Clear Choice president: Up for the challenge

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ROME, Ga. - Don't tell Larry Szeliga he can't do something because he's bound to turn around and prove you wrong.
In August 2004, the former GM executive and independent business consultant bought an HME on the brink of bankruptcy. Despite his unfamiliarity with HME and the constant industry upheaval, it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
"We had to rewrite all the procedures, clean up the financials and throw away a ton of outdated inventory," said Szeliga, president of Clear Choice Oxygen and Medical Supply. "I'm trying to learn the business and turn it around at the same time."
The 1,400-square-foot store carries DME such as wheelchairs, beds and concentrators, as well as nutrition, ostomy and incontinence supplies. Szeliga aims to be a one-stop shop for customers.
"I would not want to be running all over the place getting what I need," he said.
Clear Choice accepts Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance and is the only retail HME in town--save for Wal-Mart and Walgreens. The company also contracts with several local hospices.
When he's not at his other job as chief operating officer of OTR Wheel Engineering, Szeliga works in the store part time. He is quick to credit his staff of five with his success.
"We go out to dinner once a month and toss around ideas," said Szeliga. His wife helps out in the office and visits local care facilities with their therapy dog, Czar (See story next page).
With Jan. 2006 sales projections of $60,000, Szeliga admits the business isn't where he'd like it to be--yet. To that end, he's ramped up marketing. He hired someone to visit referral sources and has begun newspaper advertising. Last fall, the company also began to focus on growing its oxygen business. A new RT visits sleep labs and respiratory patients.
"I don't like capping oxygen and stuff like that," said Szeliga. "It's dangerous. But I'm tickled pink that a lot of my competitors are talking about cutting back. I'm looking for ways to increase services."