It’s been a good ride, it’s hard to imagine that many years (47) have gone by. It really is. And you don’t think it’s possible. When you’re 18 years old you would never know that you would make a career out of it.
Randall “Randy” Brau has been making ActiveAid products since he graduated high school in June of 1973, 47 years, making him the longest-tenured employee of not only ActiveAid but of all Altimate Medical. Randy has been around to see many changes in the products, people and places that make ActiveAid. Still, his commitment to his family has turned into a commitment to his company and a big reason why he has stayed. When talking about the past and his career at ActiveAid, Randy exudes a sense of humility and pride for the products he has been able to help create at ActiveAid and the people those products have assisted.
A Commitment to the Customers
Randy hasn’t seen many of the products with the end-user but is interested and excited to hear the success stories of those products. When talking about one of those end users, Jake Anderson, whom EasyStand did a story with last summer and owns an ActiveAid 285; I explained to him who Jake was, about the chair and what Jake thought of the chair – comfortable, extremely durable, the best shower/commode he’s ever used – the pride was evident with Randy. “Wow. Amazing. That is one of our products!” Randy affirmed. And he went on to talk about what he sees as the goals of the ActiveAid chairs, “We try to make the products as user friendly as possible. Sometimes the patient has input, and they tell their therapist the ideas and we can actually make their ideas.”
That idea of being patient-focused seems to have been commonplace throughout ActiveAid’s history. “I think how we basically got the ideas for our products is that they would go out and talk to the therapists in the hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and they would get input from those people and give their ideas to our sales reps so that we could create new products to fit their needs. And that’s why we are making the products we are today.”
One thing that hasn’t been commonplace throughout ActiveAid’s history is the products that ActiveAid has made. When Randy first started with the company, they made a variety of products – wood spine boards that were used in ambulances, transfer belts, quad canes, sturdi-sides that would be put onto the side of beds so that patients wouldn’t fall out, humidifier (yes, the humidifier that you keep in your basement) stands, tilt and treatment tables, aerosol therapy tents and even a stander, the StandAid. Not all these stuck around for a long time, but the quad canes and wood spine boards were commonly made products.
But, shower and commode chairs were always the fixtures of the business. The most popular chair was the 261. “We would get these veteran administration orders, and some of these orders would consist of 200 to 250 chairs at a time. So, with the small number of employees at the time, it took a considerable amount of effort.” As time went on, the chairs started to evolve. Customers asked, custom chairs were made and many new styles of sizes, widths, seats, armrests, leg rests, options to do tilt and recline were developed. “And now we have a product with the functionality to do all of that (285 TR).”
“1984 is when we came to this building here on 1 ActiveAid road; it’s when we moved our whole operation here besides Powder Coating.” The previous use for this new building was a catholic school, and, of course, Randy went to that catholic school as a child. “It’s kind of haunting me because I’ve never been able to get away from this building,” Randy laughed. Randy gave me some of his memories from his time as a school child in the building. It turns out it wasn’t all bad.
When it comes to work, Randy has had his hand in just about every department. “From all the punch presses to bending the tubing with a bender to the milling machines,” Randy has done it all at ActiveAid, even starting in shipping and assembly.
Randy didn’t just work for ActiveAid during these 47 years; he had a couple of other jobs springled in. For nine years, Randy played in his father’s band. Even though he can play other instruments, the trumpet was his weapon of musical choice in the band. The band, Jolly Lumberjacks, would play ‘old time’ music and ‘modern music’ that consisted of swing and big band music. Randy remembers that the New Year’s Eve shows were his favorite shows, “It seems like everybody would go out that particular night and have a good time.”
Led by Randy’s father, the band would play up to 270 days of the year, hosting shows in a 5-state radius booking everything themselves. “I think they would really have been big if he would have had an agent so that he could play circuits like they do now.” Once, the band accordion broke, and his father had to replace it. So, as one does, he took off the entire back of the accordion and replaced it with a vacuum cleaner. As you can imagine, Randy keeps these memories of playing and traveling with his father very close to his heart. After those nine years, Randy worked part-time for Artisan and Zaitech that repaired circuit boards for many years.
For the first many, many years… it was the people you worked with that kept you going ya know.