Van G. Miller, founder and CEO of VGM Group, died suddenly on Oct. 18. He was 67.
In an Oct. 19 announcement, VGM said Miller passed away at home of a suspected heart attack.
Jim Walsh, Miller’s long-time business partner and recent president and general counsel, has been named chairman of the board and will act as interim CEO until the board of directors meets in November.
One of the DME industry’s legends, Miller founded VGM, a member services organization for DME suppliers, in September 1986. Over the years, the Waterloo, Iowa-based organization has grown to keep pace with industry changes and the evolving needs of its members. VGM’s specialty divisions now include U.S. Rehab, VGM Forbin, VGM HOMELINK and Accessible Home Improvement of America.
VGM has also shown its support for the end users of DME and complex rehab technology by forming the People for Quality Care advocacy organization.
When Miller began VGM, the company said, he did so “with the belief that quality home health care is best delivered by community-based, independent providers. The original buying group for independent home medical equipment providers grew to be a diverse company of business units. VGM is still best known for its leadership in the home medical equipment industry, where it provides services that include group purchasing, insurance, education, marketing, insurance contracting, advocacy and analysis.”
In 2008, Miller announced that he and minority shareholders Walsh and John Deery Jr. had sold their stock in VGM to the company’s employees through an Employee Stock Option Plan. VGM now employs more than 850 associates.
The move was in keeping, VGM said, with Miller’s concern for and investment in his employees, as well as an “easy-going personality” that saw him regularly working in VGM’s booths at tradeshows. Miller’s own annual show, the Heartland Conference, is known not just for the high quality of its education, but also for its warm hospitality in the form of fireworks shows, homemade cookies and pig roasts.
“Despite his success, [Miller] considered himself to be ‘one of the associates’ and practiced an open door policy in the office,” the news announcement said.
The announcement quoted Miller as recently stating, “I try to stay out of everybody’s way. I look for opportunities for growth, and help make sure communication is company wide. My ultimate responsibility is to make a decision when there is no clear-cut consensus. The most important thing I do is make sure that the values and camaraderie with our associates stay intact – like they were in the beginning.”
Miller’s professional résumé included selling healthcare products as a traveling salesman, and later selling cemetery lots. Miller also served as a medic in the U.S. Army.
As founder of VGM, Miller won numerous industry awards, including the American Association for Homecare’s Champion of Home Care citation.
This year, the Des Moines Register recognized VGM as the state of Iowa’s top workplace among large companies. In 2014, the Heartland Conference was given the Cedar Valley Tourism Award as Event of the Year.
Walsh said of Miller, “Van thought of those who work for the company first, and his community second. His consummate skill in managing talent and making hard decisions was evident to all who know him. He frequently acknowledged that his associates are the ones who built the enterprise and that they should benefit from its success through the Employee Stock Option Plan.”
VGM indicated that Miller’s funeral service would take place Saturday, Oct. 24.
In lieu of flowers, the Miller family has suggested donations to the American Association’s Stand Up for Homecare advocacy fund.