Empire Medical Transportation: Mike Hoffman
Pleasant Valley, NY, Dutchess County
Community Capital New York helped Empire Medical Rev Up to 41 Cars and 85 Employees
For real, unedited tales in the fact beats fiction genre of storytelling, just ask an Empire Medical Transportation driver about the average shift. Among other insights, they like their work. Which makes owner Mike Hoffman, in whose office sits 87 pounds of “trip sheets” proud of his venture, a Dutchess County-based, non-emergency medical transportation and taxi company with a fleet of new and refurbished cars driven by young and old alike. In fact, customer insight claims it’s the older and wiser of their team of 80 drivers that are the most requested by a clientele including those on Medicaid taking advantage of Empire’s special certification. A small business loan from Community Capital New York enabled Mike to get his business into gear, and it continues to rev up, transporting patients 24/7 to and from hospitals, doctors’ appointments, Metro North and four local colleges. Empire Medical now employs 85. And in a year’s time, he repaid Community Capital’s start-up loan and was able to qualify for a six-figure loan from a credit union to add 13 vehicles, for a total of six new Toyota Camry hybrids, to a fleet now totaling 41 vehicles.
How did you get into the taxi and car service business?
I worked for UPS for 20 years, so my knowledge of the area is second to none, and I’ve taken all the logistical information and the discipline that I got from UPS and applied it here. Danny, my best friend, has been in this business since he was 17 and is the godfather of the taxi business. And he’s made every mistake possible over the last 15 years, so we don’t repeat them. With Danny as manager, we can make the right moves. We saw a need in the non-emergency medical transport area, with elderly patients needing to get to doctors’ appointments, and convinced the county that they did not have enough vendors. More than 30 companies applied, and we were awarded the license after an exhausting four-month long vetting process.
How did you get your business off the ground?
With a loan from Community Capital New York. Without the influx of capital, we would not have been able to grow and would have been stuck at nine vehicles. The loan let us put 20 vehicles on the road. The phones were ringing, we secured our license to carry non-emergency medical patients, and without the loan they’d have rung until they stopped (with people giving their business elsewhere). We also do volume business taking people to and from Metro North. A lot of people can’t afford to own a car or choose not to, particularly seniors and students. We drive college students to and from four local colleges, Vassar, Marist, Dutchess Community and the Culinary Institute, and two main hospitals Vassar and St Francis, also driving down to Westchester Medical and Northern Westchester. We have our own garage and a team of mechanics—this is a service business and we have to be able to deliver a car and driver to each call.
What’s the best advice you got along the way?
Do everything right the first time around. This is a cash business, but we keep track of every trip, cleanly and properly and keep scrupulous records. That we needed around the clock service, and have two people working nights, one answering the phone and the other acting as dispatcher. We are also only as good as our last call—so we work hard to ensure we don’t disappoint the state, Medicaid or people trying to make a train or an appointment on time.
What did you wish you knew (in hindsight)?
We started out buying Chevrolet Impalas and didn’t realize that the Toyota Camry is a better, stronger and more fuel-efficient car. We also bought a lot of used cars, and are spending too much in maintenance for parts and mechanic time, and time off the road. New cars are, in the end, more cost effective. It is crippling to nurse old cars. Now we’re investing in the Toyota Camry, and are able to really shine in the market with the ‘wow’ factor. Our drivers are much happier. We’re cutting down on fuel, and performing better in terms of the environment. And saving tremendous amounts of money in parts, labor and lost trips.
When did you know you’d arrived?
We get over 40 clicks a day on Google, and it only takes two clicks to make a call through Google.
We just got a six figure loan from the Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union so we could add 13 new vehicles for a total of 41, and we now have 17 phone lines. We’re also going to be marketing to hotels in Southern Dutchess, in Wappingers, Beacon and Fishkill, and the Walmart in Fishkill, which out of that company’s 3036 stores is said to be the busiest.
Contact Empire Medical Transportation: 845-454-4444