In a recent article, I wrote about the “Beginning of IMS”, and one of the original owners Jack VandenBroek. Today’s blog features his answers to some of my curious questions about his experience with IMS over the last 29 years and what sets us apart from other companies.
What was your biggest concern when starting the company?
We started the company in February of 1988. My wife and I had just finished building and moving into a new home and in March we had our first baby. So, my biggest concern was how are we going to pay the bills as most new startup companies don’t turn a profit the first couple years. We were blessed with a few good product lines from the start and great customers that were willing to take a chance with us.
What was your best business moment or biggest achievement?
I have to start with the worst moment which was when we lost a major product line in 1997. We were a large distributor for Air Shields Infant Care Products and it was a fair percentage of our overall business revenue. Air Shields was purchased by Hill Rom and they were a direct sales company and they cancelled our distribution agreement which was a major loss for us.
However, as a result of working in the Obstetrics Department we were aware of infant security systems and the challenges many customers faced with the systems available in the market at that time. We felt there was an opportunity in the market so we began searching for a product line that was software-based with the latest in security features. Through one of our customers we discovered the Hugs Infant Security System and signed a distribution agreement to sell, install and support them in Michigan.
Our biggest achievement has been the success of this product as we are now supporting over 330 systems in over 14 states.
How has the healthcare industry changed in the last 29 years?
As a healthcare distribution company the healthcare industry has gone through extensive changes since we started the company. Healthcare has become considerably more like a business or a corporation. Product and system decisions are not only based on better healthcare outcomes but also on the return on investment. Product lines need to make customers more efficient, minimize risk and show a reasonable return on investment much like any other business today.
What has been your biggest business struggle?
Finding product lines where the manufacturer is willing to continue investing in the product to keep up with technology. Over the years manufacturers have gained market share, but as technology advances they don’t continue to invest in new technology which opens an opportunity for a competitor to enter the market and gain market share.
Where do you see IMS headed?
I see IMS continuing to grow as a systems integrator exclusively in the healthcare market. We understand technology and healthcare and we will continue to look for products where we can bring value to the customer by combining these.
What advice would you give to business owners?
Whether you are in healthcare or not, good people and a team approach are your most valuable asset.
Next time, I will interview some of our long-term employees, who have been with us since the start, about working at IMS, why their continued loyalty especially when workplace loyalty is at an all-time low all across the U.S. and how they service our customers and the relationships built over the years.