Issue: March 2008 Issue
Finding a Niche
Roscoe Medical experienced double-digit growth by offering better prices and services.
Determined to carve out his own career path in his early 20s, Jessie Keirn had no interest in joining the family business: Strongsville-based Roscoe Medical Inc.
“I wanted to make my own claim, plus I knew the family dynamics would be very tough to work with,” recalls Keirn. But when he was laid off from his job at a recruiting firm, his perspective changed.
While Keirn was configuring his next career move, he lent a hand at the family business founded by his mom, Rochelle Thuerner. His brother, Richard, a former Merrill Lynch broker, took charge of sales.
“When I started helping out at the family business, I saw very clearly the opportunities for growth and decided to become the company’s third employee,” explains Keirn. “It worked out pretty well.”
Indeed. Since 1997, Roscoe Medical, a distributor of home-care medical supplies and equipment to dealers who sell these products to consumers, has posted double-digit annual growth. Over the last 10 years, the company expanded its product lines from just under 500 to more than 5,000 and has created about 60 new jobs in sales, customer service, operations and distribution. In addition to operating a 43,000-square-foot distribution center in Strongsville, Roscoe Medical recently opened a 32,000-square-foot distribution center in California that employs nearly 14 people.
Roscoe Medical opened for business in 1994 when Keirn’s mother, who worked for a home health-care product company, saw an opportunity. She realized home health-care companies were providing poor service and paying top dollar for products from original equipment manufacturers.
“Mom always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and she spotted an opportunity to open a business that would supply home health-care products at a lower cost with better service,” says Keirn. “In the first few years, our bread and butter was selling filters and other accessories for various respiratory products used in the home.”
While gradually expanding its product lines and developing a stellar reputation in its industry circles, Roscoe Medical scored a national contract in 1997 with one of the country’s largest home health companies, California-based Apria Healthcare Group Inc. That helped Roscoe Medical expand its product lines even more and forced the company to add employees. What’s more, Roscoe Medical began sourcing its own brand line of home health offerings.
But the company’s expansion created strains in maintaining its double-digit growth pattern as more competition came on the scene. So in 2005, the Keirn family decided to sell its majority ownership to a private equity firm from Tennessee. Keirn, his brother and another employee bought minority ownership in the company and his mother retired. Due to the infusion of new resources from the private equity relationship, Roscoe Medical has been able to maintain its strong growth pace.
And oddly enough, Keirn, who was concerned about dealing with the difficult dynamics of a family-run business, now serves as co-president of Roscoe Medical with his brother.
“In the early years, it was difficult,” reflects Keirn. “At times, I didn’t want to work with my brother, and I know he didn’t want to work with me. But you grow up and mature, and now we get along very well. We learned to check our egos at the door, work hard and create a comfortable atmosphere that everyone in our company enjoys.”
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