Leslie Rigg: Have faith in your abilities

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leslie Rigg wasn't sure how the HME venture she co-founded in 1988 would turn out at the time. Despite high hopes, it was a significant career departure that offered no guarantees.
"My background was in speech pathology--when you're 'young and stupid' it's easy to make those leaps," said Rigg, who started ATS Wheelchair with her partner Robert Krogh. "My brother, who helped me with the accounting part, wondered how many wheelchairs we could sell. I wasn't sure, but I thought we could sell a lot of them."
Nearly two decades later, ATS is much more than just a wheelchair dealer--it is a sophisticated custom rehab services provider. Rigg is a veteran CRTS and has become emblematic of the company's success--tireless dedication to clients, fastidious pursuit of funding and methodical approach to administration.
"Rehab requires you to be very conscientious," she said. "It's a hands-on business. You have to know your clients, know the reimbursement policies and have faith in the abilities of your staff."
Like many who work in rehab, Rigg's day typically goes well beyond 9-to-5. And also like her contemporaries, she is invigorated by the challenge of it. She concedes that the thought of switching to a less demanding profession has crossed her mind over the years, but ultimately concludes that rehab is where she belongs.
"Getting paid is so tough that it sometimes makes me want to quit," she admitted. "But it's what I know, what I do best. I couldn't work for anyone else. It's up to me to find a way to cope with shrinking reimbursement."
Rigg acknowledges that as a top female executive in HME she may be a rare commodity, but says it's no different than any other field. She also expressed confidence that it will change in time.
"Women have to prove themselves more than the men," she said. "And every day we get a little better at it. I don't think there's any question that we can perform as well as the men."
Instead of seeing men vs. women as a competition, Rigg says whatever conflict exists is due to a lack of communication between the sexes.
"We both approach things differently and we need to accept that," she said. "Neither side is right or wrong, we're just different. Once we commit ourselves to understanding that, we'll get along a lot better."

Years in business: 18
Company/location: ATS Wheelchair, Boise, Idaho
Position: Co-owner
Professional associations/activities: Vice president, NRRTS; leader, Region D DAC A Team; instructor and board member, Recreation Unlimited, which provides skiing and snowboarding instruction to the disabled.
Business philosophy: "See each moment as an opportunity to be creative and resourceful."