Q: How did you meet Pete Zampine (Director of Business Development at Brewster Ambulance Service) and what brought you to work for Brewster Ambulance Service?
RH: I started roughly four-and-a-half years ago, I was 35-years-old and no longer involved with football. I was out to dinner with a mutual friend, Joe Andruzzi, and sure enough Pete was sitting at the table. I'd met him a couple times before on golf outings. We started talking and he asked me, "Hey, what do you want to do now that football is over?" I said, "I don't really know—I'm climbing the walls and looking around." I went from such a consuming job to being at home with all this time on my hands. My wife was tired of me being home doing the same thing. Pete said, "You've got a good personality, would you consider interviewing with Mark Brewster?" I said, "Who's Mark?" Pete filled me in about Brewster Ambulance and I said, "Oh, I don't have a clue about any of that, but I'll put together a resume," which I hadn't done since college.
I remember being over at Stonehill College and I spoke to the students for about 40 minutes. This one student asked me a question about what was it like being in the workforce for the first time at 35 and I said, "It took time to get over my own fears. Getting my mind back into that."
After talking with Pete, I went home and put a resume together. Five days later I interviewed with Mark and Pete for about an hour. We talked about everything but the ambulance business. I asked about his family and learned that I grew up similar to Mark and his brother George. After our interview, Mark walked up to me and said, "I want to hire you—I would like to hire you because you know nothing about the ambulance business. I told Mark that, before I accepted, I wanted to do a ride-along.
So I did ride alongs with Pete and saw what selling was like. Later that fall I went to work for Brewster Ambulance on the business development team. I remember what I told the students at Stonehill College that my biggest fear was fear of myself. That, "You're going into the working world and have no experience, you have to reapply yourself." When I was playing football, I had lived in a controlled environment and I had this single-minded goal: to stay on the field as long as I could and make as much money as I could.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the selling process for Brewster?
RH: Single handedly, I'm still competitive. What I love most about it is closing the deal and knowing within a few days or a month that we're going to start servicing a company, a skilled nursing facility or a hospital. Closing the deal is the most fun I have, probably because I'm still competitive. I tease Mark that I want it all—I want Brewster to control the ambulance business.
There were certain facilities that I was told when I started that we would never obtain. I remember sitting down with Pete and how he'd say, "Here's an area we want to be as a company and where we need to expand." I love to execute on those ideas and it's been an absolute thrill. Quite honestly, Mark and Pete have let me do my own thing. I don't have any body riding with me every day, saying, "Russ, go find a way to get into that facility." I have about twenty accounts that I watch and a handful of hospitals. I get to network with people and I love that side of the business. My vehicle is my office.
The biggest thing that I'm grateful to Pete and Mark for, is that they've both given me the freedom to go out. They've told me to never promise anything that Brewster can't deliver. As a result of my career in football, it was a natural fit to be in Pete's board room because he believes in teamwork as well. There may be a facility which is more familiar with a colleague than they are with me, and so we'll fit the best person to that situation. We tease each other about how much work is bring brought in, and at the end of the day all that matters is that we are a team united!
Whether I'm talking to a medical director or administrator or regional people with Pete, I've played a team sport and am happy to work as a team and work with some great people. Pete hates when someone tells him, "This is my territory." His goal is we have loose territories. We have regions, but Pete loves the fact that an administrator may prefer a specific business development person more and allows them to develop a relationship. We all have relationships with administrators and that is networking.
The other great thing is the support I get company-wide. If I have a clinical question, I can call Chris DiBona, Director of Clinical Quality. If I have a billing question, I call the billing department. We're not a compartmentalized business—it's open doors everywhere. If I have a question—as weird as it may be—I have access to someone who can answer that question. That access gives me the flexibility to help and provide the information I need when I'm out in the field having conversations with prospective and active customers.
Q: Why does the business development team at Brewster Ambulance work so well?
RH: I think why is because Pete has pushed the team emphasis. "Hey, what's everybody been doing? What are we working on and how can we use that to spread the good word about Brewster?" We talk about our weaknesses or the areas we want to expand. "Well, we don't have this community and we'd like to gain awareness in that community, or do a college trade show." It's all-encompassing. It's not just sales driven—it's relationship building within communities and it's how are we helping ourselves get the word out about what we're doing at Brewster. We want to be innovative and build along the way.
We have a lot of diversity on our team. Female, male, older, younger—a good mix of people in our room and all with good experience such as former operations managers. For example, Bob Walker has been in dispatch for years. It's important to come through with what you promised and stand behind it and Pete's done a nice job supporting that.
Q: What are you noticing about the industry that's changing or challenging the business?
RH: I think that it's no secret the number one challenge is the reimbursements. Being able to reinvest in your own business, the insurance: Medicare, Medicaid, Mass Health and those organizations and governments. We're in a world where we try to squeeze every thing out of a nickel. I hope in the future—with some lobbying from our company and others—that we can generate a groundswell. There's an entire industry being affected and thwarted by this. For example, you can't put a person on a ventilator or an IV in a taxi cab and send them home. Unfortunately some people don't understand that or appreciate our importance in the world.
What Mark brings in patient care to this business isn't going away any time soon. We may have trucks drive themselves in forty years, but you still need someone to clinically care and attend to the patient. Innovation is the next thing. The biggest hindrance to us is what insurance companies and our government agencies do to our business.
The future is very exciting, and there are innovative things that I've seen such as drone technology as a 911 provider for search and rescue. On-time calling and seeing what cab companies like Uber and Lyft have done. Being able to say, "Hey, I need to get this patient out at 3:00 PM and have a nurse," book online and see the location of our ambulances in real time is exciting!
Q: How are your customers dealing with the changes in healthcare, reimbursement and retaining good people on their staff?
RH: I think you see a little squeeze, insurance companies and reimbursement rates have squeezed them as well. There's a bigger push to get people home from the hospital sooner rather than later and that's a huge problem in our health care system. I'm glad they're trying to help the home health care people, but the problem is that a lot of patients are being pushed out because insurance companies are only willing to pay after a certain number of days for care.
Q: What else can you share about working for Brewster that makes it the right place for you?
RH: More than anything I believe I've gotten to know Mark and his brother George, their families as well as Pete; they are the hierarchy of the company. I believe that I'm working for the best ambulance company in the state. I truly believe that they care about their patients. We've made sure patients have gotten home to see their loved ones, attended a funeral. Mark and his family have done these things out of the goodness of their hearts. It's hugely telling about the guy whose running your company, who takes a patient to Warwick RI for a funeral and brings him back free of charge—those are people who really care. They've given me a great opportunity that doesn't come along often. They've taken a chance on me, brought me along and it's been a lot of fun.