Larry replaces Larry as Apria’s president

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

LAKE FOREST, Calif. - There’s a new Larry in the president’s chair at Apria.

Larry Mastrovich has ascended to the position, while its former occupant, Larry Higby, continues in the CEO role for the HME industry’s largest national chain.

Under the new configuration, Mastrovich will oversee about 80% of the company’s day-to-day functions, including field operations, purchasing, information systems, revenue management, logistics, regulatory compliance, acquisition integration and infusion services. Higby retains oversight of finance, human resources, corporate compliance, investor relations and sales. In the chain of command, President Mastrovich will report to CEO Higby.

Although he officially assumed the presidency in August, Higby said the plan for the past two years has been to groom Mastrovich for the job. In fact, he has been gradually adding several presidential responsibilities, such as purchasing and information systems oversight, during the past six months.

“This is the culmination of a process where Larry would receive this title if he performed well and he has performed brilliantly,” Higby said.

A quintessential company man, Mastrovich started his career with an independent HME provider called Rios Medical in Philadelphia after receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1984. Mastrovich started as a management trainee and worked his way up the corporate ladder after Rios sold to National Medical Homecare, which spun off Homedco in the mid-1980s. He returned to his native Pittsburgh to serve as a district manager, division vice president and eventually executive vice president of sales for Homedco.

Mastrovich continued in the EVP role through the merger with Abbey and transformation into Apria. In 2001, he was wooed away by a Pittsburgh company called Tech Rx, but that situation didn’t last as the company sold out to a firm called NDC Health. In April 2002, he rejoined Apria as chief operating officer and moved to the Lake Forest corporate headquarters.

Higby didn’t hesitate in bringing Mastrovich back into the Apria fold because “he has a deep understanding of the business, strong leadership capabilities, unyielding determination and demonstrates flexibility on the job.” On the importance of flexibility, Higby said Mastrovich realizes that “there is more than one way to get something done. If one way doesn’t work, he doesn’t dwell on it. He immediately tries to find out what does.”

To be sure, flexibility will be an important attribute in his new role, Mastrovich agreed, adding that a good president also has to be decisive.

“The faster you can get things done and moving in the right direction, the quicker you can get your team behind you,” he said. “You can overanalyze things to the point where you can’t make a decision. You have to trust your instincts and trust your team. If they’re feeding you good information, your decisions will be right most of the time.”

One of Mastrovich’s biggest challenges as president will be spearheading a corporate-wide automation initiative that consists of transitioning from an outdated legacy system to a modern enterprise platform. The process has already begun as Apria has engaged Chicago-based consulting firm Diamond Cluster to put the new system together. The ultimate goal is to have a data sharing system with a solitary database that will automate the company’s intake process.

“I believe we’re at the beginning of where our opportunities lie,” Mastrovich said. “We can still gain efficiencies that we haven’t really begun to see the effects of yet. Automation technology will continue to change our business model and help us change the industry.”

Becoming Apria’s president not only widens the scope of Mastrovich’s internal responsibilities, it also places him in the national spotlight, he said.

“Being a president is the most recognized title in the United States,” he said. “People know your role and with that comes a lot of accountability to the organization and the shareholders.”

As an ambassador for the HME industry, Mastrovich can draw upon two decades’ worth of experience when conveying the importance of the provider’s role to government agencies and legislators.

“We provide a valuable service - we’re an industry that will be needed in the future,” he said. “It’s a cause worth believing in. We provide services to people in their homes, and it’s a legitimate business.”

In following predecessors Higby, Phil Carter and Jerry Jones, Mastrovich said he realizes those are big shoes to fill and said he is “humbled” by any comparisons. Yet Jones said Mastrovich’s well-rounded background makes him an appropriate choice for the president’s chair.

“Larry has done almost every major job in the industry,” Jones said. “A background with so many facets makes him a uniquely qualified individual.”