A High Level Operation

Edition: December 2009 - Vol 17 Number 12
Article#: 3329
Author: Laura Thill

It’s not just about moving boxes. Not if you want the hospital C-suite to regard you as a top-notch distributor. “We want the hospital C-level to understand we bring new and innovative technology to their hospital, which improves patient care and reduces their costs,” says Tony Marmo, president of Martab Medical, a specialty distributor in Lincoln Park, N.J. Indeed, Marmo wants to make sure the C-level sees his company is an important contributor to their facility’s mission, he adds. “We offer a rental program [that allows] customers to rent to buy life support equipment from Martab,” he says. “And every product we do sell is, for the most part, a one-of-a-kind item. We are out to create new markets.”

This leaves no room for mediocrity, continues Marmo. “We look for excellence in all of our people,” he says. “We expect to see hard work and high-level operation.” In turn, the company offers its 25 employees “sophisticated-level incentives,” he notes. After all, he says, he, his partner and brother, John, and retired father (and company founder), Tony Sr., together aim to build a large-scale operation one day. To do so, they must act large-scale now, he explains.

Finding its niche

Martab wasn’t always a specialty operation. “My grandfather owned an insurance business in northern New Jersey,” Marmo recalls. “Dad worked for him for a while, but didn’t enjoy the insurance business. Instead, he wanted to get into healthcare.” In fact, he was interested in purchasing a nursing home. For better or worse, a near-acquisition fell through “in the eleventh hour,” he says. Soon afterward, Tony Sr. reached out to a sales rep who was selling to nursing homes and, together, they formed Martab Physician and Hospital Supply Corp. The partnership dissolved within nine months, but Tony Sr. held on to the fledgling company and, with the help of his young sons, began to grow it.

“As kids, John and I worked [for the family business] during summers and vacations as drivers, in the warehouse [and so forth],” says Marmo. After graduating from college with a degree in business, he rejoined the company, which, at the time, had three employees. After a year, however, Marmo went to work for Brentwood Medical Products (now Midmark Diagnostics). “I wanted to get some outside sales experience for a couple of years,” he explains. “While at Brentwood, I met a guy from Switzerland who was bringing the Schiller America line to the United States.” Marmo was impressed by what he saw and returned to Martab with the intention of adding the Schiller America line.

At the same time, John graduated from college and also re-joined Martab. “John and I both saw this move to add Schiller America as a way of growing beyond the small mom-and-pop distributorship,” says Marmo. “Dad, of course, agreed with us and saw the opportunity.” From there, the Marmos took the Schiller America line into the hospital market and so began the company’s move from selling commodity to niche products. Soon afterward, Martab Physician and Hospital Supply Corp was renamed Martab Medical.

“In 1993, we added an exclusive product line to be sold in the hospital critical care, neonatal, anesethia and ER departments,” Marmo continues. “Later, we saw an opportunity to purchase life support equipment and rent it out to hospitals. And, in 2006, we acquired New-Tech Association (a biomedical equipment/service company) and now sell their biomedical equipment and services.” In fact, New-Tech’s biomedical technicians currently work for Martab.

Today, Martab Medical is 10 times larger, he notes. “We have more than tripled our profit margin in the last 20+ years,” says Marmo. “We have expanded to cover the entire state of New Jersey and New York, with an especially strong presence in New York City. We also cover eastern Pennsylvania, and we are in the process of opening a rental and service facility in Philadelphia.” The company now focuses on emergency medical service and hospital markets, including critical care, anesthesia, neonatal, emergency medicine and pre-hospital emergency medical services. “As a specialty distributor, we often create markets for devices that do not yet exist,” says Marmo.

Greatest challenge

Selling today is much different than it once was, notes Marmo. “Today, clinicians are looking for financial justification of new technology, so we have to sell the financial aspects of medical devices, as well as the clinical aspects,” he says. “And, the lead time today is greater to get a new product to the market. [In fact], the time has almost doubled. We have adapted by increasing the number of products we carry, as well as the size of our sales staff.”

In spite of the challenges, Martab Medical has seen double-digit growth in most of its years in business. And this in itself can present a challenge, says Marmo, particularly with changes taking place with regard to healthcare reform. “As a company gets bigger, so do the obstacles!” he points out. That said, as NYC natives, the Marmos “like to see things happen quickly,” he says. Still, “short of adding a 25th hour in the day,” they wouldn’t have done anything differently in the way they grew the company. “We have worked hard to create a company that is unique and scalable,” he says. “In the next several years, we plan to scale it!

My dad told me long ago, ‘Be great at what you are doing, and great things will come of it,’” he says. And, that’s just what the Marmos intend to keep doing.