Your AFH Administrator class manual says that other adult family home providers are your competition. But regardless of what your instructor taught you, I want to encourage and challenge you to turn your so-called “competition” into allies instead. I’ll show you how.
Engaging with other AFH providers, especially those near your own AFH, as valued networking partners and professional colleagues will vastly improve your chances of success and help grow your business faster. Too many providers fear they’d be loosing business to their “AFH competitors” so they isolate… but I can tell you that there is more than enough for everybody. Providers are not your competition – on the contrary. Adult family home owners are a unique breed, and much too often conditioned to work in isolation from one another. As a small business owner, it is a lot more challenging – even detrimental – to work in isolation.
My mindset has always been this; “The rising tide lifts all boats.” You can become the tide that lifts all boats. For example, I attract way more clients and can’t take them all, so I always send my overflow to other providers rather than to institutions. Having a strong network of AFH providers can help you fill your beds more quickly, and potentially save you many thousands of dollars in referral fees.
To help you network effectively with other providers, here is an approach to help you gain allies rather than competition, and help you become the center-point provider in your own neighborhood so other providers will want to work with you.
1 – Be proactive by making contact first
Call nearby providers and set the right tone from the beginning.
- Even if you are new and still have plenty to learn, you also have a great mentor and expect to quickly become busy.
- You’re looking for quality care providers to send extra business to, anyone who is not a good match for your home… “are you interested in networking and supporting each other in this way?”
- Your clear intention should be, “I am building my referral partners network and I want to work in collaboration with quality providers like you, not in competition with you.”
2 – Don’t ask yourself, “What can they do for me?” but instead ask, “What can I bring to the table?
After making initial contact and having shared something personal first, engage them to discover what their needs are. Be genuinely curious in your intention to learn about them. Make it a point to discover their needs, their struggles and problems, and what they wish to accomplish – how could you help them? Look for ways in which you could contribute to them and their success – I know this might be counterintuitive to some people, but this mindset has greatly contributed to my own prosperity, “the more value I bring to the world at the market place, the more I prosper.” And please don’t fool yourself; no matter how new you are, you do have something to contribute – find it.
Here are a few basic questions to help you get going;
- I’d like to ask you some questions so I can understand your needs better – is that OK?
- What kind of clients are you looking for?
- What is your strongest suit?
- Do you specialize in any particular kind of clients or illness?
- Any area of special knowledge?
- DSHS clients okay?
- People with special needs?
- Price range? What’s the lowest you can accept?
- What challenges are you facing?
Remember to look for actionable solutions you can help with; don’t get caught up in commiserating on problems. It’s critical to stay positive, uplifting, and to keep envisioning a bright future for both you and them.
3 – Be transparent, and have clear intentions
Don’t be needy. This is one of the most common mistake that get people rejected. Being needy! Have you ever had a very needy person clinging to you in desperation? What’s your gut reaction to that? You just want to get away!
Don’t be greedy. This is different than being needy, but similar. Greedy people just want as much information as possible to use for their own benefit, and it’s usually clear they don’t intend to give anything back in return. Be generous instead.
Ditch the hidden agenda. For example not being direct about what you want, or sneakily fishing for details… especially before you reveal something about yourself. Instead, lead by example; share your intention first, ask for permission, then ask your questions.
Lastly, if you do need help with something specific, be clear and straightforward with your request. You might ask,”could I take you to lunch and ask you some questions about XYZ?” or, “I’m struggling with [XYZ problem], is that something you would be willing to help me with?”
These strategies will help you Start and grow your networking relationships on the right foot.
To your success.