Leading By Example: WestCMR Encourages Employee Philanthropy

by | Feb 17, 2023 | Culture of Caring, Philanthropy | 0 comments

Throughout 2023, PCF will share stories from local government, higher education, and private businesses that inspire you to lead in caring and empathetic ways. Philanthropy, in all forms, is generosity, and we want to celebrate the examples surrounding us in Pinellas County. In whichever culture you work or lead, be a voice to build or refine it with kindness. #CultureOfCaring

West Coast Medical Resources has built a company culture around philanthropy and giving back to the community.

Based in Clearwater, WestCMR helps hospitals and surgery centers capitalize on buying, selling, and liquidating surgical supplies. Over the past seven years, the company has donated nearly $2 million to various charities and causes. Currently, it gives to more than two dozen nonprofit organizations annually, according to representatives from the business. It’s been an intentional process for WestCMR to get to this point since its founding.

When he started hiring employees in 2012, CEO Randy Ware shared with PCF that he initially focused on his staff.

“I wanted to build something where they would feel like they had a future,” he said. “So that would be benefit programs, 401K, profit sharing, good health insurance, all those types of things.” But he knew that, eventually, his business would prioritize philanthropic endeavors — even though WestCMR wasn’t quite ready for that in the company’s early days. When it came to giving, “first of all, we just weren’t in the position to financially,” he said. “We just didn’t have the balance sheet to support that. But it was always in the back of my mind.”

As Ware built a strong company for his employees, he began looking to some of the “great role models” in Pinellas County for philanthropic giving — Paul Lokey, President & Owner of Lokey Automotive Group, Crown Automotive Group chairman Kevin Hawkins, the Doyle family with Dex Imaging and Larry Morgan, Chairman of the Morgan Auto Group. He also finds inspiration in global entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of the Virgin Group, Richard Branson, who is known for his giving. Branson founded the nonprofit organization Virgin Unite and supports other causes.

What causes are important to you? What has impacted your life?Randy Ware

But most importantly, Ware considers his parents, who provided “a good value-driven upbringing,” as an influence on his charitable nature. Now, he’s in a position where he’s “leading by example” himself, he said, often reaching out to other CEOs and businesses to rally them around causes.

This effort includes working to establish a new giving circle for the Clearwater Free Clinic, according to Ware, and informing peers about organizations with missions that resonate and encouraging them to give is part of his commitment. “Because I was inspired by others, I do feel it’s part of my responsibility not just to get my team here engaged and onboard but, yeah, definitely challenge and inspire other business owners to think [about giving].”

It’s a process that requires a lot of planning, and Ware started “putting economics to it” in 2014. Since then, the company has gifted close to $2 million to community causes. The magnitude of that impact sometimes causes him “to get kind of choked up,” he said.

Randy Ware stands among aisles of medical supplies in the WestCMR  warehouse based in Clearwater.

In 2022, the company will have donated close to $400,000 to charities. That’s a number Ware hopes to best next year. He added, “It’s way more than I ever thought we’d get to, and we’re just really getting started … We want to get to where we can give a million dollars a year – whether it’s local, national … There’s so many worthy organizations that need help.”

Having sat on the Children’s Dream Fund board from 2013 to 2020, he’s usually drawn to organizations that serve children, animals, and cancer-related operations. “It’s hard to say no to,” he said. That board experience showed him how integral donations are to what an organization can accomplish. In addition to calling other business owners to task, he expects board members serving any nonprofit to step up. “We have two responsibilities: create awareness, raise money,” Ware said.

It goes beyond simply writing a check — though board members should also do that, he stressed. They need to encourage others in their circle to give to their cause. “My last year on the board, I probably had 200 donors; I brought in almost $100,000,” he said. “Just to the Dream Fund from all these different donors.” He encourages other business owners and leaders to determine their passions as they create a plan for philanthropy.

“What causes are important to you? What has impacted your life?” he asks.

He also encourages giving among employees by creating a philanthropy committee that determines where WestCMR’s donations will go each year. This year, most of the company’s donations went to about 20 organizations, including the Children’s Dream Fund, Habitat for Humanity, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, Clearwater Free Clinic, Belleair Community Foundation, and the Morton Plant Mease Health Care Foundation.

Aware that philanthropy is more than writing a check — it’s also about sharing time and information with employees, business partners, and peers — the company provides strategic giving to management services organizations in the health care field, which helps to get soon-to-expire supplies to places, often other countries, that need them immediately, and non-governmental organizations, he added.

WestCMR also has a volunteer program, offering employees two paid days off each year to work with local charity organizations. Many staff members choose to help Habitat for Humanity or Random Acts of Flowers, which uplifts those in health care facilities by delivering recycled flowers to them, Ware said. The company also has an employee welfare component to the philanthropy committee, which removes some roadblocks to giving and exposes employees to charities they might not know about otherwise. WestCMR also regularly hosts company fundraisers where employees work together to raise money for various causes.

When thinking about his legacy, Ware wants to be remembered as someone who inspires people to do more in their communities and believe they make a difference. The mural on the side of WestCMR’s building says it all: “We all leave a footprint, and it matters.”

Create a Culture of Caring

PCF sincerely appreciates Mr. Ware and the WestCMR team for sharing their culture of caring with us. WestCMR’s commitment to philanthropy absolutely inspires Pinellas Community Foundation. If your organization is ready to create a more caring culture, Coleen Chaney is happy to assist you with options.  #CultureOfCaring