Sleeping his way to success

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Killmer to add two centers, gross $1.5M in 2002
When Ed Killmer, whose background is marketing, wanted to start a business nearly six years ago, two things jumped out at him. First, the aging Baby Boomer population; second, the statistic that up to 5% of people over 40 years old have sleep apnea.

With that, Killmer moved from Dallas, where he was teaching business classes and working as a consultant, to Tampa, Fla. He formed Bay Area Sleep Diagnostics Center and immediately kicked off a TV advertising campaign. This year, Killmer's looking to add two new centers and gross $1.5 million.

HME NEWS: Why Tampa? And why advertise on TV right off the bat?

ED KILLMER: With my background, I knew I wanted to add marketing to a traditional diagnostic setting. Tampa has the 13th largest television market in the country. To come into a market and go to pulmonologists, who already have established customers, is hard and time consuming. So we decided to go right to the customers. We put together a 30-second commercial that doesn't really talk about us as much as it does sleep disorders. Viewers call our 1-800 number, and we send them a brochure with a sleep quiz. One-third of our business is a result of that advertising, with the remaining two-thirds coming from referrals.

HME: So business is good?

KILLMER: We test about 160 people a month, but we still have about a two-week waiting list. We have centers in Tampa, Lakeland and Bradenton. We also manage the sleep labs of two hospitals - one in Sarasota and one in St. Petersburg. By July, we'll add another center in Tampa and one in St. Petersburg. The demand for this service is tremendous. Since we opened six years ago, our competition has doubled.

HME: How do you deal with that competition?

KILLMER: We can offer a friendlier, less clinical setting. We also test seven nights a week and have various locations. Hospitals here have one-month to two-month waiting lists. In two weeks, we've got you tested, we've done a titration, and we put a CPAP in your hand.

HME: Is that unusual, for people to get CPAPs so soon?

KILLMER: Often, it'll take a month before you get a CPAP. But with us, when the test and titration are done, you walk home with a CPAP that night. We just try to get the authorization ahead of time, or if we can't do that, we get a deposit until the authorization goes through. The whole industry should go in that direction. HME