When South Boston businessman Julian Gordon’s hit the skids, he found a profitable way to shift gears by shifting markets.
In the 1980s, Gordon found himself right in the middle of a spectacular bull market in the construction industry. Condominiums and high-rise apartment buildings were sprouting all over the city and Gordon ‘s architectural metal products business flourished as Gordon Industries sold metal railings, stairs and doors galore.
The speculative building boom gave Gordon the wherewithal to travel to Europe frequently, spend winters in Florida and collect old Mercedes, all while working only three days a week. However, when the Bank of New England collapsed in 1991, Gordon’s business fell to ground zero.
Supporting baby boomers with wheelchair ramps
Gordon decided to use what he knew—fabricating and manufacturing metal products—another way. After doing a significant amount of market research, he decided to transform his metal manufacturing business into a company that supported the aging baby boomer population and would be able to withstand a recession. He began manufacturing metal wheelchair ramps and other accessibility equipment that can help older people with handicapped needs remain in their own homes instead of moving to nursing homes. And thus was Amramp born.
“Eighty percent of all health care expenditures come in the last 20 percent of life,” Gordon explains. “The need is growing exponentially for guys like me who can serve and help the senior community.”
Gordon points out that insurance companies don’t want people to go in hospitals or nursing homes if such can be avoided, which is a very good thing for his business. “A home health regimen is a fraction of the cost, so insurance companies today want to send you home almost before the bleeding stops.”
More than 90 percent of seniors want to remain in their own homes until they die, but many home-based patients still need such services as chemotherapy, physical therapy and dialysis and therefore need safe, reliable products that allow them to age in place.
“If mom can’t lift dad out of bed in the morning, get him to the toilet, feed him and take him to his doctor’s appointments, that pretty much punches his ticket to a nursing home,” Gordon says. But with good patient lifting and transport equipment the picture changes. “We have the apparatus and devices so that mom can put a sling under dad, lift him and get him to the portable shower and take him to doctors’ appointments using a ramp.”
Franchising to grow a business
Because Gordon found that distributing his products through dealers was slow and ineffective, he began offering franchises for his products. His original strategy to draw franchisees relied on national and regional franchise expos. “I would work all week and leave on Friday night to set up and host a booth at these typically weekend-long
events,” says Gordon.
Gordon’s backdrop message asked: Do you wish a growing opportunity serving the aging population and their healthcare needs? “Young people without this life experience walked by muttering ” what’s a ramp?,” he says. “However, people who had experience taking care of an aging grandparent or had a family member with disabilities were drawn to our unique concept.”
The he asked those who expressed interest if the required investment amount was acceptable. Those who answered “yes” were then asked about their sales and or marketing experience and any business experience.
Gordon then asked if applicants were willing to invest the required time and energy physical investment of time and energy. “Scheduling and meeting six prospects per day is a physical effort,” Gordon says. “This usually screens out retirees or persons not able to do the 50-60 hours per week that owning your own business requires.”
Franchising has established methods and policies that work, Gordon explains. “If
discussions with the prospect are filled with suggestions as to ‘How we can
do it better’ it’s likely that this person should not be joining and established franchise and should look for an independent business format that will allow him or her to ‘express his creativity.’”
Finally, says Gordon, prospects must possess the level of dignity he wants the brand to project and realistic expectations about the level of income the franchise can provide.
The future of Amramp and expanding product lines
As for offering additional products, Gordon says customers tell him about additional goods and services they would consider if he offered them. “We then Google the item, travel to trade shows in the U.S. and Europe to discover items that are available to us that fit our mark up and distribution structure.”
Gordon’s product line now includes portable showers, vertical platform lifts, pool lifts, overhead patient lifts, automatic door openers, wireless alert devices and grab bars.
Written By Julie Crawshaw