Duane Flagel and Taylor Parker started Concept by Iowa Hearing Aid Centers in 2001, with a mission to improve the quality of life for their patients and give them back moments they might be missing through better hearing. After 16 years, Duane decided it was time to pass the company off to Taylor and start enjoying the retired life. Much has happened over those 16 years, so we asked Duane and the Concept family to share their favorite memories.
“One of my fondest memories from starting Concept,” Duane says, “is the time spent riding around in a very small vehicle with Taylor when we first started out. We had a lot of fun and made many memories.” Kathy Shaw, Concept’s first employee and our Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist in Oskaloosa, Pella, and Grinnell, adds, “When we were still a small, young company, there were the four of us; Duane, Taylor, JoEllen, and myself. We used to joke with Taylor that Duane and I were the A team and JoEllen and Taylor were the B team. Duane will still remind me occasionally that we are still the A team.”
When asked how he and Taylor decided to start Concept together, Duane replies, “A series of things happened in both of our lives that lead us to start our own business. I had worked for Miracle-Ear in the past and thought we could do better to truly help patients with great customer service.” Claire McGranahan, Concept’s Marketing and Communications Director, adds, “I remember the first time I heard Duane talk about starting this company because of his own experience with hearing loss. Apparently he’d been living with hearing loss for quite some time before he sought relief with hearing aids. He said, ‘It was winter in Iowa, so there was salt on the ground to melt the ice. I walked out of the clinic and stepped on the salt, and for a moment, had no idea what the sound was. Once I realized it, I was so happy that I’d heard this sound I’d been missing, that I wanted everyone else who had trouble hearing to have a moment like this!’.”
Kathy reflects, “There was a little restaurant right next to our Ottumwa clinic. We would go down for lunch at times, and even back then, the wheels were turning in Duane’s head. He would come up with ideas that we would discuss at lunch to introduce people to Concept, and we would write them down on the napkins. A lot of the ideas worked and helped us grow as a company.”
“I will miss all of the patients at Concept,” Duane says, “I really had a good time getting to know them. I feel really good about retiring, knowing that I’ve been able to help people to hear again. When you really understand what a patient with hearing loss is going through, you can relate to what they are experiencing and help them decide to treat hearing loss rather than put it off. I will miss that moment when I put a pair of hearing aids on someone who hasn’t heard in years and see their face light up like a lightbulb when they can hear again.”
“We truly cannot thank Duane enough for his time, tremendous efforts and overall compassion towards each and every person he came into contact with,” Duane’s business partner and son-in-law, Taylor, says. “Concept was built on the Golden Rule, and Duane exemplifies this each and every day.” Duane’s dedication to caring impacts the Concept family as well. Kathy tells us, “Early on, after achieving a big goal, Duane and his wife, Gail, and Taylor and his wife, Gwen, took us to Des Moines one evening for dinner. They picked my husband, Scott, and I up in a limo! We then picked up our other team member in Des Moines and had a wonderful evening.” Colleen Holmes, Concept’s Patient Coordinator, adds, “Duane is the consummate gentleman with a kind word for all and a generous spirit. He has helped so many people improve their hearing health.”
Now that he is retired, Duane says he will be “enjoying taking walks in the Florida sunshine.” He adds, “People always said to me, ‘Don’t work so long that you have your wake three days after you retire,’ so I’m going to retire with plenty of time to enjoy with family and friends.”
Congratulations on your retirement, Duane! We truly cannot thank you enough for helping to create this company. You will be missed by everyone here at Concept.