Kevin Ludwig of CPAP Unlimited holds two of the many masks used with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine which is used to treat patients with sleep apnea. Jim Craven 10/19/2007 - Jim Craven

Trio invests in a good night's sleep

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Kevin Ludwig: We do sleep therapy treatment. We supply medical equipment for the treatment of sleep apnea. We have a combined experience of 40 years in the sleep medicine field. We're all sleep technologist and I'm also a respiratory therapist.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

Kevin: I'm a native; Mike moved here 15 years ago from Orange, Calif.; and Geoff was born in Yreka, Calif., but lived here most of his life.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

We saw a need for people to have a good treatment in dealing with sleep apnea. We worked together at the Sleep Center at the Rogue Valley Medical Center. We saw the outcome of the patients after they were diagnosed and the outcome was pretty poor, mainly because the suppliers were not following up with the patients and didn't know their products well. The patients weren't motivated to use the therapy. We had the motivation to get out there and help them understand and use the therapy better.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

We would have learned a lot more about medical billing, that is a must, a crucial thing. We've learned a lot in the time we've been in business. We were pretty good with financials and started pretty well with out-of-pocket expense. We would have done a lot more research into the medical regulations and billing side of it before we launched.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

We used to farm out medical billing, hired a third party, like a lot of medical offices do. We decided to take it in-house and that was a really tough decision. We did that about nine months ago. It puts a little stump into the cash flow, but now that we did it, we found that it was one of the better decisions we've made. We have more control over our cash flow now. Third-party billers take a percentage of the billing and you don't have direct control over it. We wanted to provided the home-town, one-on-one personalization with the patient. They want to know you know what's going on with the billing.

Who are your competitors?

Our main competitors are very large national companies and that has been our uphill battle. Apria, Lincare, Qwest are all large national companies that have offices throughout the country and internationally. We try to get our growth through customer service and competitive pricing. The Medicare competitive bidding is supposed to take effect next year. The government has made stipulations for smaller companies to bid and win contracts, but it still makes it tough because large companies can slash their prices and they buy in volume.

What are your goals?

We have an office in Medford and one in Brookings. We're hoping to continue to expand regionally. We'd like to stay in Southern Oregon. We may branch into other medical supplies to diversify. In the future we may look to Grants Pass as an area we may expand to.

What training or education did you need?

Kevin: All three of us are registered polysomnography technologists. I have a degree in respiratory therapy from Apollo College in Phoenix. Michael has a master's degree in psychology from University of California-Santa Barbara, and Geoff has a degree in neurobiology from Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

Definitely research the field you are going into and know the financials and cash-flow side of it. You plan for a certain amount of money that's going to come in. Whatever you're planning for expenses, I'd double that. You always want a buffer. If you go in on a shoestring budget, you want to make sure you have provisions for obtaining more money. Otherwise, it's going to be very rough financially.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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