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UK Backlash as Amazon Eyes-up $24 Billion Pharmacy Market, Following Controversial Data Deal with British Government

Confidential documents have recently revealed a controversial deal between Amazon (among other private companies) and the UK government, with Amazon granted a free license to commercialize UK National Health Service data, which will help them to sell pharmaceuticals. Alexa, the voice-controlled home assistant can now provide free health advice, based on NHS guidance notes – the data in question – and then suggest pharmaceutical remedies for sale. Amazon could generate $billions in additional revenues in this new paradigm. Their recent health-tech innovation could be a tipping point for the market, with significant political and commercial consequences. 

Generations of medical expertise has been distilled into sophisticated NHS guidance notes, which aggregates into millions of hours of expert work. Licensing this data to the world’s most profitable company for free is highly controversial, given the implications on market value, and Amazon’s dominant position. Amazon can now distribute this NHS medical advice, without having to develop its own medical IP. Parallel to this, Amazon is recording and analyzing personal health data exchanged during Alexa interactions, building a sophisticated medical profile on each user, and indeed, aggregated metadata, which can later be sold to third parties. Importantly, Amazon’s health-tech innovation follows its acquisition of PillPack for $753 million in 2018, now rebranded as “Amazon Pharmacy”.

Amazon is making an aggressive push for a share of the UK’s $24 Billion pharmacy market, threatening the closure of many incumbent pharmacies in the process. While the NHS is a public body, the UK’s pharmacy market is largely private, with around 40% run by independents. Boots is the largest UK pharmacy group, with 18% market share, and is already considering store closures. 

The principle of the UK government granting Amazon a free license to commercialize this data has generated a political and legal backlash that will likely grow, following a formal legal complaint this week to the European Commission. Lawyer Jolyon Maugham QC, a prominent anti-Brexit campaigner and founder of the Good Law Project has launched a legal challenge this week, hoping to cancel the license with Amazon, arguing that the tech giant should at least pay for access to this data. The UK electorate is hyper-sensitive to the principle of privatisation of the health service, and in this context, his legal challenge is likely to attract substantial political support. The prospect of high street pharmacy closures, job losses and an Amazon monopoly position (helped by the government) will aggravate critics of the world’s largest retailer. 

This week’s legal complaint triggers an official inquiry and opens a question over the revocation of the deal. The European Commission has legal power to cancel the license, if found to be in breach of EU State Aid Law, which prevents member states from giving an unfair advantage to private enterprise, through unauthorized subsidy. A State Aid value-limit of €200,000 (£168,600) over three years is set in law, so the argument will likely focus on whether Amazon has received €200,000 of value from the data, or more. The UK is still a member of the EU, and must abide by EU rules. If the data deal is canceled, a new deal could, of course, be proposed by a new government. But future use of the data would be subject to intense public scrutiny.

 We can anticipate job losses in UK pharmacies from Amazon’s new push into medicine, and increasing scrutiny of Amazon’s tax advantages, whatever the consequences of this legal challenge. Amazon UK is currently paying less in corporation tax than many medium-sized companies, while boasting UK sales of $14.5bn (£10.9bn) in 2018. This apparent tax advantage does not seem politically sustainable. At the heart of the Amazon story is tension between innovation and public cost. In this instance, the UK government is seeking to save money on healthcare services through innovation, regardless of the commercial and political side effects.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Leveraging Proposal Q&As To Win More Bids

A proposal with a Q&A component offers a valuable opportunity to both gain insight about the proposing entity and to put your organization in a better position to win more bids. Many requests for proposals (RFPs) allow bidders to email a contact person specific written questions, while others will offer a pre-bid conference where bidders can seek clarifications either in person, over the phone or via web-conferencing technology.

No matter the medium, the chance to get added context about the soliciting organization’s needs and expectations is one you should definitely take advantage of. Organizations new to the bidding experience are sometimes reluctant to ask questions because many assume it portrays them as less knowledgeable, but we’re here to assure you that is certainly not the case. To ensure you are asking the right questions in the right way, here are some tips to help you make the most out of proposal Q&As.

Understand the bidding requirements fully.

All RFPs include requirements the bid offeror needs a vendor to provide. In a well-written RFP, these requirements will be direct and straightforward (though, anyone experienced in proposal bidding knows that this is not always the case). If you are unsure whether your organization meets a bid’s requirements, submit a clarifying question or ask if an alternative qualification is acceptable rather than giving up on the opportunity prematurely.

For example, if an RFP lists that a bidder must have at least five years of experience, but your organization was only founded three years ago, you may assume that you don’t meet their requirements and choose to forgo bidding. However, that’s not always the best decision.

Instead, reach out to the designated RFP contact to explain your organization’s situation. Offer an alternative, like combined years of relevant experience from senior management, to meet that requirement. In our experience, this is quite often an acceptable alternative.

Get notified when proposal Q&A responses are published.

Organizations publishing an RFP often allow interested bidders to sign up to receive email notifications related to the bid. Also, bid offerors increasingly use vendor portal platforms to share information related to their RFP, including Q&A responses, with interested bidders.

These are excellent opportunities to make sure your bid is fully informed. Ensure at least one member of your team is responsible for registering to receive these updates. In the vast majority of cases, an organization will publish each and every question that was submitted, regardless of who asked the question. Having an opportunity to review the kinds of questions, as well as the answers that were given, will allow you an opportunity to ensure you are crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.

Use a proposal’s Q&A to gain insight into your competition.

A proposal’s Q&A responses can offer valuable insights about the businesses competing for the bid.

For one, a bid’s Q&A component can give a broad sense as to how many vendors are interested in the bid. If your firm’s questions are the only ones submitted, it is likely that not many other firms are bidding on the opportunity. If, on the other hand, the pre-bid Q&A conference is a packed room, it’s safe to conclude that a large number of vendors are participating. In either case, having this knowledge will be helpful in deciding whether to go after a bid, how to craft your response and the best way to go about pricing.

By looking at the questions other firms are submitting, your organization can also get a general sense of the competition’s location, experience level and even capacity. These insights can then be invaluable in tailoring your own bid response to ensure you are differentiating your organization from the rest.

Use the bid Q&A to start building your relationship with the bid offeror.

Building a relationship with the RFP evaluators is another great strategy to ensure your proposal stands out. By asking at least one question in advance of your bid submission, you are introducing your business name into the consciousness of the bid offeror early in the process.

Pre-bid Q&A conferences, either online or in-person, are similarly an excellent opportunity to create a strong identity for your organization’s bid in the eyes of the reviewer. A thoughtful question asked with an enthusiastic attitude will create a positive impression for your organization. This is your opportunity to convey your firm’s confidence, dedication and competence.

Experienced vendors know that while the services and products one provides are key, the manner in which the offering is delivered also matters a great deal. A winning proposal demonstrates that your firm is best placed to deliver the desired product and that it will do so in a way that is pleasant, efficient and rewarding for your potential client. The Q&A period of the bid is a great opportunity to get a head start on establishing your business as one that is committed to this specific opportunity and is uniquely prepared to provide a positive experience in addition to a cost-competitive bid.

Make the proposal Q&A work for you.

From soliciting additional context about the proposal opportunity itself to gaining insights about potential competition to developing a stronger personal connection between your business and the RFP contact, taking a proposal’s Q&A component seriously will help you win more bids.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Forecasting Strategies For Rapidly Growing E-Commerce Businesses

During my career as a venture capitalist, I was a firm believer in using waterfall models to monitor the startups whose boards I sat on. In a nutshell, a waterfall model forces companies to compare their projections for any given period against actual results, and then to reforecast the remaining periods with the benefit of this additional data. This allows you to retain the history of what you believed, and when.

There are many benefits to adopting this discipline, but as a board member, my primary question was simple: Is this company getter better at predicting their future? For most startups, the only thing 100% guaranteed is that their forecasts will be wrong; that’s simply what happens when you build a business from nothing. But you want to see that over time the management team is converging on a path to understanding and manipulating their own future, and a waterfall model is a clear and easy way to monitor this convergence.

In my current role, not as a board member but as a CEO myself, I also deploy a waterfall model to measure my own ability to predict the future of my company. We heavily triangulate the numbers that drive our monthly forecasts using both top-down and bottom-up channel-by-channel buildups. And this works fairly well, except when it comes to predicting Q4 revenue.

Let’s say your company is roughly tripling in revenue year over year, and that on top of that, your business, like most e-commerce businesses, is heavily weighted to Q4. That compounding effect can cause you to disbelieve the large numbers your model is feeding you, even very close to the beginning of the quarter, and to underforecast as a result.

Case in point: On the morning of November 1, 2017, with October results in front of me, I entered my reforecasts for the months of November and December. Those forecasts ended up being off by a factor of 2 1/2 times. That’s right: I couldn’t predict my own company’s revenue only 60 days out with greater than a plus or minus 150% confidence interval. If I’d been a board member, I’d have fired me as the CEO. As a result of my underforecasting, we ran out of critical components, and I put the company through fire drills that could have been easily avoided.

Now let’s add more context. Your business may be tripling year over year, but your annual growth rate itself may be an unreliable foundation for your forecast. What you really need to measure is the rate of change in your growth rate in the months leading into Q4. In November of 2018, keeping that in mind, I forecasted a six-times jump in November revenues over October actuals, and the same again for December. This time, my actual results ended up being only 11% lower than forecasted.

Misforecasting Q4 can be a make-or-break situation for a startup selling physical goods. On one hand, you can’t sell what you don’t have, so underforecasting will cause you to lose sales because you haven’t invested in sufficient inventory to fulfill customer orders. And since Q4 acts as a natural “nurse log” for the following year’s sales, your lost revenues will be compounded by a reduction in your starting point for growth over the next year. On the other hand, overforecasting can eat up cash and severely restrict your degrees of freedom — a situation that has rapidly killed many an e-commerce startup.

This year we began managing our revenue waterfall on a weekly rather than monthly basis beginning in October. We’ve also broken our waterfall into more lines of business to better spot microtrends we may have missed in previous years until it was too late to respond to them.

Time will tell how effective this will prove to be. Last month, I approved frighteningly high inventory investment numbers that as recently as a week ago seemed imprudent. And yet, yesterday, our largest line of business surpassed its entire Q4 goal, and we were scrambling for additional inventory. The impact of a very late Black Friday on consumer behavior is, as of the time of this writing, unknown. Will consumers spend the same amount online, but just later? It’s easier than ever this year to underforecast consumer demand because large holiday inventories will be staring CEOs in the face a week longer than usual.

One thing I know for sure is that running a physical goods e-commerce startup requires a high risk tolerance, this year more than ever.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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How The 2020 Elections Will Affect Your Company’s Advertising And What To Do About It

I’m not here to talk politics. In fact, I’m of the opinion that (certain) businesses and politics should try their best to never clash. However, there are situations where government and commerce are intertwined. Compliance regulations, for example, affect how litigious industries operate. Tariffs and trade wars impact how many product-based organizations sell and market their goods. And tax policy and its many intricacies matter to almost every company out there.

So, to rephrase, I’m here to discuss how to run a business in times of political happenings — specifically, how companies can expect to advertise on television during a presidential election cycle. While we’re still about a year out from the 2020 presidential election, it’s already showing signs of heating up. At the time of this writing, there are 15 Democratic and four Republican candidates vying for office. That number will obviously dwindle as we inch closer to November 2020, but it’s safe to say that the playing field will be crowded.

The 2020 elections will also be flush with cash. Industry analysts are forecasting a record amount spent by presidential hopefuls and their campaigns. In fact, political advertising could reach anywhere between $6 billion and $10 billion, a 59% jump from 2016.

Who gets the biggest piece of the proverbial media-spend pie? Local television.

This competition means that businesses advertising on local TV must take extra precautions as we approach the inevitable onslaught of electoral advertising. And businesses in swing states — which, incidentally, are predicted to boil down to four states in 2020: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida — should be paying extra attention.

If you’ve ever turned on a TV during an election cycle, you’re well aware that broadcast and cable television is dominated by political advertisements in the days leading up to the election. What many people may not know is that federal incentives encourage and facilitate this behavior.

Federal candidates are incentivized to leverage traditional broadcast channels by protections afforded by the Communications Act of 1934 and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This includes “reasonable access” to “reasonable amounts of time” on a broadcasting station for any legally qualified candidate. All candidates are afforded equal opportunities as well, which means that stations must offer uniform amounts of time and pricing to all.

Perhaps the most important thing businesses should consider, however, is the lowest unit charge of each station, which occurs 45 days prior to a primary and 60 days prior to a general election. During these windows, federal candidates are eligible for a station’s lowest rates, including discount privileges such as bonus spots or any other factors that enhance the value of their ads. In turn, this means that candidates are the most favored advertisers.

So, what does this mean for the rest of us vying for TV ad inventory?

If you’re anything like me, you’re not a presidential hopeful. However, if you run a business or work in any capacity of traditional advertising in virtually every other industry, you will be impacted by the election cycle.

As can be assumed by the protections afforded to candidates, ad inventory will be scarce and oversold, especially in swing states. This combination of high demand and restricted supply results in bloated rates where inventory does exist. Candidates also benefit from preemption, which means that other ads sold at lower-cost rates run the risk of getting bumped and replaced with political ads. When advertisers are bumped, stations offer a “make-good,” which provides either different time slots or credits for investments (which usually results in the latter, as competition is so fierce). Finally, because inventory remains competitive following political elections, advertisers will be left with the fallout from lost time and money.

Why companies should embrace digital media.

It’s not all gloom and doom, though. Unlike traditional broadcasting, digital media is far less affected by FCC regulations and extenuating circumstances. In fact, Twitter recently announced that it was banning all political ads after the fallout from the 2016 election (which, you may remember, had a pretty infamous and unprecedented data scandal).

Ultimately, embracing a more holistic media spend may get your business more advertising mileage in the ensuing months. Those who embrace a holistic approach — one that encompasses online video, over-the-top (OTT) television and connected television (CTV) — can still lock down inventory at normal rates. While competition will certainly be high and political advertisers are predicted to explore OTT and CTV options, the sheer availability of additional advertising channels has created a choice that was previously unavailable to advertisers.

It’s certainly an interesting time to exist in the world of digital and traditional advertising. We’ll see what this election cycle brings.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Managing Your Personal Development

Considering that your business venture ostensibly has you at the center of it, it can be harder than you think for you to find time for yourself amidst the flurry of activity within a startup. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it, and so many things that fall by the wayside with each new emergency that arises. Frankly, it can feel hard sometimes to even do the basic things that we need to keep ourselves together, like getting a good night’s sleep or a decent, uninterrupted meal. Anything beyond that for ourselves feels like a pipe dream, not unlike parents imagining the lost time they’ll make up for once their kids are grown and out of the house. 

Taking time for yourself while running your startup can feel selfish — a bit ironic given that you started a business out of your own persona ambitions and interests. It feels as though you should subsume the personal in all instances in favor of the professional, which explains why even families can take a temporary backseat while founders look to get their company off the ground. But being at the helm of a fledgling operations shouldn’t stunt your personal growth and development, and in fact should motivate you to seek out more challenges and learning opportunities. 

It’s easy to dismiss courses or seminars that come your way as unnecessary distractions or potential inconveniences. Those hours are time that could be spent on the work at hand, money that could be going into the business, and those sentiments are only magnified if it requires travel. But instead of thinking of the time lost or money spent, isn’t it worth thinking about what might be gained in each instance? Presuming that you’re not taking the time away to indulge a nascent interest in sailing or calligraphy, educational opportunities that offer the chance to burnish your knowledge and understanding of precepts involved in the day-to-day of your company could only serve to make you a better leader and CEO, not a delinquent one. 

Personal development might not be something that you devote much time to in the grand scheme of your business, but it should be something that you give due consideration to. After all, none of us are finished products as people or professionals or leaders simply because we’ve now assumed the top job in a (albeit still small) company. We can do better, be better as leaders and can further our own expertise with some occasional extracurricular learning, and arguably you owe it not only to yourself but to those people working with you and for you to be the best version of yourself for the sake of your collective venture.    

There are some aspects of your professional growth and development that might seem indulgent at first blush. Depending on your position in your respective industry, you might be offered the opportunity to speak on a panel or at a conference, something that many might shy away from. Beyond the obvious fear that many of us have about public speaking and crashing and burning on stage, it seems a bit like feeding your own ego to put yourself at the center of that kind of attention. But it is another area in which seeming self-interest is actually in service to the greater good; your appearance can help your standing within the industry, and that can only serve to benefit your company in the long run. So why not make the most of those opportunities to network and raise your profile, and with any luck enjoy some time away and maybe even some nice weather, if the event in question was smartly scheduled for sunny climes. 

It’s a challenge to make yourself a priority among all the other demands of your business, to be sure. Even with the best intentions, everything that isn’t of the utmost urgency or isn’t a flashing-red light emergency is undoubtedly going to get pushed off to a later time more often than not, frequently to be forgotten entirely.  But it’s worth taking a bit of time out from your exacting daily schedule to do a bit to advance yourself. We should look to iterate upon ourselves as much as what we create, and it’s going to take a better version of us to push our companies beyond what we currently think is possible. #onwards.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Improve Your Social Skills: 7 Books That Will Transform How You Communicate

You don’t have to be Cool Hand Luke to experience a failure to communicate. These seven books can help you overcome it.

Does it ever feel like everyone in your office is speaking a different language? Unless you’re working in a literal Tower of Babel, what you’re experiencing is most likely a breakdown across communication styles.

Rather than approaching this phenomenon with a defeatist “What can you do?” attitude, tackle it head-on by checking out some of the following books. Each work focuses on an aspect of the art and science of communication. Reading these various bestsellers, guides and how-tos will help you increase your verbal skills, allowing you to more effectively shepherd your team to greater productivity, contentment and achievement.

1. Improve Your Social Skills: How to Talk to Anyone — The Ultimate Guide to Improve Your Conversations and Your People Skills by Roy Briggs

Not everyone was born into the world blessed with the gift of gab. In fact, even extroverts can at times find themselves unable to effectively converse. Roy Briggs suggests tons of practical hacks you can immediately use to transform the way you interact with team members, clients and even strangers. I’m constantly speaking to both individuals and large groups; Improve Your Social Skills has given me some fresh ideas to implement whether I’m sitting across a table or standing on stage.

2. Surrounded by Idiots: The Four Types of Human Behavior and How to Effectively Communicate with Each in Business (and in Life) by Thomas Erikson

Can’t understand your team? Solve the problem by identifying members’ preferred behaviors. Thomas Erikson offers a color-coded way to place people into personality buckets: Maybe someone’s an assertive Red, a chill Green, a socializing Yellow, or a rational Blue. Each hue-based cohort shares strengths and weak points, making it easier to figure out how individuals absorb information. As someone who has taken plenty of leadership tests, I like Erikson’s straightforward model and anticipate using his techniques professionally and personally.

3. The Delicate Art: Learn to Say “No” and Unleash Your Performance by Lynn Carnes

Does your heart sink a little every time the word “no” falls from your lips? I can relate. Most people who are go-getters have been taught to think they must become yes-people, even if it causes stress. Lynn Carnes helps readers understand when they should decline opportunities in order to recover time and set their own agenda. Plus, she outlines how to say “no” with grace. I’m not always good about turning down requests, but after reading The Delicate Art, I think I’ll be able to say “no” here and there with greater ease.

4. Dealing With Difficult People: Fast, Effective Strategies for Handling Problem People by Ron Lilley

Some folks are pains in the neck, pure and simple. But in business, you don’t have the option of avoiding them. Instead, you have to outwit them, staying one step ahead without losing your cool. Ron Lilley’s book offers insights into what makes challenging people tick and how you can cleverly, creatively and adeptly defuse their hostility in the toughest situations. I can’t say I look forward to the next complainer I meet, but I’m grateful to have tips from Dealing With Difficult People to lean upon when it happens.

5. Open, Honest, and Direct: A Guide to Unlocking Your Team’s Potential by Aaron Levy

It’s a mantra worth repeating: Employees leave managers, not companies. Aaron Levy’s book explains that the “bad boss” problem often lies with authority figures who have never learned how to rally the troops. To rectify the situation, he lays out ways for managers to act impartially and communicate candidly so those under them feel safe and empowered to shine. I can relate to how important it is to positively influence a team. Honing a genuine leadership style is something I work at every day; Open, Honest, and Direct has already helped me do it.

6. Lead, Motivate, Engage: How to INSPIRE Your Team to Win at Work by Pearl Hilliard and Denise Lopez

Employee engagement rates in the U.S. are hovering at alarmingly low levels. Consequently, unless you’re 100% certain your workers are stimulated, inspired and encouraged, you need to consider different retention and job satisfaction tactics. Start by using Hillard and Lopez’s guidebook, which includes research-backed hints and ideas for using positive communication to ignite your team. I especially liked taking the self-assessment to identify areas I could improve on my way to becoming a more effective coach, boss and mentor.

7. Solve Employee Problems Before They Start: Resolving Conflict in the Real World by Scott Warrick

With the exception of agreeable hermits who never argue with themselves, everyone experiences conflict occasionally. However, managers are supposed to innately understand how to get everyone back to kumbaya status posthaste. That’s a tall order. Thankfully, Warrick shares a simple-to-follow three-step solution to de-escalating discord that relies on a combination of patience, self-security and emotional intelligence. Although I don’t enjoy settling disagreements among employees and peers, I feel better equipped to do so after learning Warrick’s recommended strategies for reaching a peaceful resolution.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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At The 2019 Forbes Healthcare Summit, The Cost Debate Focused On The Main Problem: Hospitals

When they talk about healthcare cost reductions, our politicians mostly focus on drug prices and insurance companies. Drug prices have been under the summit’s microscope for several years. This year’s summit shifted focus to medical providers, especially hospitals. In his introductory talk, Steve Forbes remarked that hospitals are the largest component of U.S. healthcare spend [and they employ over 50% of doctors]. He asked, “How can we address costs if we leave hospitals out?”

Seema Verma, the Administrator (top executive) of CMS (the Center for Medicare Services, the federal organization that administers Medicare and Medicaid) spoke, tying her remarks tightly to the outlook and goals of President Trump. Regarding healthcare costs, her key points were:

·    The U.S. has some of the best health technology in the world, but prices are very high. She aims to use free market forces that work elsewhere in the economy to put price pressure on high-price providers and make the system easier for consumers to navigate. CMS has recently promulgated regulations that force hospitals to disclose the real prices they charge to different payers for about 300 services; hospitals will be fined if they do not comply. [Most hospital charges to commercial payers are based on negotiated prices that have been kept confidential.]

·     Drug price escalation has slowed, even stopped: premiums for the Medicare prescription drug program are coming down. [Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also remarked that Pfizer’s U.S. prices declined overall in 2018 and 2019.]

·     Verma is not excited about Medicare for all: she does not want to put the other half of the U.S. healthcare system into what she characterized as a sluggish federal bureaucracy.

On the “Value Based Care” panel three CEOs of provider organizations talked about their vision for driving reductions in the cost of healthcare. The panelists were Michael Dowling, CEO of Norwell Health, New York state’s largest integrated health system, Dr. Laurie Glimcher, CEO of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a highly-regarded cancer treatment and research hospital in Boston, and Dr. Farzad Mostashari, CEO of Aledade, company that helps primary care providers operate as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that take financial responsibility for the cost of care for their customers.

Glimcher believes that the biggest cost reductions will come from technology-based cures developed by academic medical centers. She points to Alzheimer’s disease as a tidal wave of cost that will swamp the healthcare system within 20 years unless a cure is found. And she believes that Medicare-For-All will kill academic medical centers by transforming higher-paying commercially insured patients into lower-paying Medicare patients, starving the search for urgently needed cures.

Dowling warns that it would be unwise to squeeze hospital revenue: hospitals would be forced to cut services, such as mental health, that lose money but are important to community health. And he criticizes the regulation recently issued by CMS that forces hospitals to disclose the prices they charge to different payers. He argues that the data is too complex for outsiders to understand, and that once every hospital knows what other hospitals charge, the low-price providers will raise to equal what the high-price providers are getting.

Mostashari brought a fresh perspective. His company, Aledade, works with primary care providers that take financial responsibility for the full cost of care of their customers. Aledade providers have been able to reduce total cost of care significantly, e.g., by reducing emergency room visits by 25%. When asked how Aledade providers can take full responsibility for $5 billion of healthcare cost, he responded that he likes responsibility for all of that cost: “It’s easier to cut cost when the cost you cut is not your own revenue.” [This is why it’s hard for hospitals to cut cost: it is mostly their revenue.] As a buyer of hospital services, he is in favor of transparency: “The thing that makes me believe transparency will reduce costs is the degree to which hospitals resist it.”

Dowling’s argument that price transparency will cause low-price hospitals to raise prices sheds light on the healthcare cost problem. In a competitive market, information about who is the low-price supplier (for equal value) causes customers to move their business to the low-price provider, and high-priced providers must match price or lose revenue. In a market lacking effective competition (a monopoly or oligopoly), providers can and often do charge all that the traffic will bear. And in a regulated market, regulators do not allow providers to raise prices when they realize they are not charging all that the customer will tolerate. Dowling’s remark indicates that the market for hospital services is not competitive enough to discipline prices, and not regulated enough to prevent providers from exploiting their pricing power, and he predicts providers can and will raise price at will. Mostashari said as much: “Hospitals raise prices charged to commercial patients (the unregulated part of their business) because they can.”

Although Verma’s transparency initiative is well-meant, the main good that increased price transparency will do is make the problem of provider pricing power more visible. And although Glimcher’s argument that cures drive cost reduction has merit, it is incomplete. Some cures, notably the Hepatitis C drugs Harvoni and Sovaldi have driven demonstrable reduction in total healthcare costs. But tech-based cures can also drive costs up, such as the extraordinarily expensive T-cell therapies that save the lives of people who would otherwise have died quickly. These therapies extend lives, but they drive total cost up. So, it’s questionable that technology alone will bend the cost curve down. Medical economics continue to be dominated by price negotiation clout.

Entrepreneurs and leaders of established businesses, who buy medical services when they sponsor health benefit plans, have two high-level options to control costs. They can continue to water down the benefits of their plans, but that undermines their goal of using health benefits to attract employees and keep them productive. Or they can push back at the regional provider oligopolies by working with the best large, efficient health insurer/plan administrator they can find [large plans aggregate buying power to create clout in price negotiations with providers], and/or by reducing business with high-price providers: for example, excluding from health plans providers whose prices are out of line with demonstrated value, or sending major procedures out of region to specialized providers that offer bundled pricing.

The U.S. is a long way from a solution to its healthcare cost problem. But at least we are starting to talk about the most important parts of the problem.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Use The Power Of Storytelling To Humanize Your Brand

Stories. From childhood on, we’ve been drawn to them. They’re how we relate to the world. Fables teach us lessons about life (usually under the filter of cute animals). Myths provide allegories using powerful gods and goddesses. Even video games have storylines to keep us engaged and playing.

So how can brands use storytelling to sell?

Telling the story of your brand makes your company stand out. You likely have dozens—if not hundreds—of competitors selling similar products or services at similar price points. So how do you convince even just one customer to choose you above everyone else?

You could have a superior product … but that may not be apparent until after the purchase. Instead, you can tell your story. Hook that customer with a tale that resonates with them.

The story doesn’t even have to be about your product or service. Or why you started your company. For me, the story I tell most often is behind the name of my content marketing agency, Egg Marketing. It’s a curious name, and there’s a story behind it.

When I launched my marketing firm in 2006, I wanted a unique name but was stumped. Watching the film Funny Face, I noted the name of the bookstore that Audrey Hepburn’s character worked in was Embryo Concepts. I liked the idea of an embryo giving life to something, but thought Embryo Marketing was too grotesque a name! With a few iterations, I landed on Egg Marketing and have been hatching good ideas ever since!

When people ask me the story behind my brand’s name, it allows us to put business aside for a minute and just have a conversation. Usually, they chuckle at the story, and that paves the way to a more personal interaction after that.

Finding your brand’s story

Maybe you don’t feel like your brand has a story; in fact, it surely has many. The key is uncovering them. Consider the stories about:

  • How you started your business
  • Why you sell what you do
  • The difference you’re trying to make
  • How you have helped a customer
  • What makes your employees unique
  • What you have learned along the way

If this is the first time you’re delving into your stories, it may help you to write them out. Keep them relatively short; aim for high-level details rather than the minutiae.

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Remember that people want to be touched by a story in some way, whether that’s to laugh or even tear up. You want to emotionally connect to your audience so that your story resonates. And they want to relate to it! If you’re talking about how you’ve helped a customer, start with the problem that customer had (likely your audience has had the same issue).

Use your story in the right places

Once you’ve practiced your story (I’ve told mine so many times, it slides off my tongue), know the most strategic places to leverage it.

The power of storytelling works great in your marketing. Tell your story on your website, maybe in a blog post or email. Find ways to weave it into your social media posts.

When you’re in sales meetings, use that as your pitch, rather than how amazing your product is. Know your audience ahead of time so you can tweak your tale to have the biggest impact.

Pay attention to how people react. If they’re looking at their phones, you’re not hitting your mark. Rewrite the story until they put their phones down and pay attention. You want to be the one they remember, even if they hear a dozen sales pitches that day.

Consider, too, the timing of your storytelling. If you have a big pivot in the direction your company is going, be transparent about the story behind it. I have a client that has transitioned from creating children’s interactive stories through apps to actually helping brands tell their stories, same as I’m telling you to. That transition is a story in and of itself, and it’s one I’ve helped tell through a soon-to-be-published blog post.

We’re all human. We work at companies or run them. Why do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? I believe that by opening up our stories to others, we can better relate and connect, which is great for business.

What’s your story?

RELATED: 10 Wild and Crazy Marketing Ideas That Worked

This article was originally published on AllBusiness. See all articles by Susan Guillory.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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5 Unique Learning Conferences For Entrepreneurs And Educators To Attend In 2020

It’s that time of the year again. I like to share different conferences for entrepreneurs and educators who want to learn, grown, network, and make long-lasting relationships. For 2020, I’m sharing these top five conferences because they are unique for different industries.

This list is for entrepreneurs and educators to attend as we start this exciting new decade.

Here are my top five conference picks for 2020:

No Longer Virtual

No Longer Virtual is hosted by Sarah Elkins of Elkins Consulting. In 2014, a small group of people on LinkedIn came together and built relationships virtually through the platform. The bond between this group became so strong, especially as friends.

Elkins launched the conference not only to bring the group together, but to have others join, learn and network together in a live setting. At NLV, participants share their wisdom of entrepreneurship, branding, marketing, writing, and all of the amazing things that go into building a business.

From their site, “The NLV agenda is designed to help improve your sales, leadership, and personal communication through interactive, engaging sessions on topics like creating authentic, effective content and messaging, understanding how your personal brand impacts your professional life, how to build an audience online and offline using current technology, and leveraging your experience and relationships to scale and innovate in your business.”

As humans, we still need a great deal of live connection and engagement outside of our screens. Do you know how to truly connect beyond the keyboard?”

  • When: March 12-13, 2020.
  • Where: Fairmont Hotel at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Information: You can stop by Elkins’ site for more information.

Military Influencer Conference

The Military Influencer Conference is a unique conference focusing on mentorship, learning, networking and supporting each other.

Jeremy Knauff says, “In the military, there is a tremendous amount of mentorship at all levels, and it simply doesn’t exist in the same way in the civilian world. We would constantly teach both people under our leadership, and people who were in charge of us because everyone has different expertise, and we all need to be cross-trained to survive.

The Military Influencer Conference is based on that principle, and it’s a place for veterans to find the kind of brotherhood we had while serving, and to learn from each other. There are various sessions where experts speak on a particular topic, veterans can network, and everyone is teaching and learning from each other.”

According to their site, “The Military Influencer Conference is the largest gathering of entrepreneurs, leaders, and creatives in the military space. In its fourth year, MIC has quickly grown into a powerful community of Military Influencers who understand the importance of mentorship, storytelling, and collaboration.”

  • When: The Military Influencer Conference is scheduled for September 23-27, 2020.
  • Where: Marriott Rivercenter in San Antonio, Texas.
  • Information: You can stop by The Military Influencers’ site for more information.

Toronto Change Days

The theme for Toronto Change Days 2020 will be Building Bridges. According to Toronto’s Change Days: “Living in a world of rapid change, there is a great deal of anxiety affecting our daily lives around the globe. Change makers will need to build bridges to cross divides at the work place and in the society at large. This conference is also held in Berlin, and details are yet to be announced.”

Holger Nauheimer says, “Toronto Change Days is a specific large group event that runs over one to three days. It blends large group facilitation methods, arts and physical experiences with workshops on topics that allow a deep exploration of the overall theme of the event. As in conventional conferences, there is a group of people who prepare their input beforehand. However, unlike in conventional conferences, the input and exchange between participants take place simultaneously.”  

  • When: November 6-8, 2020.
  • Where: The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, 6 Garamond Court, Toronto.
  • Information: You can stop by Toronto Change Days’ site for more information.

e2e Teacher New Year Reboot Conference

Although this next conference focuses on teachers and unique professional development for learning, it is also a great way for education entrepreneurs to learn about the current conversations taking place in education, and garnering an understanding regarding what teachers need and face daily.

Carrie Conover says, “With over 70 presentations, the conference is full of meaningful, practical and effective teaching tips from true professionals—your fellow educators. This year’s conference focuses on how we can finish the school year feeling strong, both personally and professionally. Presentations will focus on teacher wellness, classroom engagement and surviving testing season. The conference is free and virtual.”

This conference runs at the end of December and then reboots again in the summer.

When: December 28-29, 2019 and in the summer July 17-18, 2020.

Where: Online—Virtual.

Information: You can stop by educators2educators’ site to learn more.

Young Entrepreneur Convention

With so many young people moving into entrepreneurship, finding a wise mentor and building a network early can be priceless. The purpose of the convention focuses on Founders Helping Founders. The Young Entrepreneur Convention can help the next generation of entrepreneurs with business guidance, provide mentorship, and offer further networking opportunities.

This conference is especially useful for young business owners who already own a business or want to start one in their young years. Attendees will get the chance to network and learn from successful business leaders in different niches and industries.

According to the Young Entrepreneur Convention’s site, “We are devoted to providing a forum in which seasoned founders share what has and has not worked in building companies with early-stage founders and college students who are interested in launching their own companies.

The Young Entrepreneur Convention is the starting point for founders who want to learn about the ups and downs of starting a company.”

When: April 4, 2020.

Where: Ames, Iowa. Please check their site for updates on the specific location.

Information: You can learn more by stopping over at their website.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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This Eco-Habit App Hopes To Make It Easy To Live Environmentally-Friendly

As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, and planet-friendly living options become more and more available, it seems to be even harder to pick which impacts to make.

Reusable shopping bags may be an easy choice, but what about picking between organic or low carbon footprint food? Or whether to eat less meat, or focus on what’s in season? How about choosing between plastic free toiletries, or animal cruelty-free?

The choices are endless and it can get overwhelming. Nearly a third of Brits feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis, a statistic which rises to 40% amongst young people.

In 2017, a group of friends decided they wanted to make the whole process of living carbon-minimal easier, and so put their minds together to come up with a virtual assistant that would choose for you. Co-founders Antonius ‘Tono’ Willms, Raphael Ferretti and Lennart Paar, who are based between Munich, Vienna and New York, launched Eevie.

“Being nature lovers and convinced that time is running out to prevent global heating, we set out to understand why people (including ourselves) struggle to live more sustainable lives,” explains Willms. “While we drive our cars and power our homes with fossil fuels, homes in other parts of the world are already being flooded. While we buy fish sticks at the supermarket, in many places there is more plastic than there are fish in the water.

“While most of us know and acknowledge that this is a problem, few actually act on the issue and change what they are doing.”

The trio started to investigate what was preventing them from living more eco-friendly lives, and realized a lack of knowledge of the cheaper, easier solutions was to blame.

“We set out to address these issues and help people find and learn about the locally available sustainable solutions and showing them what impact they have.”

They developed an eco habit tracker to help people improve their carbon impact, with the aim of not compromising on convenience.

The trio say it is the first eco-habit tracker to understand its users’ individual behaviour.

“Eevie was designed to suit people’s lifestyle and preferences instead of giving generic solutions, making it easier to recycle, shop local, eat less meat, compost at home, travel sustainably and more. It provides users with information, resources, tips and gentle nudges right when they need them.”

Eevie, which is available on the App and Play store for free, provides immediate feedback on how certain decisions affect day-to-day carbon footprint, everything from commuting to work, to source local produce.

“Despite there being apps that address making sustainable choices, people still struggle because there are no one-fits-all solutions,” Willms continues.

“We believe that a data driven approach to providing useful solutions to users can give us the necessary advantage to reach the millions of people who are marching the streets and are ready to make changes to their lifestyle.”

Willms says most of the company’s competitors are currently focusing more on carbon offsetting and “less on actually helping their users mitigate their emissions through behavior change”.

“The ones we think do this best are ForGood, LiveGreen and Wren.”

The company has struggled to be taken seriously as a business by investors, Willms adds. “A stigma we carry with us is the notion that doing something good or ecological is contradictory to creating a profitable business.

“On one occasion during a pitch presentation, a potential investor asked us ‘whether we are addressing the business or philanthropic side of his brain’.”

However the the co-founders’ goal is to become the leading guide for sustainability over the next five years.

“Our vision is to participate in building a world in which sustainable behavior is the norm,” Willms says. “This will require us to build all the tools required to enable a community of doers that want to make this change happen.”

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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