A Running Start
One year after its makeover, a prosthetics firm has nearly doubled sales.
By Brian O'Reilly, FSB Magazine

(FSB Magazine) -- When Jeff Brandt contacted us for a makeover nearly a year ago he was eager to expand his prosthetics and orthotics business. He had two small offices providing artificial limbs and braces but wanted to turn that into a network of five or six centers. He's not there yet, but his expansion plans are moving along steadily. Brandt and Jeff Quelet, co-owners of Ability Orthotics and Prosthetics in Gettysburg, Pa., recently opened a third center in Frederick, Md., and are planning a fourth near Philadelphia. Revenues are on track to hit $2 million this year, up from $1.2 million in 2005. The two partners are also debating whether to acquire a nearby chain of four orthotics centers.

Brandt had planned to grow by adding new offices on the outskirts of regions served by Ability's existing offices. But consultant Rick Gibson convinced him that he could leapfrog into new, lucrative territories by hiring prostheticists who could run their own offices. Brandt could keep tabs on distant operations via the Internet. "That completely changed our model for how we would grow," says Brandt.

Brandt is having second thoughts about his plan to pursue federal contracts for prosthetics and orthotics services, especially to military personnel injured in Iraq. Ability and a partner firm submitted bids to do work at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Months later they still haven't heard who won the contract. Brandt worries, too, that government work can dull a firm's competitive edge. "I've seen companies that stopped hustling once they got a big federal contract," he says. "And then when their contract expired, they panicked because they had nothing else lined up."

Although Brandt is pleased that Ability Prosthetics is expanding, he notes that his workload has grown in proportion to his sales. He knows that he'll soon have to decide whether to spend most of his time tending to business or to patients. "Right now I have no choice but to do both," he says. "The business needs the income I get from working with patients." That means long hours of paperwork. "I wish I didn't have to be the guy who proofreads the new business cards from the printer five times," he adds wistfully. "I'd like to be the guy who checks the final proof before it goes off to the printer."  Top of page

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