Bill and Maria Koch are both able-bodied people who have little trouble getting around. But the Kochs know as they age, they too may need accessibility equipment to continue living independently.
For now, they help others in the Kansas City area through Silver Cross-Kansas City. With offices in Lenexa, the Kochs hold the local franchise of the Canadian-based company. Silver Cross sells and leases new and recycled accessibility equipment. Its equipment, for both inside and outside the home, includes stair and chair lifts, and wheelchair lifts and ramps. The local franchise offers the equipment for residential and commercial use.
“We offer anything anybody needs to get around in their home or out of their home,” he said. “Durable medical equipment can be very expensive (so) we offer a unique opportunity to purchase used equipment.… You can save upwards of 30 to 50 percent on products, depending what your needs are.”
Bill Koch said his Kansas City franchise was one of only four in the U.S.
“The home office has decided to use the Kansas City office as its training center,” Koch said. “New franchises will come here for initial training.… The parent company wants to bring on three to five new locations a year.”
Of the equipment Silver Cross offers, 90 percent is purchased and the rest leased. While the recycled equipment is less expensive to buy, 75 percent of what is sold is new rather than recycled.
“We have a huge demand for recycled, but not enough supply to meet the need,” Koch said.
Eighty percent of Silver Cross-Kansas City’s sales are in the residential sector with 20 percent in the commercial arena.
Q: How did you get into this business?
Koch learned about the industry through another company.
“The idea got under my skin,” Koch said. “When this opportunity came up to do this on the retail side, we went for it.”
Although Koch said it’s a small industry, “once you get inside of it you see how helpful it is.… To be able to offer a solution to a customer is so rewarding.”
Silver Cross gets much of its business through referrals.
Q: What is distinctive about your business model?
“The time we spend marketing in the health care industry — with physical and occupational therapists, case managers at hospitals, in-patient rehab facilities and home health groups. That’s where the need is — we try to be right where the client is.”
Silver Cross does some limited advertising in niche publications.
“We’re seeing more name recognition and repeat clients,” he said.
Of all the equipment the Kochs’ carry, stair lifts are the most popular. A new stair lift is priced under $2,500 installed; a recycled one runs abound $1,800. Koch said Silver Cross sells more new stair lifts than recycled lifts, despite the cost savings.
“I think there’s a consumer mindset that they won’t buy these used,” Koch said. “Warranties are longer on a new one, and some worry they’ll have higher cost on a used one – that it will break down more … but it doesn’t get used with the high frequency that other equipment in the home does.… If a recycled lift matches your requirements, that’s where the savings are.”
Q: What trends are you seeing in your business?
“People are holding on to equipment much longer,” Koch said. “It used to be these lifts would come back on average about three years and now it’s longer because of home healthcare and people staying in their homes longer.”
Silver Cross has met with success in six years since the Kochs opened the Kansas City franchise.
“The first four years we doubled every year,” Koch said. “We never stopped getting injured and older.… We sustained 10 percent growth the last two years and we’re predicting continual growth.”
Koch finds satisfaction in the work he does with Silver Cross.
“We love it,” Koch said. “It’s a neat business and we spend time with quality people.”