I remember several years ago, I walked into the tech room at Intermedex, looked around at all we had acquired and asked Juan, “How’d we do all this?” He shrugged and sighed, “Man, I dunno.”
We’ve talked about it in the past, and often we’ll disagree on this detail or that, but one thing is absolute: It all began with my dad. That much we agreed on.
It was my father that got my then boyfriend a part time job at our neighbor’s medical equipment start-up company. Doug, the neighbor, was out watering his grass when dad asked him, “Hey, my future son in law is looking for part time work…” Being a college kid, Juan went in with no experience, and could only work a few days a week any way, when he didn’t have classes. It was a small company owned by two men that only needed someone here and there, so it was a good fit.
Didn’t take Juan long to realize he had a knack for repairing medical equipment, and soon he quit college and they hired him full time.
He tells the story: one slow day at work, there was a box of cables sitting on the floor waiting to be returned to a hospital. “Let me take a look at it.” “Nah dude, we don’t repair that stuff. Hospitals buy new. Not sure why they sent it in. It just gets thrown away.” Juan blew the guy off and looked inside the box anyway.
It was filled with pulse oximetry cables; finger sensors they put on you in the hospital to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood. Curious, he took one apart, fiddled around with it, and fixed it.
Soon, the owners were placing ads all over the country and boxes were coming in by the hundreds. A quick year later, the small company he had been working for was now making over a million dollars a year, off his efforts.
Even though Juan did turn out to be a brilliant engineer, in the beginning, it wasn’t that it was rocket science, it was simply that he had taken the time to sit down and figure out how to repair those particular cables. Saved hospitals thousands a year in their repair budgets. Once his confidence grew, so did the list of items he could repair–and he could do those repairs for a fraction of what they cost new!
But he started to get frustrated…
After four years of making someone else rich, my dad suggested, “Why not start your own company?” I had suggested it before, but that boyfriend of mine had selective hearing.
When my dad spoke, he heard.
Took a year of planning: coming up with a catchy name “Intermedex” (short for International Medical Experts), designing the logo (I still have the sketch pads), saving and buying the tools needed (gramps offered up a whole box of crimping tools he sent out from Tennessee that Juan still uses today), and one of the most generous souls on earth heard about our enterprise, and let us borrow testing equipment at no charge for an entire year! Love List….
After I got laid off from Paramount, I spent the summer “building” the physical part of our business with Juan. We went to Home Depot, spent $100 on a particle board counter top and some 2 x 4’s and came home and built a work bench in our garage. Together, we sawed, painted, nailed and glued. Just needed customers now.
So, I walked in one day and dropped a big pile of cables on the living room table and said, “Teach me.” I became the face of Intermedex, pounding the pavement of every medical facility from Santa Barbara to San Diego.
But, after awhile I missed my job in Hollywood, and bills needed to be paid. This was his vision, not mine. I wanted to help, but I liked working in television. Needed the money too. We only made $8,000 the first six months and (my now husband got fired the first day our ad appeared, and his former employer then proceeded to sue us).
To this day, I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t afraid. I knew if we stayed steady, it would pay off some day. It would just take time.
Called my awesome bosses at Warner Bros, and asked if they needed an assistant for their new show? “Come!” I began the following monday. I will always be grateful. Worked on a cool show, got my Hollywood fix, and paid the mortgage and other bills so Juan could focus on the repairs. I still went home every night and typed up invoices, paid bills and returned phone calls to help out.
It’s mind blowing to me now, but back then, in 1994, when we began our venture into small business ownership? WE HAD NOTHING.
No cell phone, no computer, no cash, no business loan, no experience on how to operate a business at all.
What we did have? An idea-a niche. But I learned he couldn’t do it alone. He needed help. Feeling I had no choice, and full of regrets…
I found myself having to quit Hollywood again. I traded my dream for his, but I was ready to have kids too, and wanted to be at home when they came, so I told myself I needed to make this go. And I knew I could.
The truth of it all is this:
I spent every day driving around southern california to hospitals, offering free pick up and delivery on all cable repair. I didn’t know much of what I was promoting, but I knew enough to get in the door. After that, I bluffed my way through the rest.
The biomedical engineers were skeptical at first, then thrilled. Cable repair was tedious and they were needed to repair the high end stuff. If someone else wanted to take the cables off their hands now, cool.
Packages were always getting held up in purchasing too. If we could pick up, repair, and hand deliver within 48 hours, the nurses were grateful, the hospitals saved money, and the biomeds looked good, it was a win-win-win!
And we began to grow…
LOUDER THAN WORDS
Had four ceiling fans installed today.
My brother came about four years ago, on his day off, and did the wiring–all I had to do was go get the fans, and he’d finish the job.
Simple enough, right?
Guess I took too long to buy those fans; sent his employee out (who did a fantastic job) because my brother no longer does the daily work. Now, he’s the boss.
The electrician was efficient, reliable and pleasant. Felt like a friend of my brothers. In fact, the first thing he said was, “So you’re Jeremy’s sister?” I laughed. We are nothing alike. We’re both adopted.
Kenny was here for a few hours, and we chatted, then he and dad chatted, and then we all chatted. The Dobranich’s are chatty. Mom used to say, “Your father has never met a stranger in his whole life.” Dad puts folks at ease right away. I’d like to think I’m like that too… or at least, I’ve become like him.
During the conversation, the electrician commented on how fast my brother’s company was growing. “Gonna have the company info on the side of the vans soon!” I wasn’t surprised. Jeremy is very competent at what he does. He’s approachable, and open and friendly, and reliable too. Like our dad.
After awhile, somehow what I did for a living came up. Told him as he was installing my son’s fan, we have our own business too….
Biomedical Engineering. We refurbish and repair medical equipment. We specialized back then in cable repair. Now we do everything.
Got me to thinking afterward…
Four of my dad’s five kids are business owners, in fact.
Each of us began at different times in our lives, and we all have pursued success in very unique ways: we were in engineering, my sister Kim and her husband designed and built award winning pools, my brother Sean has his own investment company, and Jeremy has a flourishing electrical company of his own (just did some work for that tv show “Flip or Flop”).
Two of us began twenty years ago and grew at a steady pace, while the other two started within the last decade and are booming quickly. But, we did it.
That is pretty unusual in and of itself, but I think what is truly remarkable is this: not a single one of us should have amounted to anything. At one point or another, we were all orphans, with no hope.
Then it hit me, the common denominator: DAD. The guy who adopted us.
He likes to brag on his kids. He’s proud of every single one of us. But he won’t take credit for any of our successes. “Nah, I didn’t do nuthin. You guys did all that on your own.”
But here’s the thing:
While it’s true, expectations were never expressed, college was a good option, but not a requirement. And yes, dad listened to what our plans were, but he really didn’t care what we did as long as we were happy. His investment wasn’t in what we did, but how we felt doing it. If we were unhappy anywhere, he urged us to move on.
Just like he did.
I doubt it ever occurs to him, but he too was a business owner, and influenced us all. A very successful one too. And he didn’t even begin his company until he was in his fifties!
Things had dried up in California and mom needed the better health coverage in Arizona so, after thirty years here, they moved there.
Dad wasted no time in finding work.
It was the beginning of the housing boom. He took a drive or two around Fountain Hills, (a luxury community outside of Phoenix) and noticed these constructions companies needed a clean up crew to come in and take away all the stuff that accumulates on site.
He found a need. He found his niche.
Bought himself a pick up truck and went around offering up his services. Dad was approachable and open, friendly, and reliable. Soon he had a truck with his logo on the side and a crew to help him out. We all watched as that company our father started, began to grow. Almost immediately, it afforded our mom and dad a very nice lifestyle, and it lasted until it was time to retire. He was in charge.
It wasn’t talked about with awe. It was just what he did. Just like with all of our companies. I still remember when my sister and her husband had the walls of their office lined with “outstanding pool design” award after award, for his pools. We all congratulated him, and then we went swimming.
It isn’t about accolades, it’s about actions. Dad taught us that.
And while he was busy living out his vision, his company grew.
That’s how all that happens. You just keep at it. Then, one day you look around and you have a nice home with a pool, mom doesn’t have to work anymore, and everyone in town knows Bob from Fountain Hills Construction Clean Up.
We learned, without even realizing it, not through his words, but through his example. We all have our own companies because we saw him always take charge, take responsibility, never lose focus.
Actions really do speak louder than words.
Oh, and way back then, as a thank you for dad’s encouraging us to venture out on our own? We bought him and mom one of those new fangled personal home computers everyone was talking about.
Wonder if those things ever took off? 🙂