Camellia Home Health and Hospice has flourished over the last 39 years, even through the recent downturn in the economy and deep reimbursement cuts. Now, Hattiesburg-based Camellia has rolled out a new fleet of 125 company-owned cars aimed at cutting expenses while also increasing its brand awareness.
“Transportation costs are our third-largest expense behind salaries and benefits,” said Abb Payne, Camellia president and CEO.
“Like every health care provider, we have been affected by reimbursement cuts, and we see the new fleet as a way to cut our expenses.”
Payne added that the new fleet of cars, wrapped in the company’s logo, will offer “advertising you just can’t buy.”
Camellia Home Health and Hospice, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, has grown from five locations to 40 stretched across Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia including the metro areas of Knoxville and Chattanooga in Tennessee and Atlanta. That has meant more drive time for its workers. Its field staff alone racks up approximately 2.2 million miles annually while total miles traveled by all of Camellia’s approximately 1,000 employees rings in at 4.1 million miles.
“That’s like going around the world 169 times,” Payne said.
Faced with increasing transportation costs and dwindling reimbursements, Camellia began looking at the option of launching a fleet of company-owned vehicles as opposed to reimbursing employees for their travel expenses.
The company’s search led it to Enterprise Fleet Management, owned by the Taylor family of St. Louis, who, through regional subsidiaries, also own and operate Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Enterprise Fleet Management targets medium-sized fleets that do not have a dedicated fleet manager and offers most makes and models of cars, light- and medium-duty trucks and service vehicles across North America.
The two companies would subsequently negotiate a deal that calls for a fleet of 105 new eco-boost Ford Focus models and 20 Ford Escapes.
Rachel Baker, account manager for Enterprise Fleet Management, said, “As the population ages, the demand for home health care services will continue to increase. For Camellia, having dependable vehicles for its team members is a key factor in its ability to serve more patients and achieve continued growth.”
Payne said Camellia chose Enterprise Fleet Management because of its proven track record, size (5,500 U.S. branch offices) and its offerings, which includes providing maintenance, insurance, vehicle registration and reporting services to company workers as well as a fuel card program that automatically monitors fuel purchases and miles for each vehicle. In addition, Enterprise Fleet Management assisted Camellia in determining how best to distribute the vehicles across its service footprint.
The company is expecting a hefty return on its investment — approximately 19 cents per mile traveled.
In addition to cutting travel expenses, the fleet will provide “moving billboards” as each vehicle will wrapped in the Camellia Home Health and Hospice logo.
Payne admitted that some workers were not enthused by the move, seeing mileage reimbursement as a salary boost. But he said “80 percent are ecstatic” about the new fleet concept, and added that many of his employees do not have the means to purchase a new vehicle.
“Our certified nursing aides do a tremendous job, and probably 99 percent of them cannot afford a brand new car,” Payne said. “How can offering a new car to an employee who perhaps could never afford one be a bad thing?”
Camellia Home Health and Hospice, which has been named one of the Best Places to Work by the Mississippi Business Journal, should see quickly whether its investment was a wise one as it plans more expansion. The company, founded in 1974 by Abb Payne’s father, chairman and advisor W.A. Payne, continues to look at potential new markets, and the company is planning to launch two new service lines to go along with its flagship home health and hospice offerings. That announcement could come as early as the start of the new year.
“We have great people and core management team,” Payne said. “We believe in hiring good people, getting out of their way and letting them run with it. You can expect to hear about more growth at Camellia soon.”