Gary Sheehan: ‘It didn’t take long to fall in love’

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gary Sheehan knows what you may be thinking about him.

At just 30 years old and with a baby face to boot, the president and CEO of Cape Medical Supply in Sandwich, Mass., knows that “when people come in to meet with me, they’re sitting there saying, ‘This guy looks like a kid,’” laughs Sheehan.

But just whose kid he is makes all the difference in Sheehan’s on-the-job performance. As the son of Cape Medical Supply’s founders Mark and Nancy Sheehan, he understands the incredible opportunity he has at such a young age.

“I know I wouldn’t be CEO if I wasn’t part of the family. I’ve gotten to assume responsibility and chart growth, and I wouldn’t have had that in another environment,” Sheehan says. “It drives me to work that much harder.”

Sheehan’s parents founded Cape Medical Supply in 1977-just a year before Gary’s birth-after the DME supplier that Mark Sheehan worked for went under. He spent his childhood cleaning equipment, moving boxes and helping with deliveries, but he was quick to move on in adulthood.

After graduating from Boston College, Sheehan began a career in sports marketing, until his parents approached him in 2002 to come back and help run the business.

“They said, ‘You don’t have to commit the rest of your life to this, but we think you can apply what you’ve learned to help it grow,’” he says. “I wasn’t interested at first. I was leery about being the child of the owners.”

But after returning home to Cape Medical Supply, “It didn’t take long to fall in love with it,” he says, “because of the benefit I could see we had in the community.”

Today Sheehan oversees a well-tenured staff of 47 and two locations in Sandwich and Plymouth, Mass., and has achieved 150% growth in the last four years alone. He credits his parents for establishing Cape Medical’s strong emphasis on service, which he strives to maintain while building the company’s sales and marketing capabilities.

“(In a family company), you are your business. When you go to the supermarket, people don’t say, ‘There’s Gary Sheehan,’ they say, ‘There’s the guy who runs Cape Medical Supply,’” says Sheehan. “That elevates the level of care.” Despite his passion for the family company he came home to, Sheehan remains grateful for the years he spent away from Cape Medical Supply.

“It was more important emotionally than from a skill set perspective,” he says.

“You hear from people (in family business) who say, ‘I never got to make a choice. It was expected of me.’”

Sheehan continued: “I know when I look back at 50, I’ll be able to say, ‘This was my choice.’”

Gary Sheehan
Title/company: President and CEO, Cape Medical Supply
Locations: Sandwich and Plymouth, Mass.
Age: 30
Years at the helm: 2 ½
Best family quality: “Honesty. We have an ability to be open and direct with one another and with our employees. We also have an ability to be honest with the agencies and individuals we serve.”