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MEDICAL DURABILITY: With nearly four decades of service, Bach Medical Supply is led by co-founders Scott Whitlock, left, and Steve Bach.
SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson
MEDICAL DURABILITY: With nearly four decades of service, Bach Medical Supply is led by co-founders Scott Whitlock, left, and Steve Bach.

Focus Feature: Supplying Safety

Bach Medical Supply celebrates 39 years of business with a national sale – and a shelf full of face masks

Posted online

Between navigating a global pandemic and subsequent economic upheaval and celebrating 39 years in business, 2020 has been quite the year for Bach Medical Supply — and that’s not including the company’s mid-year acquisition.

Founded in 1981, the retailer of durable medical equipment, known as DME, has made a name for itself across southwest Missouri.

“Someone said to me once that they figured that Bach Medical had touched at least one family member in every family in the Ozarks,” says president and co-founder Steve Bach.

This legacy is now part of AdaptHealth, a national provider of home medical equipment and chronic care supplies. Medidex Inc., dba Bach Medical Supply, was acquired by AdaptHealth in July.

“With a strong presence in the Eastern and Western United States, we have long wanted to continue expanding our footprint in the Midwest and look for partners that have strong, smart teams; share our ethos in providing patient-centered care; and are focused on improving the home medical equipment industry,” says AdaptHealth CEO Luke McGee via an emailed statement.

“We found all of that and more with Steve Bach, Scott Whitlock and the entire Bach Medical Supply team.”

Small beginnings
Bach Medical Supply was founded nearly 40 years ago when Bach, who ran a Springfield-based DME retail store for Cotter’s Pharmacy, decided to branch out. He recruited Whitlock, who was studying business at Drury University at the time, and launched Bach Medical Supply.

“You just don’t hear about partnerships that last that long,” says Whitlock, the company’s vice president. “We play off each other well. We each have strengths and weaknesses, and we know how to create balance.”

Bach handles customer relations, and Whitlock oversees finances, HR and management, but in the very beginning they did it all.

“Those were pretty lean years back then, but it was really fun,” Whitlock says. “We both worked crazy hours trying to build it from basically nothing. It was hard and scary, but it was a lot of fun.”

“We were too young to really know what scary was,” Bach adds with a laugh.

With the acquisition, the name will stay the same, and Bach and Whitlock say they’re not going anywhere either.

“We love the business and our team, and I think that’s pretty apparent,” Whitlock says. “It’ll be a situation where we’re here for a while.”

Set to grow
The company started with a core set of products, mainly ostomy supplies and DME. In the years since, those offerings have expanded to better serve baby boomers. Bach Medical now sells rehab and power mobility devices, such as scooters, lift chairs and patient lifts, plus other aids for independent living. The company also offers respiratory therapy and ventilator machines, which make up 53% of sales, and has a robust credentialed service department.

According to Whitlock, the acquisition bolsters their ability to provide quality products to Bach Medical patients. Both parties declined to disclose terms of the deal, but AdaptHealth notes that the acquisition helps expand Bach Medical’s footprint. The partnership also will help the local company navigate the constant changes in health insurance policies.

“The insurance industry is still changing a lot, and insurance company allowables are ratcheting down over time,” Whitlock says. “Now we’re better able to absorb that.”

Sales at Bach Medical are evenly weighted between insurance and retail, and over 80% of sales are in-person. In 2019, Bach Medical saw a 17% growth rate on net sales. Company officials declined to disclose revenue.

The company serves 16 counties, and its physical footprint has grown to keep up. Bach Medical consists of a three-building campus at East Sunshine Street and South Kentwood Avenue, plus a leased office and conference space and a service garage elsewhere in Springfield.

Whitlock says the current showroom, a former gas station, was remodeled in 1981 and expanded in 1994. That’s where they plan to stay.

“The location has become an icon for health care in the area, so we didn’t want to change locations,” Whitlock says.

To round out the campus, Bach and Whitlock bought a building behind the showroom in 2000 for inventory and the purchasing and receiving department. In 2010, they purchased a building across Kentwood Avenue for a ventilator showroom and space for additional back-office staff.

Bach Medical has 24 employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than 10 years.

“Our philosophy has always been to hire great people and give them substantial leadership but also get out of their way,” Whitlock says.

Bach adds that many employees stay because of the satisfaction of the work.

“Our staff loves taking care of people,” Bach says. “It’s a very rewarding job to help somebody through a problem.”

One customer, Rebul Kiely, experienced that level of service firsthand. Kiely’s husband, Sid, 91, had a significant decrease in mobility in July, and their home needed modifications so he could function independently.

“I didn’t know what we needed; I just called them and said, ‘I just need some help,’” Kiely says.

Bach and his team determined products and solutions for the Kielys, first adding a device to the bed to assist with getting in and out. Kiely then returned to Bach Medical to have handrails added to the bathroom.

Kiely says she appreciates how these few changes made such a drastic impact on their independence and peace of mind.

“It makes it more safe, much more safe for people who are older,” she says. “I called Steve and told him I’m so happy because it was a great help.”

Unprecedented times
Safety is top of mind at Bach Medical, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Being an essential business, the company remained open, pivoted to curbside delivery and outfitted staff in full personal protective equipment such as masks and face shields. The company has had zero COVID-19 cases thus far.

“A lot of our clientele are elderly, so we certainly keep that in mind always,” Whitlock says. “I feel like they appreciated the extent that we went to keep them safe.”

Like many businesses, Bach Medical experienced a short-term downturn in sales, followed by a high-volume bounce. To mitigate the blow, in March, Whitlock and Bach devised short- and long-term plans, anticipating an interruption in supply.

“In the beginning, we were a little concerned about the supply chain, so we ordered pretty heavily in anything we thought might be manufactured in China, and that gave us a huge leg up,” Whitlock says. “We did not run out of equipment.”

During widespread shortages, Bach Medical remained stocked in scooters, power chairs and lift chairs, although they temporarily ran out of disposable PPE, including masks, as global demand skyrocketed.

“We had people coming in wanting to buy everything we had, truckloads,” Whitlock says.

Bach adds that they even had calls from out of the country asking about their mask supply. Business is now leveling out, and masks are back on the shelves.

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