Mixon steps aside
ELYRIA, Ohio – Mal Mixon was at a business meeting in China, just ahead of the Paralympic Games in Beijing, when he learned the Chinese didn’t know how to play wheelchair basketball. So Mixon flew wheelchair basketball champion Paul Schulte to China to teach them. The Chinese ordered about 300 Top End wheelchairs and won more medals at those games than in their entire history.
It’s that kind of willingness to go the extra mile that has helped Mixon grow Invacare from a domestic manufacturer with $19 million in sales in 1979, to a global powerhouse with sales of $1.4 billion in 2013.
Mixon, who will retire Dec. 21, spoke to HME News recently about why he remains “bullish” on the HME industry.
HME News: Why did this seem like a good time to step down?
Mal Mixon: We’ve got a lot of good people that are much younger and better than me, perhaps. I’ll always do what I can to help Invacare and the industry. I don’t need to burden them with my salary and my expenses. Invacare will be a great company long after I’m gone.
HME: What do you consider to be Invacare’s greatest success under your leadership?
Mixon: I don’t think it’s any one single thing. The development of our first power wheelchair was clearly a breakthrough. Our entry into respiratory was a big thing—I think HomeFill might have been our greatest patented item. Our objective has always been to have the best product in its category. We can make the quality of life for people so much better.
HME: There have been amazing advances in technology over the past 35 years. What do you think is next?
Mixon: We tend to look at what’s going on in the institutions and understand what will soon be going on in the home. I think there are many things that, in the future, will happen in the home and we need to be alert to these and continue to develop product.
HME: Invacare has been hampered by a consent decree that has limited its ability to manufacture and sell wheelchairs. What’s the latest there?
Mixon: All I can tell you is we’ve made a lot of progress. We are spending a tremendous amount of money to comply and, I can assure you, we will be in compliance 100% when we finally get approval.
HME: Despite all the struggles the industry faces, do you still consider HME to be a good place to be?
Mixon: There’s a wellness doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who thinks in two or three generations, people are going to live to be 120. Right now, we are only about 1.4% of Medicare spending, but in a few years, home care is going to be a huge part of the healthcare system. We know that home care is much less expensive, people prefer it and the infection rate is lower. Worldwide, I have a positive feeling about the demographics. People may have different accents and languages and sizes, but they are all getting older and they will need home care. I am very bullish on this industry.