The Power of Love

Small family practice tops competition through old-fashioned values.

The staff at Knoblach Hearing Care includes (from left) lab apprentice Steven Lytle, Dean and Kathleen Knoblach, and patient care coordinator Heidi Larson.

Dean Knoblach has been a top-performing hearing specialist for more than three decades. He has performed live training seminars for Miracle-Ear®, Beltone, Starkey Labs and the International Hearing Society. He also wrote the testing and dispensing protocol for HEARx/HearUSA.

Twenty-three years ago, Dean left the training world to open Knoblach Hearing Care in Largo.

“I started my own practice because I was tired of living my career through the success or failure of others,” Dean shares. “While some professionals I was assigned to train dramatically improved their skills, others just didn’t care. Either way, I was always training new professionals to replace the ones who moved on or were let go.

“Every large corporation experiences employee turnover. I understand that. There will always be new professionals just out of school with degrees in hand but no actual experience who are willing to try harder and work for less just to get their foot in the door. But I saw firsthand how that revolving door of hearing professionals dramatically affected overall patient care and satisfaction.

“After six months of running all over the country for HEARx training new professionals, covering their mistakes and almost never being home, I realized the problems would never end as long as new professionals kept revolving in and out. The only way to maintain high patient satisfaction was to keep the high-performing professionals in the same office, building their clientele year after year.”

Dean and his wife, Kathleen, were once perfect examples of this revolving-door phenomenon. Before they met, they were each top performers at separate practices, and neither ever stayed put for more than three years.

“Someone was always offering us greener pastures in the form of better hours, better pay, stock options, etc.” Dean explains, “The only way to stop moving to different pastures was to create our own.”

In 1998, upon coming to this conclusion, Dean left the training spotlight to open Knoblach Hearing Care. Dean recalls: “I put that old ugly German name at the top of the door so every person who comes through it can always expect to be seen by a Knoblach, no one else.”

Since then, the door has remained open, but never revolved. The same guy that offered “free lifetime care” in 1998 is still honoring that commitment.

Against All Odds

Knoblach Hearing Care’s longevity has defied the odds.

Inc. magazine reports that 96 percent of all small businesses fail within the first 10 years,” Dean points out. “In 2018, when we celebrated our 20th anniversary, I was told that only 2 percent of all small businesses achieve that benchmark.

“That makes sense because some of my strongest competitors are now long gone, not because their practice failed, but because they sold out to one of the large corporate chains and let their front door turn into another revolving door while they retired.”

So how do Dean and Kathleen plan to retire?

“Patients get free lifetime care, and that’s not for the life of the hearing instruments, it’s for the life of the patient.” – DEAN

“We already have,” Dean admits. “On our 20th anniversary, we were faced with the same options as our top competitors. We chose instead to retire our Fridays, For more than 20 years, I’ve told my patients that our ‘free lifetime care’ is just that: lifetime care. It continues until one of us dies, and I’ve got a lot of people praying for me not to die! I can’t sell out; I’m not dead yet.

“Free lifetime care is our way to show our never ending commitment to our patients while they show their strong support for us through referrals and repeat business.”

One Hand Washes the Other

When asked how they survive in business when he and Kathleen offer free lifetime care to all their patients, Dean replies: “It’s simple. If you can control the cost of providing services by doing them yourself, and turn your patients into free advertising, then there’s more than enough in savings to give all our patients free lifetime care. Most of them even get free lifetime batteries with their checkups, too.”

Knoblach Hearing Care has an on-site repair lab complete with the tools and parts for every instrument it has fit since 1998. About 90 percent of all repairs are performed by Dean and Kathleen, which controls costs. And most parts can be cleaned or swapped out in less than 15 minutes while the patient waits.

“Manufacturers are happy to provide us with replacement parts at little or no cost while we take care of the warranty work for them,” Dean observes. “This in turn gives the patient immediate satisfaction. And since patients don’t have to come back later to pick up their repair, we can keep a lighter office schedule. And no billing means no paperwork. In the end, this process is more cost-effective. And ultimately, we have happier patients.”

Happier patients spread the word about Dean, Kathleen and Knoblach Hearing Care.

“Whenever a patient asks us how much they owe for service, we just give them our business card and say, If you know of anyone that is having trouble hearing, please pass this along to them,” Dean states. “Word of mouth is still the best advertising out there.

“In the end, we give our patients free quarterly checkups and updates on their hearing instruments, while they give us free advertising. This one strategy is so effective that it not only covers all of our service expenses, it will also keep our practice evergreen for the next 20 years.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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