“I saw a gentleman that I made one of his first legs 30 years ago,” Filippis says. “Those are the kind of relationships that you build when you work closely with patients. They’re not just a customer, a client or a patient, there are truly friendships that develop.”
That’s the kind of customer service relationship Filippis works to instill in his 715 employees at 30 rehabilitative equipment stores from the Upper Peninsula to Toledo.
Smart Business spoke with Filippis about growing his $120 million company by attracting and retaining the best employees.
How do you establish your company’s growth plan?
The patients that Wright & Filippis serves are geriatric patients who have health problems. The longer they live, the longer we’re going to be servicing them.
So in general, we look at health care and the dollars being spent on health care.
We’ve focused the growth pattern to deal with that, and we work very closely with insurers to look at how we can assist them in controlling their costs. We work with the auto companies, the UAW and unions to assist in programs that will provide a quality service to them and their members as cost-effectively as possible for the payer.
We really try to look at controlled growth. I’m not looking for a 20 (percent) or 30 percent growth because I’ve seen companies that have had that kind of growth, and all of a sudden, it gets hard to manage. I’m looking for a 10 (percent) to 15 percent growth so I can build the infrastructure to be able to deal with the growth and look at costs.
We’re looking at systems from information technology to our general purchasing, how we purchase the product lines to make sure that they’re cost-effective, not just acquisition costs. It’s one thing to say, ‘I can buy this product for 10 percent savings over what I’m currently buying or (buy) another product,’ but instead of servicing it once a year, I could (service it) twice a year, so all of my cost for operations goes up.
(If) I buy a quality product where I’m not servicing it as often, then the long-term costs are much better. So it’s not just the acquisition but the lifecycle of the product we’re providing and servicing.
Everything that Wright & Filippis provides for the most part is not just providing a product. When I am providing a prosthetic (device) for a patient, it’s really a prosthetic service along with that.
It’s the service prior to delivering the device and then the follow-up on it that is what we provide better than anybody else. If you look at our growth, it shows that there’s a belief across our market share that we are here for the long haul.
How do you attract new employees to Wright & Filippis?
We’ve been able to acquire (contractual agreements) and additional services we’re going to need to provide. With that, we need people to service those different accounts.
A lot of how we attract people is word-of-mouth. We have been successful in drawing people from other companies.
We have an individual who joined us almost a year ago now. He worked for Blue Cross for 38 years, and about four years ago, he started attending our Wheelchair Daze picnic [a free event for people with disabilities and their families.]
After three years, he was talking to one of our staff members and said, ‘If there’s ever an opportunity (for a job opening) ... I see what you do at Wright & Filippis, how you really give back to the community and the difference it makes to see these people that come out. This is just one day a year that they may get out of their nursing facility to actually spend a day at a park,’ and he said just seeing that is why he wanted to join our company.
How do you retain quality employees?
A lot of it is through our employee recognition programs. We have an annual meeting where we bring all our employees together for a weekend in the fall, and we recognize employees for years of service.
We have one employee other than my father (founder and chairman Tony Filippis Sr.) who’s going to be 90 this year and still works every day. The average tenure of our mid- and upper-management employees is probably 15 years.
One award, called the Big Tony Award, is given in my father’s name, and it recognizes people who go above and beyond, who see a patient and make a difference to that patient in one way or another.
You need to recognize your employees to really make a difference in their lives long-term. They feel the value they are to the company and want to make a difference themselves.
HOW TO REACH:
Wright & Filippis Inc., (248) 829-8200 or http://www.wright-filippis.com