NSM's Ballard: "Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better"

In the last month, National Seating & Mobility (NSM) has added about 250 staffers, including ATPs and support/administrative personnel, as a result of acquiring Hudson Seating & Mobility in early November, then Home Health Depot's seating & mobility division a few weeks later.

Adding Home Health Depot's (HHD) complex rehab operations meant a gain of five new offices for NSM. Acquiring Hudson added nine branch locations to NSM's total.

But despite significant expansion in recent months - and with no end in sight - NSM's CEO Mike Ballard says it's not just about size.

In fact, in an interview with Mobility Management, Ballard said NSM was being careful regarding its next expansion moves.

"We're trying to operate the company so that if we never open another branch office or another acquisition, things are fine," he said. "We don't have to grow for the sake of growing, so we want to grow and continue to be smart about it and be selective. I suspect we'll continue to grow; we're talking to people, but it's not like I've got a big acquisition team out there combing the countryside."

Ballard adds that he considers most of NSM's recent growth to be "organic" - the result of creating new branch locations, rather than solely acquiring existing rehab businesses.

"I've always operated on the basis that bigger is not necessarily better," he said. "Better is better. Sometimes a selective acquisition will make you a better company, not just bigger."

The latest acquisitions have made headlines because of the companies' significant sizes and great reputations for quality - and Ballard said, for instance, that he's in no rush to transition Hudson to the NSM model of operations because he'd like to first observe what Hudson staffers are doing well.

"They're going to keep operating as Hudson Medical," he noted. "We're not trying to do a consolidation play, so to speak, in the classic sense. Hudson is a well-run company, and a lot of the companies we take over are much smaller in scale. With some of the larger ones, we've had to play the white-knight role and nurse them back to health in order to maximize their potential.

"Hudson on the other hand represents a very healthy, vibrant company with a reasonable amount of scale. I don't think there have been any larger acquisitions in the industry; their revenue basis is larger than any acquisition I know of, in terms of one rehab supplier buying another one. And so this gives us a rare opportunity to observe another successful company before going in there and saying, 'This is the way we're going to do it.' We want them operating on their own, and we want to learn some of the things that they're doing. We're not in there to change a lot of processes right now."

Once the initial weeks of the transition passed, Ballard said NSM would consider opportunities to tweak operations.

"Down the road, after the first of the year and after we get to know the company better, we're obviously going to look for synergies. There are generic sides of business and various scalings: payroll department, accounting, things like that. But for the basic core of the company, we don't see that there are going to be a lot of changes."

Home Health Depot CRT Is Latest Acquisition

Just a few weeks after the Hudson acquisition, NSM announced it had acquired the seating & mobility division of Home Health Depot, which serves clients in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Texas.

NSM said 16 Home Health Depot (HHD) ATPs would join its team, as would approximately 50 supporting staff members.

The Nov. 21 news announcement said, "The former HHD locations will begin immediate operations as NSM branches in Atlanta; Coralville and Urbandale, Iowa; Indianapolis; and Broadview/Chicago East, Ill. HHD's Austin and Fort Wayne staff will join local NSM branches in those cities. The Atlanta branches will merge sometime during 2015."

In the news announcement, Ballard said, "This is an excellent addition for us. HHD is a respected presence in our industry, with an exceptional staff and reputation. They are a perfect complement to our mission."

David Hartley, CEO of HHD, said of the acquisition, "NSM's impressive national performance has come with no compromise in service quality. There couldn't be a better fit for our seating & mobility team."

Home Health Depot will continue to operate in the respiratory, accessibility and DME industries and will concentrate on hospital partnerships and supporting hospice patients, the announcement said.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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