Teresa Glass Owens: Hard work earns respect

Thursday, August 31, 2006

If, as the old adage goes, "the best revenge is living well," it certainly applies to Teresa Glass Owens.
Owens has been running her own business for nearly five years and the company, Glass Seating and Mobility, is wheeling along smoothly. One couldn't blame her if at this point, however, she verbally slammed her male detractors, but she's not the "I-told-you-so" type.
Owens started in HME as a customer service rep in 1991 and worked in that role for two years before pursuing an outside sales position at the company.
"When the job opened up I was told point blank that I was female, inexperienced, a single parent and that I would never make it," she recalled. "Being a woman in this industry doesn't matter until you step onto a man's turf. It made me wonder if I could make it."
She conquered whatever self doubt she had, literally begged for the opportunity, and it led to her wish being answered--but not before one final obstacle.
"Two weeks after I got the job, they hired an additional male sales rep and when we split the accounts, I got the worst ones," she said. "Fortunately, I was not only able to match the men stride for stride but also outperformed them. Only then did I earn their respect."
Owens channeled that fortitude into her own company, which serves the toughest segment of a hardscrabble HME business--custom rehab. She's a certified ATP and oversees a staff of eight. As president, she allots a portion of her day to administrative duties, but the bulk of her time is spent with patients.
She admits that the rehab reimbursement landscape is a convoluted maze of policy twists and turns, but says it can be navigated with the right approach.
"It requires a lot of focus," she said. "You have to adopt the mentality that it's not a black-and-white business--it's gray. You have to instill it in your employees to question everything. If you don't, you won't get paid."
Owens definitely had something to prove when climbing the rungs of the HME ladder, but she didn't let ambition overpower her charm as she advanced her career. In fact, it was her enchanting personality as a self-professed "good ol' girl" that led to her success.
"I was once told during an interview that 'All things being equal, people do business with people they like and all things being unequal, people do business with people they like,'" she recalled.
"I've gained more ground with that advice than anything else," she continued. "I credit my accomplishments to the fact that I've gotten people to like me."

Years in business: 15
Company/location: Glass Seating and Mobility, Memphis, Tenn.
Size: $2 million
Position: President, owner
Professional associations: Tennessee Rehab Counsel, RESNA certified ATS/ATP
Business philosophy: "Surround yourself with the right people. Everyone on staff is not going to be a leader, but everyone will be presented with the training and knowledge to lead. If you choose to follow, that's okay; however, you have to know where you're going and what to do when you get there."