers: Yes.
Viktor Nagornyy: Great. I wanted to start things off and just learn a little bit more about what you’ve done before your started the business. Before you started a business, were you doing something different, or was starting the business the first thing that you wanted to do?
Kate Meyers: This ties into what I was doing before. Basically after high school, I held several executive secretarial positions for national companies doing a lot of typing actually. Then I discovered that I wanted to be a court reporter later on, but there were no schools in Maine, so I couldn’t really pursue that because I had to work. I couldn’t just not work and go someplace else and go to school, so I kept doing what I was doing. My last job was with a company called Bath Iron Works out of Bath, Maine. When I was working there, court reporting school started across town, so I immediately enrolled, but I didn’t find out about that until … Actually, the catalyst, me wanting to go out on my own happened, and that was that somebody at Bath Iron Works, one of my superiors asked me to make some coffee, and that really pissed me off. I realized I was never going to go anywhere in that company because it was male dominated for sure.
Then I enrolled in court reporting school. I worked full time during the day at Bath Iron Works, going to school at night full time, and then I became a court reporter. Then I wanted to have my own business, but like I said, I was brand new in the field. This guy that I was working for, Vernon Brown, hence the name Brown in my company name. I was working freelance for him, and he asked me if I wanted to buy his company because he wanted to retire, and so I said, “Yeah, absolutely,” and I bought his company, and that’s how it started.
Viktor Nagornyy: That sounds great. I’m really curious what about court reporting you loved that you so much wanted to become one.
Kate Meyers: I had good finger dexterity, really excellent, excellent typist, and to be quite honest with you, the field of the court reporting was started by men way back in the day, and the wages are really good. That’s basically, that was the big reason why I wanted to go into it so that I could make a good income and work for myself.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always good. What are you doing right now? I know that you’re doing something slightly different although related to what the court reporting is. Can you tell me a little bit, like an elevator pitch about what you’re doing right now with Brown & Meyers?
Kate Meyers: Yes. Right now we providing medical and legal transcription services nationwide for insurance companies that need independent medical evaluations transcribed. That’s our niche, but we also do legal transcription, and we still do some court reporting on a contractual basis.
Viktor Nagornyy: Great. How did you evolve from court reporting to the transcription services? Is that somewhat of a natural evolution?
Kate Meyers: Sort of. The court reporting field is when you’re doing freelance requisitions, it’s very cyclical, so you can have a full calendar booked, and then they’ll fall off the books because the case was settled a lot of times, or something comes up. It was really hard to have a steady business with that kind of a business model. A lot of people were calling us and asking us if we did just transcription of tapes back then. It was mostly analog tapes. We started with that, and then I saw this ad in National Court Reporters Association magazine about this company that had this business model where people could… Medical, the medical side. They could dictate into the phone, and then we could listen to that dictation and transcribe it. It was kind of this … From what it is now. Right now, it’s a cloud model. Back then it was archaic.
Anyway, I set that up, and I had all these RJ11 phone jacks on the wall, and it was very convoluted. We did that, and I started doing cold calls to try to get some of that business, and my first phone call was to an insurance company Unum and I won that account. A lot of those 1099 physicians that work there also work for a lot of other insurance companies like that, Liberty Mutual, Sun Life, companies like that. Was just through word of mouth, really grew in that sector. That continues to be our niche, and we continue to keep growing in that field thanks to the website that you built us Viktor.
Viktor Nagornyy: I’m happy to hear that it’s working great for you. What I’m curious, you said that you cold called and you won your large client, the insurance company through a cold call. How did that go? Because it’s not something that… A lot of people frown upon cold calling these days, but there are other people who swear by cold calling if it’s done properly. Is that something you still do now, or was that just back in the day when you were just getting started?
Kate Meyers: I think that the sales model has definitely changed compared to back then which was 20 years ago, 15 years ago, and you could call people and they would take your call, but today it’s almost impossible to get through to people. You get voice mail, and when they listen to your voice mail, they know you’re a salesperson and you never get the call back. Back then then, yeah. That was how I got the majority of my clients, but now it’s mostly hits on my website, and then we’ll follow up with an automated form for them to fill out, and it goes like that, so it’s very different.
Viktor Nagornyy: Yeah, absolutely. What do you usually do right now? Because I know you grew your business. It’s a lot bigger than it was 20 years ago, so what does your typical day look like right now?
Kate Meyers: What I love is business development and I’d love to be able to do more of that, but I have a small staff, and one of our contracts requires one of the gals in my office here to be offsite covering hearings, the court reporting contract, so when she’s not here, I’m doing a lot of the day-to-day minutiae I’d call it. Just helping out in the office. I wear all the hats. As a small business person, you do. I do a lot of the… I’m trying to automate my billing and all that right now because that’s pretty complicated. Once that gets done, it’s going to get much better, but I do all the billing, and a lot of the Quick Books. I deal with the accountants and all that kind of stuff, so it’s a lot as you know.
Viktor Nagornyy: Absolutely. I know that grind really, really well.
Kate Meyers: Yes. I think that’s the biggest challenge that small business people have.
Viktor Nagornyy: No, absolutely. Trying to figure out how to scale your business so you can focus on something that you’re more passionate about than other things that are required that you’re not so passionate about like bookkeeping and accounting.
Kate Meyers: Right, right, absolutely.
Viktor Nagornyy: What keeps you up at night right now as your business grows?
Kate Meyers: Lately I’ve been really concerned about the internet and cyber attacks because our whole business is based upon internet access. If internet access goes down, we’re playing poker around here. There’s just no way we can operate. Lately, I really worry about something happening to the grid and the system going down. Which we can’t control that at all. That’s what worries me the most lately.
Viktor Nagornyy: You’re dealing with the medical transcriptions and the legal transcriptions with the HIPAA compliance and all that good stuff. It’s something definitely that specifically in your niche will definitely keep you up at night.
Kate Meyers: Yes, HIPAA compliance. Definitely that’s one of the other. Probably the internet access and the HIPAA compliance issues are my 2 biggest concerns.
Viktor Nagornyy: If you could fix one thing about your business right now, what would that be?
Kate Meyers: Figuring out how to get a lot more off my plate so I can focus more on business development. That’s just been the ongoing question like, “How do I do that?” You know, and hiring the right people. I have a great staff right now, but I’ve had terrible problems hiring over the past several years. Not getting the right people in here, so what happens, you get someone all trained. They’re all good, and you can go do your own thing, what you want to do, and then they don’t end up working out, and you have to start all over again. Basically just getting all the right people on the bus.
Viktor Nagornyy: No, absolutely. That’s actually a really good topic to take us to our Thrive round as I’d like to call it so we can learn a little bit more, some tips that you might have for other business owners that are offering services to their clients, and you mentioned that a big issue that you have is hiring good employees. The first question I have is just related to that. When you purchased your business, did you already have employees, or was it pretty much just you?
Kate Meyers: It was just me. At first, it was just me. I had this little tiny office and this little tiny desk that were so small I couldn’t even cross my legs under it. It was in this office complex across town, and then I rented another room once I got a few clients next door, and I hired my first employee.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s really my question is like, how did you know that you’re ready for your first employee?
Kate Meyers: When I first started, I was going out in the field and actually meeting with clients and setting them up. I was going to medical transcriptionists homes and setting them up and training them. I was starting to be out of the office a lot. The phone was going to a what do you call, an answering service, so people that called weren’t getting the level of service that I wanted them to get, so that’s pretty much when I knew I needed to have somebody in the office.
Viktor Nagornyy: You were focusing on the customer service.
Kate Meyers: Yes.
Viktor Nagornyy: How did you hire your first employee? How did that go?
Kate Meyers: Let’s see. I can’t really remember, but I will say that I kept her way too long, way too long. She turned out to be a real problem employee. She had a history with that, with other companies too that I didn’t know about.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s my second question about that is over the years of hiring good employees and not so good employees, what are some of the tips that you might have for others to look out for to find the right people, or identify those people that might not be the right fit?
Kate Meyers: I would say that, and I do this now. Interview the person yourself first, and then if you like them, invite them back and interview them with another member of your staff, a key person, and then have those interviews with everybody, just go through. Maybe I’ll be first, and then I’ll do it with my key person, and then I’ll do it with another person so there’s 3 people, and then keep doing it until the interview is done by everybody here in the office so that the person hopefully gets a feel for who we are, and we get a feel for who they are. Then after we make the decision to hire them and they come onboard, the biggest advice that I can give anybody is to hire slow, and fire fast.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s really good advice.
Kate Meyers: If they’re not working out, do not keep them around. It’s just going to cost you money, and headaches, and you’re going to have to start all over again after you’ve got them all trained, and it’s just better to get them off the bus and start again.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s really good advice, absolutely. To go back to the business, what do you think is the number one thing a professional service provider needs to know about working with clients or as a business?
Kate Meyers: Usually the clients’ always right, so no matter what’s going on, if your client is upset or whatever, keep your cool and try to be a resource for them and solve their problem, listen to them. The biggest thing I guess when you’re in a service based business because, at least in my space, there’s so much competition. You have to really be great at customer service. When the phone rings, answer it the first, the second or the third call. Don’t let it roll to voice mail. We have this rule in the office where it’s a one hour call back rule, so if somebody calls and they have a problem, we have to figure it out in an hour. We call them back and we let them know where we’re at, what’s going on, so things like that. Just really caring about the customer and making sure they’re happy and getting what they need.
Viktor Nagornyy: No, absolutely. That’s a really good tip, especially about the one hour rule. Is that a really good quality customer service, is that really your way of trying to differentiate yourself as well from the competitors?
Kate Meyers: Yes, absolutely. It’s really the only thing we have to hang our hat on. It’s just people love to work with us because they know they’re going to get great service. When they call here, someone’s going to answer the phone and we’re going to take care of them. To me, the level of service that some companies have out there and I don’t know how they stay in business. You call, and you get voice mail, and they don’t call you back. It’s crazy. For example, I went on to a website for somebody, a vendor that I wanted to do business with unrelated to my company, and filled out the form on their website, and I have yet to hear from these people.
Viktor Nagornyy: Right. A lot of companies fail to follow up with leads. I’ve had that experience too with … I’m trying to find a shop to do a wedding cake for my wedding in August, and I Googled a bunch of them, and I found them on their website, and they had they quote forms and everything. I filled them out, and I filled out probably 10 of them, and I probably heard from 3 or 4 that got back to me. What’s interesting was the same thing happened when we were looking for the space for the wedding reception. Not only did I never got emails from some venues that I was interested in, I couldn’t even get through to them. Maybe they’re out of business and the website was still, whatever the case is, but it’s an issue that a lot of people don’t realize that they need to fix, and they would get a lot more business.
Kate Meyers: Oh my God, it’s amazing. Another thing is you have to get back at them quickly because time kills deals. If somebody calls you and you’re talking them, and they want a quote, you got to get that quote out the door fast, within a few hours. Because if you don’t, they’re going to go look somewhere else.
Viktor Nagornyy: Absolutely, and in this digital age, time is everything.
Kate Meyers: Definitely, definitely.
Viktor Nagornyy: You’re in a very competitive space with transcription service providers off shoring stuff, trying to undercut everyone with lower pricing. Do you still compete on price, or do you have any tips on how do you get out of that downward spiral?
Kate Meyers: I have a set price that I quote, and then I have a price that will allow me to negotiate a little bit, but I won’t go below that price. I’m not going to give it away just for the sake of getting business.
Viktor Nagornyy: I know that a lot of the transcription service providers, they charge per minute. I think I remember reading on the website that you charge in a different way. You charge per page.
Kate Meyers: It depends on the service. For medical transcription, we charge by the line which is pretty much the industry standard for transcription that comes in on legal stuff or whatever that comes in, or focus groups. We charge by the page. We don’t like to charge by the minute because sometimes there’s a lot of dead space on recording that we have to fast forward through it, so then the client will get charged more than they really should get charged. What we like to do is charge for the actual content of the transcripts, how many pages it is. We think that’s the fairest way to charge.
Viktor Nagornyy: It definitely sounds like you’re looking out for your clients.
Kate Meyers: We try. We really do. When I first started out and I was using outside transcriptionists for legal transcription, stuff that wasn’t on the phone line. I was charging … What was I doing. I was paying my transcriptionists by the hour, and I was getting like, oh my God, raked over the coals. They were sending me these invoices that were just crazy, and when I changed to paying them per page, I actually lost a lot of them if that tells you anything. They were padding their invoices. I can’t charge the client this much. This is crazy, so I just went to that per page thing and it’s worked out great.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always good. As long as it’s working out and it’s in the best interest of your clients, that’s what’s important.
Kate Meyers: Right, yep.
Viktor Nagornyy: When you start working with a client or in a sales conversation with them, do you have any tips on setting client expectations before you start working with them?
Kate Meyers: Yeah. If it’s a medical client, we tell them, “We’re going to put you with your own transcriptionist so that he or she can really become familiar with your style, the vocabulary you use, the way you like your transcripts set up format wise, but we always have to make a few tweaks in the beginning, and it takes some time for the transcriptions to get acclimated, so we just ask for your patience when starting this new account.” That really helps.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s great. I’m glad that you don’t have to transcribe doctor’s notes and handwriting.
Kate Meyers: Oh, gosh. I don’t think we would, no. We wouldn’t do… If someone called and wanted us to do that, I think I would say no, we can’t. Even transcribing them dictating, they dictate like rap stars because the more patients they see, the more money they make which is really, really good because electronic medical records really slows down that process. Which is good for us because we don’t want them to use those templates. We want them to dictate.
Viktor Nagornyy: Okay. What’s the best thing that you’ve done to get clients?
Kate Meyers: I had you build my website Viktor.
Viktor Nagornyy: Thank you. I’m glad it’s working out. Right now, the website is the primary way for you getting clients?
Kate Meyers: I’m getting a ton of leads on the website. It’s crazy, but we also get a lot of referrals from happy customers I must say. When we do get that, we send them some of our Brown & Meyers coffee mugs, and pens, and things like that, and a thank you for the referral card.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s great. That’s actually another question that I had was if you had any tips on how you could get more client referrals, if there’s anything that you do to try to get clients to refer others.
Kate Meyers: Actually, I would love to get with you at some point and set up some kind of a referral program that’s more automated, so I think what we’re doing now is okay. We’re rewarding them after the fact, but I’d like to do something proactive to bring in more. I’m not sure how that would work. I’m sure you have some ideas around that though.
Viktor Nagornyy: Yeah, absolutely. We can definitely schedule a time and chat about that.
Kate Meyers: Okay.
Viktor Nagornyy: The other question I had was, have you ever fired a client?
Kate Meyers: Yes, I fired a $100,000 a year account client because I couldn’t make the woman happy. It wasn’t us. It wasn’t me. I finally concluded that it was her, so I just nicely asked her to find another vendor because she was just constantly bringing me in to meetings with her staff and just raking me over the coals. It was embarrassing. It was humiliating, and it was very, very stressful, so I decided to terminate the relationship with that client.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s a very large account.
Kate Meyers: Yes, and it hurt.
Viktor Nagornyy: I bet. When you’re looking back? Was that a good decision?
Kate Meyers: Absolutely.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s good. Do you have any tips on how to fire a client when it’s such a large account and it might hurt? How to try to find courage so to speak to do it.
Kate Meyers: I think, in my situation is just came down to I’ve had enough. I didn’t want to take anymore abuse. I felt like I was being verbally abused basically. Also, my transcriptions were getting really frustrated because they felt like, “Oh my God. It’s always something wrong, you know?” We were doing a great job. The doctors and the other people at this practice really liked us. They didn’t want us to see us go, so for me, it just got a point where enough was enough, and I just told her that she was going to have to find another vendor that could hopefully meet her needs because obviously we weren’t able to meet her needs in a satisfactory way.
Viktor Nagornyy: It sounds like you would never be able to meet her needs ever.
Kate Meyers: No, no, definitely not. We never, never would.
Viktor Nagornyy: Do you think when you have a client like that, that firing them sooner is better than dragging it out?
Kate Meyers: I’m a deep thinker, so for me, sometimes it takes me a while to get from point A to point Z. I think it’s easier when you have an established company and you have a book of business. I was fairly green back then. I didn’t really have a lot of clients, and I think that’s why it took me so long to make the final decision, but I think the more seasoned you are and the more clients you have, you probably make the decision faster, or sooner rather than later. I know I would now. Definitely. It’s just not worth it. I could go work for another company if I wanted to be abused. One of the reasons you want to go out on your own or at least I did is because I wanted a really nice place, an atmosphere to work, a nice place for my people to work without that kind of negative, stressful vibe. I wanted it to be fun and rewarding.
Viktor Nagornyy: Absolutely. When the cash flow becomes the decision maker for you, you become an employee.
Kate Meyers: Absolutely, that’s right. Yeah, you’re right.
Viktor Nagornyy: My next question is, what’s the future for you for Brown & Meyers? Where do you see yourself going?
Kate Meyers: I’d like to keep going in the IME (independent medical exam) space. I’d really like to own that space. That’s where I’m focused right now. I want to do some, set up campaigns around that which I wanted to talk to you about as well, but I have another idea that I’m working with a colleague on that I really can’t, I don’t really have the liberty to say what it is right now, but I’ll just say that it’s something that’s really needed out there, and it’s very exciting, but it does tie in with our transcription services.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always exciting, a new project.
Kate Meyers: Yeah, definitely.
Viktor Nagornyy: Where do you see your professional services heading in the future? There’s a lot of … In news, there’s a lot of talk about AIs, technology replacing human beings. Where do you see the services, or do you see that a lot of things might be getting replaced, or is there still a huge need for human to human services so to speak?
Kate Meyers: I think that for the next 5 years at least, there’s going to be a lot more opportunity. There’s a lot more people going to the doctor now too because of Obamacare which is really good for a company like mine. We lost a good amount of business to electronic medical records. The physicians just they stopped dictating. You know when you go see a doctor, and they’re sitting in front of a computer and they’re not even looking at you, and they’re putting all this stuff in, typing all this stuff in themselves? Well, it turns out that they don’t like doing that. They don’t want to be clerical people. They’re doctors, and it really slows down the process on how many patients they can see in a day if they have to do all this paperwork, so we’re seeing a big switch from physician practices really being exciting and embracing electronic health records to using automated prescription lab interfaces and things like that and these programs, and then going back to outsourcing their transcription to companies like mine. We’ve seen a big increase in business this year, more than we have for the last at least 3 years.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always good. I never thought about that where the doctors just type things in or record it in an audio format.
Kate Meyers: Right, and I think that because they talk so fast and we have a lot of physicians with foreign dialects and accents and things like that, I don’t think voice recognition’s ever going to be able to totally replace us in that regard, and if it does it way better and we do start using more voice recognition, then we’re going to probably go from doing total 100% transcription to editors on the back end, but hopefully I can get out of this business in the next 5 years and go do something else. That’s my plan.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s always good. Do you think you might want to sell it?
Kate Meyers: Yes, definitely.
Viktor Nagornyy: Okay, that’s always good. My last question is, what’s the number one advice, a gold nugget to take away from our interview today for an entrepreneur building their own or growing their service business that you can give?
Kate Meyers: I think it goes back to that hire slow and fire fast. That’s where I have, and a lot of my colleagues will say the same thing. That’s the toughest area in a small business is getting the right people and managing your employees. It’s just really, really tough.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s one big challenge for small businesses is they are really good at what they do, but then they have to put on the hat of a leader and a manger, and figure out how to delegate and let other people do their work for them.
Kate Meyers: Right, without having to babysit.
Viktor Nagornyy: Yes, and hand hold.
Kate Meyers: Right, exactly, so that would definitely be my biggest tip.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s a great tip. How can somebody get in touch with you if they have a need for transcription services or any other services that you offer?
Kate Meyers: They can email sales at brownmeyers.com, or they can call our toll-free number at 800-785-7505.
Viktor Nagornyy: That’s great, and I will make sure that I will include that contact information in the description and summary for our interview today.
Kate Meyers: Okay, great. Thank you Viktor.
Viktor Nagornyy: Thank you so much Kate. I really enjoyed our conversation today, and I learned quite a few things. I know that our listeners as well will learn quite a few things to help them grow their service business.
Kate Meyers: Good. I hope I can relieve them of some of the pain that I experienced.
Viktor Nagornyy: I’m sure you did.
Kate Meyers: Good.
Viktor Nagornyy: Okay, well thank you so much Kate.
Kate Meyers: All right. Thank you for having me Viktor.
Viktor Nagornyy: Bye-bye.
Kate Meyers: All right, bye.