Central: ‘We’re roll-up-our-sleeves people’

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If the HME Excellence Awards were the Olympics, Central Medical Equipment would be a two-time bronze medalist. For the second straight year, owner Terry Luft graciously accepted a second runner-up plaque in the rehab category.

“We’re pleased just to be part of the process,” he said modestly.

Harrisburg, Pa.-based Central has a lot to be proud of with two consecutive second runner-up finishes. The judging panel found several aspects of its business to be outstanding, especially sales and marketing, industry activism and community involvement.

“Their marketing materials were very well done,” one judge said. “They appear to have been written with the patient in mind.”

A full-service HME company, Central has three locations and focuses on retail sales-a strategy that resulted in a 14% growth rate last year. Luft says that while he and his staff are committed to the “warm and fuzzy” aspects of the rehab business, they can’t ignore the stark financial reality.

“We feel it is our obligation to serve those who truly can’t afford it, but the flip side is that we’re a business,” he said. “Our customers want us to make money because they want us to be there for them.”

A 27-year industry veteran, Luft is an entrepreneur with an independent spirit. The key to success, he says, is having a nimble organization that keeps pace with the times.

“It boils down to communication,” he said. “We don’t burden ourselves with two-hour staff meetings in the morning. We’re roll-up-our-sleeves people.”

Squeezing out every cent of revenue takes fastidious attention to detail and the process is ingrained into the system, Luft said.

“Every order-whether a cane or a $45,000 wheelchair-is reviewed by two sets of eyes,” he said. “Everything is checked and double checked.”

As strong as its internal workings are, it is Central’s external activities that really shine. A prominent member of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers, Luft has worked tirelessly for the group, serving on the board for 15 years.

“Being an active part of the state association is paramount,” he said. “We give our emotional and financial support to the cause. It feels good at the end of the day when the industry gets a big win.”

A stalwart in the community, Luft is involved in various charitable activities and organizations. He sits on a host of committees, organizes an annual golf tournament and rallies behind a number of fundraising efforts. The one that is closest to his heart, however, is Hospice of Central Pennsylvania.

“I have a deep personal attachment to them because they took care of my father,” he said.

Luft encourages others in the company to get involved, as well. This has resulted in the company becoming a Little League sponsor, complete with the company name above the scoreboard.

“We’re a community-based company,” he said. “I was born and raised in Harrisburg. We’ve tried to be a strong local company. I don’t know what the future holds, but we want to continue like this for as long as we possibly can.”

Central Medical Equipment
Headquarters: Harrisburg, Pa.
Employees: 45
Industry affiliations: Joint Commission, PAMS, RESNA, NRRTS, Pennsylvania

Respiratory Association
Community outreach: Muscular Dystrophy Association, ALS Association, Hospice of Central Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia