Can you imagine what it would feel like to be 112 years old? Some of the world’s oldest people attribute their longevity to tricks like drinking a beer every night or enjoying dessert with every meal. (Hey, if it works for them…)
For King-American Ambulance in San Francisco, CA – their history dates back to 1906 when one of the deadliest U.S. earthquakes rattled the city. There was an incredible need for emergency services during that time and King-American was there for it all.
The building they operate out of has been around even longer – since 1885 to be exact. The building was originally used as a nurse’s and doctor’s exchange, running messages between hospitals (before telephones) and dispatching medical staff throughout the community. Since 1906 it has served as the headquarters for the family-owned business, five generations strong, currently run by Josette Engman, President/CEO.
Even though the company consolidated and incorporated back in 1945, King-American is the oldest established private ambulance company west of the Mississippi.
“There is one ambulance company who is older than us, but they started in 1903 as a mortuary company, and then in 1912, they transferred into the ambulance business. So technically we are the oldest operating private ambulance in the United States,” Josh Mani, the company’s Assistant Controller clarified.
So how does a company with such rich history maintain relevance in a world that’s constantly moving in all different directions? And, how can your small business do the same? Here’s how King-American does it.
1. Technology that doesn’t have to break the bank.
One hundred and twelve years ago, King-American ambulances were horse drawn. Thankfully, they’ve gotten a bit of an upgrade since then.
As you can imagine, it is critical to have the most up-to-date technology when working in the medical industry. When people’s lives are on the line, the equipment better be top of the line.
“Technology is always changing. Advances in medical science are almost too hard to keep up with it. Every time we buy new equipment there's something bigger and better that comes right along,” said Mani.
When you think about delivering the best possible customer experience, technology plays a huge role. Think: quicker checkout process, personalized email communications, more options for integrating your hiring with payroll. You can’t evolve without technology. But you can keep on track without breaking the bank.
“Look at what’s going to last you the longest. Invest in the technology that’s updateable, that won’t completely become obsolete,” suggested Mani.
Make subtle changes that can give off the appearance of something bigger. For example, keeping your home page fresh by updating with special offers or even changing an image can show that you’re at least a little in tune with the importance of digital presence. The same goes with keeping your social profiles active.
King-American is currently undergoing an overhaul of their website to upgrade payment processing and enhance the branding. You can always outsource these tasks if you don’t have the time or knowledge. And since we’re talking about budget, hiring a freelancer to take care of your digital marketing could be a more frugal option than hiring an entire agency.
2. Embrace and work with your surroundings.
San Francisco has come a really long way since that earthquake in 1906.
“Every single day, you have hundreds of thousands of people coming into the city from the outlying areas to work, bringing the city’s population to more than 1.2 million during the day. Plus the number of tourists we get just adds to the change in population, increasing the need for our services,” explained Hank Kingon, Controller at King-American.
In addition to helping the residents of the city, you can find their shiny ambulances lined up at every San Francisco Giants home game, outside the Moscone Center and along the Embarcadero BART line.
Taking it a step further, King American’s Operations Manager, Josh Nultemeier, is very involved with the San Francisco EMS Agency. According to Mani, “he's actually one of the guys at the table who is working to improve policies and procedures throughout the City of San Francisco that is directly related to the 911 system, and how the fire department responds to emergency calls in the city.”
Make your location work for you and insert yourself in your community as much as you can. Collaborate with other small businesses in your area for fun giveaways or other brand building activities. As your community continues to evolve and grow, it’s important to evolve and grow with it by building relationships with local schools and businesses to improve visibility of your company.
3. Never skimp on quality.
Quality can withstand the test of time. As trends change it could feel like an easy win to cut corners just to get a project finished or hire someone to simply fill a role. These so-called easy wins could end up costing you in the long run though.
As Mani and Kingon explained, there’s actually a shortage of emergency medical professionals nationwide. While it’s not the most glamorous job around, it can arguably be one of the most fulfilling. The stakes are incredibly high when it comes to hiring the right staff at King-American, and it’s something they don’t take lightly.
“Somebody's life is in your hands and a decision that they make can cost somebody their life,” Mani proclaimed.
Though you may be facing competition from bigger businesses to hire and keep your great employees, there are plenty of small gestures you can take to ensure your staff stays motivated and appreciated.
“Cookies and candy,” joked Kingon.
But really, who could resist a sweet treat every now and again? And, don’t overlook the importance of offering competitive benefits. While it may not seem like a perk, Clutch explains that roughly 23 percent of full-time employees don’t receive benefits from their employers. For example, health savings accounts are growing in popularity, so offering this type of benefit plan is a great way to stay on top of changing trends.
Fact: It’s nearly impossible to stay ahead of every changing trend, no matter your industry. But, if you make smart technology decisions and embrace your community, without skimping on quality, your business plan can withstand the test of time. That’s how King-American Ambulance has remained relevant and thriving over the past 112 years.
To learn more about King-American, click here.
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“We're very happy with the service you guys have provided us. Every time I have a payroll question or a tax question, I love being able to pick up the phone and get somebody right away. They're always very kind and able to help me with whatever I need,” explained Mani.
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