Episode 8 of The M Word Podcast with Dr. Alfred Amado

Dr. Alfred J. Amado is the president and CEO of Behavioral & Educational Solutions (BES). He is a psychologist by training and transformed his clinical practice into a successful behavioral health consulting organization that specializes in behavioral health and medical staffing, and the provision of education support and clinical care. He has numerous national publications, presentations, and awards.

Connect with Dr. Amado on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Youtube!

Listen to other episodes of The M Word Podcast here.

Full transcript below:

Jennifer: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Jennifer Mulchandani,

Heather: [00:00:02] and I’m Heather Myklegard.

Jennifer: [00:00:04] Welcome to The M Word, where we have uncensored conversations on all things marketing .

Heather: [00:00:10] Due to COVID, we are not recording in the studio and apologize for any poor audio or technical. As soon as it is safe, we will have our guests with us in the studio until then stay healthy and wear a mask.

Jennifer: [00:00:28] Hello and welcome to The M Word. My name is Jennifer

Heather: [00:00:31] and I’m Heather.

Jennifer: [00:00:33] And today we’re talking to Dr. Alfred Amado. Dr. Amado is the owner and founder of Behavioral and Educational Solutions.  He is a psychologist by training and transformed his clinical practice into a successful behavioral health consulting organization that specializes in behavioral health and medical staffing and the provision of education, support, and clinical care.

He has numerous national publications, presentations, and [00:01:00] awards. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Amado.

Dr. Amado: [00:01:03] Thank you for inviting me.

Jennifer: [00:01:04] We are excited to find out all about your business and your journey. But, before we dive into all of that and the marketing, why don’t you please just give us the overview and help set the stage? What is your business and what is your role in, in the marketing of that business?

Dr. Amado: [00:01:22] Sure., as you eloquently provided, I am a child psychologist by training, and in 2008, after having been on the faculty with the University of Maryland, I was doing a lot of theoretical work, just book work, and I needed to get more practical experience. I decided I needed more hands-on training.

So, I opened up Behavioral and Educational Solutions in 2008, and we provided services primarily to public charter schools in the DC area, and that grew fast, and after 13 years, we are now providing services throughout the DC Metro area. We have [00:02:00] contracts with Baltimore County, Baltimore City providing applied behavior analysis for children with severe disabilities, that’s usually children with Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder. We also go ahead and do what I consider mental health, which is providing services, what you can think of more as when you think of a psychologist counseling, psychological testing, but we do focus a hundred percent with children and families. And that’s really what our specialty is. In 2016, we decided to go after the 8Acertification, which is the small business administration certification for small minority-owned businesses. I am of Cuban descent and Latino, and we started working with the federal government in 2016, and we’ve been very fortunate to grow significantly, and now we’re in 12 states. Prior to the pandemic, we were about 60 employees strong. And with some cuts with different budgets and so forth, we had to narrow it down, but [00:03:00] we’re building it up again. And we also have a clinic in downtown Silver Spring, MD where we provide behavioral mental health services to children and families, psychological testing, ABA, counseling groups, and parent coaching.

Heather: [00:03:13] Dr. Amado, that sounds amazing. Are you still practicing yourself as you’re growing this business?

Dr. Amado: [00:03:18] I have cut down my own clinical practice significantly. I would say probably around 2018 I started cutting back and the reason for that was just it was very difficult to be present and focused for my clients when I had issues going on in Missouri with an employee not showing up,  or all of a sudden a contract we had to work with, or financial stuff that we had to turn into the loan office and so forth… so, I do very little clinical work right now.

It’s only in those situations where we have a long waiting list primarily for evaluations because that has an end point, and I’ll do it then, but it’s probably less than 10% of my time.

Heather: [00:03:57] What is your role then in marketing this [00:04:00] business?

Dr. Amado: [00:04:01] Oh, I am. I’m the marketing guy here. I think at least in our size and we still are considered small, I don’t think there’s anybody that can promote my business better than I can. So, I am involved with business development marketing: as far as developing the concepts and the texts that need to go on our website, on our social media notices, on the flyers that we send out, although they’re all digital now.

And I do have consultants that I work with, similar to you guys,  that help put my ideas in a right messaging that is conducive for the potential client to absorb and be able to engage with us. But one of the things that I’ve also recently, as we continue to grow, that we’ve started doing as far as our marketing, is marketing to potential personnel staff that we’re going to be recruiting.

We realized that the message that we put out is very important. What we’re saying. The things that we do as far as [00:05:00] benefits and in different professional development programs that we have is important that we market it out because putting out an ad and hoping to get the right candidate isn’t the way that we better our services.

Jennifer: [00:05:11] That’s interesting and I want to come back to that because we’ve worked with some other clients where there’s this balance between recruiting sort of marketing to your target audience and then marketing for your own growth and for the people who are going to represent your brand. Let’s come back to that in a minute; but, I’m just so curious because not that I’m a trained psychologist by any stretch of the imagination; but, I believe they don’t really go into business practices, like, where did you learn? Is this, was this all street cred that you’ve figured out? Or, you’ve grown multiple states, federal contracts, a huge operation, and you run the marketing, where did you get those skills?

Dr. Amado: [00:05:49] So that, that’s interesting. As I mentioned, my father was Cuban. He immigrated to the US after the Cuban revolution and he was a CPA and [00:06:00] businessman, my, my entire family are businessmen, they have trades, whether they’re plumbers, general contractors, accountants, attorneys; but, they’ve all opened up their own business, have been entrepreneurs. I think it partly comes from that. I remember when I told my dad that I wanted to be a psychologist, his question, which is why and even when I was in grad school, most psychologists either go work for a school district, work at a hospital, or have a very small practice. I always knew that I wanted to create something that was more than just myself and that’s exactly why I named it Behavioral Educational Solutions as opposed to Alfred J Amado and Associates, because if I would’ve done that, it would have always been tied to me. I would always see hospitals or big clinics and they’re always being run by people that weren’t clinicians and at some point, it just dawned on me. I said if they could be trained as business launch business leaders, entrepreneurs, and learn to manage mental health, then why can’t I be trained in mental health [00:07:00] and learn how to manage a business. And it has been a learning experience, a lot of books read courses taken for my own growth.

Heather: [00:07:07] I love that, our motto around here is to say yes, and then figure it out later. Dr. Amado, you said in the beginning that you loved marketing, a lot of people are intimidated by it. What is it specifically that you love about it?

Dr. Amado: [00:07:19] We do a lot of great things, so I just want to go ahead and let everybody know: parents hey, there’s no recipe on how to raise a child. Yes, all kids have tantrums and for us, and particularly for me the message that I’ve always wanted to share with our clients that regardless of, all these disorders and DSM disorders that are out there and criteria is most of the time what you’re seeing in your children is somewhat normal, very normal, and it’s a matter of the interaction between the child and their environment, and that’s where we get the behavior we have. So for me, it was always about trying to normalize behavioral [00:08:00] health services and letting people know they don’t have to be afraid of seeking help, not it’s not stigmatizing. So for me, it was always about sharing our knowledge of what behavioral mental health services are and that just came naturally.

Jennifer: [00:08:18] Yeah, I love that because you didn’t say it this way, that I would say it as a marketer, but you love marketing because it helps you share the message it’s so important to you and your message, there is the power, right? It’s a platform, but one of the things I wanted to ask you about is, you shared with us that you have someone who’s now your mentor and you said I’m not spending that kind of money on marketing, I love this quote, your mentors said the business owner that tries to skimp on marketing is equivalent to the person that tries to save time by pausing the clock. And so you’ve stopped skimping on marketing, but you say you’re still vigilant on where your money goes. So where does your money go in marketing and how long did it take you to get to that point?

Dr. Amado: [00:08:58] So, I’ll start with how long [00:09:00] it took me to get there. From the beginning, I was marketing. First, I started doing pamphlets, and then we did postcards, and then we went ahead and did our website. And I remember the first website we did, back then it was cheap for the norm at the time, but I think it cost me like $2,000, but I got a $2,000 website. You can tell the difference when you saw it compared to my competitors. So over the course of these 13 years, I’ve realized that our business does have different revenue streams, things like with our government contractors and so forth. Marketing doesn’t really matter too much there because it all depends on the response that we do to a, to an RFP and so forth; but, the families that we serve that want to come into our clinic, they want to let us into their home then we got to make sure that the messages that we’re providing are true to our core beliefs and how that differentiates us [00:10:00] from other psychologists or mental health professionals.  I realize that the growth of the business really depended on help from professionals, just like some would come to me because they’re having difficulties with their children throwing tantrums, or they still can’t get their three or four year old to stop wetting the bed and I would provide my knowledge expertise. Then I realized that I needed to do the same thing in marketing my business. There is so much that I can do within the training that I have, that I need help from professionals that are trained and do a good job on the messaging of my business. So, where does the money go? The money goes primarily to digital advertising through Facebook. Primarily Facebook, Google ads, Google My Business. We just revamped our website and added a lot more graphics or pictures that represent who we are a very diverse organization that speaks well over [00:11:00] five languages to provide services to our clients. So, that’s where the money’s going primarily. But now we’re also looking and see, okay beyond that too, do we need to advertise? So we also do advertising on the local newsletters of neighborhoods near our office. And now we’re looking to hire a publicist that can really, you know continue in promoting our business and our message out there.

Heather: [00:11:22] Dr. Amado, are there any marketing tactics that are a bit outside your comfort zone that you haven’t tried yet, but that you want to.

Dr. Amado: [00:11:29] This is one right here: one of the things that we want to do because it is advised by our marketing consultants that we need to have more videos, more things that engage the potential client. Here I am, I’m on a podcast as a guest with you guys. Not necessarily my comfort zone, but again, for the goal of promoting our business, getting our message out, letting people know that seeking mental health services, behavioral health services is okay, then I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone.

Jennifer: [00:11:59] Congratulations [00:12:00] on doing that. It’s we love to be involved in pushing people to get on camera and to try tactics that they may be not explored before.

Dr. Amado: [00:12:08] Our motto is nurturing growth. So you guys are nurturing and helping me grow.

Jennifer: [00:12:13] There you go. Yup. Yup. Love it! But are there things that you’ve tried in your business marketing tactics that just bombed?

Dr. Amado: [00:12:21] A couple of the things that are difficult for me also that I’ve tried and haven’t been successful, have been sending out fold in flyers that, people put, usually you’ll find them in doctor’s offices and stuff, and that really didn’t go anywhere.

We also created these postcards early on sending them to public charter schools, letting them know What the areas that we worked in and that we were in the area and we could provide services that didn’t come to any fruition. What I found was that just word of mouth was very important; but, those are two things that really didn’t provide what we wanted, which was the increase in the clients that we served.

Heather: [00:12:57] Dr. Amado, I want to talk briefly [00:13:00] about the last year and the pandemic. How did your marketing change or shift through COVID and talk to us did you see an uptick in patients? Talk to us about the last year, what that was like for your business?

Dr. Amado: [00:13:14] March 16th or something like that when the school shut down we took a real, real big hit because we provide services to five public charter schools in the DC Metro area. As well as Baltimore county, Baltimore city, and everything shut down, and we went from a hundred percent providing services, a hundred percent face-to-face in the homes, in the clinics, in the schools. And our clients, aren’t adults like us, that we could easily do therapy. And, this could easily be a  therapy session and we’re just talking, discussing things, but you can’t do that with children with severe disabilities that have impulsivity issues, sometimes can’t communicate, hyperactivity and attention problems. So we had to significantly change our delivery method to completely online, and we have some clients that get 20 hours a week. [00:14:00] There’s no way you can do 20 hours a week on Zoom, so we had to put a huge pause on everything. We didn’t know what it was, how long this was going to last. We asked our SEO marketing consultants to pause everything so we could figure out what was going on. And then probably within two to a month and a half, two months that we were backing in our stride, within COVID we started everything up again and started marketing what we were doing. We’re on Telehealth,  we started marketing our COVID protocol. So people could feel comfortable knowing what they were safe coming to see us. In October we reopened our clinic. We advertise that also. I think what we did primarily was pause and see how this was going to play out and then changed our messaging to match the context that we were living in.

Jennifer: [00:14:43] It’s very common and I appreciate hearing that part of your shift was in changing what you were talking about and having to talk about COVID protocols and things like that. It’s particularly when you’re in the service business and it’s so personal that safety and health message is really important and [00:15:00] continues to be to this day. They’re still, I think businesses as tired as they are of COVID. We have a client who says, “can we please just stop talking about it?” No, cause your customer actually still cares, depending on the type of business you’re in you’re going to have to really think about that.

You just talked a little bit about targeting different audiences with different messaging, and I want to return to a topic that you raised earlier, which was when you’re growing your business, balancing marketing, to getting new clients, new customers in the door, the phone ringing and recruiting your team and your staff, the professionals and especially as you grow out of state. I’m curious how you’ve walked that that fine line, and what the avenues, where were you marketing for your re your people recruiting or HR recruiting. Were you using your normal marketing channels or was it a completely different strategy for you?

Dr. Amado: [00:15:48] That’s also been an evolution. Early on,  I remember the first employee that I hired full-time I put an ad out in the American Psychological Association monthly journal I had a [00:16:00] couple of good candidates, hired someone, and what I noticed over the course of our development, that became harder and harder. The pool of candidates wasn’t as good. We were spending a good amount of money placing ads on ZipRecruiter, Indeed, in professional journals. So probably about five years ago, I started tracking that a little more financially seeing how much am I spending with very little results? We weren’t getting the personnel that we needed.

So in 2017, We hired our first internal HR person, and now we have an amazing HR specialist, funny enough, she’s full-time with us, but she lives in Mississippi. We started, reaching out to people, and started taking that approach rather than putting out ads and we re-routed that money towards more programs within our organization internally, cause one of the things that does happen in addition to marketing, you got to deal with organizational [00:17:00] operations and financial things that come up, or personnel that can run that cause you can’t do everything as a business owner.

So we started diverting that money that we used to use for ads into programs for our personnel professional development. So now what we do is we have tuition reimbursement programs. We have some really strong team-building programs. We have mentoring programs, all those things have made us a lot more attractive to early career to make career clinicians that want to be involved with those types of programs. Sometimes being a clinician and mental health can be a very isolated career because in many cases you’re in an office, clients come in and clients come out, you’re, back-to-back seeing clients and very little time to associate with colleagues and share just some comradery.

So we started doing programs that promoted the culture that we had in the company of professional development, mentorship and collegiality, that family feeling and all of a [00:18:00] sudden we had more psychologists trying to join our team then we had positions for.

Heather: [00:18:05] I think that’s so smart, Dr. Amado. Who do you look up to you? You’re a self-taught self-inspired marketer. Who’s clearly doing well; but, is there anyone who’s also a marketer that you follow either on social or you read their books who inspires you?

Dr. Amado: [00:18:20] I can’t say that I’ve been reading anything recently, that’s marketing-related; but, I am reading right now president Barack Obama’s last book The Promised Land and he talks a lot about how, he developed from a law student to a community advocate to Senator, then finally president. And one of the things that he does do is really talking about how his messaging had to change from not really selling his voice or his ideas, but channeling the ideas and needs of the people that he wanted to represent and as I was reading the book, then he came out with this podcast with Bruce Springsteen, which is great, I highly recommend.

So, that somewhat influenced [00:19:00] me being here today, but I’ve had some great mentors: Doug Palmer my dissertation chair, someone that always saw that I was likely going to take a different path than some of his other students and nurtured it and help it grow. I do Tai Chi with master Dennis Brown a Kung Fu, Expert Tai-Chi master. I have a lot of people that I look up to. Not necessarily in ma in a marketing.

Jennifer: [00:19:22] But,  it’s inspiring though, and I think having a diverse realm of inspiration. You talked about your industry, it can be a lonely place, you’re in a very giving place so having these resources to find your own inspiration is really, I think, heartfelt and I appreciate you sharing those.

Just to wrap up, if you could go back and talk to the Dr. Amado who was thinking of this great idea of I’m going to start my own business, what would you tell yourself, looking back on your own journey? What kind of advice might you give yourself?

Dr. Amado: [00:19:54] As a psychologist and touching a little bit on, your comment just before, the isolation and of being a psychologist a lot of people see psychologists as if we should know everything, we should have everything together; but, you know where people with our own thoughts and, you never know what someone’s thinking. The face might say one thing; but, the thoughts might be something else. And in training as a psychologist, it’s almost as if your professors teach you to solve problems and to be able to just approach anything and attack it.

I would have started seeking out professional advice outside of psychology and more in business a lot earlier. Marketing, finance HR, operations, all those things are things that, it’s not rocket science, but it takes time, there are detail-oriented issues with it, and if you’re trying to do everything then there’s a lot that you’re potentially not doing that you’re really good at. Whether it could be the marketing or seeing clients, so I would say I wish I would have become a lot more business savvy early on and reached out to, to [00:21:00] professionals in all the areas that you need to focus on as a business owner, again, HR, operations, finance, and marketing.

Jennifer: [00:21:07] Very good advice, Dr. Amado, if our listeners wanted to connect with you or learn more about your services, where can they find you?

Dr. Amado: [00:21:14] Sure they could go to www dot B as in Bravo, E as in echo, S as in Sam, D as in Delta, C as in Charlie. Dot com

Jennifer: [00:21:27] And we’ll put that link for sure in the show notes so folks can find your website there. Today we’ve been talking to Dr. Alfred Amado, the owner of Behavioral and Educational Solutions, and we’ve enjoyed this time with you. Thanks for joining our podcast.

Dr. Amado: [00:21:41] Thank you. I enjoyed it very much also.

Jennifer: [00:21:43] Take care.

Heather: [00:21:51] Thanks for listening. We hope you’ll come back. Subscribe to The M Word, wherever you listen to podcasts, and for more uncensored conversations, visit The M Word Page at [00:22:00] arlingtonstrategy.com.

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