Women in business spotlight: Sarah Hanna

Sarah Hanna, founder and owner of ECS Billing and Consulting North

Describe your business:
ECS North is a national consulting, training and revenue cycle management firm. We provide business operations consulting to healthcare companies as well as training in insurance claims billing and collections. For companies who want to outsource their claims billing functions (revenue cycle), ECS North provides those services on their behalf. We focus our revenue cycle operations on serving the niche market of home medical equipment, respiratory, home infusion, pharmacy and supplies.

How did you get started?
I had the great honor of learning from one of the best and most talented business people I have encountered. She was my mentor and role model. I was blessed because I not only call her my first business partner but also my mother, Elaine Hunt. She was truly a female business pioneer.

My journey started when I managed my parent’s home medical equipment company after I decided I didn’t want to go to law school. During this time, I expanded the business, increased revenues and profits through operational efficiencies and training of my staff as well as sales. Due to my experience in insurance claims billing, some friends of my parents asked if I could help them with billing medical claims for their businesses and from that ECS was born.

I then began speaking at industry events nationwide and my programs were well received. That led to sales opportunities for the outsource revenue cycle management side of the business as well as consulting and training services. These engagements started my path in traveling for the business quite extensively. I have other team members who travel for speaking and consulting, but the brunt of travel lies with me. As technology and the industry change, we adapt, redefine and restructure ourselves to continue to stay relevant and ahead of our competitors.

What was the hardest thing you’ve encountered?
The hardest thing I have encountered continues to change. Just when you think you have faced the worst, something new sneaks up. Challenges such as economic downturns, industry consolidation, business partner shifts, unreasonable clients, employee turnover and a host of others have come throughout my career. When these trials have come, I continue to move forward, own my mistakes, look for ways to learn from those errors so that we become better and operationally shift to maneuver through the times to ultimately come out ahead. You can’t let the challenges defeat you. If you are truly committed, then you lick your wounds, get back up and never give up. There are many quotes that support this. It’s one thing to recite a quote, but another to exemplify it. That is what separates those who have longevity in their businesses and careers.

What advice would you offer to other women who might be interested in starting a new business?
It’s a great time to be a female and in business. More women are empowering others and are in leadership positions. However, starting a business whether male or female requires the same characteristics: willingness to take risks, determination, extreme work ethic, sacrifice, positive attitude, perseverance, agility, open-mindedness, ability to work with others, willingness to get your hands dirty and do the work, the aptitude to continue learning and innovating and never resting on your laurels. To start a business it’s not just an idea, its data to show it’s a good idea and money to fund the business whether from your savings, loans, investors or family/friends.

Work for people you admire who own a business, reach out to those whom you can learn from that can help you develop skills, read books and listen to podcasts that can help you grow personally and professionally before, during and after you start your business.

Networking and being with like-minded people who enhance and support your efforts is also a key factor. Just like your parents told you: “birds of a feather flock together.” Flock to those who mirror your mindset. Owning your own business isn’t about an ego trip so that you can say you are an entrepreneur. It’s about commitment to the mission and purpose of the company and executing the plan to make it successful.