Back in 1995 when the internet was still powering up, Brian Kueppers had an idea that many people did not – he launched a technology company. He was newly married with a baby, had a house and two car payments, but despite the busy home life he had, he put all his chips into a basket and took a leap of faith. Out came Apex Revenue Technologies – a patient billing solution used in the healthcare industry.
“So when you go to the doctor, they don’t print that stuff in house, and have people fold it up and mail it to you, they were starting to outsource it. So, I saw that as the market changed, the big market opportunity,” Kueppers said.
He worked as an independent contractor from 1995-2000 selling the outsourcing of patient statements. By 2000, he started buying equipment to do all the processing of the statements in-house, which led him to his first taste of Commercial Real Estate, finding a building for his business. He signed a 5 ½ year lease on a 5,000 square foot building in Shoreview. During that time, his business had grown substantially from three employees to 25; and revenue from $3-4 million to $16 million.
“Healthcare moves as a herd. It’s very difficult to get in, but once you’re in, they’re going to ask their cohorts, ‘hey, where are you doing business?’ So, once we started to get that herd mentality moving in our direction, that’s how the business was built,” Kueppers said.
In 2006, Kueppers started to find other ways to finance Apex so he started talking to private equity firms, and found a local one to partner with – and one of the founders was a St John’s University Alum like himself. In January of 2007, he made a deal with Tonka Bay Equity Partners.
“I didn’t want a boss. I wanted somebody that could help me grow the business…I needed these experts of people who’ve run and grown businesses. As well as de-lever the business from my standpoint. Allow me to take money out of the business so I can diversify my assets, which was great for my commercial real estate interests, so then I’d have cash to do that. Then focus on the business and get it to the next level,” Kueppers said.
That same year, Kueppers and his partners did take Apex to the next level. They brought in more senior management and rebuilt the business from the ground-up with a complete technology department. After attaining one of their biggest clients, Alina Health, Apex was back into the swing of things; they even managed to set themselves up to buy a competitor of theirs.
“When you’re buying a company, you’re looking for a few things. It’s got to be a strategic fit, do you like the people? And we needed a second location, a lot of our big clients wanted full disaster recovery,” Kueppers said.
With all of Kueppers success in his career, he credits his parents for providing such great education to him and his siblings growing up.
“It was because my mom had that career. She went from being a secretary at the University of Minnesota to a real estate career…and did really well at it. And used a lot of that money to pay tuition for us,” Kueppers said.
In 2018, Kueppers grew Apex to 185 employees and $122 million dollars in revenue. As the company grew to the size that it was, Kueppers had gotten to the point where he was ready to step aside and let the company go.
“It was just time. It’s very difficult decisions for entrepreneurs when they start a company and start bringing in outside investment…sharing the pie. Some people can’t do that. And sharing the decision making process; that’s difficult…everybody can manage a company to a certain extent and then eventually the company is too big for them. I wasn’t really a big company guy,” Kueppers said.
Now that Kueppers is “retired” the last thing he says he’s going to do is sit around. He is active at searching out opportunities to be involved in. Most recently, he now runs the Minnesota franchise for My Salon Suites, a company that offers facilities for independent cosmetology professionals – he even tapped his daughters for help with this business. It even opened the door for his daughter to work with him full time as their Management Expert.
Besides business, Kueppers is enjoying “retirement” at the cabin, and is an active board member for VitalWare, Flat Rock, and Driessen Water Inc., and is personally involved in supporting several charities including: St. Jude Children's Cancer Research Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, and CROSS Catholic Relief Services.
To listen to Brian's full conversation with Lisa, click here!