Monday, September 14, 2009

Bootstrapper Bianconi Reminisces Progressive Medical’s Beginnings

by Sandy Blanquera of Social Boomerang

“Hopefully, you can learn from the mistakes that I’ve made and the gains that I’ve made and apply them to your business,” Said Dave Bianconi, CEO and founder of Progressive Medical as he opened up to the room of 60 people. Dave was the featured speaker at the Bootstrapper’s Lunch, sponsored by the International Bootstraper’s Association (IBA) on September 10th, during the Bootstrapper’s Lunch at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center .
Dave shared examples of successes and failures resulting from building his business. His pithy advice, humble character and sense of humor were well received by the diverse crowd.
“It took me a long time to share with others that I was fired from my first job as an accountant. But, really, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My vision of how to do the work in the company was so different from the owners’ vision that I was actually put out of my misery when I no longer had to face going to work there.”
“How you setup ownership of the company is very important. It’s an expensive subject to deal with after the start-up. It’s also important to have the same vision as your partners,” he continued.
“I started my own business with personal investments of $12,000. Along with money from my wallet, a friend and 1st employee put in $5,000 and my cousin threw in some coin too. We also got funding from the bank that added to our initial investments topping them at $30,000. The funding marked the beginning of Progressive Medical in 1986.”
“The most painful thing I experienced was not paying me the first few years. I didn’t feel right putting money into my pocket until we started making higher revenue. I leveraged my house and other funding options to keep the business going. Good things happened after that and the revenue started jumping year after year. In 1994, we hit a million in revenue.”
“It was also the same year I parted ways with my friend and business partner. It is important to have the same vision of the company with your partners and we just couldn’t agree. I continued my partnership with my cousin until 3 years ago when I took over ownership of the company.”
Dave Bianconi started off with a degree in accounting. He had no idea the role that would play in developing his business. “I always worked on projections. I knew Excel better than the inventor of Excel.” Chuckles erupted, as Bianconi continued discussing how he worked on three years of projections and then his company actually hit those numbers.
“I thought I should buy a lottery ticket since I was getting so lucky at hitting my numbers. But a friend told me that I actually was not lucky. My friend said I was a good analyzer. Knowing your company well allows you to set your own realistic projections, and no one knows your company better than you.”
“I started delegating early on. You cannot grow your business unless you delegate. You need other people and you need to allow other people to take risks. You also have to have a quality of life that you enjoy. I vowed early on that if I were to have success at Progressive Medical that I would not sacrifice my family. I have found that my customers respected me more because of my dedication to my family.”
“In handling delegation, I look for energy in the people I hire and I start out asking them how they would like to work and how they see the work getting done.” Dave continued discussing delegation with this viewpoint, “You’ll never go out of business making good mistakes. I encourage people in our company to make good mistakes. It’s all part of delegation.”
“One mistake I made was to be too loyal to people. Loyalty is important; however, I have promoted people out of loyalty and did them a disservice since they were not ready for the job.”
In describing mistakes that taught Bianconi lessons, he added, “I was never afraid of failure or that I would have to get a job. Failure is not failure when you take action, its failure to take action.”
Clearly, Bianconi has experienced terrific success as a Inc. 500 Hall of Farmer, numerous service and community awards and revenue growth of 25-35% year over year for ten years.
‘Your success in business has more to do with knowing what not to do, than what to do,” said Bianconi whose business decisions continue to be driven by strong values and a good sense of ethics.
Bianconi finished his talk by answering questions and sharing this list of points he hoped the audience would take away:
  • Be realistic with your projections.
  • Know your income statement and balance sheet, the dual accounting system is brilliant!
  • Rely on several people. Different perspectives can change your view.
  • Surround yourself with experts. Find people who are smart and ask questions.
  • Cash is king. It’s everything. You must have cash flow.
  • Allow yourself time to be successful.
  • Profit is not a dirty word. I have to make money and you have to make money.
  • Banking relationships are critical. Start them early and nurture them.
  • Valuing ownership is important
  • Be careful how you promote people
  • Listen.
  • All problems do not require a solution. Those that do require a solution may not need it right now.
Pizza was provided at the Bootstrapper lunch by the International Bootstrapping Association (IBA). Bill Troy, an IBA founder spoke about the opportunities for businesses to benefit from joining the IBA’s organization, including peer-mentor facilitated meetings. Hosting with Bill was another IBA founder, Kim Troy who earlier in the day co-facilitated the IBA’s kick-off meeting at the DEC.
Brian Zuercher, Founder of was in attendance and shared his feelings after listening to Bianconi. “Dave’s story refuels the fire in me. He is an inspiration that gives hope to all of us aspiring entrepreneurs that we can make it. Even in OHIO!

Libby Gierach, President of Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce had this to say, “This was a wonderful opportunity to hear the story of an Ohio-based startup business and its journey to become a stellar company. The core values that Dave shared can be imbedded into the businesses of other entrepreneurs. Dave’s inspiration pairs nicely with his words of advice to start-ups, give yourself time to succeed!
The Dublin Entrepreneurial Center will be hosting many business style events to benefit entrepreneurs. For more information on upcoming events, check the calendar at


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