Q: How did Warwick Enterprises get started?
A: On February 1, 1982, I was working on straight commission selling orthopedic supplies, primarily casting and splinting products with an assortment of orthopedic soft goods (arm slings, ankle wraps, finger splints, etc.). I really enjoyed doing that but, unfortunately, I was not making very much money.
I called on a doctor (a chiropractor) who told me he didn’t like anything I was selling but if I could get him a good heel lift, he would be interested. He took a few minutes and told me that all the heel lifts on the market at that time came in too many sizes, were uncomfortable to wear, wore out too soon and slipped in the shoe. He mentioned that heel lifts were used as part of the treatment protocol for leg length differences and that he used about one per week.
Within a week, I visited with a friend of mine in Des Moines who was an orthotist, which is a person who makes artificial arms, legs, etc. After explaining the idea, he said, “Oh yeah, I can make that.” He found some scraps in his scrap bin and made the first adjustable heel lift with three layers, each 1/8th inch thick, and used a piece of leather for the covering.
The next step was for me to take that first prototype and start showing it to doctors I called on and note their response. Over half of the doctors I showed it to said they would be interested when it became available for sale.
For the next year, my friend learned how to make the heel lifts and I learned how to sell them. Then we agreed on a value for his share of the business; I wrote him a check and I have been running it myself ever since then.
One other very important bit of information is that on January 31, 1982, the day before the encounter with the doctor that led to the heel lift business, the church I was attending at that time voted to build a new sanctuary. It was projected to be in the range of one million dollars. During that service I said a prayer. I asked to be shown a way to make more money so I would be able to make a significant contribution to the building fund. It took a few years but, primarily due to the growth of the heel lift business, I was able to contribute with a meaningful amount.
Q: What were your initial hopes and goals for the company?
A: Initially, all I really wanted was to sell maybe a few hundred heel lifts per month to chiropractors in Iowa. Then, as I learned more about the market and opportunities for growth, I realized that the potential was far greater than that. Now we sell mostly in healthcare markets but to a much broader base of customers. Orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, chiropractors, orthotists and podiatrists are the main customers — we have accounts in all fifty states!
Q: Have you always wanted to own your own business?
A: I think I probably have. I started delivering newspapers when I was 11 years old and continued doing that for five years.
My formal education focused on becoming a veterinarian, which was aimed at becoming an independent businessman. Even though I was never able to become a veterinarian, my education was very helpful in developing the heel lift business because I had learned about nerve function, structure function, relationships, and basic anatomy and physiology.
What really convinced me to be my own boss was when I was in my early thirties and was employed by a big company. It was sold to another big company. That showed me just how little security you have working for somebody else.
Q: How many employees did you initially start with and how many do you have now?
A: For the first seven years I did everything myself. Now, the staff includes myself, two full-time employees and three part-time employees.
Q: How quickly did the business grow?
A: Short answer: slowly. When you start with nothing but an idea and a willingness to work hard with a totally new concept, it’s hard to get things going. Banks don’t want to make risky investments. People do not want to invest. So, all I could do was get to work on it the only way available, namely do it all myself. For the next six years, I would order small amounts of materials: rubber, leather and adhesive. I’d make the heel lifts in my spare time and sell them as I could along with my other sales efforts.
It took eight months to sell the first thousand and six more months to sell the next thousand. During that time, I figured out that in the healthcare field, in addition to chiropractors, there was a market to orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, physical therapists and to orthotic/prosthetic field.
To make a long story short, there is now a distributor network handling the product. Our unit sales now are close to half a million total units.
Q: What was the first product developed and sold through Warwick Enterprises?
A: The first product was the Adjust-A-Lift® Heel Lift.
Q: What are some of the core values of your company?
A: As mentioned earlier, this business started the day after my church voted to build a new sanctuary. During that service, I said a prayer asking to be shown a way to make more money so that I could contribute to the financial side of the project.
With that as the background, it is not surprising that I have always considered this to be a “Christian” business. Some of the core values include: treating employees better than the bare minimum, always being honest with customers, not misrepresenting yourself or your company, being price competitive but not necessarily the cheapest in your market, being sensible with financial matters, returning 10% of profits to Christian ministries, and in general, maintaining high moral and ethical standards.
Q: What’s one interesting fact about Warwick Enterprises people may not know?
A: One interesting fact would be that, for approximately the first 10 years, it was a sideline business. I maintained employment in sales with a company that paid salesmen as independent contractors, so there was no conflict of interest with a sideline business, which is an unusual arrangement.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of owning this company?
A: Probably the most rewarding aspect of this business has been watching it grow from nothing into something. In fact, I have done so well that there are now competitors who have copied my idea. That is just a reality of business and since there was never a patent, that just happens.
Another rewarding aspect of owning this business is I’ve been able to maintain long-term employees. One man has been with me almost 30 years, one woman who worked in administration stayed with me over 20 years until retiring, and another woman also working in administration has been with me for almost 20 years.
Q: Are there any other products you’re currently developing to be sold through Warwick Enterprises?
A: We actually just released a new product: the adjustable Heel Lift Ankle Sock. The adjustable Heel Lift Ankle Sock has a therapy pocket concealed inside of the sock to hold your Adjust-A-Lift Heel Lift securely in place. The ankle sock allows the use of a heel lift without wearing a shoe. You can also wear flip-flops or sandals with the sock on. It’s a very useful product. At the present time, there’s also one product we are still looking into. It’s a generic, prefab orthotic. I am using them myself so I know the quality is excellent.