Mar 6, 2015 My Former Life as a Paramedic
Written by Patrick Black, CEO and President of Perfect Imprints.
I often get asked how I got into the promotional products industry. So due to many requests, below is my story.
My first career certainly wasn’t CEO of Perfect Imprints. Once upon a time, in a former life, I was a paramedic and worked in Mississippi. I loved working in EMS. I lived and breathed EMS. I was extremely passionate about my job. I loved nearly everything about the job, especially the adrenaline rush of providing emergency medical care and aid to those in need. I loved the critical decisions that had to be made within seconds, with no time to waste. Decisiveness was a mandatory trait as a paramedic, which has proved to be a huge help with my current career in marketing and promotional products.
I even learned to like some of the often despised aspects of EMS, such as the non-emergency patient transfers from one facility to another. I remember the day that I finally figured out how to like the “dreaded” non-emergency calls. It started with one particular patient.
I was called to a nursing home to transfer a 108-year-old patient to a doctor’s office for a follow-up visit. At first, I remember being disgruntled for being “bothered” with this non-emergency transfer. I felt it was beneath me. After all, I was highly trained and experienced with emergency care. I already had the call planned out in my mind and just knew this would be a comatose patient since she was 108 years old.
Boy, was I wrong. She was one of the most interesting patients I ever met during my decade of EMS work. She had incredible stories. She had been alive in 3 different centuries. She told me stories about experiences in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. It was fascinating conversation. It was life-changing. From that moment on, I realized that each call, whether emergency or non-emergency, could be as interesting as I allowed it to be. I learned that everyone has a story and it was my goal to learn that story.
Just like parent who tries to prevent their children from making the same mistakes they made as a child, we can learn from other people that we meet. The big question is, “Are we willing to take the time to find out what we can learn?”
Even though I loved working as a paramedic, the life was very stressful for many reasons. Not only does the stress of being exposed to frequent, severe trauma, illness, and death take a toll on paramedics, the long hours away from home compounds the stress even more. The jumping in and out of the ambulance gets harder and harder as one ages. The crawling into mangled remains of vehicles after car accidents to stabilize a patient, before the Jaws of Life arrive to cut the patient out, is a tough gig.
The traipsing down a steep embankment to reach a vehicle gets harder and harder. Treating burn victims with severe burns to most of their body due to a house fire never gets easier. It never gets easier to look into the eyes of someone’s wife and tell them their husband or child is dead. The pain of those moments hits home pretty hard more often than not.
While I did see many tragic events during my life as a paramedic, I also saw much good. I saw many patients who we were able to successfully treat, rescue, and then make full recoveries from events that initially looked grave. I was able to be a part of reviving several patients in full cardiac arrest and then have a conversation with them later. I was able to see true compassion from co-workers and hospital staff toward patients. I saw much comradery between EMS workers, hospital staff, doctors, law enforcement, first responders, emergency dispatchers, and fire fighters. I developed life-long friendships with amazing people.
From the start of this journey through EMS, my wife, Jennifer, has always been there for me. Even when I would come home and act like a butt from my misplaced anger and stress of the job, she was there and helped me through those tough times. I needed something outside of EMS to focus my time for my off days. At that time, I worked 24 hours on shift and 48 hours off, so I had 4 to 5 days off each week. That’s a lot of extra time.
At the time, my Dad and Stepmom had created a businesses of their own, primarily selling hats and t-shirts, with some scattered sales of promotional products. In 1999, influenced by my Dad, I started Perfect Imprints as an online website for customers to order promotional items. At that time, not many businesses had websites. I was one of just a handful of promotional products distributors who had a website and with ecommerce capabilities. My newly formed business began to grow each month.
In October, 2000, our first child was born. Being away from home for night shifts became increasingly more difficult. Running the business during the day while keeping an infant, while my wife worked as a school teacher, was becoming a harder task to handle, since the business was growing so quickly. I continued to work the business for several more years until it became too much to do on my own. I hired my Stepmom as a full-time employee in 2002 to work the customer service side of the business. I continued to work the online marketing side on my days off.
In 2003, I was offered the opportunity by a Community College in Decatur, MS to start a paramedic training program. I took on the job as Director of Paramedic Technology and began the process of building a new paramedic training program. I created a successful and competitive paramedic program with 100% pass rates for the students for the National Registry Certification exams during my 2 year tenure. It was a fun challenge and the mission was accomplished in developing a great paramedic training program. During July 2004, Jennifer and I were blessed with twin baby girls!
I worked this teaching job through April 2005, at which time disagreements between myself and the Dean about the direction of the program led to the end of my time at the college. I moved back to shift work as a paramedic and began working a rotating shift of 48 hours on, 48 hours off, and 72 hours on, 72 hours off.
Once again, the nights away from home began to take its toll on me and my family. At one point, one of my very young daughters asked Jennifer, “Who is Daddy?” Well, Daddy couldn’t take that. I felt my business was at the point it could support my family in 2006, so I quit paramedic work for good to pursue Perfect Imprints full-time. My Stepmom moved on to start a successful catering company, called Robin’s Catering, which she still operates to this day.
Within a month of going full-time, our business had tripled in sales. Jennifer and I operated the business for about a year from one room of our house with a baby on each knee. In 2007, we moved our family and business from Mississippi to Fort Walton Beach, FL. We felt the Fort Walton Beach area offered more potential for our kids, business, and our life in general. Since we were an online business, moving the business from one state to another was not a difficult task. We immediately hired 2 experienced graphic designers and a full-time bookkeeper and began to further grow our business.
Minus a couple of years during The Great Recession in 2008-2009, we saw company growth year after year. We now have a well-established client base in every state, as well as a few clients internationally. Because our client base spans nationwide, we have the opportunity to learn about marketing trends from areas all over the country and we are able to bring those combinations of trends to our clients before their competitors catch wind of them. We work with quite a few Fortune 500 companies and as well as a plethora of Fortune 5000 companies across the United States.
Now, as I serve as the CEO and President of Perfect Imprints, I have a strong knowledge of the medical field and the EMS System. One of my passions in this job is to help hospitals, EMS Services, and Fire Departments with marketing items and campaigns because of the experience in my past. I do continue to obtain continuing education and keep my paramedic certification active. I don’t keep it active just because I miss the thrill or love the job. I feel that maybe I will be able to use my medic skills for mission work or to assist in disaster relief.
As a paramedic in the field, I used to listen, observe, and diagnose patients. I now do a very similar task for businesses. I listen to what my clients want or need, observe what is currently working and not working, diagnose current and potential problems with marketing, and make recommendations (treatment) to improve results.
Now you know my story of how I got into the promotional products industry. If we are having a discussion and you see me turn my head toward the sounds of sirens, you now know why.