Van G. Miller

Image of  Van G. Miller

Van G. Miller

VGM Group, Inc.

Laureate 2009

Van G. Miller was born on July 23, 1948, to Blaine and Verda Bricker Miller, a well-known farming family in Orange Township. Just a short two miles away, lies the corporate headquarters of VGM Group, Inc., the $100 million company Miller established and oversees.

Van graduated from Orange High in 1966, and attended Ellsworth Community College and the University of Northern Iowa. He tried farming, hated it, and sold cemetery lots and markers and life insurance policies before “apprenticing” at the now-defunct Waterloo Sickroom Supply, where he started out cleaning bathrooms, scrubbing floors, and delivering equipment. Drafted by the U.S. Army, he was trained as a medic. It was there he developed a dislike for blind bureaucracy and structured management, which helped shape his philosophy on running his companies.
In 1976, Van founded Miller Medical Supply, a full-line home medical equipment store, which grew into eight company stores and 20 franchise locations in eight Midwestern states. As a large purchaser of HME, Miller Medical received favorable volume discounts, and that concept would be the premise on which he founded his next and most successful venture, VGM & Associates, in 1986.

Every start-up operation needs cash, so Van turned to two close friends: Cedar Falls car dealer John Deery Jr. and flamboyant Waterloo attorney Jim Walsh. Deery and Walsh both wrote checks for equal amounts, although John got five percent of the company, and Walsh got 10 percent. The difference, according to Walsh, was that he threw in some used office furniture and one year of free legal services.

Van founded VGM with the belief that quality home health care is best delivered by community-based, independent providers. The business model is a purchasing group, and it is designed to give independent, small businesses a level playing field so they can compete against national, multi-location operations. Over the years there have been fifteen companies created and headquartered at the San Marnan campus, and the organization employs more than 450 individuals and has an annual payroll of $14 million.

In his 30-plus years in the HME industry, he’s twice-headed companies that made the Inc. Magazine list of the 500 fastest growing U.S. companies, been named one of the HME industry’s Ten Most Influential Individuals, and received the HomeCare Magazine HomeCaring Award in 2004. Van describes his highly successful style as “management by walking around.” He is quick to give credit to those who work for him, encourages debate on controversial issues, and always listens, even when the diverse group around the conference table gets contentious. Under his leadership, VGM Group, Inc., has become the largest and most respected organization of its kind in the HME industry. In June 2008, he ensured that the company and its employees would remain right here in Waterloo when he made the momentous decision to sell VGM to its employees.

Van and his significant other, Chris Livingston, have been together for 19 years. Van has three
sons: Vance, Dax, and Christopher. Vance and his wife Amy are the parents of Van’s first
grandchild, Arianna.

Van Miller Cedar Valley Business Hall of Fame Video 2009

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