Convaid’s Chris Braun: “The Complement Is Just Phenomenal”

When news of Convaid’s acquisition by Etac AB, the Swedish company that owns R82 (formerly Snug Seat), broke just a few days before Christmas, the partnering sounded logical. As the Snug Seat name suggested, R82’s specialty is pediatric seating & positioning; Convaid’s forte has been caregiver-propelled mobility bases, largely for children.

Convaid President Chris Braun talked to Mobility Management about what the acquisition would mean to employees, product development and distribution, and two groups of Convaid customers — seating & mobility professionals as well as consumers.

A Phenomenal Fit

Braun confirmed the excellent fit between the two companies.

“The cultures of the two organizations are very much the same,” he said. “We both have the same mission, which is to serve people with disabilities and to help improve their lives with products, essentially. The complement of the two product lines, I think, is just phenomenal. For us, it expands a lot into the product areas that we’ve been strategically looking to get into. It opens up a lot more product for our customers and our customer base in a very quick amount of time.”

Additionally, Braun said joining forces with Etac accelerates Convaid’s ability to distribute to international segments in a timely fashion.

“As we develop products now, they’ll immediately have a place in the international markets, which has been a really important part of our planning, too — to figure out how do we solve getting the products into international markets faster, as well as getting traction on the product on a global basis? We’ve done it, but it’s taken a lot of time. I think now the time to do a lot of that compresses.”

What won’t be changing is the Convaid name — or the R82 name either, Braun said.

“As a company, we were able to select who we wanted to try to partner with to do this, and Etac has a fantastic reputation, R82 has a fantastic reputation,” he noted. “They’re planning to keep all of the brands, so there’s no consolidation of efforts. Convaid will remain Convaid, R82 will remain R82, Etac the same.”

While acquisitions can often lead to a blending of the companies involved and a consolidation of similar products, Braun said he doesn’t expect that to happen between Convaid and R82.

“The brands themselves will remain independent,” he said. “We’re not trying to eliminate one to sell the other. In fact, it’s the opposite: How does one complement the other? We actually are going to really support the Convaid brand not only as we have in the past, but also on a more global scale with distribution.

“There should be no reduction of service on any standpoint to the customer, whether it’s Etac, R82 or Convaid. In fact, we have a very big investment into expanding that domestically. My goal has always been to keep improving the service, and I think this allows us to add people and to add services and products, which I think are great for the customer.”

Complex Seating Needs

Last year, Convaid launched the Trekker, a folding, stroller-style manual chair loaded with positioning possibilities. With a total of 50° of tilt and 170° of recline, plus a host of other positioning component options, the Trekker signaled that Convaid was crossing into new territory to support children with very complex seating needs.

Will Convaid continue its foray into this segment?

“We’re going to get even more aggressive with it,” Braun said. “I think the Etac addition is going to help us get further into the spectrum of disability, not only from our own product development internally, but also from the perspective of adding some of the technology and knowledge base that they have in that part of the business. We’re going to offer the full spectrum as Convaid, as a brand, as product development and as support and manufacturing. Now we have additional resources and expertise to help further develop our product and knowledge base in those additional ends of the spectrum for our customer groups.”

Braun praised R82’s design and engineering capabilities, adding, “That’s one of the things that’s been so attractive to our company -- we both place a lot of emphasis on that, and we are committing a lot of resources into the division, into making better products in all of these brands.”

To streamline the ordering and delivery processes, Braun said Convaid and R82 are examining how distribution could be improved by using both of their American headquarters as distribution points. Convaid is based in Torrance, Calif.; R82 operates its American business from Matthews, N.C.

“We’re looking to basically get better coverage for all of the companies through the use of two facilities for distribution,” he explained.

Beyond that, Braun described the situation as largely business as usual, with Convaid’s team remaining in place.

“All of us will stay on,” he said. “There’s no consolidation effort as it relates to elimination of people or positions in manufacturing or distribution. That’s not the reason for the structure of this deal. It was to complement each other, and I think the first half of the year for us will be working with our product development group and our management team in putting together a plan along with Etac and R82 to see how do we best improve what we’re doing as a company."

Another aspect of Convaid that won’t change: the company’s dedication to custom-building its chairs.

“We’re going to emphasize that as we move forward,” Braun said. “That is our business model and will continue to be our business model.”

Braun expressed gratitude to existing and new shareholders for their support of the deal, and appreciation to Merv Watkins and family, who founded Convaid in 1976. Working alongside R82, Braun added, should provide Convaid professional and end-user customers with even more options going forward.

Said Braun, “I very much am looking forward to the next chapter.”

About the Author

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

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