Twenty-two years ago, where most people saw unused supplies collecting dust, Randy Ware, CEO and Founder of WestCMR, LLC, saw an opportunity to help hospitals and help the world at the same time. After selling medical devices throughout the state of Florida in the late 1990s, Ware discovered a pattern of systemic waste throughout most of the healthcare facilities he visited. The story behind WestCMR reflects the power of persistence and the importance of creating your own opportunities.
“Initially as an undergraduate student at Stetson University I thought I wanted to be a CPA, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t the type to be locked to a desk all day,” Ware said. “My career started as a sales rep for a payroll processing company based out of Rochester, NY. I oversaw the Tampa Bay and Orlando markets and, after two and a half years, I was recruited to work for ADP. I spent three great years with ADP, before my life took a turn.”
Ware’s son was born in 1991 with a serious health defect. His lungs were 99% full of fluids and, at the time, he needed an experimental machine, called an “ECMO,” to clear the fluid and restore his health. There was a 70% chance he wouldn’t make it. Fortunately his son survived. The experience taught Ware what matters most to him, and the hospital was the silver lining that inspired his future vision.
Soon after, “My friend wanted to start a company manufacturing custom orthotics,” Ware said. “He offered me a sales position and 49% of the company. I agreed and together, in less than five years, we built it into a million dollar entity. One day, out of the blue, he decided he no longer wanted to be partners. After the business ‘divorce’, I was ready to move on.”
After interviewing for various sales positions, Ware found a small surgical sales agency, where he was hired as Sales Director. Traveling throughout Florida, Ware grew his network substantially. Even though his boss closed the business only a year later, Ware made a significant discovery that would set the stage to fulfill his vision for the formation of WestCMR.
A New Opportunity
“I had been in hospitals and surgical centers all over Florida,” Ware said. “The level of wasted products that were bought and never used was incredible. Unfortunately, in society we’re unaware of how wasteful we’ve become in our own personal lives, and even in the medical industry. In fact, 10-20% of devices and supplies purchased by hospitals and surgical centers never get used. Most of that percentage ends up in landfills.”
Raised by a father who stressed the importance of reinventing and reselling products, Ware began calling on his vast network of contacts at major hospitals throughout the state to see if they’d be interested in buying or selling surplus medical products from him. When the resounding majority said yes, he knew he was onto something. Ware officially founded WestCMR in May 1997.
“From 1997 until 2009, when I hired my first team members, running the business was like the game ‘whack a mole’,” Ware said. “Every time one task or problem was finished, another one surfaced. I was on my own doing everything. Eventually my wife Shannon said, ‘it might be time to scale this thing’. She was absolutely right, but when I started the business I had no intention of hiring employees and scaling it. I think I still had wounds and scars from my past experience as a part owner. Looking back on it, not understanding how big I wanted to grow my company was definitely an early obstacle.”
Concerns aside, Ware pressed on and took his wife’s recommendation to scale to task. From 2009 to 2019, WestCMR experienced tremendous growth as Ware and his team made significant in-roads with hospitals and surgical centers throughout the country. They built a strong network of partners and customers, and today, WestCMR is one of the leading companies in the industry.
Ware explained the company’s competitive edge and its bold marketing strategy for expansion into new markets. “We are always first to market,” he said. “That gave us a definite advantage. We’re also the largest in terms of our consulting team. Our leadership team is very strong. On average, our team members have at least four years’ experience, and each person on our leadership team has over six years’ of experience. Additionally, we’re extremely quick to respond to every one of our clients’ questions, and we do our best to address all of their needs.”
Ware continued, “Our marketing strategy is global. WestCMR is a business that’s part of a family of companies. In 2003, we founded GeoSurgical, as our international sales division, where we export to over 62 countries. We frequently exhibit at trade shows throughout the globe, including Germany and Dubai annually. We’re heading down to Buenos Aires next month for a trade show. We’re actively addressing international markets, and a third of our marketing dollars are dedicated to international growth.”
The WestCMR team consists of 65 team members. According to Ware, company culture is defined by team members feeling valued and appreciated. “I tried to create the type of company where I wanted to work,” he said. “Our goal is to keep our people. We have an onsite fitness center, opportunities for philanthropic engagement, great insurance benefits and several milestone benefits. For example, when someone’s been with us for one year, I want them to continue to look forward to a long future with us. So I send them an invitation to join me for their three-year anniversary lunch, to let them know I care and appreciate them being with us for a year and also that, in another two years, their future with us will remain important. They need to know they’re not just a number here. I want them to know I’ve got their back. At the five year anniversary, I take them out to dinner and they receive their first ‘Trip of a Lifetime’ benefit. At this milestone, they get an extra week off and $7,500 to spend on a trip anywhere in the world with anyone they want. At 10 years, they get a week off and $10,000 to spend. At 15 years, they get a week off and $12,500. We’ve had people go to Alaska, Hawaii, Italy, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Barcelona, Greece and many other locations. It’s a great benefit and one we’re very happy and proud to be able to provide.”
According to Ware, operating in the state of Florida is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, the cost of living is lower than other states. This subsequently reduces associated payroll costs, in comparison to some other states. The tax situation, with the lack of state income tax, is also very favorable. Ware added that access to local talent has been another great benefit of his location. In 2018, they started a program called “College Connect” to create relationships with and recruit from career placement offices at Florida-based colleges and universities such as, St. Petersburg College, University of Tampa, University of South Florida and Eckerd College.
What it Means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
“Although we are truly honored to be selected as a Finalist, we really want to win!” Ware said. “The honor of being seen is awesome. It’s certainly a validation of the integrity of our business and how we treat our customers and team members. It is a great recruiting tool for top talent, and it upholds the stellar reputation that we’ve become known for. Along with our other awards, such as being recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review for the last six years as one of the 150 Top Places to Work in Healthcare, and receiving the Large Business of the Year award in 2017, by the Greater Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, being recognized in our home state as a Florida Company to Watch is an amazing honor.”
Ware continued, “In terms of why we were selected, I think we’re a very dynamic organization with a large footprint that reduces waste. We’re also very philanthropic. A lot of people see what we do in the community, and we back it up with financial resources. We donate over 1% of our annual revenue to philanthropic causes we believe in, and I’ve served on the board for The Children’s Dream Fund for the past seven years. We’ve worked hard to make our brand known as one that truly cares about the community.”
Looking ahead, Ware wants to double the business in the next three to five years and reach annual revenues of $50 million. He anticipates 80 employees as they initiate a growth strategy that revolves around the acquisition of smaller companies. According to Ware, a few smaller companies may soon realize they simply can’t compete with WestCMR’s excellence.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“Stay the course,” Ware said. “It’ won’t be easy. It’s true that 90% of small businesses fail. It’s important to understand your finances. Make sure you have good backing and can make your commitments. Aim high and never apologize for your dreams. Don’t be ashamed that you’re pushing for something big. I’m driven and I don’t apologize for it. Also, make people feel important and express your gratitude for them. A big part of our company culture is my insistence on showing gratitude and making team members feel important. Along those lines, every Tuesday morning, our team members write a minimum of three gratitude notes to thank our clients and people who have made an impact on their lives. We implemented this new company habit in early 2019, and it’s been a very rewarding exercise. Never forget where you came from, and appreciate every experience for inspiring your future success.”