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A Video Conversation with Geoff Gross, CEO and Founder of Medical Guardian- Part 2- On Starting the Company

Click Here for Part 1 Providing emergency help and reliable customer service to those who need it any time Geoff GrossGeoff Gross is the CEO and founder of Medical Guardian. The company, which started as a business run out of Geoff’s apartment, has grown into a leading provider of medical alert systems for seniors nationwide. Medical Guardian’s product range spans from at-home devices to GPS-enabled systems that guarantee emergency protection on the go. During a fall, injury, or other incapacitating event, these devices allow users to receive immediate, local help from a certified medical operator at the push of a button. Florence Henderson, known for playing Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, currently endorses the company as its Senior Safety Advocate. In 2015, Medical Guardian was #30 on the Philadelphia 100’s list of the fastest growing companies in Philadelphia, and #1265 on the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies in the United States. Last year, Geoff was a finalist for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (Philadelphia), and was recently named a two-time SmartCEO Future 50 winner. Geoff also sits on the Board of Directors for the Medical Alert Monitoring Association as well as the Board of Directors for the National MS Society, Delaware Valley Chapter. As one might expect from his work with the latter, Geoff is a diligent supporter of causes related to Multiple Sclerosis: he is the founder and Co-Chair of Preakness at the Piazza, a fundraiser held each may during the Preakness Horse Race. All of the net proceeds of this annual event benefit MS education, wellness programs, and research initiatives. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLGbxeUgAIw Can you tell us how you started the company? GEOFF GROSS: I founded Medical Guardian in late 2005 out of my apartment at 15th and Locust in Philadelphia. I really wanted to be in a business that was direct-to-consumer-based. I was paying attention to what was going on in the world, realized there were a lot of baby boomers about to turn 65, and a large segment of seniors are going to be happening over the next 20 years, a lot of people getting older with a lot of disposable income, and so I started. I was familiar with the medical alert space being around the home security space for so long, and I wanted to get in the industry, where I thought there was potential for growth and something that I believed in doing. And frankly, for 11 years now, I get to come to work every week and really lead a company that provides a great service to our clients. What aspects of the medical alert device industry is Medical Guardian involved in? At Medical Guardian we do everything but manufacture the equipment and do the third party emergency monitoring. We do marketing and sales to fulfillment billing, customer service retention, collections, IT, everything in the middle. We have about 110 employees. Everybody, for the most part, is centralized in our Philadelphia office, and we’re able to service nationwide from there. We have a fulfillment center in Delaware that ships hundreds of packages every day to our clients nationwide. Has the technology changed over time? In our space, for 25 years or so, there was really one product. It was a landline-based home system, where you wear a pendant or a wrist button. You have a base unit, and when you press the button it dialed out through your home phone line and we would send help. About four or five years ago, we started to get more mobile devices in the market, and so we were one of the first movers when it came to mobile. Now, we have everything from a home unit to a cellular unit to a mobile unit to a wearable mobile unit. Two of our products have fault detection. So, the great part of it is you don’t even need a landline to need our system anymore. Over 75% of our new clients are cellular-based, so it’s totally plug-and-play. We drop ship the devices to them and they plug them in, and they’re ready to go. They use the AT&T network. Two areas we’re looking at and very focused on expanding are telehealth and activity monitoring, so we feel very good that these are areas and solutions that our customers have a need for. We plan to be very focused before moving there. Activity monitoring is really motion sensors in the home, contacts on the front and back door and the refrigerator. So we get full visibility for the caregivers into the what’s going in the home. Our goal at this point is to not only have a senior client, but also have the entire family involved in not only the purchasing, but the monitoring of the system in the home. It’s not just about being reactive and pressing a button anymore—it’s about being proactive and seeing a problem before something may happen. But, when something has happened and someone’s unable to press the button or if they don’t want to wear the button, in many cases they don’t even have to anymore. What role does customer service play in this? Customer service plays a huge role in our business because we’re dealing with consumers one by one. Everybody says they want to do great service, but I found there’s a big difference between saying you want to do great service and actually providing great service. What is great service, and what are the costs of it? I think great service is having people that, first of all, are meant to provide, to be in the service industry. They’re warm, they’re friendly, they’re empathetic. When you’re dealing with seniors you have to deal with a little extra care than you normally would in many other businesses, and so our goal is to be friendly from the first point of contact—from the videos that they see on our website to the person that answers the phone. When you’re trying to order a device, we ship the unit out quick. We try to get our devices to our clients within three days and when they get the unit delivered we have a warm 10- to 15-minute activation call where we go over all of the information and make sure it’s tested and plugged in correctly, and we troubleshoot any questions they have. During the time they’re with us we found that communication is better than non-communication. Now, it sounds like a simple notion, but many of not only our competitors but people from other industries sort of believe that we want to sign someone up, we hope they stay with us, but we don’t want to bother them, we don’t want to talk to them a lot. We found engagement is the key to extending the customer life, so we communicate via phone, we communicate with offline material—newsletters, birthday mailers, other communications that come to them in the mail. Email’s a big part of our communication strategy, so we have over 200 email creatives that we send to our clients for a number of different reasons—anywhere from education to value-building to reminders.  

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