Carol Gilligan: Patient care comes first

Thursday, August 31, 2006

In Carol Gilligan's world, rising is hardly a word that best describes her climb from a start-up rehab supplier in 1984 to a $7 million provider of home medical equipment today.
"If you call it rising, these days I call it surviving," said Gilligan.
Is Gilligan a savvy businesswoman? You bet. Her company is a perennial favorite on anybody's top-five list of the best rehab suppliers in the country. But when she talks about business, she doesn't talk about spreadsheets or balance sheets; she talks, first, about patients.
"When you get the opportunity to meet a patient whose life has benefited from your care, you forget all about the paperwork and the red tape, and you remember why you got into the business in the first place," said Gilligan.
Gilligan also remembers her inspirations. In the 1960s and 1970s, her mother and two aunts founded local women's organizations and started stepping out, with public speaking, through networking and political involvement.
Lucky for Gilligan, she could stand on the shoulders of a mother and aunts who understood the power of political involvement. She's a regular at industry political events, in Washington and Ohio. Unfortunately, being politically savvy doesn't mitigate the frustrations of trying to run a business dependent on the whims of legislators who may or may not be in the know. For Gilligan, that's the hardest part.
"I find it extremely difficult to make business decisions when you don't know if some wacky California legislator with too much political power is going to throw your industry under the bus so he can fulfill his own agenda," she said.
Her passion for the rehab business was sparked in the 1980s by an encounter with a neighborhood girl with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. Twenty-two years later, that girl is grown, graduated from college and still doing business with Gilligan's company.
Not surprisingly, patient care is the best part of doing business at Health Aid of Ohio, she said.
As the president of a company in an economy that still rewards the good ol' boy, she still smarts over the play that such male prerogatives as golf, power and money have in the marketplace. But she's persuaded that the "gentler touch" of her business is still one of the arbiters of Health Aid's success.
"In health care, women are becoming more valuable not only for their ability to organize and multi-task, but also for their nurturing and mentoring tendencies," said Gilligan. "These are much needed qualities in this industry." hme
Years in business: 22
Company/location: Health Aid of Ohio, Inc., Cleveland
Size: $7 million (with more than 70 employees)
Position: President, owner
Business philosophy: "Be the best! Provide the best technology and patient care, and you will be the leader in your market."