Everyday People, Everyday Business
Edition: March 2003 - Vol 11 Number 03
Author: Laura Thill
When Steve Skoronski and his father, Bob, purchased Associated Medical Products, along with its sister company, Medical Systems Corp., medical products distribution was a completely new challenge for them. Bob Skoronski, an offensive lineman in the 1960s for the Green Bay Packers, was looking for a new investment outlet. He already had experience running his own business, having owned a successful school and office supply venture into the mid-1980s, followed by an electrical supply distributor from 1985 to 1990.
At the time, Steve Skoronski was working for a small business investment corporation in Indianapolis. “I was looking for a change and Dad was looking to invest,” he says. “Although we had no healthcare background, this looked like something we could understand,” he continues. “In the early 1990s, the demographics of healthcare looked good. We were confident that we were acquiring a company [with established] relationships we could grow.”
Indeed, the two Indianapolis-based companies – founded in 1976 – rested on a reliable customer base. Medical Systems Corp is a home health provider, while Associated Medical Products focuses on long-term care and nursing homes. The Skoronskis merged the two companies, with the exception of the sales forces, in 1991. However, they continue to use both company names.
Relationships, it turns out, are the driving force behind the Skoronskis’ success, particularly in the long-term care market, where many companies take business one day at a time. “My dad’s businesses were always relationship-driven,” says Skoronski. “Distribution is not about one-time deals. This is a day-in, day-out business that persists over the years.”
“The most important person to us [in the nursing home industry] is the person in charge of ordering supplies,” Skoronski notes. Be it the administrator or the director or nursing, “we make sure that person feels important,” he says. If you think about it, he explains, a nursing home generally spends less than 3 percent of its budget on medical supplies. “It only looks at medical supplies when there is a problem or when it’s looking to save money,” he says.
We level with our customers, adds Skoronski. “We tell them, ‘we’ll probably goof up your order at some point. But, we’ll make our mistakes right. We’ll even make some of your mistakes right.” And Skoronski is confident that Associated Medical Products and Medical Systems Corp. offer a full range of services. “We don’t lack anything a big company offers,” says Skoronski, citing bar coding, electronic ordering systems and an online ordering option as examples.
Online ordering is not very popular with customers, however. Skoronski believes that most of the company’s customers appreciate seeing their sales reps at least once a week. “I wouldn’t doubt our customers look forward to the time they spend with our reps,” he says, noting that it can be a very positive experience for the customer.
Skoronski’s management policy is to provide guidance to his newer reps, while letting the rest of the sales staff know “we just want to do what we can to help them do more.”
“My job is to ensure that our sales reps have the resources to do their job well,” says Skoronski. “Years ago, a new employee asked me what I do. I said, ‘if I do my job well, not a lot.’” He adds, “We don’t demand that our reps make a certain number of calls or wear white shirts and ties. They can use their own discretion as far as determining pricing or deciding which products to push.”
But Skoronski continues, “We do want the reps to communicate with the customer and treat [him or her] right. We need to find out what’s going on in the field. The reps can bring us up to speed.”
Reputation Is Everything
“Our reputation means everything,” says Skoronski. It’s up to the sales reps to keep their word to the customers – “to be professionals and keep our company image in the absolute highest regard.”
“If this is going to be a relationship-driven business,” Skoronski continues, “the relationship needs to be one you can trust.”
Associated Medical Products and Medical Systems Corp. currently have 14 sales reps. Most of them are based in the Midwest, while one rep works out of Oregon, one is in Arizona and three are in Texas. In addition, Skoronski is looking to add a rep in the East in anticipation of some new business.
Is there one special quality that sets these reps apart from others in the industry? “Actually, our reps run the gamut in terms of their sales approach,” says Skoronski. Some are quite talkative, while others prefer a quiet approach.
Skoronski relays a story about an interview his father conducted with a potential rep: “I asked how the interview went and Dad said he didn’t know if this person said a word!” recalls Skoronski. Today this individual is a topnotch sales rep. “He doesn’t say a lot,” says Skoronski. “But when he speaks, everyone listens. He’s very well-respected.”
“Our reps do share one common trait. They all work their hardest,” says Skoronski. “Our reps are everyday people,” he reiterates. “And this is an everyday job.”