As doctors become frustrated with paperwork, red tape and stifling patient loads, some are taking matters into their own hands and starting a new kind of doctor's office, often with the help of a dedicated businessperson. "Concierge physician services" is a term that covers patient-financed health care. This has many variations, but most often, the patient pays a yearly or monthly fee for services like premium access, more personalized visits, even house calls.
Dr. John Blanchard, 34, is a founder and managing partner of Premier Private Physicians in Clarkston, Michigan, as well as president of the American Society of Concierge Physicians. "We were unhappy with the service we were able to provide and the quality of health care we were able to deliver to patients in the traditional health-care setting," he says. In a regular practice situation, doctors have 3,000 to 4,000 patients; with his 3-year-old business, each has about 600. "It restores the integrity of the physician-patient relationship," says Blanchard.
Because these companies don't bill insurance, they can have a smaller ancillary staff and lower overheard costs. Experts say family practice and internal medicine physicians are typically the ones who shift to a concierge model.
Katherine Harmer, 33, is founder and president of Higher Care in Denver. She came from a technology industry background and was propelled into starting a concierge physicians business due to the loss of her father and a desire to do something that really mattered. "You really have to do your research, and you have to have good attorneys," she says of starting this business. She handles all the year-old practice's business matters, while physician James Benoist handles the patients. Higher Care is about to earn a profit, and Harmer expects they will have a full patient load by the end of their second year.-Amanda C. Kooser
The Hispanic market is sizzling--Hispanic purchasing power is expected to hit $1.2 trillion in 2010. "This has become a highly desirable market for mainstream Americans," says Elena del Valle, president of the Hispanic Marketing & Communication Association.
But over the past three years, leading U.S. advertisers budgeted an average of just 2.4 percent of their resources to target Hispanic consumers, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies. The time is ripe to help these companies decipher the vast Hispanic market and target their marketing dollars to reach this prized demographic.
One possible niche is teaching companies how to communicate in Hispanic-oriented media and how to be sensitive to this market when mass marketing. Advertisers are seeking specific, up-to-date information on the Hispanic market--even down to the size and purchasing habits of Hispanics in a certain ZIP code. Becoming an expert on the types of segmentation is key--for example, you must know how the Los Angeles Hispanic population differs from that of Miami or New York City.
Tony Moreno founded Huellas.com , a provider of multimedia and marketing services for the Hispanic market, in Pembroke Pines, Florida, in 1998. "Hispanics are very proud of their culture and generally like to be catered to in their own language and according to their cultural heritage," says Moreno, 38. He's built his international company into a six-figure business by coordinating and producing events such as a pageant and fashion show in Florida aimed at the Hispanic market.
"It's hard to find an industry today that shouldn't have a Hispanic marketing strategy," says Luis Garcia, president and founder of Garcia 360� , a Hispanic advertising firm in San Antonio, Texas. Use that to your advantage when marketing your services: Show companies examples of other businesses whose sales have grown after targeting the Hispanic market. Just about any industry is worth a look--food retailing, clothing, financial services, travel, manufacturing. Simply determine which industries and companies are a good match for your skills.-N.L.T.
Raise your hand if you have security concerns when it comes to your hardware, software and network. With spam, spim, security breaches, software patches, viruses, worms and hackers to worry about, many businesses are turning to technology security consultants for help. While some will use their regular IT vendors, there's an increasing demand for specialized consultants who are up-to-date and knowledgeable about all aspects of technology security.
Mike Ryder, founder and president of Franklin, New Jersey-based Safelink Networks LLC , found his focus in IT consulting. Ryder, 33, serves the needs of small businesses and schools, with the main task of securing their networks and internet connections. Self-funded Safelink isn't yet a year old, but Ryder has built a comfortable client base, and his sales have been doubling every month. He attributes some of his success to his ability to explain technical issues in a nontechnical way. "My background wasn't technical. I'm more like a regular person than a tech geek," says Ryder, whose history degree went on the shelf in 1993 when he joined the data communication equipment business where his brother worked. Ryder has also found a smart way to keep his costs down. Rather than stocking up on employees, he uses a loose federation of trusted independent contractors to fill out his service offerings.
According to IT and telecom research firm IDC, Ryder is working in a strong area. Small and midsize businesses are a fast-growing market for IT services, especially in the areas of network and security consulting. "During the next five years, the share of services spending by small and midsize companies will grow from 22 percent to 28 percent of the market in the U.S.," says Rebecca Segal, vice president of Worldwide Services at IDC, based in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Ryder's advice for prospective tech security entrepreneurs: Invest some time in human networking, and build solid relationships with customers and colleagues. "What's important for me is for this company to focus on taking care of a core group of customers," he says. Entrepreneurs with the technical know-how and desire to keep up on the latest in security can do well serving this market.-A.C.K.