Indie companies 'chugging along'

Friday, December 28, 2012

Editor’s note: This is the last in a three-part series.

YARMOUTH, Maine – National companies might be on the buying path these days, but some independent providers say they’re here to stay—even if it’s not easy.

“It’s hard to maintain the high quality service—the way we did things years ago—and keep the doors open,” said Mike Osborn, co-owner of Ozark, Mo.-based Alliance Rehab and Medical Equipment. “Reimbursement has changed so much, and then there’s the paperwork. But we’re still chugging along.”

Increased documentation requirements and reduced reimbursement have caused several providers to sell out to nationals, especially within the past year.

Also, providers say, there are ways to stay afloat.

“We rely on our experience to keep things as streamlined and efficient as possible,” says Leslie Rigg, co-owner of Boise, Idaho-based ATS Wheelchair & Medical. “Efficiency is the name of the game.”

Both Rigg and Osborn, along with their respective co-owners, work in the field. Fulfilling several roles helps with the bottom line, says Osborn.

“It allows us to see what’s going on and make sure things are being done correctly,” he said. “And it does keep overhead down.”

Having a good team in place is also key, says Doug Westerdahl, owner of Rochester, N.Y.-based Monroe Wheelchair. He focuses on employee retention, including giving out annual bonuses to all employees and offering access to the company’s inner workings.

“About two and a half years ago, we went to open book management,” he said. “I’m very, very open with the financials—everyone knows to the dollar how much profit we’re making.”

When employees feel secure about a company’s success, they are more likely to stick around, Westerdahl said. He’s not going anywhere, either.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I’ve thought about selling, but I’m not interested.”