Ramp franchiser’s sales soar

Sunday, February 29, 2004

BOSTON, Mass. - With patient care increasingly shifting from hospitals to the home, Julian Gordon found his 30-year-old construction company taking an unlikely detour into the home health market.

Gordon Industries, a Boston-based manufacturer of metal products like doors, railings and stairs, five years ago patented the construction of an easy-to-install, temporary ramp. The ramp’s popularity in the home health market gave way to the creation of American Ramp Systems, which has found franchising success across the country, including five new locations in New Jersey.

“When we started with American Ramp Systems we didn’t know where the market was,” said Gordon. “We were making ramps for buildings, but then people started asking us ‘Can you make one for my mother or father?’ We kind of evolved into this from there.”

Now American Ramp is geared mostly to home health care, seniors and children with disabilities. It contracts with insurance companies, including the VA and Liberty Mutual, to help with the patient transition from hospital to home care, and is aggressively looking for dealers among DME providers. The company has 209 dealers nationwide.

“For us, it’s primarily about home health care,” said Gordon. “Insurers do not want to keep you in hospital. They want to send you home the day before you arrive, so we end up being part of the process of discharging into the home.”

Also helping business is the growing desire of seniors for independence. While nursing home growth has plateaued over the past 10 years, the number of homeowners 65 and older has jumped 16%, and many of those people need help getting in and out, Gordon said.

Playing off these trends, American Ramp plans to continue aggressively franchising the business. Gordon hopes to have 100 locations in five years.

“DME providers have been effective in working with us,” said Gordon. “Forty-five percent of our business is rental, and at some point the rental is paid for and the whole process just grows profit for them.”

The company encourages renting if the person thinks they will be on their feet again in five to six months. They also provide an extensive list of funding sources to customers who are discouraged by the price.

This business model has proven a success for Gordon with 27% sales growth in 2003 and a 50% growth the two previous years. He says, however, that it is the service he provides that is most rewarding.

“Construction was a very thankless business,” he said. “Now people write us letters to thank us. It is really gratifying to do something with your day that helps folks.”