John Stutz-Granddaddy of Physician Office Setups

Edition: November 2001 - Vol 9 Number 11
Article#: 1095
Author: Repertoire

You've got your father of rock 'n roll (Chuck Berry), your father of the American cavalry (Casimir Pulaski), your father of the Internet (Vinton Cerf, not Al Gore), your father of economics (Ibn Khaldun), and even your father of Taoism (Lao Tzu, of course). Why not a father of physician office setups?

If one were to name such a person, it very well might be John Stutz. Although he passed away 15 years ago, Stutz still leaves a strong impression in the minds of many in the industry today, including PSS President Doug Harper. Stutz was Harper's first boss in the business, when both worked for Boston-based Healthco.

''He was a stocky guy, not a dapper dresser,'' recalls Harper. ''It wasn't unusual for him to wear the same suit or shirt for an entire four-day trip. And you could tell what he had for lunch by looking at his tie.''

But Stutz could sell.

''He understood more about what physicians needed than they did,'' adds Harper. ''And if he got his arms around a physician, he wouldn't let him go until he got the order. He'd almost let the physician upsell himself.''

Stutz worked in automotive parts before joining his wife's family's company, Surgeons and Physicians, in Boston, says his widow, Marguerite Stutz. But he was a born salesman, she says. ''He loved to talk to people.''

Surgeons and Physicians had a showroom for physicians, first on Boyleton Street, then on Commonwealth Avenue, just behind the old Boston Braves' baseball field. [The Braves played their last game in Boston in September 1952.]

''He believed in physicians having more than one examining room,'' says Marguerite Stutz. His theory was, you couldn't be examining someone, and have someone else getting ready for an exam in the same room.'' Makes sense, but not all salesmen at the time ''got it.''

Stutz was working for Surgeons and Physicians when the company was sold to Healthco around 1970. (Ten years later Healthco sold its medical supply business to John Foster, who renamed it Foster Medical. Several years after that, Foster was sold to Avon Products. In 1987, a group of investors bought the company from Avon, and then, in the early 1990s, sold it to General Medical – now McKesson).

Healthco moved the showroom to a sleazy part of town, with its fair share of strip joints and cheap restaurants, recalls Harper. Stutz frequented a local roast beef sandwich shop, and was on a first-name basis with waitresses at a local coffee shop, which in the evenings attracted a colorful clientele. But despite its surroundings, the showroom proved to be a great venue in which to sell, especially for Stutz.

''He had a very nice showroom, with different exam room setups and different types of equipment,'' says Harper. Doctors would come in on evenings or Saturday mornings to look around.

While the physicians would want to poke around the equipment upon entering the showroom, Stutz had different ideas for them, recalls Harper. ''He would never let them begin by looking around at the equipment,'' he says. ''And he would refuse to answer any questions.''

Instead, he would usher them into his office, where he had his planning table, and ask them, ''Doctor, what are you trying to do? Tell me about the complexion of your practice.''

''He didn't want that physician to buy two exam tables and leave. He wanted to sell the entire package.''

For that reason, Stutz would never quote a price for individual pieces of equipment. ''Instead, he'd say, 'Doctor, we'll give you this turnkey for $40,000, or whatever it was, including design, furniture, EKG, scales.'''

Ahead of His Time

Stutz was ''way ahead of his time'' in selling physicians on installing income-producing equipment in their offices, says Harper. A frequent visitor to the showroom was John Sasen, who at the time was with Clay Adams (now part of BD), and who is now executive vice president and chief marketing officer for PSS World Medical.

Stutz was a visionary in several other senses as well, says Harper. For example, he would challenge physicians to think like marketers. ''He'd say to them, 'You don't want to look like the worst-equipped physician in the medical building,''' says Harper. Stutz would single out the new docs who, more often than not, were trying to get started on a shoestring. ''John would say, 'Your patients' first impression is critical. Don't you want your office to reflect your capabilities?'''

Stutz was also the first person who ever spoke to Harper about health maintenance organizations. In fact, through his broad network of friends and acquaintances, he was asked to help set up one of the country's first HMO offices in Tucson, AZ.

Engrossed with the Business

Harper recalls Stutz all but locking him and Sasen in the showroom to talk about new selling ideas late into the night. ''We had families,'' says Harper. ''And we also knew that here we were in this tacky neighborhood, and we'd have to come out at 11.''

Harper also recalls getting a phone call one night from his boss just as Harper was sitting down in his home to watch Monday Night Football. The two talked for the entire game. ''He was so engrossed with the business and the people he wanted to help, he never wanted the day to end.

''But he was a visionary,'' he adds. ''He was always saying, 'What if we did this? What if we did that?''' And he expected those who worked for him to exhibit the same enthusiasm he did.

Harper tells a story about a Healthco sales rep who just about drove Stutz crazy. Rather than trying to sell the physician on a total setup, the rep insisted on quoting prices for individual pieces of equipment.

''One day he approached John for a raise,'' recalls Harper. ''John says to him, 'Stay there for one second.' He runs to the door, which was on a busy Boston street, and yells 'Police!' The salesman asks him what's wrong, and John answers, 'I'm going to have you arrested for impersonating a salesman.'''