NSM Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The annual National Seating & Mobility (NSM) symposium, held this year in Scottsdale, Ariz., is always an opportunity for the complex rehab technology provider's national network of ATPs to come together. But this time, the meeting was also cause for celebration, as NSM (nsm-seating.com) marked 20 years in business.

In an interview with Mobility Management, Mike Ballard, CEO/president, said of the annual meeting, "The celebration is really more for me. To have them all in one place allows me to interact with them and let them know from my standpoint how much we appreciate what they do. We continually want to empower them to do better, and at the same time have some fun and mingle with their peers. We're a really strong network of professionals, and there's a lot of consulting and banter back and forth about finding unique equipment for unique patients and so forth."

Ballard says the goals of the symposium - which includes an exhibit hall and many hours of clinical education - haven't changed much over the years.

"It's our annual clinical meeting," he notes. "After we started doing this, a number of other providers started doing it, where it becomes more of an annual meeting with sales training and things like that. We've always looked at it as a single, very efficient delivery system of continuing education. The number of annual credits required has backed down a little bit, so it's allowed us to do a couple more things in that time period that may not be credentials for CEUs, like training for our people in terms of honing their profession. Other than that, it really hasn't changed."

Ballard also hasn't changed his stance on the role that NSM's upper management should play. And he emphasizes that NSM uses a medical model.

"Our company is an RTS company," he explains, "and being a medical model as opposed to a sales and marketing model, we believe our strength and our success is built around the RTS. A lot of companies exited the business because they didn't really embrace the clinical approach or the RTS. At our company, we give them a lot more control over the business than a lot of other places.

"We believe that the management structure of the company above the branch offices is there to knock down barriers for them. Obviously, there are certain generic business procedures that all companies need to have in order to survive and prosper. But in terms of a medical model, the more decisions you can have made as close to the patients as possible, the more effective you're going to be, in my opinion."

He compares NSM's ATP-focused model to how doctor's offices of the past were run.

"It was the doctor's business, and it was his office," Ballard says. "He took care of things. He or she may have hired some administrators and what have you, but that doctor was the king or queen of his or her own practice. We more or less mirror that. Our management structure is not filled with a bunch of clinical people telling our folks what to sell and how to do it."

Ballard's confidence in his ATPs is largely based on his open admiration of who they are and what they accomplish day in and day out.

"To me, they're just incredible people," he says. "They all work very, very hard. They all work more than 50 hours a week, and some a lot more than that. For some, it's their whole life.

"It's very difficult in some respects because of the number of customers they might have in any transaction. They ultimately have the patient, but they also have other caregivers involved -- parents involved, when it comes to children, and then all the payor and medical justification. And then they have to navigate through their own company policies to follow sound business practices where they can actually collect the money for the work they did. It's not an easy transaction on the RTS side; it's not just their expertise. There's a lot of interaction with people that they have to satisfy in every transaction. Over the years, I think we've created an environment with systems to make that go as smoothly as possible."

Ballard frequently mentions "the song in their heart" to explain what draws ATPs to a profession that can be so emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting.

"It takes very special people, and it takes very creative people," he says. "It's a custom business, and there's a talent to that. People either get it or they don't, and I don't think they get it unless they have that really strong passion and that song in their heart, particularly when they're dealing with the complexity of our core business."

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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