Bernie Lambrese wants to know: Do you ‘pressure test assumptions?’

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

BRISTOL, R.I. – Bernie Lambrese, who has started, built and sold five homecare businesses in his 30-year career, is rebuilding his consulting business. Lambrese started Healthcare Strategies 20 years ago with his wife, Kelly Lambrese, and business partner Joe Haley, but he’s making the consulting company his top priority again after selling Infusion Resource, a home infusion provider, to Amerita in 2016 and Care Resource, a home health agency, to Encompass Health earlier this year. Here’s what Lambrese had to say about the importance of having another set of eyes looking at your company.

HME News: Your firm offers a variety of services: leadership and management, finance and accounting, reimbursement, operations, and sales and marketing. Where should providers start?

Bernie Lambrese: I think it really starts with leadership and management. There’s a tremendous benefit from having an engaged board and informed board members—it could be an advisory board vs. a board of directors. An entrepreneur needs deadlines and to be accountable to somebody. They need someone to pressure test their assumptions. My businesses have benefited from having engaged board members for a period of time. If you don’t have that, you lose your sense of focus and urgency.

HME: What’s one key takeaway from the businesses you’ve started, built and sold?

Lambrese: Every business we started, the markets were cluttered, but we always figured out a way to provide a novel or innovative product or service.

HME: Can you provide an example?

Lambrese: In 2001, with Respiratory Solutions, which grew to five locations throughout New England, we were really one of the first companies to adopt Invacare’s HomeFill system. We were new to respiratory so we didn’t have any assumptions, and we were, again, the type of entrepreneurs looking at novel products, and it seemed to make sense. The HomeFill was an important component of building up an oxygen consensus quickly.

HME: Why did you exit that market?

Lambrese: We looked on the horizon and saw competitive bidding and we aggressively sought to exit the market before that had an impact on valuations. That was in 2004.

HME: Competitive bidding is very much part of the HME landscape today.

Lambrese: I do think there’s still some opportunity. HME is not going away. There’s been a lot of consolidation but the companies that are left are solid. They just need to focus on getting bigger through their sales and marketing strategies.

HME: How should providers view sales and marketing in the current market?

Lambrese: They need to aim at higher margin products and services. Doing more of the same is not necessarily a good thing. The biggest challenge for operators today is balancing profit and quality. We’ve done that well; we can help with that. Even figuring out where to go and how to get there is a challenge can be a challenge, whether it’s HME or home health, it’s essentially the same blocking and tackling.