Robert S. Schwartz, CPed, president and chief executive officer of Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises Inc., discussed bthe tools needed to build a successful pedorthic retail shoe business at the Pedorthic Footwear Association (PFA) Symposium in Grapevine, Texas.
Schwartz talked to O&P Business News about what it takes to start and maintain a retail pedorthic shoe business in the current economic climate.
“I am talking about pedorthic retail that goes outside the most basic products and takes some chances in order to attract the consumer past what they need and into what they would like to have,” Schwartz said.
Despite the economic climate, Schwartz believes a retail pedorthic shoe business can thrive, if they have the capital and maintain good relationships with customers and medical professionals, especially podiatrists. The relationship between podiatrists and pedorthists is crucial because pedorthics is not a primary subject of training in podiatry. Schwartz believes that needs to change.
“If you are going to enter the pedorthic field, you better embrace the podiatrist in your community,” Schwartz explained. “You better embrace all of the medical practitioners in your community because you are a more complete resource for them.”
Schwartz also explained the fine line between a good relationship and a competitive one. He said the difference is simple. A podiatrist who you have a good working relationship with will refer their customers to your retail shoe business. A competitor, obviously, would not. Schwartz believes in order to properly work alongside these other medical professionals, podiatrists and medical practitioners must understand your business and the qualities that it possesses.
“It is not hard to toe the line if both doctors and consumers know [that] when they walk into a professional pedorthic retail facility, they are going into an establishment that has higher skills that fit them in the right shoes with the right modifications to give consumers comfort.”
Schwartz also pointed out that not all good relationships last forever. If you take the working relationship with a health care professional for granted and do not keep in touch, that referral source will quickly disappear, he warned. While marketing to the right audience is crucial, maintaining that marketing sometimes gets overlooked.
“Pedorthic retail shoe businesses have to actively work on health care professional relationship building if they want the patients and consumers to come back to them,” he said.
Schwartz understands that once the referral source sends a patient to your business, it is your job to maintain that relationship with the customer. If you can maintain the relationship with the customer, the customer will also become a referral source for your business. Now your business has a snowball effect.
“You can produce more revenue with each patient if you have more products that fulfill their needs,” Schwartz said. “The second point is if you go out and do your medical marketing diligently, all the time, then your business will continue to grow. You are important to the medical community because your patients are either not candidates for surgery or because after surgery, they still need care.” — Anthony Calabro
I come from a more medical approach and environment. I agree the physicians are very important and for Schwartz, the podiatrist’s are key. In my particular type of practice, we actually receive more referrals from the orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon/specialist.
There is plenty of competition for the foot/pedorthic referrals today, so maintaining the relationship with the doctor is key. The pedorthist or practitioner must always remember that the doctor sent the patient to them, so if they do not treat the patient appropriately and satisfy them, that actually reflects on the physician that referred the patient. If the patient isn’t happy and didn’t have a satisfying experience, it is a way to lose a referral source quickly, or vice-versa.
— Dennis Janisse, CPed
President and chief executive officer, National Pedorthic Services Inc.