Mobility Express connects the dots

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

HOLIDAY, Fla. — When a consultant recently told HME News that Joe Rached's scooter business was "growing like mad" and "a real success story," he wasn't kidding.

Mobility Express has gone from one store here in 1993 to 17 stores across Florida and Pennsylvania in 2002. Just within the past two months, Rached added stores in Spring Hill, Fla., and Sun City Center, Fla.

That's not it for 2002, either. Rached plans to open another store in Florida in six to eight weeks. In all, he plans to open as many as six stores in the state this year.

"We have a map in the office, and we put a dot on it every time we add a new store," said the president Mobility Express Inc. "The goal is to have two dozen stores in Florida when we're done, and that's not including the panhandle."

Soon Florida, on Rached's map, will be unrecognizable.

That's not bad for a man who was reluctant to leave Pennsylvania and an executive position with AFLAC, an insurance carrier, 15 years ago.

"A friend of mine introduced me to this business, and it took him about six to nine months to convince me to join it," Rached said. "Now, I realize how similar both businesses are. Both help people regain their independence, their freedom."

Before carving out his business in 1993, however, Rached was groomed by a major scooter manufacturer for six years (He won't say which).

Much of Mobility Express' growth, and the speed of that growth, can be attributed to Rached running his company as a dealership. He owns a handful of the 17 stores and the remainder do business as (d.b.a.) Mobility Express. He keeps the dealership in check by having members of his family involved. His son-in-law, for instance, runs the new Spring Hill, Fla., store. Rached said people he knows "very well" run those that aren't run by family members.

"We're like one big family," he said. "That extends to our customers, too. Our slogan is, 'Where customers are friends for life.'"

Rached said it's not unusual for Mobility Express to receive 10 to 15 inquiries a day from prospective providers, some from as far as Texas and California, and they all want to know one thing: How they can get a piece of the Mobility Express pie?

"We're getting so big," Rached said. "We're in enough locations, that our name is well known and well respected."

That led Rached to throw private labeling into the mix recently. He said he's currently negotiating with three major scooter manufacturers to build a Mobility Express line of scooters and power wheelchairs.

"We're about half way into sealing a deal," Rached said.
Rached said he'd like to private label about 65% of his scooters and power wheelchairs and spread them throughout the dealership. He hopes the results will be equipment that's a better fit for the customer's needs, as well as better pricing.

But what will manufacturers, at least those not chosen to private label for Mobility Express, say?

"There's nothing they do can about it," Rached said. "We're not going to cut out any manufacturers. If someone comes in and wants a different product, we'll order it."

Rached said he's not out to make enemies out of manufacturers. He's often their biggest buyer. He then alluded to recognition certificates from manufacturers that hang on the wall behind him in the store here, including numerous for "Mobility Provider of the Year." HME