In the 33 years since starting Griffin Home Health Care, Inc. in the corner of The Peak Drug Store on Charlotte’s Graham Street, Bill Griffin has seen phenomenal growth, relocations and expansions, computerization, and too many changes in industry regulations to count.Under his leadership, the business has grown to include a centralized administrative hub and warehouse and three area showrooms. No small feats, indeed, but his proudest moment may be at hand as he prepares to turn the reins of the business over to his son, Richie, as, together, they launch a new business model.
Spanning the Generations
“It’s been so exciting for me to see my son as the rising star that he is. He’s made such progress towards the growth of the company. I didn’t imagine that this is where we would be today,” says Bill.
Griffin Home Health Care is a leading provider of home health care equipment, supplies and services in the Charlotte metropolitan area and services retail customers around the world. As the population ages and the baby boomers move well into their 60s, the need for wheelchairs, lift chairs, respiratory equipment, and other medical supplies and equipment continues to increase.
“In health care, we are full service from band-aids to hospital beds; wheelchairs to CPAPs; wound care to cast covers,” says Bill. “The business continues to grow in terms of products and services, with the advent of sleep apnea treatments representing the largest shift in emphasis within the medical equipment industry.”
Griffin Home Health Care has just recently moved into new administrative and warehouse headquarters on Monroe Road, not far from its former location. The 5,600-square-foot space anticipates the growth from the company’s new business model and centralizes the company’s operations including order intake, insurance verification, billing, purchasing, finance, human resources, warehousing and inventory.
Additionally, the company has three retail showrooms in the metro area. The new headquarters is only a stone’s throw from the new Charlotte showroom, 3,000 square feet in size and a completely new design. The company has also opened a new showroom in Concord on Copperfield Boulevard, and maintains a showroom in Gastonia on Ozark Avenue near Cox Road.
Bill has always been president and CEO with Richie as vice president and COO, but a succession plan is underway that will soon make Richie the company’s president and ultimately, the CEO. Bill’s brother, Jim, who joined the company in 1996, is secretary and formerly ran the Gastonia showroom. He now manages the showroom in Concord.
“Richie is running the business now,” says Bill. He has a vision.” Bill, at 64, and Richie, at 37, say they have been working towards succession for two years now. When at work, they call each other by their first names.
“It’s more professional than referring to each other as dad and son,” remarks Bill. “But I’m still his dad and he’s still the father of my grandchildren.”
“And when we are here, he’s still my boss,” laughs Richie.
Spanning Health Care Needs
In the fall of 2014, Richie was instrumental in successfully kicking off a new division of sports, health and wellness. “It’s a sister component of what we do,” says Richie. “I saw a niche for service on the health and wellness side. For 32 years we were caring for those who were injured, broken, or sick, but we were missing a big chunk of the family by not serving the health care needs of those who were well.”
With the increased emphasis on health and wellness, Griffin Home Health Care now carries a wide variety of rehabilitative and exercise equipment, pain management, wound care, braces and ambulatory aids, and also provides a team of highly trained staff to assure fit and proper use.
The company has brought in some nutritional products such as Bruk’s Bars and Honey Zingers, as well as CEP compression products and many other wellness related items. While some of their products are available in big box stores, Richie points out the lack of service there.
“If you go into a big box store for a product—be it a bath chair or knee brace—you can select it from the shelf and pay for it, but who’s fitting you for that? How do you know if the fit is right? You could do more damage than good if it’s not the right fit,” says Richie.
“Plus, oftentimes, there is a difference in quality,” he continues. “Big box stores do not have to be accredited and are able to sell products that are of a lower quality—not medical grade.”
In the respiratory division, the company offers with c-pap, bi-pap, oxygen concentrators and nebulizers—everything except clinical services and ventilators. Services are provided by service technicians who do routine checks to ensure that the equipment is delivering the right amount of oxygen.
“We do what we call ‘sunshine calls.’ Anybody that gets equipment from us will receive a call a few days after we deliver it to make sure they are doing well with it. More often than not we get commendations, and sometimes recommendations as to how we can do better,” comments Bill.
“What sets us apart from other businesses is our dedication to compassionate service,” he assures. “Our tagline is ‘Serving your family like family since 1983,’ and we firmly believe that if we serve our customers like our own family, we won’t make too many mistakes.”
The company maintains a significant level of inventory to meet the needs of its clients and prides itself on being special-order specialists. “We have folks here dedicated to finding what clients need quickly. That’s always been a niche of ours,” touts Bill.
Both Griffins say they don’t see themselves as sales people. “We have our own fleet of vehicles and client services technicians who are often the face of our business,” says Richie. “Our technicians are trained for ‘up-caring,’ prepared to discern and recognize the needs of clients. They help them assess their situation and environment to best utilize the equipment they need.”
“There is no outsourcing or contracting with drivers to simply drop things off,” continues Richie, “Part of our service is to show clients how to use the equipment in their own environments.”
Spanning the Health Care Industry
Richie joined the business in 2002 after attending Appalachian State University where he studied Interdisciplinary Studies and Sustainable Community Development and, ultimately, fell in love with the mountains. With a carpentry job waning during the winter months, he came home for a part-time job in his father’s business cleaning equipment and making some deliveries, and never looked back.
“I like that I can go home every day and know that I made someone’s day a little easier, a little safer,” says Richie. Bill says he was only a little surprised: “When Richie was in middle school, I took him to the Jewish Community Center where he worked with children with infirmities. I could see how well he related to others and began to have a flicker of hope that someday he would be interested in the business.”
As Richie became more a part of the business, he was instrumental in forming a vision for a centralized business model. He knew the first order of business was to upgrade the software behind the company’s medical billing and inventory management system to a cloud-based system. “It was a massive undertaking,” attests Richie.
Medical billing is critical because like many industries, medical equipment sales and service requires revenue streams from diverse sources to remain strong financially. Griffin Home Health Care relies on two large and powerful bureaucracies—government and insurance—for approximately 60 percent of its livelihood.
Another 20 percent results from contracts with hospice care and similar organizations, and the remaining 20 percent comes from private individuals.
Because of the company’s heavy reliance on governments and insurance, Griffin Home Health Care is involved in lobbying efforts to keep health care options reasonable for families relying on government or insurance for their medical needs. Additionally, the company is constantly alert to changes in legislation and insurance practices.
About 20 years ago, Bill was instrumental in organizing a network of medical equipment suppliers in North Carolina to help independent providers remain competitive in a market that was quickly changing thanks to the onset of managed care. The resulting organization has become the most successful network of medical equipment providers in the country.
Griffin Home Health Care, Inc. is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Healthcare, a national organization. “They take all the regulations that are imposed upon us from the N.C. Pharmacy Board, Medicare/Medicaid and boil them down and consolidate them into accreditation standards,” comments Bill.
“The regulations touch upon every aspect of the business from human resources to fire extinguishers, and dictates the training of our folks in a positive manner,” says Richie. “Every three years, we have to pay for an internal industry audit. They ride along with our technicians, look at our charts, and review our policies. It’s a learning process for our employees.”
When asked about challenges, the Griffins agree: regulations and big government. The problems stem from “competitive bidding” legislation enacted during the second Bush administration. “It’s anything but competitive bidding,” laments Bill. “It was shoved down the throats of this industry and the problems are endless.”
Under the rules, people who are unlicensed to work in a particular state can submit very low bids bringing the median bid down below what is a legitimate bid amount, making it difficult to get a legitimate bid through the process. The end result is loss of care, reduction in quality and businesses are closing down, according to the Griffins.
“They are limiting the number of providers that can provide a service. When we entered business, there were at least 50 competitors; now there are three or so. That creates an access problem for patients,” says Richie.
“Plus, Medicare is making it so difficult for patients to qualify for services; patients must jump through so many hoops. If we don’t take care of that patient, they have to go to the emergency room, for instance, for when they are short of breath and need oxygen and equipment. Congress needs to see that this is a very shortsighted and expensive way of doing things,” says Bill.
Part of the Griffin Home Health Care philosophy is to train and retain its 26 employees. “Ninety percent of our folks had no prior industry experience. We hire smart and caring people and train them ourselves,” says Bill.
“After 14 years, I am still learning every day,” comments Richie.
As if handling the recent expansions were not enough, Richie elaborates on his plans for furthering the sports and wellness division and finalizing the succession plan. “I am quite hopeful that this business model is expandable. I would love to get to the mountains. There is a need for what we do there,” he says knowingly.
“The transition has been challenging for me,” confides Bill. “It’s [the business] my child, too. It’s harder for me to turn loose than it is for Richie to take over. I’m not ready to retire but I am ready to take a lesser role.”
Bill is sure to stay busy. He is active on the Council of Aging and works on several boards including the Western North Carolina Region of the American Red Cross. He is also a Rotary member.
“I think Richie still appreciates my counsel. Plus, he’s pretty liberal with me and my hours. I don’t rush to get in here early and don’t always stay to turn the lights off.”
Griffin Home Health Care, Inc.
9123 Monroe Rd., Ste. 135
Charlotte, N. C. 28270
Phone: 855-513-GHHC (4442)
Principals: William H. (Bill) Griffin, President and CEO; Thomas R. (Richie) Griffin, Vice President and COO; James E. (Jim) Griffin, Secretary
Locations: Charlotte, Concord and Gastonia, serving the 16-county region
Division: Griffin Sports, Health and Wellness (mygriffinsports.com)
Business: Full service health care equipment and supply company providing a wide range of home medical equipment and related supplies for individual Medicare, Medicaid, and private patients, physicians, clinics, hospice organizations, assisted living centers, nursing facilities and commercial accounts.