How Do I Green My Medical Practice? (Podcast) | Ep. #057

Elizabeth Larkin, Michael Kelly, and Eric Dollinger

In episode 57, hosts Elizabeth Larkin and Gene Marks answer a question about how to “green” a small business:

“I really want to “green my business.” I know some things will save me money right away, like going paperless. Others will save me money in the long run, like changing light bulbs, but what are the changes that will cost me money and how can I avoid them?”


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Elizabeth: Gene, last week we were talking about how you greet someone that you haven’t seen in a long time, like a business colleague. How do you do that?

Gene: So, I wrote about this recently because I’m confused, I’m confused by greetings in a professional and personal environment. With guys, it’s not as tough, although, you know you shake a guys hand, if its someone you really know well, you give the old, sort of bro hug, you know what I mean?

Elizabeth: The half hug?

Gene: Yeah, the half hug, it could be like a little fist… I’m still trying to figure out, how to greet women both personally and professionally without coming off as super creepy.

Elizabeth: Well, professionally I think its always best to go with the hand shake. Right?

Gene: Yeah, but when I see you we give each other a little hug am I’m like… Know each other, I guess.

Elizabeth: But we also like joke around and stuff and I’m not really a… you’re not trying to sell me anything.

Gene: Yeah, I know. So when you meet, like if I meet, if you meet like a woman for the first time in a professional environment of course I’m just shaking hands. But then, I don’t know after a while, after I meet… I get to this point where I’m like, I kind of think it would be more appropriate if I just gave her like a quick hug.

Elizabeth: Or a half hug?

Gene: Yeah whatever. But then I’m like I don’t want to like freak her out or whatever, maybe she doesn’t feel that’s appropriate. You know it could suddenly go weird. It’s just a weird dynamic for guys in the workplace and how to like, greet a woman. I’m sure there are plenty of women that have very very different point of views as to how they want to be treated.

Elizabeth: Yeah, and there’s always those people that just don’t want to be touched at all. I have a co-worker like that and if she could just put her arms up in front of her she would. Like just don’t. What I do is something so lame, if I’m not sure I’ll actually wave to the person.

Gene: Yeah I hear you, you get the waving thing going on and then you get the … You know and its funny, from a personal standpoint like, there’s like, there’s certain women that’ll give a hug hello, there’s… Per example… I was recently at my daughter’s graduation and like, she’s got her friends, some of that I’ve known for a while, I would never hug one of my daughter’s friends like, I wouldn’t do that but then, again I see other fathers doing that –

Elizabeth: Yeah, once they go to hug you.

Gene: Okay, fine, yeah, whatever but I just wouldn’t want to make them feel like uncomfortable or whatever. I don’t know like, you know like, a grown man hugging some young girl I don’t know it’s just a weird dynamic still that I’m still trying to figure… I think the safest thing to do is you just shake hands and leave it at that. Like, no one’s going to fault you for doing that. You know what I mean?

Elizabeth: If you went to shake my hand I don’t think that I’d think that was weird at all.

Gene: But now that we’ve hugged right? If I went to shake your hand you’d be like what’s his problem he’s like shaking my hand now, we used to be huggers?

Elizabeth: Yeah, once you go hug you can’t come back.

Gene: Yeah, yeah.

Elizabeth: But, listeners if you could weigh in on this for Gene in the comments –

Gene: Yeah, when you’re meeting like a … Its usually male, female but it could be male, male. Do you shake hands? Do you give the hug? Do you give the bro hug? You know, like what do you do, when you greet somebody both professionally and personally? I’m trying to figure that out.

Elizabeth: Alright. Hopefully our listeners will have some good advice for you on that Gene.

Gene: Plenty of hugs for you in the future, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back with our question, this is about greening your business.

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QUESTION: How Do I Green My Medical Practice?

Elizabeth: Okay, we’re back with our question, this is from Grace, from Utah and she’s an optometrist. And Grace writes:

“I really want to “green my business.” I know some things will save me money right away, like going paperless. Others will save me money in the long run, like changing light bulbs, but what are the changes that will cost me money and how can I avoid them?”

Gene: Do you have any thoughts on this Elizabeth, this is a tough one?

Elizabeth: How to avoid them? No, I mean, I know, there are some tax benefits to some physical changes you can make, if you own your building.

Gene: They’ve kind of gone away, believe it or not.

Elizabeth: Really?

Gene: Yeah. Some of the benefits, tax credit, if you installed or upgraded or did things in your facility that was energy-efficient, there are tax credits available to you.

Elizabeth: Do you mean like putting solar panels on your –

Gene: Some states still offer that, so certainly that’s something to consider. I have a… the whole greening your business kind of thing is a real tough issue to follow, I mean you can… Certainly, if you can save money, if you’re going to do it because you can save money in the long-term or short-term. When you’re talking about taking risks, on another podcast. If you think that maybe by going solar in your business for example, or buying light bulbs that consume less, do the math, you know what I mean, its all math and if you can say literally five years from now, by putting, by buying these light bulbs I will start saving money, to me, that’s like the ultimate reason. Great, go green because, yay you’re saving the environment but you’re saving money and that’s also a really big thing. Anything other than that Elizabeth, just to go green, just to say you’re going green, I mean…

Elizabeth: That does matter to young consumers.

Gene: It does. It really does. So, if its a marketing thing, or even not just young consumers but perspective young employees, if by going green helps make your products and your company more attractive to hire people or to sell to people, then you can do an ROI on that. You know and say listen you know if I make the investment to change over, you know, only use recyclable stuff, only have certain things in the office that are renewable, I actually think that would contribute an extra 5% to our sales every year. You know, that to me, would make it worth it.

Elizabeth: Now, practically though, when I think about going green and I’m sure you feel the same way, the first thing you think is paperless. When you’re talking about an optometrist’s office, a medical office, my experience is that if I am going to see a new doctor I get a whole packet of paperwork, I have to fill out, either in the mail a week ahead or when I get there and then I give the paperwork over, they take a copy of my drivers license, my insurance card; a photocopy of it and then someone will sit there in the office, either in that office or maybe they outsource this and type all of my answers into their system.

So, I did go to a new doctor recently and it was like magic. I got a link, I filled in all of the information in an online form, I submitted it. No one in his office had to type anything in and I only had to type it in once. The worst, is when I fill out the paperwork and then I forget it that day and then I have to fill it out again. But it was so efficient and that’s actually saving… First of all, that’s saving your employees time, or if you are… I think a lot of medical offices do outsource that data.

Gene: They do. I mean saving paper is a big deal or even if you’re going to be using paper, use recyclable you know, kind of stuff. I have a few really, or, want to have a commitment of going green, Staples is a good place to start. I mean, you know, they sell office products but they sell a whole bunch of other stuff that are used in businesses. They have a whole separate area, like if you go to their website and Google… Maybe you can find this out but this is the show notes, they have a whole section of environmentally friendly products for example so, in your office there’s cleaning solutions that you’re using, there’s different things that…

I mean look, I hate to say this but did you hear like there’s the Keurig coffee machines are supposed to be, like, terrible for the environment. I mean they like, each one of those pods, lasts a million years so, part of your green effort is to say listen we’re not going to use that, we’re going to make coffee, or we’re going to use them out of cardboard, things like that. Then again if you go to Staples site; the different cleaning solvents that you buy for your office, the different, you know again paper, other products that you… you’d be surprised at how many environmentally-friendly things there are. And again you want to use that to your advantage, so, maybe not saving any money but its creating that atmosphere that will attract younger employees that are like, into that as well as consumers.

Elizabeth: Now, another thing to think about is taking your business into the cloud. That’s going to save money. I mean how often do you print things out?

Gene: Too often, but I print things out because I’m like of that generation that always seem to have to print stuff out. I still read a newspaper. So, that’s just going to go away, I mean the younger people that work for me and my company. People don’t print stuff out anymore. It was only recently, it was only in the past year or two where I stopped printing out driving directions when I would go traveling. I know, like id be like flying to Chicago and as part of my pre-trip thing, you’d do a MapQuest or a Google Maps of my, you know of my… where I was driving to and print it out and bring it with me. That’s nuts and that’s just because I’m like an old guy, that’s how I think, where you have to have a print out. I stopped doing that about two years ago.

Elizabeth: Do you print out like your hotel confirmation?

Gene: I do not anymore, but I used to go with the whole travel package, all printed out because I had to have it. I still print my boarding pass.

Elizabeth: Yeah, I do too.

Gene: So, you do too, as well.

Elizabeth: Because I’ve seen it where sometimes you’re going through, you’re checking into your flight and then there’s a blip and it doesn’t work, and let’s say, what if your phone loses its charge and you don’t have a charger?

Gene: Yeah, I always print out my boarding pass for all of those reasons and above and I’ve been behind too many people in line that are trying to like go and board and then there’s a problem and its like … its just a pain. So there are certain things that are left over but the less paper the better. Although, I did, you know, I did read recently that the US has replanted and it has more forest and natural forest now than ever in its history, something crazy.

Elizabeth: That sounds like propaganda.

Gene: Sounds like, doesn’t it? I mean because there seems like there’s like a lot of people.

Elizabeth: Alright. Another way to green your business that’s… that will save you money as well is using Skype. Maybe you don’t need to drive from New York City to upstate New York for that meeting, you could just have the meeting over Skype.

Gene: Good point. Using any kind of online tools; to save you from traveling, to save you from going to meetings is good. If you do have, you do want to have your company go green, my only advice is just to make sure that you’ve got good business reasons for doing that. That you can justify that it’s going to…

Elizabeth: Not just for the environment?

Gene: It’s not, you know, if you’re that committed to the environment and you’re going to be making an investment and you don’t expect any return on investment, you’re doing it for the good of the Earth, fair enough, okay, that’s something you want to do that’s fine.

Elizabeth: Gene’s not doing that though?

Gene: No, I’m not. It would have to just be, if I’m going to be going green, why am I doing this? Is it saving me money? Is it making my company more attractive, how’s it making, you know, how’s it going to make me money as well. You know, of course it’s important to care about the environment but resources are limited and I don’t want to be spending on stuff just because its a nice idea to do. There are plenty of great causes and charities to give money to, don’t give money to, you can’t give money to all of them and I think saving the environment is a very, very important thing but is that any more important than you know, giving money to cure cancer. You know what I mean. So…

Elizabeth: Sorry, I’ve put you on the spot.

Gene: Yeah, you’ve got me all going here.

Elizabeth: Gene’s a terrible person

Gene: Yes I am. Let’s admit that already.

Elizabeth: We’ll be right back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance

WORD OF BRILLIANCE: Mystery Business

Elizabeth: We’re back with Gene’s Word of Brilliance. Gene take it away.

Gene: So, my Word of Brilliance for you today, Elizabeth, is mystery business. There’s a mystery business, in Richmond, Virginia, that earned itself $475,000 from the city for doing nothing. Now, how can you earn yourself $475,000 for doing just nothing? Let me tell you what this mystery business did and it’s a mystery business because the [state] of Virginia is not allowed by law to disclose their name. The tax rules in the city of Virginia is like this, Richmond, Virginia.

If you are a business in the city of Richmond, Virginia, you pay an estimate in taxes based on your profits during the year. If, you under-pay your taxes, you have to pay a 10% penalty, to the city, that’s what the rules say. If, you over-pay your taxes, the same rule applies but in reverse. So the city, has to pay you, 10% because you over paid your taxes to them. That’s the way the law is written. So some smart business owner figured this out, over paid their taxes by almost $5,000,000 so that they not only got a refund of the $5,000,000 but they got $475,000, as an over payment penalty and they did absolutely nothing for that. So, because of that the city of Richmond Virginia, are now looking into changing their tax rules and the regulations for how they are being paid in.

So, is there a lesson there? Well, I guess the lesson is that savvy entrepreneurs can come up with all sorts of new ways to make money.

Elizabeth: Gene said it wasn’t him.

Gene: It’s fantastic. We’ve talked before about Bitcoin and now its gone up in value and here’s like a perfect example of some people really smart and understanding of the laws and was that ethical? Was that moral? That’s a conversation for another day. Listen, I mean I don’t even like the environment so, you don’t even want to hear what my opinion is but it was legal and it was… Unfortunately it hit the city’s tax payers because it wiped out the city’s surplus for the year but it was all legal.

Elizabeth: Wow.

Gene: Crazy story.

Elizabeth: That’s crazy. Now, do think their accountant figured that out?

Gene: Who knows. We don’t know who the mystery business is, so we don’t know who the smart person is. I’m going to guess no, I’m betting it was probably some smart entrepreneur that read the rules and said you know what, I could make some money back on this pretty easily.

Elizabeth: How many small businesses have $5,000,000 a year in profits?

Gene: True. So, I don’t know how small the business was but the guy sort of…

Elizabeth: That’s a pretty profitable business.

Gene: It is. It’s pretty good. So, it wasn’t the profits it was the tax that they paid in. So for all you know, this person could’ve made $10,000 a year in profit but he went to the bank and he had enough assets to say, you know I’m going to borrow $5,000,000, I’m going to pay it in, two weeks before the taxes are due, right? At 2% interest and then when you know, they’ll pay me back by refund. I’ll pay down that loan and whatever.

Elizabeth: You’re assuming it’s a he?

Gene: Did I say it’s a he? Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. No, it could’ve been male or female. Oh, jeez. I got to say this is too old school.

Elizabeth: Good thing I’m here. To keep you honest.

Gene: To keep me on the straight and narrow.

Elizabeth: Okay, we’ll be right back. No.

Gene: We’ll be back in two days, with another podcast.

Elizabeth: We’ll be back in a couple of days with another podcast.

Gene: Looking forward to it.

Elizabeth: Bye!

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