From U.A.: Hi there, RanLew
My wife and I recently started our own business in transcription, as well. I don't think that I have to tell you about the many pros of a husband and wife team in a venture of this sort. From our own experience, however, I would have to say that I agree with your method of proceeding. I'm not sure about your area, but it can be quite competitive in the field of MT. J. and I are finding out more and more that the doctors that you REALLY want to transcribe for are willing to pay for the personalized and quality transcription that a streamlined transcription service can provide.
Too rapid business growth is kind of like having a child that grows too fast. He has that terrible awkwardness about him that makes everyone else pick him last for their football team, the parents are constantly worried about keeping him fed and clothed, and everyone waits years and years for him to look and act normal. Sometimes this all can't be helped, but in business overly quick growth can be contained.
Case in point: About a year ago, J. and I made first contact with a doctor in our local town, and at that point we were very anxious to acquire new accounts. But we didn't want to get into the "vacuum up everything that we can" mentality, either. This doctor wanted a lot of compromises in our price, format, and other things that would certainly have cost us time, expenditure, and effort in order to pick up this one account alone.
_We_ opted not to take him on as an account, but rather to go on developing our skills as business owners by taking on the type of accounts we felt we could best serve at our position in the game. This may have seemed like slow growth in the number of accounts that we accumulated, but it did allow us to investigate new equipment, new software, new accounting methods, and the like, without feeling undue pressure to "get it all done." This is exactly the type of pressure that you would have in the corporate or mainstream office setting, and it is usually that type of system that many of us are driven away from so that we can work from home.
To catch up with the story above, we were settling into a fine routine with the slow, but very steady growth of our business, taking on what we felt we could handle at any given time. About a year after our first contact with the doctor mentioned, WE received a call from HIM. Apparently he had lost one of his transcriptionists, and needed another to help him with the great load of work that he had. J. told him again of our service, and even mentioned some of the other doctors in our area that we transcribe for. "REALLY??" was his reply. "Then I'm sure that this will work out quite well," he said. This was in spite of the fact that we were now charging more than he was accustomed to.
After several months of handling his account, he brought to our attention that he had about four transcriptionists taking care of him, and that he really wanted to consolidate his work and use only two. Because of the level of quality and consistency of our work - some of the others frequently left many blanks, made up prescriptions, and held up the work - he chose us as one that he wanted to keep.
The lesson that I learned from this (at least for the business of our size) is that taking your time in developing your business never costs you business. As a matter of fact, in the long run it will make your business and your reputation prosper. You will be much more flexible later on by taking thorough care of the accounts that you have now, rather than scooping them all up today and trying to accomodate everyone later. You, too, will probably find your satisfaction increased, while minimizing the headaches that growth carries with it.
To make a long, long story short, we now have two in-house employees and do MT for several family practices and the office practices for a pediatric cardiologist and two neurosurgeons as well as a large physical therapy clinic and a radiology lab. We have our ups and downs, but for the most part, it was the best decision we've ever made.
For about the first six months, I was absolutely useless. Everything had to be read and edited. Since I was working on a typewriter at a small, backwards hospital, I got very little done because of all the time it took to edit. In addition, I was trained by an MT who really didn't care much about the profession and, as I later discovered, didn't really take the time to point out all my errors. As time went by, I grew to love transcription and the perfectionist in me really started to emerge. I started looking things up that I thought I already knew only to find out I really didn't know them. Rather than just knowing how to spell the words, I started to learn what the words meant and why doctors did certain things and prescribed certain drugs. I think it made me a much better MT.
After I became proficient at the hospital, I started taking some of the overflow work home. Because I enjoyed working at home so much, my husband and I started soliciting doctors' offices hoping to get new accounts. It's been a slow start, mainly because of time restrictions; but we currently have some steady accounts that we enjoy doing, and they appreciate the quality of our work. Our goal now is to be able to work together solely from home.
U.'s story: My story is very different from J.'s. I had never heard of medical transcription until we started dating. When we got married in 1989, J. was already one year into her profession. While she seemed to be learning so much and learning to enjoy her job, I was pressing on with my work in retail. Over the years, after working in both retail and banking, I began to feel that there must be something more to this wonderful world of work than just waiting for the people to come to me. I began to investigate other service-oriented businesses such as hardware maintenance or beginner's level computer training because I found I really enjoyed computers and had developed a knack for tinkering with hardware and .INI files.
But that idea never really seemed to pick up steam, so I tried looking into other alternatives. All the while, I was also applying what I'd learned in retail to helping J. market what eventually became our own home-based business, A. Transcription. One day a friend, finding me especially disgruntled, said to me, "Have you thought of training in the field of transcription? J. seems to like it." A little light bulb went on! I wondered why I hadn't thought of that myself.
So we invested in some publications for training and extra equipment for the office, made good use of every online avenue that we could afford so that we would have some support from others, and committed ourselves to the goal of eventually working exclusively from home without the need for other secular support. J. is a great mentor, and though I sometimes buck the training regimen that she puts up for me, she says that I am progressing well.
We have no children yet, but our time and lives are filled with the activity of helping others. Our goal of working from home is to spend quality time with each other; it's not so much to make a lot of money.
I once asked a self-employed gentleman who came into my store, "What is the best and the worst thing about working for yourself?" After a very long and thoughtful pause, he said, "The best thing is that you don't have to answer to anyone. When you want to go on vacation, you just go." He continued, "The worst thing about working for yourself is that when you come back from vacation, the work is there waiting for you." Ain't that the truth? Working for yourself, particularly at home, is not for everyone. As we are continuing to learn, it takes much discipline and hard work; and, it is much harder than we anticipated. It takes realistic goals and the right motivation. It's working for our family.
My wife started in the medical transcription field in 1978, in Dothan, Alabama. She was an office manager for an ophthalmologist and helped with transcription when there was a backlog. She worked for the ophthalmologist for approximately one year and then went to work as office manager for a neurosurgeon. She was responsible for all office functions and again helped with transcription when necessary. She enjoyed this job very much, and the doctor was great (there are some out there that are good to work for). She stayed there for nearly eight years before deciding to move on. Then she went to work as office manager for a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. She only worked for him approximately one year as my job required us to move to Tallahassee, Florida.
Once we were settled in Tallahassee, she felt it was time for a change and decided not to pursue a position as office manager in a medical practice. While in Dothan, we saw that there was great potential for a home-based medical transcription business; so, until she decided what she really wanted to do, she began advertising for home-based transcription work. In 1989, she contracted with an ENT and a neurologist. We soon realized that this could indeed be a very good business since there was obviously a great need for GOOD transcriptionists. Since that time, by word of mouth from existing accounts and mostly by the grace of God, she has expanded the business greatly. Our accounts now include ENT, neurology, internal medicine, gynecology, cardiology, physical therapy, and a rehabilitation hospital. We also do work for the Department of Professional Regulation for the State of Florida. This includes bimonthly medical advisory meetings where medical malpractice cases are reviewed by a panel of physicians which makes recommendations regarding probable cause for malpractice. This involves many areas of medicine depending on the types of cases they are reviewing at that particular time.
As you can see, we stay very busy. I still work for the State of Florida (my current job is mainframe communications), and I am also a major participant in our business. I proofread the transcription done by the subcontractors and print all of the final reports and letters.
From my medical records days, I had always enjoyed medical transcription, and starting doing hers as a favor mostly, first on office time. As time went on, more doctors were added to the practice. They were thinking of contracting it out to an outside service and I asked for a chance to be "that company." That's how it started. Eventually, I found although I loved the patients, I hated the office politics, and enjoyed my safe haven at home with my transcription.
In July of 1993, with 17 years of nursing under my belt and a simmering case of burnout, I took the plunge, left my nursing job and went full-time with the transcription. Then Jim had knee surgery in March of 1994, and while he was at home recuperating, he helped with the transcription, and we were hooked. We loved working together as we are truly best friends as well as marriage partners, and he left his job working as a nurse in surgery in July of 1994. We have had as many as 23 doctors to transcribe for (way too many) and currently only about 12 or so. We also have some offices who call us when their in-house transcriptionist is gone, so that's a little extra to help pay car insurance for two teenage boys!
Some of our friends marvel at our being able to work together in our home and feel it would be too much togetherness for them. To each his own, but we feel that we are very conscious of giving each other enough space, plus our other interests and friends. We live in a house with a wrap-around porch. One of our favorite things is to watch a little early morning news and sit on the porch with a cup of coffee. Then in we go to the office (a converted sun room), the television goes off, and we get busy. For those who wonder, we have been able to earn as much--and actually exceed--what two nurses would make in this area of the country. It hasn't been a difficult transition for us for the most part; most of our "rocks in the road" have been due to our lack of accounting and business training, but we have a CPA (one of my former patients) who helps us stay out of "IRS jail."
We feel really lucky to have found each other and something we can do together like this. We wouldn't trade it.
A year out of college, I started my transcription business. Clint was always a big supporter of me working at home and having my own business. He NEVER complained about the amount of money I was making; sometimes that was $200 in a month and we'd have to count pennies to buy a loaf of bread.
In 1992, Clint was really unhappy in his position as a collection manager. Who could blame him? By that time, he'd gotten very good at working on computers. We decided he could work as a computer consultant and start helping me with the transcription, which was getting to be a pretty big job.
We worked in the same office for quite a while and then decided we needed a little "space" and moved his office upstairs. I think we actually saw more of each other when he was working outside the house. Even though he was not a trained typist, he did a very good job on the transcription and continued to help me for the next couple of years until he broke his hand. About the time this happened, our independent study program, Review of Systems, was really starting to take off. The transcription was getting to be more than I could handle. I gradually trained two of my students to take on my accounts and then gave them the accounts.
Clint and I are still working together, answering computer questions for our students, writing for MT Monthly, and also helping a friend of his who owns a computer store. This works well for us as we each have our own things to do and some separate interests.
The best thing that has come out of this joint venture is the amount of quality time we are able to spend with the kids. They seem to be very secure in the fact that we are both working at home and can come to their rescue on a moment's notice. If one of them is sick, we can keep them home without worrying about explaining to the boss why we won't be in that day. Kids grow fast. Right now, they're our top priority.
Upon our return to Maryland in 1988, she again returned to Harbor, but several rather sticky situations eventually resulted in her resignation. The old "burn out" was not far down the list of causes for this, along with some repercussions from her previous illness. It was then she looked into medical transcription, as she had done some radiology work in the field while in college many years before in a doc's office. She began work in a small office in Glen Burnie, MD, hired without benefit of any formal MT training, and eventually hooked up with a work-at-home service doing work for NAH and Howard County General Hospital in Columbia as well as a couple of private accounts. She stayed with this service until it went "belly up" this summer, at which time she hooked on with Medi-Trans.
As for me, the scenario is a bit different. I am currently two years retired from federal government service with the Defense Dept., where I was a Russian linguist, among other jobs. Part of my job often involved both verbatim transcription and "gisting" of Russian voice, so my transcription background goes way back, though not in the medical field. After Jan began home transcription, I set up her computer station and was involved in some software upgrades and automated features I prepared to make her work simpler and quicker. One thing led to another, and I told her I thought I could do that stuff. Well, I began fooling around with some of her tapes (all tape recorded material then), and I found it was not that difficult for me. Having Jan available as a reference source for medical terminology left me only needing typing skills (about 100 WPM) and listening/hearing ability, which I developed to a fine degree during my prior work with the government. I wound up not only working part-time for the same service, but also doing some training of new employees. I quickly began producing fast work and was offered a full-time position, which I turned down at that time. However, a bit later when the Defense Dept. was scaling down and looking to push a few of us "dinosaurs" into early retirement with a juicy lump sum cash payment, I talked to the service and found the offer was still good, so I started working full-time. At the same time, I began work part time in-house at NAH, though this position lasted only about 3 months.
Jan and I do strictly hospital work for the current service, though Jan does have one private account for an oral surgeon as well. We do primarily discharge summaries since the in-house staff at NAH is small, and the hospital is very busy. However, whenever the work load piles up a bit, we often do consultations and ops notes as well. As an addendum, this particular hospital is in the planning stages of sending MTs home to work, and both Jan and I have been offered jobs with the hospital if and when this takes place. We've had no formal discussions yet, but the position sounds pretty tempting considering the benefits.
Having both husband and wife doing the same work is really great. We have each other for help, plus it gives us a source of endless conversation and a lot in common. My only advice to others would be to put your offices in different parts of the house. It's one thing to do the same work, but sitting side by side all day is not a good thing!
10/10/95, Peter Benac and Rita, firstname.lastname@example.org
I was working a contract in Jackson, Mississippi, about to get through my second divorce. I was feeling pretty blue one day and posted a message in ALT.PERSONALS. Two weeks later I got a reply from this person in Kittrell, NC. She was looking for a pen-pal like Whoopie Goldberg had in Jumping Jack Flash. We conversed for about two weeks on the Internet. On the 25th of March (her birthday), I drove from Jackson to Raleigh to meet her. Rita and I have been together ever since.
Even though we live together, she still sends me mail via the internet. Six weeks ago, she quit her job at the Duke School of Nursing and became my business partner as well as my soulmate. What amazes me about this is the parallel path our lives took 400 miles apart. I grew up in Upstate New York and she's always lived in North Carolina.
Rita is a 1992 graduate of Vance-Granville College, where she earned an associates degree in Medical Office Technologies (their fancy name for MT). She worked for Duke Medical Center and then for the Duke School of Nursing. She has a total of 3 years' experience transcribing.
I am a freelance software engineer, specializing in writing custom applications for Windows, Unix, and Novell. I use C/C++, Paradox, Informix, and Delphi for my applications. I support and install Novell and TCP/IP networks, provide administration services for Unix workstations, and provide support for various PC applications (Word Perfect Office, Microsoft Office Lotus SmartSuite, Paradox ). I'm currently a Registered Novell Developer and will soon be a Certified Novell Engineer. Phone: 1-919-430-1025 or 1-201-812-6335