New book highlights Mal Mixon's courage

Monday, May 24, 2010

Most people in the HME industry know how Mal Mixon, at age 39 and with only $10,000 to his name, led a leverage buyout of Invacare in 1979 and proceeded to grow the company's annual sales from $19 million to $1.8 billion over the next 30 years. In April, Mixon's story of business success began expanding well beyond the HME industry, thanks to "The Risk Takers," a new book by Renee and Don Martin. In separate chapters, the book tells how 16 entrepreneurs made it to the top. Mixon shares the stage with such business luminaries as Paul Orfalea (Kinkos) and Gary Heavin (Curves International). Renee Martin talked to HME News recently about how she and her husband came to write the book and why they included Mixon.

HME News: So, why did you write the book?

Renee Martin: We were concerned that we are living in a tough economic era, and you can see that Americans are really worried. We both felt we needed to do something to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit if we are going to rebuild our economy. The best teachers are those who have been there, done that. So why not go to those people and have them share their stories, how did they do it?

HME: With the economy limping along, this does seem like a scary time to start a new business.

Martin: There are always business opportunities. It has never been easy in any economy in any era. All of these people struggled. The book highlights the traits the risk takers shared in common. These traits were the keys to their success.

HME: Why did you include Mal Mixon in the book?

Martin: Mal Mixon is proof that it is never too late to put the breaks on a ho-hum career. Mal was 39 years old, and even though he was vice president of a company, he had the courage to leave that job. He thought he could run his own business.

HME: What else do you think people can learn from Mal?

Martin: What was amazing about Mal was that he kept recreating his company. Mal continued to introduce new products. He paid attention. He also brought in other HME so it was like a one-stop shopping for everything you need. He was incredibly innovative. That's what companies need to do that are in a malaise right now. They need to ask: What do I need to do to reinvent my company to make it better, to make it different?