‘I hit the bottom of the barrel’

Saturday, July 31, 2004

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Although located thousands of miles away, Enrique Toro’s rehab business almost went down with the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

“After the New York tragedy, I hit the bottom of the barrel in terms of funding,” said Toro, president of KTG. “My funding sources dried up, and to maintain my overhead and employees, I decided to do what I did before, which was retail.”

Thanks to his pumped up retail efforts - he began distributing private label compression hosiery, patient aids, knee braces and other soft goods to supermarkets and independent pharmacies - Toro’s generating more revenue than ever before.

In September 2001, for example, KTG - providing just rehab services and products - tallied gross billings of $95,000. In March 2004, the company billed $429,000, 65% of which comes from his retail distribution business, Toro said.

“I underestimated the financial capacity of these drug stores until I tried them,” he said. “My God! They pay me in 30 days. The government doesn’t have the capacity to pay me in 140 days.”

This year he’s augmenting his compression business with a unit that allows him to measure a lymphedema, download the information to a computer, e-mail it to a manufacturer and receive a quote for a custom product in 20 minutes. In August, he’ll debut a diabetic foot clinic at a single location in Puerto Rico’s largest pharmacy chain. The clinic will show people how to take care of their feet and introduce them to diabetic products.Toro plans to track patient data and if the program proves successful in reducing amputations, he’ll try to market it to insurance companies.

With that kind of thinking lighting his way, it’s clear Toro’s come a long way since the dark days following 9/11. At that time, a confluence of reimbursement cuts in Puerto Rico for rehab, inflation and uncertainty and fear generated by the Trade Center disaster reduced his business by a third, from $3 million to $2 million a year.

“I was ready for disaster,” Toro said. “The future of my business was very dim. Now I’m excited about the future.”