“On time, every time!” is the slogan for MedOne Medical Transport. This isn’t just a tagline, but the core value of how MedOne views patient care.
“We hire only the best employees. People who are compassionate,” said Michael Thigpen, Chief Operating Officer of MedOne. “We don’t make patients wait. We’re gentle and take time at each stop. Sometimes it’s hard because we get attached to our patients, so to lose somebody can be difficult.”
MedOne in Florence, South Carolina is a family-owned company operated by Thigpen and his wife, Tricia, who serves as company president. A brother, Craig Thigpen, serves as the business development officer. Serial entrepreneurs, the Thigpens came to the medical transport business after owning both construction and real estate companies. After the slow economy hit the housing industry, the Thigpens looked for a recession proof business to start. They had friends who owned a medical transport company and the business model was appealing.
“With the aging population in the U.S. we felt that going into the medical field was a good bet,” Thigpen said. “But you have to do your due diligence.” He researched the competition, the number of hospital discharges each week and how many assisted living and nursing facilities were within a 30-mile radius of Florence. In the end, with a ton of research and a fleshed-out business plan, Thigpen felt he and his wife could make MedOne a success.
Knowing that the majority of their patients would be Medicare recipients, Tricia set about doing the work to get into the system. “You have to have fully-equipped, basic life support vehicles and staff in place before Medicare will approve your company.”
Thigpen sought the assistance of business consultant Mike Bell of the Florence Area SBDC. He was looking for “a subjective set of eyes.” Bell went over the business plan for MedOne, helped refine it and then worked with Thigpen to identify the best source of funding to purchase the first transport trucks.
“Michael was the perfect client,” Bell said. “He had a plan and reasonable goals. He had done the research. He had equity to invest. He had an open mind and knew that he was going to have to work hard.”
MedOne secured a $50,000 loan to purchase two trucks, equipment and supplies. They also secured a $30,000 line of credit backed by receivables to help with operational expenses for the initial 90 days until a Medicare number could be obtained and billing begun.
Starting with three dialysis patients in May 2011, the company grew at a rapid pace. They quickly added discharge patients from local hospitals and purchased two more ambulances by the fall. By the end of six months they had contracts with three skilled nursing facilities and had reached 31 percent of their annual sales projections. By year’s end, they added two more trucks for a total of six, had nine full-time and six part-time employees and had reached nearly 100 percent of their yearly sales projections with a total of 2,739 calls.
Their second year in business the Thigpens opened a satellite office in Sumter and took their fleet up to 11 trucks with a total of 20 full-time and four part-times employees. They added a number of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, as well as private clients such as dialysis patients. All indications are that MedOne will finish their second year in business nearly 40 percent above their annual sales projections. They expect to answer nearly 7,000 calls in their second year and have more than $500,000 in payroll.
When asked what to what he attributes the rapid success of his company, Thigpen doesn’t give a short answer. He believes that research, planning and careful client relations have all contributed to MedOne’s strength. He also watches his bottom line closely. Rather than buying new vehicles, Thigpen refurbishes older ambulances, often at half the price of a new truck. Then he keeps them running.
“There is no down time for my fleet. I keep all my trucks in top shape,” he said. Still, it isn’t apparent that his fleet isn’t brand new. Each one is freshly painted and brightly branded with the red and blue MedOne logo. His employees take pride in wearing the red MedOne shirts.
“People know they are in good hands when they see our red shirts,” Tricia said. “Our red shirts have become synonymous with quality care.”
The future looks very bright for the Thigpens and MedOne. They hope to continue their expansion and service to the Florence area. They will also continue to bounce ideas off their SC SBDC nconsultant Mike Bell and come to him with questions they have about expansion and growth.
“Mike said that bigger isn’t always better,” Thigpen said, “that often companies purchase additional business at the expense of profit. We want to make sure that we are always profitable, but we also want to give the compassionate care that people have come to expect of MedOne. Taking care of patients is our highest priority.”