Benchmark rides home modifications to the bank

Monday, November 22, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS - Rehab provider Ron Reed says he has a new service to thank for about 22% of his company's revenues in 2010: home modifications.

"We've found it to be pretty lucrative," said Reed, owner and CEO of Benchmark Mobility. "We're trying to find ways to continue to move forward without it being too painful. You can't just be the old folk's store or the convalescence store. You have to come up with a strategy to diversify."

Benchmark Mobility subcontracts home modifications to Midwest Homes, a Minerva, Ohio-based builder of modular homes.

Home modifications have opened the door for Benchmark Mobility to approach social services and workers' compensation agencies as a one-stop shop for everything from walkers to wheelchairs to roll-in showers, Reed says.

"If you had to get 10 people out there to do 10 different services, you're not going to get cost savings," he said. "If we can do it all together, they tend to like that."

The perks of working with social services and workers' comp agencies include the freedom to provide the products and services that a person needs rather than what insurance will pay for, Reed says.

"Workers' comp doesn't fall under the same ramifications as Medicare, Medicaid and private pay," he said. "You tend to be able to supply products that aren't necessarily a medical necessity but are life enhancing."

Reed isn't the only provider looking to give his company new life with home modifications. Jerry Keiderling, president of Accessible Home Improvement of America, a division of The VGM Group, says he left Medtrade last week, where an accessible home was on display, with more than 100 leads.

"The interest is there," he said. "Providers are either doing it already, but they're not marketing it enough, or they're thinking about getting into it. The neat part about it is you can do it at whatever level you want–you can dabble in it with grab bars or you can go full bore with room additions."

Since Reed's already going full bore with home modifications, he's now looking for the next big thing to help him diversify his company. He has his eye on three new products that he discovered at Medtrade, including a bariatric bed that he says has a good price point and is easy to transport.

"I have three clients I can think of off the top of my head that would benefit from this bariatric bed," he said. "If you're not willing to go out there and continue to educate yourself, how are you going to run a company?"