A Note from Jim Greatorex
on April 15, 2020
Our Sincere Thanks and Thoughts and Prayers
Before I get into this month’s important update, I just want to take a moment and thank all the Live at Home members for answering the call for their customers during this pandemic period. We have heard stories of members going the extra mile to help their customers be safe at home by getting the job done. We at VGM want to thank you for the service you provide and lives that you have made a big difference in with important services in the last eight weeks. We must also mention the frontline workers, whether in healthcare or other essential businesses. This group of people truly define heroism by putting themselves at risk on our behalf and they deserve our sincere gratitude and respect. We also want to send our thoughts and prayers to those who are sick or have loved ones who have been affected by this silent enemy. May God bless you and keep you.
An Important Message to Live at Home Members
I don’t like revealing this because it makes me realize that, even though in my mind I’m not quite there, most will think I’m an old man. I’ve been in the home medical products industry since 1981! I know, I probably am an old man and should get over myself. I’ve seen lots of different economic conditions, many ups and certainly some eye-opening downs, but nothing compares to March and April 2020.
In my career, for the most part, this industry has been relatively recession proof. It has always been a source of comfort to me knowing that no matter what, health needs will be in demand. COVID–19 is a very different animal. For the home respiratory industry, they are so busy they can’t keep up. Their customer-facing workers are asked to be on the frontline putting themselves and their families at risk. They are also scrambling to get product as demand is higher than supply.
In the rest of the home medical products industry, for more companies than not, new business slowed in April. Most stayed busy filling the existing pipeline, but the phones and referrals have slowed down. The good news is that when the phone does ring, the tire kickers are gone and it’s a serious buyer calling in. Companies in coronavirus hot spot markets are seeing calls from discharge planners go up as they look to free up beds and get non-infected people out of the hospitals. Members who work with state programs have mostly seen that work slow, and in some states, be completely put on hold. VA business is sporadic, and when approved, many times the veteran does not want installers in the home. Workman’s Comp cases are still happening, but again, if it is a job that can wait at all delays are happening.
We do not know when we will be able to conduct “business as usual,” but most predict that the other side of this pandemic will result in a “new normal” way of life and a new way we service our customers. With the home access industry, a non-mature industry looking to find its identity and recognition in the market place, we have some challenges and some excellent opportunity. What we at VGM Live at Home are working to help you with is to understand the challenges and opportunities and collaboratively help navigate the rest of 2020.
Our New Challenge
The toughest part of this event is that many, if not all, members were primed for an exciting year of growth for the industry. Projections will likely have to be modified for most, and the turning point many of us saw coming in 2020 will be delayed. But rest assured it’s not going away
Our biggest challenge right now is getting our companies through May and June. We believe it more likely than not that business will be slower as the project pipelines get smaller through May and then we start to come back to some degree in June. The new business we get will be delivered differently, but we will find safe ways for our employees to perform the jobs and the customers to receive them in their home. To facilitate that, VGM Live at Home will host what we are calling Virtual Town Hall meetings every three weeks starting April 24 at 10 a.m. CST. At these meetings, we will have a mix of members and manufactures share their experiences, provide some lessons learned, and tips for keeping their companies going through the pandemic period. By sharing and helping each other, together we can survive and prepare for the other side of this challenge. Whether it’s how to best benefit from the new government assistance program or sharing resources for masks and other PPE.
Our Silver Lining
As with many challenges, comes opportunity. We believe some members will find new business opportunities and new methods of doing business that may become more common place. Virtual Home Assessments may become common, working with better sanitation will likely be a new normal, and we suspect that new efficiencies will be found that could add to future bottom lines.
Here’s our silver lining—we believe that when we get back to some type of normalcy and that there will be a big bubble of business that will flood the market. Those who are able to prepare for this bubble will see exciting growth. One other grim aspect of COVID-19 is that assisted living and other senior housing programs will lose the public trust that they can be safe havens. In turn, many will look to keep their loved ones in a home setting and either forgo those options or take their family members out of those settings. This will add more demand for home access companies than what we were already projecting. Homecare as a whole will be seen as the best option for many as the golden years arrive.
So, please watch for our COVID-19 alerts, watch for our town meetings, and connect with us if you have any questions, want to share a tip that may help others, or would just like another set of eyes to take a look at your particular circumstances.
God bless and hang in there. Together we will find the lemonade in this tragedy.