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Nimbleness gives small firm an advantage

Rochester Business Journal
December 30, 2016

Myron Kowal readily concedes his eight-employee company is tiny. But do not try to convince him that it cannot out-compete its supersize rivals.

Response Care Inc. is a tiny player in a niche market, but it is nimble enough to go after its competitors’ biggest customers, Kowal said.

The company, which goes by RCare, designs and produces call systems for health care institutions. Most end users of its products are long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living and independent living communities.

Despite its size, RCare has a wide footprint, selling through a 48-partner network of regional distributors in the United States, Canada and other foreign markets. 

From the time he acquired the firm some 10 years ago, “we’ve always had double-digit growth,” Kowal said. In 2013, the firm posted triple-digit percentage revenue growth.

RCare’s nurse-call and patient-monitoring products have their roots in the bedside buttons hospital patients and nursing home residents have used for generations to summon help.

But the wireless systems RCare specializes in bear as much resemblance to those old-style call buttons as an iPhone or Android device does to a hard-wired dial or push-button handset.

“I call them caregiver communications systems,” Kowal said.

The firm’s RCare Mobile devices are highly specialized cellphones, built to comply with federal patient privacy laws and loaded with applications that let them do things such as keep records of caregiver visits and link caregivers to electronic medical records systems in real time.

Operating in a highly specialized market, its closest competitors include firms such as Stanley Healthcare, a unit of the $11 billion Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

While some 600 facilities employ RCare systems, competitors such as Stanley are suppliers to operators such as Brookdale Senior Living, a Tennessee-based firm that runs 1,100 senior-care facilities across the United States.  

RCare so far has not been supplier to such mega-customers, Kowal said.

“I want to be.” And, he believes, that can happen. His firm can be far nimbler and more innovative than its gargantuan competitors, he said.  

Said Kowal, “it’s hard for them to turn a big boat around.” 

RCare, whose products are turned out by contract manufacturers, is not burdened by excessive infrastructure. Larger competitors employ sales forces and maintain their own distribution networks.

“I have 150 salespeople on the street, but I don’t pay any of them,” Kowal said.

Because they are attuned to the particular needs of facilities in their own localities, each of RCare’s distributors can provide better service than can employees of a larger company whose ability to individually tailor service can be reined in by the larger firm’s need to maintain companywide, one-size-fits-all policies, he said.

One of RCare’s oldest distributors is Special Care Systems LLC. Run by Kowal’s wife Ann, Special Care employs 14. It sells to customers across upstate, including many Rochester-area facilities.

The couple started Special Care Systems in 2001. Her husband, who had worked in the nurse-call device industry, “had a vision that the future was wireless,” Ann Kowal said. 

Myron Kowal acquired RCare in December 2006.

“I hung on and did double duty with Special Care Systems for two years,” he said.

In 2008, the couple split the companies into separate legal and operational entities.

“We realized it made sense,” Ann Kowal said.

The firms still share the same East Ridge Road building in Irondequoit but are slated to go to separate quarters in a few weeks when RCare moves into a new space in Webster.

“We have to move. We’re growing,” Myron Kowal said. “We expect to add up to five new employees next year. Probably most of them will be software designers.”


The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.

RCare, a dba of Response Care Inc.
Wholesaler of wireless nurse call and personal emergency response systems
Year founded: 2006
Top executive: Myron Kowal, president
Current employment: eight
2016 ranking: 32
Headquarters: Irondequoit
Website: rcareinc.com

12/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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