Forty-thousand lives could be saved each year with widespread access to defibrillators. Jane Gonzales is on a mission to help save these lives. Her company, MEDwheels, provides mobile automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and training where they’re needed most.
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Jane Gonzalez: Working with their county, where they didn't have any AEDs, and so we worked with them, side by side, gave them recommendations, this is how many you need, these are the locations that you need. They took our recommendations, we installed the AEDs. Three days after we installed our AEDs, a high school student went down with a sudden cardiac arrest. And, we saved his life.
Gregg Stebben: I'm here with Jane Gonzalez, thanks for joining us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street.” She's the president and CEO of MEDwheels of San Antonio Texas. MEDwheels.com. And, Jane, welcome. We're going to hear all about what you do at MEDwheels, how you started the company, and things you've learned over the course of the years since 2005, but the first thing I want to ask you, as you introduce yourself is, tell us about the statistic on your homepage that says an additional 40 thousand lives could be saved each year, in the U.S. alone, with widespread access to-
Jane Gonzalez: Defibrillators. And it's, really amazing, because the defibrillator, the term AED, which is Automatic External Defibrillator, and it's been proven that sudden cardiac arrest, apply CPR strictly, does not save a life. The heart essentially has stopped and so essentially you're kind of deceased, your body is not producing any movement at all.
The AEDs, what it does, is it kind of resets the heart and so they have become very, very instrumental in saving lives. That, schools now, throughout the whole United States, from Kindergarten all the way to 12th grade, are required to have AEDs, that's how important they have become in saving lives.
Gregg Stebben: So, your company, MEDwheels, I want to read part of the mission statement of your company. "To provide all facets of an AED program, including products, services, and training to consumers and to ultimately help save lives." Help save some of those 40 thousand lives a year, and you know, just as you were talking about how important AEDs are, I was thinking to myself the training must be as equally as important as the devices themselves, because in that moment, is probably not the best time to start reading the instructions.
Jane Gonzalez: Well, that is a true statement. Interestingly enough, there was a study that was done by one of the largest manufacturers, the three largest manufacturers of AEDs are Stryker, Philips, Zoll, you have Cardiac Science. And they did a study, and they put citizens in a room and they said, "Okay, here is the AED, go operate it." And, the instructions tend to be very simple, that should there be an emergency, and someone's down with a sudden cardiac arrest, normal layperson person, pulls the AED, I believe that there's going to be a very good chance that, that layperson person will be able to use it effectively.
Although, if you are going to put an AED like in a school, for example, typically what they'll do is that they'll do the CPR training, because it's pretty important. CPR and AEDs go hand and glove. So, they'll do the CPR training, and then they'll have the AEDs to do a training session strictly on how to do use the AEDs.
Gregg Stebben: That is a big part of your mission at MEDwheels. Tell us about how you came to create this company, MEDwheels, and how you came to see this mission as what you should devote your business and your life to.
Jane Gonzalez: You know, it's really interesting. I was born in San Antonio, and after I graduated from college, ended up in Philadelphia, worked for corporate America. In my early 30s I heard the Holy Spirit say, "You're going to own a business." Now, I'm working in corporate America, owning a business was not even in my radar. Doing some financial analysis work.
In the meantime, my brother and my sister-in-law, live in San Antonio, and they had experience working with a Medicare, Medicaid company. Well, in 2005, my mom got very, very ill, and I ended up in San Antonio, where my brother approached me about starting a business. And, I said, "For sure." So, they had some background with Medicare, Medicaid processes and billings, and I had the corporate America experience, there we created the seed, MEDwheels.
Gregg Stebben: And, did the company start with ... Well, it couldn't have started with programs focused on AEDs, because I don't think the industry was anywhere near where it is today? Or perhaps, I'm wrong about that.
Jane Gonzalez: No, you're exactly right, and so, this is phenomenal how a company like ours, a family operated business has been able to survive, because keep in mind, what has happened in corporate America from 2005 to today, 2018. So, we were doing pretty well in 2005, we started the business, we were billing Medicare and Medicaid, we're serving patients here in San Antonio with diabetes, with cardiology, with mobility problems, we were helping veterans with vehicle lifts, we would install them onto their vehicles. But then, the financial crisis, the regulations, health care regulation came in, and it put a lot of strain on the business in 2008. To the point that it would cost us more money to buy a piece of equipment before we added all the additional operating cost to it, than it was the reimbursement.
And, Medicare put all this regulation in place, that the administrative cost to operate it also went through the roof, because we would go bill to get paid, and the insurance providers would not pay us, give us several reasons why not to, so then we would have to go back and spend more additional man hours, working with the providers and the doctors, and everybody involved just to get reimbursed for that delivery that's already been done.
So, we began to pivot, we had to pivot. We had to take a real hard look at our business model and that's why we, in 2009 and 2010, we started looking at distribution.
Gregg Stebben: And so, it was around that time, that you also realized what a big, not just business, an entrepreneurial opportunity, this was, but also what a big life-saving opportunity it would be?
Jane Gonzalez: Life-saving opportunity is a critical point, it's something that I want to share with you. The mission of MEDwheels, is much bigger than me. The purpose is really to have an impact in our community. My company is located in a very distressed neighborhood, multi-generational poverty, illiteracy, a high drop-out rate, drugs. But, I chose to be embedded in the middle of a community because I want to have an impact. And so, it's really interesting. We had just put in the AEDs, our company at a high school here in San Antonio.
Three days after we installed our AEDs, a high school student went down with a sudden cardiac arrest, and we saved his life.
I had so much passion and enthusiasm, that I know that I'm doing what I need to be doing when something like that happens. There is a mission and a purpose, and it is to make a difference in our community. To do whatever we can to save a life.
Gregg Stebben: As I'm listening to you, Jane, I'm talking with Jane Gonzalez, she's the president and CEO of MEDwheels in San Antonio, it's Medwheels.com. As I'm listening to you, I'm thinking to myself, I'm looking around and I'm saying, I'm sort of filling in here for our listeners as well, there are no AEDs here. So, if I'm with a company or my kids go to a school, where there are not AEDs, how does that conversation begin? I mean, before a company or a school, or a school district, or a government agency, can reach out to you, there must be some internal conversations as well. You must have some insight into the kinds of things, for instance, I might want to get my company talking about so we can get ourselves to a point where we should reach out to you to talk to you about this.
Jane Gonzalez: Absolutely. And it starts with ... That's one of the areas that we're working with, because keep in mind, we just saw hurricane in North Carolina, and you've got people with disabilities, so, that you're talking about a facility, I don't know if it's one floor or if it's two floors, three floors, 10 floors, I have no idea. But, the other piece of equipment that is critically as important as an AED in a facility would be evacuation chairs. So, that if you have somebody with disabilities up on the 10th floor, and need that chair, can permit that person with disabilities to be taken down the stairwell, with minimal possibility of injury. So that, the conversations typically would begin with whomever is operating the facility, typically that would be the person in charge of making those kinds of decisions.
And, we would be glad to communicate and support, in terms of what we recommend might be a good need and location where to put them.
Gregg Stebben: Well, part of what you're telling us is, even though we've all seen AEDs at the airport and other places, there's actually, this is actually a much bigger conversation than that. There's other things, a company or an organization should be thinking about, to make sure that they are prepared.
Jane Gonzalez: Right, I mean look at the violence that is happening. Before I came onto this podcast, there's another shooting that happened in Maryland, the other thing that I am very passionate about is that people are dying from bleed-outs, because by the time the police can get into an area that's been subjected to violence, that person, if there's nothing in there that's going to stop that bleeding, potentially may not make it, right?
So then, what I'm recommending to all ... especially in the school districts, where we have so many kids that are facing this dilemma, is that I encourage everyone, not only to get the AED, you're going to have the automatic electronic defibrillator, that's awesome, fantastic, but I'm also encouraging everyone to put at least one stop-the-bleed kit at a minimum inside of that cabinet.
Gregg Stebben: Inside the AED cabinet?
Jane Gonzalez: Inside the AED cabinet.
Gregg Stebben: So, I have to confess, I've never heard of a stop-the-bleed kit. What is that?
Jane Gonzalez: So, stop-the-bleed kits, let me walk you through a scenario. Wherever you're sitting at, somebody walks in, they bust the door open, they have a gun pulled, they shoot and they hit you on the leg, okay? So, now you've started bleeding you're bleeding right now, they're calling 911, "Police, can I get in there to provide you aid?" No one can get in there to provide you aid, because that area is still a crime scene.
If you had a stop-the-bleed kit, there could be a tourniquet in there, so that you can get that tourniquet, wrap it around where the bleeding is at, tie it really good, it will stop bleeding. Or if it's hit in the chest, there's also something called a chest compression, so that you can get that ... like a gauze, and you apply it to your chest, wherever that bleeding is at, wherever the gun shots at. You press it down, it will stop the bleeding.
Gregg Stebben: You're opening up this whole area of, I'm sure in most cases, it's probably an HR function or an Operations function, but I think, I mean for me, you're really opening my eyes to things I had never thought about. And of course, the worst possible time to be thinking about things like this is when it's too late.
She's Jane Gonzalez, she's the president and CEO of MEDwheels, Medwheels.com. I want to ask you to look back, over the years, since you started your business in 2005, and I'm wondering if there's one thing you learned, that you wish you could share with other small business owners. And share with folks who may be thinking about starting their own businesses, is there one lesson that you've gained, that you just wish everyone knew, because you knew their journey forward would be more successful?
Jane Gonzalez: You know, that's a very, really fantastic question. And, thirteen years of business, I use this analogy, football. You're in a football field, and you're a running-back, and you're running down the field, suddenly, there's going to be this big guy coming at you, the train's coming at you, right? And when a train's coming at you, you're going to have to pivot to the right, you're going to have to pivot to the left, you're going to have to do something, because if you go head on, something’s going to give.
And so, my advice is that, create that business plan. It is very important, especially for new companies, to have a business plan. And, create that strategy. One thing that I've learned is that how can I pursue something if I don't have it in writing and I'm going to be committed to the perseverance to make sure that I achieve those goals. So, then create that business plan, but then also, life is gonna happen. We're a family run business, my business company has gone through deaths, it's gone through sickness, it's gone through adversity, it's gone through challenge, and then you've got government regulation where we had to look at government policy, then you have financial regulation, so that all these things are going to be happening as all of these things are happening, the company moves on in years, it's going to be important to update that business plan and modify it, adjust, based on the current conditions that are affecting the continuity of that original business plan.
Gregg Stebben: So, your advice is, get it down in writing in a business plan, because without that, you're constantly going to be reacting to things without going back to the very foundation of the thing that you started.
Jane Gonzalez: Exactly.
Gregg Stebben: When you started MEDwheels, did you have a written business plan? Are you speaking from experience of, not having a business plan, or we had one and boy am I glad we did?
Jane Gonzalez: Well, I'm talking from experience in that I did have the business plan originally, but in the middle of ...you know, companies are going to go into the valley, they're gonna go through the fire, are you gonna have enough money to meet your payroll? What is your balance sheet looking like? Are your payments going out the door more than the money that's coming into the door? So, there's a lot of these things that are happening, and I'm talking from experience, in that during those very critical times, when we were totally stressed, when Medicare changed regulation and the gross margin that we're making slowly has been taken from under our feet, the administrative costs are going through the roof, I don't have enough money, I gotta go get my line of credit to pay my payroll. And what is the company going to do to survive? And so, creating that business plan, changing that business plan, updating that business plan, during that dark, dark time that we were going through was very important.
Gregg Stebben: And, might have determined whether MEDwheels would even be here today, or not?
Jane Gonzalez: Yeah, if we had not, on the grace of God, by the grace of God, if we had not taken a really hard look at the stress that the Medicare regulation was having on our business, and if we had not updated our business strategies, we probably would have gone bankrupt.
Gregg Stebben: Well, what's really fascinating about that, Jane, Jane Gonzalez, the president and CEO of MEDwheels, Medwheels.com. It's fascinating to hear you say that, because I'd go back to your mission statement, which includes, "To provide all facets of an AED program, including products, services, and training to consumers and to ultimately help save lives." And then, the statistic on your home page, "An additional 40 thousand lives could be saved each year in the U.S. alone, with widespread access to AEDs." I'm thinking to myself, that if you had not had that business plan and been able to use it to make that successful pivot, there are people alive today, who would not be alive today, if you had gone bankrupt instead of found a way and the will to go forward, and I wanna thank you for that.
Jane Gonzalez: Oh, thank God, for that. I'm a steward of the assets that I'm being provided, and I hope every day that I do a good job of it. I hope every day I make a difference in somebody's life. I hope every day, that this company is in business, can make a difference, and leave some kind of legacy behind.
Gregg Stebben: I can't think of a better place to leave it than that. Jane Gonzalez, thanks for joining us on “The Heartbeat of Main Street” with ForbesBooks, and Bank of America. MEDwheels is at Medwheels.com. She's the president and CEO, Jane, thanks so much for joining us.