Jeremy Zug on Effective Systems in Your Business | FP 21

Jeremy Zug on Effective Systems in Your Business | FP 21

Can you manage your billing and credentialling more effectively? How do you integrate faith into business? How do you create a system that works for your practice?

In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Jeremy Zug about effective systems in your business.

Meet Jeremy Zug

Jeremy is a partner and co-founder of Practice Solutions, LLC, a billing company for private practice owners. In one year, Practice Solutions grew from three clients to over 300 practices served nationwide. He understands the insurance world, knows how to scale a business, and how to manage growth from an objective perspective.

Visit Jeremy’s website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter. Email Jeremy at jeremy@practiceofthepractice.com

Click here to book a consultation with Jeremy.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • Practice Solutions
  • Advice for people considering going on insurance panels
  • An important question to ask
  • Integrating faith into the hiring process
  • Recommendations for system management in a growing practice
  • Advice for Christian counselors

Practice Solutions

Our mission is to empower providers to spend time focusing on patient care by removing the burden of billing and credentialling.

Billing and credentialling wastes about $120 billion of provider time annually (stats from 2014) and with the life expectancy decreasing, it is their mission to provide support to providers so that they can focus on patient care and solve mental health needs around the country. This company exists to deploy solutions at a cost-effective rate.

Advice for people considering going on insurance panels

It’s always better to start a little smaller and a little slower and then grow from there.

Consider your clinical objectives, what do you want to accomplish in your community and then reverse engineer the equation to figure out what you need to do.

Go on a select number of insurance panels and then network with the interest. Get on at least 1 panel to learn the process.

An important question to ask

When setting up his business, Jeremy had to ask himself: ‘Do I market as a Christian billing company or do I market as a billing company that is also Christian?

Integrating faith into the hiring process

We want people to trust that we’re working with them.

  • A minimum of three interviews is conducted.
  • The person being interviewed should be passionate and suit the personality profile.
  • We ask for their personal budget so we can make sure they are able to live off the package offered.
  • Communicate the companies’ processes and procedures.
  • Put together an honest, authentic and clear employment package.
  • Go through our BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal).

Recommendations for system management in a growing practice

Just start writing and you can edit anything from there.

  • Identify your goals within the company.
  • Write out the steps in order to achieve your goals within the company, and then test it.
  • If there are any issues, make sure to revise and edit.

Advice for Christian counselors

Your values are important and you need to stick to those, no matter what. Create a value based organization around your faith and you can’t lose.

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Whitney Owens

Whitney Ownens | Build a faith-based practiceWhitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.

Thanks For Listening!

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Faith in Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts that are changing the world. To hear other podcasts like Empowered and Unapologetic, Bomb Mom, Imperfect Thriving, Marketing a Practice or Beta Male Revolution, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network.

Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY OWENS]: The Faith in Practice podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice podcast network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you start, grow, and scale your practice. To hear other episodes like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com\network.
Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. My name is Whitney Owens and I’m recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week, either through a personal story or an amazing interview, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your private practice from a faith-based perspective.
Today, you’re listening to episode 21 in interview with Jeremy Zug on effective systems in your business. Jeremy is also one of the consultants through Practice of the Practice. So, it’s an honor to be able to interview someone that I personally work with on today’s show. And his super power is helping you create effective systems in your business. He’s the owner of Practice Solutions, which is an insurance-based company that really helps insurance-based practices, I should say, learn how to effectively bill and get paneled and all the details about being a practice owner, working with insurance that we don’t want to deal with. So, I love that he can be kind of the middleman and help you not focus so much on your insurance, but focus on your practice. But he also has some tips in this episode about having effective systems in your practice and how he runs Practice Solutions with a faith-based perspective in mind. So, let’s jump into today’s episode.
[WHITNEY]: Hi, I’m looking forward to this episode today. I’m going to be interviewing Jeremy’s Zug. Jeremy is also a part of the Practice of the Practice team. So, that makes this interview even more exciting. But let me tell you a little bit about Jeremy. He’s the partner and co-founder of Practice Solutions, LLC, which is a billing company for private practice owners. In one year, Practice Solutions grew from three clients to over 300 practices serving nationwide. He knows the insurance world, he knows how to scale practice in a business, and he knows how to manage growth from an objective perspective. So, glad to have Jeremy on the podcast today, how are you doing?
[JEREMY ZUG]: I’m well, Whitney. Thanks for having me on. How are you?
[WHITNEY]: I’m doing good, loving this podcasting world. So, it’s really fun to have great guests on and not only do we get to kind of chat, but I learn a lot about building my own practice from people. So, that’s great.
[JEREMY]: That’s great. Your podcast has been excellent so far. I’m really glad that you’re doing this and helping providers in this way.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you. Thank you. Well, let’s talk a little bit about you and what you do. Can you tell the audience what Practice Solutions is and how it can be helpful?
[JEREMY]: Practice solutions is a billing company that exists only for the mental health world. Our mission is to empower providers, to spend time focusing on patient care by removing the burden of billing and credentialing. And the way we talk about this in our space here is billing and credentialing wastes about $120 billion of provider time annually. The last time it was, those numbers were published was about 2014. There hasn’t been another study since, but I imagine that figure is much higher. And with the life expectancy decreasing for a third year in a row in our country, we believe very strongly that if we’re able to help take away that burden of billing and credentialing, we can take that $120 billion worth of provider time and pointed at patient care, and then really solving a lot of those mental health needs around our country.
[WHITNEY]: That is amazing. That statistic, I’m pretty blown away.
[JEREMY]: Isn’t it crazy? I mean, if a truck showed up at your office with $120 billion, I mean, would probably cover the whole thing, right? Like the whole building that you’re in.
[WHITNEY]: Wow. Wow. That’s amazing. And then it sad to think, you know, when we’re starting out in private practice because we don’t have the finances sometimes to hire out, then we’re using all this time and energy that could have been better spent working with our clients.
[JEREMY]: Well, that’s right. And Practice Solutions exists to deploy those solutions at a cost-effective rate to enable therapists, to really do what they do best. And really, it’s unfeasible for a clinician to be up to their eyeballs and clinical work and then go and try and call the insurance company for two hours. So, we recognize that that’s a huge need and that’s exactly the need that we’re filling.
[WHITNEY]: So, for people who are starting out in private practice and they’re asking themselves, “Oh, should I go cash pay? Should I go with insurance?” And what would be some of your tips or advice on if they should go on insurance panels?
[JEREMY]: It’s a great question. The first thing I always start with is what populations do you really care about? Because clinicians, a lot of the time want to help low income people, veterans, elderly people, geriatric populations, and sometimes those populations are not always the most profitable on the business side. So, sometimes it doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to turn yourself into a community mental health agency as a private practice. So, what I tell people is start with your clinical objectives. What do you want to accomplish in your community? And then reverse engineer the equation to figure out what you need to do.
So, for example, what I would say is if you want to work with a Medicaid population, but you know that you can’t keep your lights on with a $50 reimbursement, figure out what commercial insurance you will take or how to scale up some private pay patients to buffer your margin a little bit so that you can really do this stuff you’d want to do. That’s where I would start and then I would work backwards from there.
[WHITNEY]: I love that advice. And I hear that from a lot of private practice owners who maybe they have a specific desire to work with teachers or to work with firefighters or police officers and to finding out what panel they are on with the state or with their jobs, and then getting on those panels to be able to meet that need.
[JEREMY]: Well, that’s right. Yeah, you have to find out what the patients have in order to hit those. And then there is a delicate balance between, do I take all the insurance to grow my practice and my clinical objectives, or do I only take some of them? And I’m very partial to take a select number of insurance panels or companies, and then go out of network with the rest. And that way, you can really hit your goals and focus on what you want to do.
[WHITNEY]: How many would you recommend somebody start out getting on?
[JEREMY]: One, to learn the process. Really just as a learning device, figure out what paperwork is needed, what you need to get started. It’s always better to start a little slower and a little smaller and then grow from there because then you can build out your systems and your processes around success. If you just shotgun approach it, what you’ll end up with is just a scattered pattern. You just end up with chaos. And we really need to control sustainable practice growth so that we can deploy mental health solutions long-term in our country.
[WHITNEY]: I love that. Yeah, because it’s like, I’m thinking about all the other parts of a private practice that get kind of crazy. So, we need to have the billing as simple as possible.
[JEREMY]: Yeah, that’s right. Money needs to come in on a very consistent regular basis so that you can do what you need to do and then make good decisions from there. I can’t tell you how many practices I see get, create a lot of chaos. And then our job is to say, well, we either, we’re going to create order out of the chaos and bring this thing to stability or we need to make some hard decisions and nobody needs that because ultimately that falls back on the patient.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, definitely. Definitely. So, talk a little bit more about how Practice Solutions kind of comes in and helps people at the beginning stages of private practice.
[JEREMY]: So, we have three client profiles that we work really well with. Our biggest probably are those people that are just starting out that don’t want the stress and worry of dealing with insurance and credentialing. And those people generally don’t have any patients yet. They just want to get it off their plate. And for those people we create, we come with [inaudible 00:08:40] systems right already in place to help that person get to where they need to go. We’ve thought through all of the details and all the necessary components of that for them. So, that would be on one side.
The next stage is people that, clinicians that have grown a practice, they’ve really pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and now they’re ready to go. They’re ready to scale and go on the offensive. And for us, what we do is we take over the billing department that’s already functioning with our processes and enable those people to grow and scale. And those people, our clients generally speaking, grow between 15 and 30% year over year, who are in that category, nonetheless categories are groups that are tired of turnover and training and staff management and they just want a company that take care of all that stuff.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, it sounds like you meet a lot of needs when it comes to the insurance side of private practice.
[JEREMY]: Yeah. Our goal is to really educate, be transparent, collaborate with clinicians on their needs, you know, and those are really our company values. We value wearing the jersey of our clients, just like we would our own. We value education and transparency, showing you how the billing is done versus doing it for you and just you get a check, but you don’t know how it’s running. We value leaving practices better than we find them. We’ve had several groups that by coming over to us they have the space to grow and scale and then they bring billing in-house and we’ve helped practices do that, because we want to leave practices better than how we find them. Ultimately, the goal here is to deploy patient care. To find out or to direct clinician focus towards taking care of patients versus dealing with insurance. So, why wouldn’t we help do that?
[WHITNEY]: I love how you have a lot of different options on different levels. And that’s so cool that you’ll come in and train somebody on how to do this once their practice is big enough that they need somebody full time.
[JEREMY]: Yeah. I mean, there’s plenty of work to be done. And there’s plenty of claims to follow up on. So, we operate from a place of abundance and we really want practices to know how this stuff works.
[WHITNEY]: So, Jeremy, how did you get into this line of work?
[JEREMY]: That’s a great question. I got my start in the mental health industry when I was 14. I got a job at a community mental health center, making charts, like paper charts, not like EHR charts. So, cut my teeth a little on the community mental health side, worked in back office from 14 to 17, and on the eve of my 17th birthday, the director of the community mental health center said, “Hey, do you want to work with patients starting tomorrow? You’re 18. You’re an adult. You can do that.” And I said, “Yes,” and absolutely fell in love with it. From there, I went to college at Moody Bible in Chicago and worked as a biller for a group practice downtown Chicago. And then several years later, probably a year or two later, I had some colleagues from community mental health jump out into private practice and they said, “Can you do our billing?” And we said, “Yes.” And that was it. But community mental health industry, private practice has been a very consistent theme throughout my career.
[WHITNEY]: I love how, when you look back on your life, you can see how God leads you to something. You know, sometimes at the moment, you’re not seeing that, but now that you’re explaining and it’s like, “Oh, this was kind of the process all along,” and He was preparing you for this place you were going to be in, in this operation you know, that you’re going to be doing to help so many clinicians and help so many clients. So, I love how you kind of stepped right into that and you can look back and see that.
[JEREMY]: I’m glad you bring that up. Because before I did billing for group practice in Chicago, I worked for an architecture firm and they ended up eliminating my position and I was totally in a place of just chaos and a place of just disorientation. And then it was that event that led me to connect with the psychologist that ran that practice. And that really, you know, that moment I felt like I totally was abandoned, that I was just totally alone. And it really set the course for the good work that we’re doing today. And that’s good stuff. That’s like Joshua 4 type stuff, where you go and gather some stones and you’re like, “Hey, what has God done there?” You know, so your kids can say, “Hey, what’s that pile of stones mean?” And you’re like, “Hey, that rock right there was that big event that led to this other stuff.” And that’s really, it’s nice to see the narrative there.
[WHITNEY]: Oh yeah, yeah. And I see that in my private practice all the time. You know, you take something that happens and you think, “Oh, this is terrible.” And you’re like so discouraged. “Why did this happen, God?” You know, all those questions. And now I look back on some of this and I’m like, “That is the very thing my practice needed to move forward.”
[JEREMY]: Oh, I love that. You know, and we have in our house, we have a reformed background, so we go to a PCA church in Detroit, and the thing about the reforms traditions as you well know, is just the catechism language in church history. And in our house, we have two questions, one from Heidelberg, I guess, two from Heidelberg question 27 and question one. Question 27 is all about Providence and how nothing happens without God’s providential hand. And I love that. That’s great because it’s not all just random and sometimes it can feel like that in business.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. So, true. So, true. Well, I love that. Well, this is a great segue into kind of talking about how do you integrate faith into the company of Practice Solutions?
[JEREMY]: Yeah, that’s a good question. We had a conversation really early on about this very topic and we were faced with a decision, do we market as a Christian billing company or are we a billing company run by Christians? And that was a long, hard conversation. And really, we’re faced with a lot of those challenges of, you know, if we market as the Christian billing company, do we exclude certain people? Would that be a barrier to our business growth, which ultimately helps us do stuff? Or do we just say we’re the billing company and we’re Christians that run it, and is that a better way to go? And so, we had a lot of good conversations, met with several advisors that are Christian business people and have done this stuff. And so, for us, we really sat down and we had to make a decision.
So, we are the billing company that’s run by Christian people. But the way that looks day to day is really in how we approach business decisions and structuring things. So, I’ll give you an example. So, on a financial level, we very much, Catherine and I very much care about financial stewardship. We care about doing things the way that we see scripture talk about. Right. And part of that is we don’t believe in debt. So, we believe that the borrower is a slave to the lender, that kind of stuff. So, we don’t take on debt. We move at the speed of cash, we budget, we start our budgeting with giving, and like charitable giving and then taxes and expenses. And we’re very generous with like our staff, our clients and that kind of thing. And so that really our Christian worldview permeates everything we do, whether it’s overt or not.
[WHITNEY]: I love the question that you brought up here. Like, do we market as a, I’m going to make sure I say this right. Do we market ourselves as a Christian billing company, or is it a company that’s run by Christians? I think that is such a good question for all Christian businesses or people that are Christians running businesses and for private practice, like at the very beginning. “Do I want to market my practice as a Christian counseling practice? Or do I want it to be a practice that is clinical, but it’s run by Christian?” It’s like, that was just such a fundamental question that you brought up. I just wanted to reiterate it.
[JEREMY]: Yeah. I mean, how have you thought through that in running your practice or interacting with other Christian counselors?
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, I think people do different things for sure, in the way that they integrate their faith. And even your point that you were just making about stewardship. I had another interview that I did with Dawn earlier. I think she’s episode 10 if I remember correctly and she talks about in her practice that she gives a tithe at the beginning of every month, you know, and that is how she feels like God has led her to run her practice. And so, she incorporates that. I think there are some people that have less incorporation of their faith. They think of it more as I’m a counseling practice, and I’m also a Christian and that’s okay too. That is a little bit more how I run my practice. People don’t know that our practice is a faith-based practice by looking at the website and things like that, because I do want to also bring in people kind of what you were talking about.
I don’t want to turn away people who aren’t faith-based, because I love working with people who are jaded by the church. That’s a population I really enjoy. And we see a lot of that in our town because we have a lot of college students who are really jaded by the church. So, those clients are coming in. And so, I think of it very similar to you in the fact that it’s a counseling practice and I’m also a Christian and I make Christianity a part of the hiring process and a part of working with my employees, but not necessarily with the clients.
[JEREMY]: Yeah. And for us, it’s just not a secret. Our staff has been in our house. They very much see the literature that we have in our library, they know where we went to school, and really, it’s those values and that worldview that drives our decision making for better or for worse. There are times where we make decisions that lean toward our values in a way from profitability, period. Because that’s what’s important. You know, we won’t get to the end of our life and say, we made a bunch of money and violated our conscience and our worldview. And that just is not going to be how it goes. I would rather live behind Walmart in a box than have a bunch of money that we arrived at or had a successful business based on anything other than Christian values in a worldview.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. Well, tell me about how do you integrate the faith component into your hiring process?
[JEREMY]: So, for us, our hiring process is very thorough and we borrowed a lot of our components from Dave Ramsey’s book EntreLeadership. So, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that environment and ecosystem, but that book and their literature has really set the stage for that, but our hiring process is very long and we have a minimum of three interviews because we care about our people. So, people that we hire on, we don’t hire on as a warm body to fill a job. We want people that are passionate about the stuff, and we want people that are going to be long-term place. So, what we do is we have a call screen with people and a 15-minute call screen, we have a more in-depth interview, and then what we do is we do a personality profile on them to see if they’ll be a good fit within the team and that kind of thing.
And then we ask for a personal budget, which I know is a little controversial, but we’ve gotten no pushback on it. And the reason why we do that is because one, we need to make sure that our team is taken care of. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if we hired somebody with a compensation package that I knew they couldn’t live on. And so, we ask for personal budgets so that we know that we’re not going to run into an HR problem later, but we also need to know that we’re taking care of our people. You know, if we’re going to steward this business and we’re going to steward ultimately God’s money and resources we’re going to do as a good manager, as a good steward, and so we also are going to encourage our people to say, “Look, can you afford this job? I can afford you as a person, as a worker, an employee, but can you afford me?”
And that forces people to say no or yes, really and it helps them to self-select out. And then we put together a really honest, clear employment package for them. And during the last interview, which is more of an offertory interview, we actually go through company processes and procedure, culture, values are big, hairy, audacious goal, what we call the bhag, where they fit in their key result areas and we’re just very thorough and very clear because we feel that we serve a God of order and not chaos. And so, if things are chaotic, it’s really disruptive. So, we try to bring clarity and energy to everything we do based on that worldview.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. I keep hearing that theme of kind of honesty, authenticity, and clarity, and that is so important in the work that you’re doing.
[JEREMY]: You know, it’s important in almost any job, right? Because they think that if, you’ve probably worked for employers that are really opaque about stuff, right?
[WHITNEY]: Yes.
[JEREMY]: And [inaudible 00:22:09], and it really creates an environment of distress and an environment that creates doubt. And we won’t do that. We want our people to trust that we’re working with them. They’re not working for me. You know, we went to a conference before we had a company back when we were college students and one of the business owners was like this billionaire guy, and he said, ultimately, “This business is not mine. It was given to me by the Lord to steward.” And that’s how we run things. You know, it’s really not my company. It’s God’s company and we’re here to manage that for Him.
[WHITNEY]: Definitely. Well, Practice Solutions has really grown. I think the bio there said like three to 300 in a very short time employee. So, what kind of recommendations do you have for system management in private practice when we grow?
[JEREMY]: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, we have 2018 members. Our client base grew like crazy and continues to do so, but my tips on that would be to write down your stuff first. If you have a goal in mind, let’s say you have a result that you want, and let’s say for the sake of conversation, you want eligibility checks for all your patients before they come in the door. So, that’s the results you want. What I would recommend is on a systems level, writing out the steps that you think you need to take to get there and then go test it out. And then if there are any barriers or any holes in your initial draft, just start to revise and edit those. And what that’ll do is, you do that with any process you have within your practice.
What you’ll get in a year is a really well-polished practice, one that can scale because you figured out where all the bodies are buried. You know where the pitfalls are, where the mistakes lie, that kind of thing. You can train your staff now on what works versus you know, sort of like a Frankenstein sewn together system, where you’ve really worked out the details. So, I would always start with planning first, create what you think you need to do to get somewhere, do that thing, and then adjust and edit and continually revise, continually get better. And your practice will feel that across all levels and your profitability.
[WHITNEY]: I love how simple you make it sound. And it really isn’t as complicated as we make it out to be. I think a lot of the therapists I speak to are so in the weeds with actually seeing clients and not taking time out to write down these steps. That really, it’s just a time management issue.
[JEREMY]: Yeah. Take a weekend, go lock yourself in a hotel room somewhere and start writing. You know, it’s a lot easier to edit than it is to start writing. So, if you just start writing then you can edit anything from there but it’s the starting that is really problematic.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, definitely. Well, Jeremy, I ask all people on the podcast, if you could say something to every Christian counselor, what would you want them to know?
[JEREMY]: I would want them to know that your values are important and that you need to stick to those no matter what. Create a value-based organization around your faith and you can’t lose from there.
[WHITNEY]: That’s awesome. It’s so true. So, true. And I’m always talking to not only consultants but even my clients, “Hey, is what you’re doing, aligning with your vision and values, because if it’s not, you’re not going to love your life. You’re not going to be successful. You’re going to be stressed out?”
[JEREMY]: Yeah, and I think that we live in a time where it’s easier than ever to start a business because we have the internet. And that’s a huge difference from 50 years ago. 50 years ago, 60 years ago, you try to start a business and it was tough. There were money barriers, there was marketing, communication barriers. Today, it’s very, very different, and so, yeah, I would say that there’s no reason to not do that. I think it’s good, we need more practices. We need more mental health professionals in this country. And that’s what I want to help empower and move us toward.
[WHITNEY]: That’s great. So, Jeremy, if somebody wants to work with you, either through Practice of the Practice, or Practice Solutions with the best way for them to get in touch with you?
[JEREMY]: So, the Practice Solutions website, a practicesol.com is the best way to reach out. If you really want billing off your plate and want the space to start to scale, the Practice of the Practice side, you can go to the landing pages there for the consultants, which we can, if you can share, I don’t have it off the top of my head, or you can reach out at jeremy@practiceofthepractice.com and just contact my email and we can set something up that way.
[WHITNEY]: Wonderful. Well, I appreciate your time today. You gave so much good information, not only about insurance and starting a practice, but integrating faith in our values and how we do that and how do we create a system that works for our practice and ultimately a business that honors God in the end. So, I appreciate you coming on the podcast today.
[JEREMY]: Thanks Whitney for having me. It was a pleasure.
[WHITNEY]: Thank you for listening to the Faith in Practice podcast. If you love this podcast, please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. If you liked this episode and want to know more, check out the Practice of the Practice website. Also, there you can learn more about me, options for working together, such as individual and group consulting, or just shoot me an email, whitney@practiceofthepractice.com. Would love to hear from you.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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