Deborah Ault & Chris Ault
It’s said that you should choose a business partner as carefully as you would choose a spouse. But what if your spouse becomes your business partner? While walking down the aisle of entrepreneurship with your life partner is extremely rewarding, it’s no easy ride. Riddled with a whole stream of obstacles, entrepreneurship is a challenging path on its own. And, attempting this feat together with your significant other and finding a perfect balance between your personal and professional connection is a tough row to hoe.
But, despite all the odds, some dynamic husband-wife duos are entering the little-trodden terrain of entrepreneurship together and becoming very successful at it through unwavering dedication, mutual respect, trust, acumen, and understanding. This story is going to unfurl the inspiring journey of one such avid entrepreneurial couple, Deborah Ault and Chris Ault who have managed to concoct a formula to combine a thriving business and a successful relationship. Together, they are creating a difference in the healthcare sector through Ault International Medical Management (AIMM), a leading medical management company in Ohio.
A Spark that Ignited the Vision
Most of us have been asked this question— “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
While many of us are still clueless about this, Deb knew from the beginning that she was born to be a nurse. “I absolutely LOVE being a nurse. I would say that saving lives is my high, and I also consider it an honor to be at the bedside of a dying patient,” says Deb.
But all this changed one night when she was working in the ICU and got asked to admit a balloon pump patient. This is not the kind of patient and device that this facility should have been admitting to their ICU and Deb was the only nurse who was trained and certified to run that equipment. Knowing the staffing and equipment limitations, Deb was reluctant to take the patient, but she was told that the patient was too unstable to transfer so they would have to wait until he was stabilized. So, she accepted the patient.
She worked seven 12-hour shifts in a row. And on the seventh night, when she handed the patient off to the day shift nurse, she strongly recommended that she keep him heavily sedated or else he would extubate himself. If that happened, the chances of him surviving would be almost zero. But, despite all her effort, about three o’clock in the afternoon she learned that the patient had passed away. Exactly as she had predicted – he’d gotten agitated and extubated himself and died.
This startled Deb to the core.
She asked her nurse manager— “why didn’t we transfer him?” And the answer she got left her devastated.
The nurse manager said, “Do you know how much money the hospital would have lost if we transferred him?”
This made Deb think — “This is not how nursing is supposed to be.”
And this is where it all changed for her. She spent the next several years trying to find her new purpose in life. Thereafter, she began helping to build medical management divisions for third-party administrators on the insurance side.
The Fascinating Beginning of AIMM
One day as Deb was driving down the freeway along with Chris, she was telling him that maybe she needs to find another job as she doesn’t click with the new owners. Then, suddenly Chris asked, “What do you think of the name AIMM?” Deb swerved the car off the freeway and turned to him and said, “Who the hell is she?” Chris explained — “It’s Ault International Medical Management – AIMM.”
At first, Deb thought she should probably get him drug tested because building a medical management firm is an extremely expensive proposition. But, Chris told her that he had saved about 12 grand and asked her what she could do with that. That’s when they launched AIMM to ensure patients get the highest quality health care possible and to facilitate that care being covered by their employer-sponsored health plan.
Overcoming Challenges along the Way
After successfully setting up AIMM, the biggest challenge for Deb and Chris was to decide where they want to take the business. While there’s a lot of comfort in being a small niche specialty provider with a handful of customers and a small team that can take good care of five customers, there’s also a risk in that. It takes only one of those customers leaving to put the business in a precarious place, to the point where it becomes tough to pay the bills. Also, it requires a lot of time. So, there are no vacations.
Deb and Chris had to decide whether they were going to stay niche and sacrifice vacations and essentially their whole lives by doing that, or they were going to scale the business so that they could have a life outside of the company. “If we’re going to cure what’s broken about healthcare in America, we’re going to have to scale this baby, and we’re going to have to scale it quickly, and that has enormous challenges – especially when you’re a bootstrapping organization,” opines Deb.
Values Its Customers and Employees Above All
While many companies today prioritize profit over people and are so inwardly focused, AIMM always keeps customer satisfaction above all. Being a service organization, it makes every effort to help the healthcare providers to take the best care of their patients. It also emphasizes creating an employee-centric culture where every employee is treated as family. “We adopt our employees. We feel like they are all family. A lot of the business decisions we make, we make with the knowledge that in part, or in some cases, totally, whether people make the rent or mortgage payment, whether they put food on the family table, will be affected by our decisions. And we try to make decisions based not only on what’s best for the business, but what’s best for the people who make the business possible,” affirms Chris.
Continues Reshaping the Healthcare Landscape
Sharing her views on success, Deb elucidates that for them, success is seeing the patients healing more quickly with their help and enabling employers to save on healthcare costs so they can use that savings to do something nice for the employees. In a perfect world, she would like to be able to make it through one day with no health care horror stories. “I would like to make it through one single day without someone on my team coming to me and telling me some health care horror story where somebody was butchered, killed or maimed, or someone was put into bankruptcy and insolvency, or someone winding up on the verge of becoming homeless because they got sick. If we could just get there, I would consider that a success,” asserts Deb.
Driven by the vision, the inspirational business leader duo is relentlessly working to change the fragmented healthcare landscape in the US. “When you think about us as a country and what we stand for, and the wealth and prosperity that we have, we have people who are not taking their medication because they’re deciding between, ‘do I control my blood pressure or do I have heat in my house to get through the winter?’ Solving that, to me, is the future we need to focus on. I know that we can solve it – we have solved it with our company – we just need to grow more and get more people using the solutions,” concludes Deb