CLEARWATER — Buy low. Sell higher.
That's what Clearwater business owner Randy Ware learned from his father as a kid growing up in a lower middle-class family in Venice.
The older of two kids, Randy often tagged along with his father on his buying excursions. His dad would hit up garage sales, buy out the contents and take them to his booth at the Dome Flea and Farmers Market in Venice.
While hanging out at those garage sales and flea markets, Ware developed an interest in baseball cards — not to collect his favorite players, but to buy and sell.
"I liked to make money," he said.
Years later, Ware is still applying those principles leading WestCMR, a Clearwater company that buys and sells surplus surgical supplies around the world.
Ware, the CEO, president and founder of the business, discovered the untapped niche of a secondary market for medical supplies when, working as a sales manager for a small medical distributor in 1996, he had access to what he calls "the inner workings of the surgical supply chain inefficiencies in health care." There were shelves and shelves of unused and unneeded supplies stored in the doctors' offices, hospitals and other medical facilities on which he called.
It gave him the idea for his resale business, West Coast Medical Resources (later shortened to WestCMR). And, he said, it was more than personal wealth that was driving him.
"It's helping the environment. It's keeping metal and plastics — usable medical supplies — out of landfills," Ware said.
And, it's cutting expenses for hospitals by recouping for them at least some of the cost of overstock.
"We can help bring a little more health to the balance sheets of hospitals and clinics," he said.
Ware, 54, who graduated from Stetson University with a degree in marketing and finance, is quick to admit his business is a risky one.
The value of the goods he buys can vary from day to day depending on demand — and their expiration dates. It seems odd that objects made of metal and plastic have expiration dates but it's the sterilization of the sealed objects that expires, not the items themselves.
To appraise the value of medical items it buys, WestCMR uses a customized, continually updated spreadsheet into which product data is fed.
"We know what to buy and not to buy. We turn down more than we buy," Ware said.
But even then, it's a gamble.
"I have a stupidly high tolerance for risk. We make money by throwing stuff on a wall and seeing what sticks," Ware said.
Generally, his company buys products for pennies on the dollar, 10 percent to 20 percent of their retail cost.
Then he sells them by the piece or whatever quantity is needed at 10 percent to 40 percent less than the retail price, helping hospitals cut costs.
Saving $20,000 or $30,000 a year isn't that much for the likes of a big hospital like Tampa General, Ware said, but, for a smaller place, it's a big deal.
Ware said his company has managed to stay out of the too-much-stock dilemma that many of his customers find themselves in. "We sell 80 percent to 90 percent of what we buy. If it gets to a short shelf life, we'll donate it," he said. In the end, they have to destroy about 2 percent of their inventory.
WestCMR sells all over the world — 80 percent on the domestic market (10 percent of which is in Florida) — to thousands of mostly independent medical facilities and surgical centers.
"We shipped to 120 countries last year," Ware said.
In 2017, WestCMR will celebrate 20 years in business. And, even though it has grown from a one-man, $5 million company to a 40-employee, $15 million company, Ware believes he has only tapped about 1 percent of the market potential.
Two years ago, Ware had a 10,000-square-foot addition put on the company's 17,000-square-foot office building on the corner of Howard Street and S Fort Harrison Avenue that he bought in 2011. And, in two more years, he plans to add a new sales and administration office so he can convert the entire existing building into warehouse space.
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