“The most glorious moments in life are not the so-called days of success,” said Author Gustave Flaubert, “but rather those days when out of dejection and despair, you feel rise in you a challenge to life and the promise of future accomplishments.” For one enterprise based in Indiana, the successes of today along with the promise of future accomplishment has been wrought by the overcoming of challenges and prioritizing of principles which have now positioned it as an industry leader in the providing of basic, critical and advanced life support transportation services.
From its headquarters in Noblesville, and station-affiliates located within Kokomo, Muncie, Indianapolis and Shelbyville, AmeriCare Ambulance Service fulfills medical transport services for residents throughout central Indiana. From basic life support to its recent entry into advanced life support services, AmeriCare has emerged as the first-choice transport provider to more than 75 separate facilities specializing in senior healthcare services. Over the last ten consecutive years, AmeriCare’s customer-base has annually expanded, but CEO Bradley Ott will be the first to affirm the company’s growth hasn’t been prompted from any effort to chase the almighty dollar. “Our priority is to do what is right,” says Ott. “For companies who are simply chasing after dollars, they don’t look at the true meaning of what has to be done to serve others. We believe in doing the right thing, and when you do the right thing then the business will grow and your company and employees will be blessed. Companies don’t last very long when they’re just chasing dollars.”
Ott concedes to embracing a simple, customer-centric philosophy, but that is not to say his values for family and integrity have been spurred by necessarily simple situations, and in terms of companies that might not last very long, there’s no mistaking that the prognosis for AmeriCare’s future was not so favorable prior to Ott’s arrival in 2004. To account of the company’s market penetration, distinctive approach to service and the caliber of professionals exacting the industry’s highest standards of expertise at AmeriCare today, is a story that actually begins with the unfolding of certain events in Hawaii.
In explaining a turn-around that occurred at AmeriCare, Ott begins by detailing how his own life was turned-around and transformed, not long after marrying his wife. At the time, marital bliss intertwined with tropical paradise as his wife, a traveling nurse, was stationed to duties on the island of Honolulu in Hawaii. Early on, Ott wasn’t working on much more than his suntan, but a day came when he set his fancy on a Harley Davidson Motorcycle that he simply couldn’t resist. His wife wasn’t particularly resistant to the idea, but had a simple question – “How are you going to pay for it?” As fate would have it, Ott met with the leadership of the local Harley dealership and indicated his intent to acquire the new motorcycle, but informed there was one condition to the purchase – they had to give him a job. Over the months that followed, Ott went on to emerge as the top salesman in the entire operation. Things seemed to be moving along smoothly, but as is often the fickle nature of life, with neither notice nor explanation as to why, Ott was suddenly terminated from his position. “I probably walked-in like I owned the place one too many times,” he laughs now, yet at the time, there was nothing humorous in the situation. Having never been fired from any job before, Ott struggled to make sense of the situation. To make matters worse, over the weeks that followed, he couldn’t find a job anywhere he applied. The professional predicament festered into an equally burdensome emotional state and for a time, Ott had lost faith in himself as well as hope for the future. The depression was so severe as to find him, one afternoon, looking over the ledge of a high-rise in Waikiki and contemplating where his body might land below if he were to end his life. In that instance of grim desperation, Ott was suddenly struck by a new awareness, one that left him evaluating his values and priorities in terms of what really matters in life. He thought about the importance of family as well as the need to strengthen his faith with the Lord by putting it to exercise, and in a rare moment of clarity, Ott made a pact to readily respond to the first opportunity God put in his path. Remarkably, he then received a visit from his father who offered him an opportunity to start an ambulance service back home in Indiana. Ott’s father is a principal in a company that provides management services to a variety of senior healthcare communities. He explained to his son how community residents traditionally rely on transport services beyond the capacity of facilities to deliver on their own, and perhaps this could be a good professional opportunity for him. Besides, the father advised, one of Ott’s close friends from school had just completed EMS training and was also looking for a job. Though it wasn’t anything that had formerly crossed his professional considerations, Ott stayed true to his pact with the Lord, arriving in Indiana with his wife as well as a new sense of hope, faith and purpose.
Joined with a business partner, Ott took leadership of his father’s ambulance company in 2003, but this transition led to the confronting of other challenges. Ott had only been on the job for a few days when he fielded a call from someone complaining about observing a driver stocking his ambulance with certain non-medicinal supplies purchased from the local liquor store. Ott didn’t need inordinate EMS expertise to know this was a gargantuan NO NO. After terminating the driver, he proceeded to inform staff that they would now be subject to mandatory drug screening and the employees simply walked off the job, never to return. This left only Ott and his business partner to run the business. In the weeks that followed, Ott scrambled. He hired new staff, converted one ambulance into a mobile office of sorts and started visiting various locations to secure new customers. He sensed that new opportunities would emerge in a destination “out there” which coincided with the direction of Kokomo, and with nothing but his faith to guide him, he began visiting with potential customer bases. Ott says after knocking on a few doors, he began to notice puzzled looks from those who claimed they had already agreed to call the company for transport services, just as they had already assured the other company representative. Ott thought maybe his partner had already approached these operations, but soon realized, a completely separate, competing ambulance service was being launched, quite coincidentally, at the same time. Despite a mass loss of employees and the increase in competition, Ott was not only able to stabilize operations, but also grow customers so sufficiently that after his first year, AmeriCare’s profits had grown three-times greater than any year before. Over the years that have followed, AmeriCare has transitioned from merely offering basic transport services that helps wheelchair-bound and other passengers connect with routine medical appointments to that of a certified critical care and advanced life support transportation provider. It engages a dedicated, professional staff of licensed paramedics and nurses, a state-of-the-art fleet and dispatch communication center, and services which not only add greater health security, but also greater quality of life in the communities where it serves. Last year alone, AmeriCare’s services were crucial to more than 18,000 passengers transported by ambulance.
Going the Extra Mile
Significant to AmeriCare’s success has been its approach to service, and as Ott says, this means being prepared to go the extra mile. “Anybody can transport somebody from point A to point B, that’s expected. The reason why so many hire us is because we go the extra mile to deliver what they don’t expect,” says Ott. That “extra mile” is reflected in a number of practices. For example, one Mother’s Day, Ott ordered thousands of roses which were systematically delivered to senior residents in communities served by AmeriCare. He has also routinely volunteered in programs at area nursing homes and has even provided free transportation services when situations call for it. Insurance doesn’t pay for taking a bed bound patient to, say, a funeral, or a wedding, or a grandchild’s graduation. “We know how important it is to help bring families together, and for these occasions we’ll offer free transportation. In some cases, this may be the last time that grandma or grandpa may be to participate in this type of family event, but that participation wouldn’t have been possible without someone helping to ensure the person gets there and back safely. We think it helps people recognize that we’re a company who leads with our hearts, that we’re genuine and really do care about serving others,” says Ott.
Serving others also connotes to anticipating needs. Senior healthcare service providers are routinely challenged to mitigate dermal injuries be it from bedsores, tears or abrasions to overly sensitive skin. Recognizing how significant this was to healthcare providers as well as their patients, AmeriCare was the first ambulance company in Indiana to offer specialized preventative care to any passenger coming in contact with its stretchers. AmeriCare deploys specially-designed textiles which reduces friction to prevent skin tears, padding that relieves pressure point areas to prevent new wounds from appearing and diminishes potential for current wounds to be made worse during transportation.
AmeriCare also offer the much appreciated “Heads-Up Seven-Up Program,” an initiative that allows skilled nursing facilities to receive a “heads-up” notice whenever a new resident is about to be transported to their facility. Too often, hours may pass between a hospital’s indication of discharge and the actual time when a client arrives at the senior care center. At many facilities, the person may arrive to find preparations have yet to be fully made, and if that arrival comes during a shift change, Ott says the new admission might be greeted with a sense of chaos. AmeriCare takes the time to let healthcare providers know exactly when the patient is arriving, giving them time to better prepare for the admission and better opportunity to make a great first impression. Ott says these are minor details that can help make a major difference in services to its customers, and to be sure, the dedication to that service is honed by respect for families.
Family is an unceasing focus of Ott’s considerations. Today, while he and his wife have become parents to two sons, Ott has a much larger extended family in the form of company personnel. AmeriCare fosters a family-friendly, team environment complemented by uncompromising family values involving trust, accountability and respect for all. “I tell staff this is not my company, this is your company… I’m just here to help you run it,” says Ott.
Ott anticipates further growth for AmeriCare, something he isn’t opposed to as long as it done correctly, and cautiously, not growth for the mere sake of growth, but in measures and moves consistent with market demand and AmeriCare’s ability to fulfill service expectations congruent with the quality that has defined the enterprise. Ott says he isn’t opposed to a franchise system in some distant future, but for now, he feels AmeriCare will penetrate further into markets in Northern Indiana as well as Cincinnati area of Ohio. He also says future opportunities will emerge from inter-facility transports, essentially, when patients of one hospital need to be transported to specialists at another hospital. As hospitals are increasingly beginning to focus on specialized care, Ott says there is opportunity for companies like AmeriCare to respond to transport needs. At the time of this writing, AmeriCare was among a handful of companies competing to secure a contract for such service with IU Health Methodist Hospital, regarded not only as one of the largest hospitals in Indiana, but respected as one of the best hospitals in America.
While the outcome of those negotiations are yet undecided, the fact remains that AmeriCare’s service has annually grown for the last ten consecutive years and Ott anticipates that trend will continue. He says, “As long as we keep doing the right thing, we feel that we’ll continue to be blessed.”
For more information, please visit their website at: AmeriCare Ambulance Service