Betty DeKraker, AuD, the owner of a small hearing clinic in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is one of five small business owners being recognized by AIR MILES for Business (AMFB) 2016 Small Business Achievement Awards. To celebrate some of Canada’s most accomplished small business owners, the AIR MILES®Reward Program is hosting the third annual Small Business Achievement Awards, presented by Bank of Montreal, on March 7, 2016.
The Boreal Hearing Centre has achieved exponential growth within its first 18 months, earning itself AMFB’s “Start-Up of the Year” award. As this year’s winner, DeKraker will receive a one-on-one mentorship from one of North America’s top business leaders, Malcolm Fowler, vice president of Financial Institutions & Partner Management, Moneris.
DeKraker, who opened the Boreal Hearing Centre in 2014, focuses on offering her customers a wide array of the best hearing care products and accessories on the market. The clinic achieved exponential growth within its first 18 months, with sales-topping numbers DeKraker hadn’t forecasted reaching until year five.
DeKraker knew she was taking a risk when she opened up her clinic. A doctor of audiology with more than 20 years’ experience, she had watched over the past 12 years as the delivery model in the hearing services field became dominated by corporate-owned chains and big box stores advertising discounted product. However, she realized these operations lacked the freedom to offer a variety of products because they were either owned by, or closely affiliated with, a particular hearing aid manufacturer. So DeKraker opened her own completely independent clinic.
“I want to be able to select the best products and accessories on the market for clients based on their individual needs,” said DeKraker. “By using products from several manufacturers, I can involve clients in the decision-making process. From day one I wanted to create for customers a very personal experience – not just a clinical one.”
According to AMFB, building on the tenets of honesty, quality and integrity, the hearing clinic’s value system is reflected in marketing material that is focused on education. Boreal Hearing Centre supplements ads in the Thunder Bay Chronicle Journal with a monthly column penned by DeKraker, in which she provides her expertise on hearing loss and care. She has also formed partnerships with organizations she thinks her clinic can help educate, such as Chartwell, a local seniors’ residence. DeKraker also sends out personal, hand-written thank you cards to all patients of the clinic.
DeKraker reports that she is proud of the fact that now three out of the four ear, nose and throat physicians in the city refer patients to Boreal Hearing Centre. “The response has been so great and I feel so honored; the success has really been unexpected, but I think it is a strong indicator of the trust we’ve built with patients who see that we’re guided by quality customer service and fair pricing,” said DeKraker.
Representatives of the AMFB 2016 Small Business Achievement Awards reported that through “very strong vision and leadership, Boreal has given real thought to what it takes to differentiate the business in the market. This, in combination with a real focus on values, is probably why DeKraker has succeeded so well in a short period of time.”
From start-ups to established enterprises, other 2016 winners received awards in four of the five categories: Small Business of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Social Venture, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In addition to receiving a one-on-one mentorship session with a top business leader, this year’s honorees will receive other professional perks, such as a profile in Canadian Business magazine, 10,000 AIR MILES Reward Miles, and a trip to Toronto to attend the winners reception. For more details about the Awards, visit: http://www.amfbawards.com/.
To learn more about some of the values and business practices demonstrated by DeKraker, read Lolly Wigall’s February 12, 2016 article in Hearing Review, which outlines tips for marketing and growing a small hearing practice on a shoestring.
Source: AIR MILES Reward Program, AMFB