Philosophy Enables Auburndale, Fla., Medical-Equipment Business to Grow.
The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)
March 15, 2002
Byline: Merissa Green
Mar. 15–AUBURNDALE, Fla.–Butch Vanderpool built his home medical-equipment business on customer service. Because of that philosophy, Health Care Diagnostics Inc. has grown from a 1,000-square-foot facility to an 18,000-square-foot facility in six years.
“I had a real concern about patient care,” he said. “I just figure a small business could give better service.”
Health Care Diagnostics, at 610 Magnolia Ave., has 65 full-time workers and nine part-time employees. His wife, brother-in-law, children and mother work for him. He also employs many of his church members from Canaan Temple Church of God.
“I’ve surrounded myself with people I can trust,” he said.
The company provides oxygen, nebulizers, canes, crutches, bath safety aids, power scooters, hospital beds and other health-care products. The Auburndale location has a call center, show room, management offices, respiratory therapy facility and a pharmacy for respiratory medications. What his company is best known for is its clinical respiratory services and being an oxygen provider. The company services 20 counties with seven branch locations in places such as Sebring and Tampa. Diagnostics had $6.5 million in sales last year.
Vanderpool, 43, was a home medical-equipment salesman for Homeco before he began his business in July 1996. He put together a business plan and had a vendor who introduced him to an investor.
He opened his business on Bridgers Avenue with four employees. He moved to 910 Magnolia Ave. in 1998 and then to his current location in March 2001. Pictures of each store location hang on a wall in the lobby as a reminder of how the company has grown.
The only explanation Vanderpool has for the rapid growth of the company is that he’s blessed.
“I’ve got this deal going with God,” he said. “He opens the doors and I’ll give him the glory.”
While he hopes his business stays in the family, Vanderpool said he encourages his three children, Casey, 19, Courtney, 15 and Dylan, 9, to be productive citizens in the community first. Casey, the oldest daughter, has performed various task for the business since she was 14, he said.
One of the best business decisions Vanderpool said he’s made was a competitive bid project with Medicare. Polk County was selected for the project and it was considered a controversial endeavor by many in the home medical-equipment industry, Vanderpool said.
“Our industry believes that our reimbursement from Medicare is already too low,” he said.
Through the process, Vanderpool said he has to think of how he can provide services at an even lower cost while still making money. Preparing for the bidding process improved his business, he said. He still grew at the same rate with a lesser profit. So he expanded his business into other areas.
He opened a sleep-study lab in Lakeland and started selling rehabilitation equipment. He also added a respiratory therapist to his staff to work with customers and added a pharmacy for respiratory products. Companies comparable to his business usually contract with therapists, he said.
“If I have a clinical respiratory therapist who works for me, they care about my company,” he said. “It behooves them to give great care because it’s a reflection of them and the service we provide.”
What also makes Diagnostic successful, says Vanderpool, is that he hired a management staff that has strengths over his weaknesses.
His mission statement reads, “To provide state of the art medical equipment for the patient/client and primary caregiver and to provide a level of customer service to be envied by the entire health care community by practicing the ‘golden rule’ and treating patients, caregivers, referral sources, the competition and our employees with the utmost dignity and respect.”
With the mission statement as the company’s guide, Vanderpool works to instill a good work ethic in his employees. He encourages them to come up with goals to improve customer service in each of their departments and to develop a vision of their own.
“A goal not written down is nothing but a fantasy,” Vanderpool said.
The employees agree.
Marion Hawker is a company account representative who spent 10 years at Pepsi and has worked for Vanderpool for six months.
“I decided to step away from the corporate world,” she said. “I wanted to represent a company that really cares about the end result.”
Kristie Whitcomb, operations manager who has been with the company since July 1997, said Vanderpool is a progressive thinker and role model.
“He keeps us moving forward at a very fast pace,” she said.
Faye Lindquist, who was working for her sister at Cypress Gardens Medical Inc. in Winter Haven, said she wanted to work for Vanderpool because she needed a personal change in her life. Lindquist said her sister, Gail Lewis, didn’t mind because she and Vanderpool have been friends for seven years.
“She knew the type of person that he is and that he would take care of me,” she said.
The majority of the 8,000 patients the company serves are senior citizens who don’t have family members locally.
“I feel like if you’re going to be sick, it’s nice to know someone cares about you.”
Vanderpool also said his business would not be where it is today without word of mouth.
“The sky’s the limit for us,” he said. “We continue to have favor with the people we’ve done business with.”
To see more of The Ledger, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.theledger.com
(c) 2002, The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.