the promed story

A True Entrepreneurial Story

Professional Medical's name and the values it was founded on remain unchanged over 56 years after the company was established.

In 1966, Terry Barnes was working as an inhalation therapist at Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet, Illinois when John Spalding, a staff therapist, approached him with an idea. They began discussing the difficulty that patients were having getting the medical supplies they needed at a reasonable cost.

"That's where we thought there was a need - giving patients what therapists and physicians wanted them to have," said Terry. In the '60s, patients looking for improved home care products recommended to them by their doctors and therapists had only one place to turn - drugstores. Problem was, drugstores didn't stock the specific items that were recommended. Many times, they only carried off-brand products, leaving patients confused or with products that didn't work as well as the ones their caregivers wanted for them.

What Terry and his therapist friend, John, proposed was partnering to create a new kind of specialized equipment and medical supply business - one that could deliver the brands caregivers wanted while simultaneously providing exceptional service tailored to each customer's individual needs. John and another partner, the director of the Physical Therapy Department at Silver Cross, would be silent investors while Terry would be challenged on a day-to-day basis with building the business. In January of 1968, their dream took flight and Professional Medical Surgical Supply, Inc. was born.

Experience is key
Terry resigned from his inhalation therapist job to focus on the new venture full time. He used the skills he learned in his five-plus years working in physical and inhalation therapy departments (at St. Joseph's and Silver Cross in Joliet and Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois) to his advantage in his new business. "I learned from the physicians, therapists and nurses what they liked for home care products and services," he said.

His first customers were referrals from physical and inhalation therapists, physicians, nurses and some drugstores who didn't want to send their customers to other pharmacies because of the risk of losing their prescription business. Terry was always on the lookout for the best products available. When he found a product that his customers preferred, Terry - then just 24 years old - would call the manufacturer directly to get it in stock. His wife, Janet, recalls, "He was pretty gutsy. He didn't hesitate to ask for deals."

"I had the drive to be successful"
From the beginning, Terry was determined to fulfill the needs of his customers. He wanted Professional Medical to be an organization committed to providing quality medical equipment and supplies with unsurpassed service.

Terry was essentially a one-man show, and he hit the ground running. "The only way you communicated back then was trying to reach someone on the phone or face-to-face," he recalls. "I knew they weren't going to come to me. They were busy." Sitting around wasn't in Terry's nature, anyhow. "I had the drive to be successful," he said. "I like the satisfaction you derive from it." He claims Professional Medical's early growth and success can be attributed to "perseverance and being self-motivated."

Growth and expansion
In the beginning, Terry rented a 400-square-foot retail showroom at 452 Ruby Street in Joliet and purchased a used van to make deliveries.

As time went on and the business continued to grow, Terry rented more and more units in the Ruby Street building until he eventually purchased the entire building. He also rented warehouse space in the Joliet Industrial District before eventually purchasing a warehouse at 16 Laurel Street in Joliet. Employees were added as they were needed, including the company's first outside salesperson in 1978.

In the late 1970s, Terry's wholesale business began to take off. He began pursuing nursing homes in order to grow the business beyond its early referral base. This resulted in higher-volume sales and repeat business.

In 1981, Terry bought out the last of his business partners and assumed total ownership of Professional Medical. "That's when the vision became even more passionate for me," Terry said. That same year, he began handling Medicare billings for his customers.

Terry's vision of expanding product lines and customer services along with widening the company's account base, specifically in the long-term care industry, has thrived.

Terry and Janet's first son, Matt, was born in 1971. They soon welcomed son Christian in 1974 and daughter Amy in 1977. "Janet really enabled me to work long hours since she handled the kids and has been very understanding and supportive throughout these many years," Terry said.

After Matt graduated from Loyola University of Chicago, he was ready to jump into the business. Terry remembers taking him to conventions so that he could experience the vastness of the healthcare industry. "It was interesting to watch him," Terry said. "He's so outgoing with such a great personality. Eventually, he was pushing me back and doing the talking himself!" After tackling several positions within the company, Matt became CEO of Professional Medical on July 25, 2002. Terry marvels at the job his son is doing. "Matt knows exactly what we need out in the field and what we need in the corporate office, too - teamwork and communication with follow-up," he said.

Christian Barnes became the Director of Distribution Operations for Professional Medical, and Amy was appointed Director of Employee and HR Relations. She also serves as President of the Barnes Foundation. They are both contributing greatly to the success of the company. "I expect them both to learn and grow as they meet the goals and challenges ahead," Terry said.

Professional Medical today
In 2004, Professional Medical moved to its current state-of-the-art location at 1917 Garnet Court in New Lenox, Illinois.

Although Professional Medical has fielded several buyout offers, Terry hasn't been tempted to sell. "This business is an extension of my family," he said, reflecting on Professional Medical's years of growth and success. "The business is like one of my children. I've raised the business from its infancy. There's a lot of emotion in that. And once I saw the flicker of succession in Matt's eyes, I knew I had to hold on."

Throughout Terry's leadership and dedicated application of one simple principle - "Customer satisfaction is our number one goal" - Professional Medical has continued to grow and prosper.


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