People: Phil Childrey

Edition: January 2013 - Vol 21 Number 01
Article#: 4171
Author: Repertoire

Phil Childrey knew what he wanted, and usually got it. He wanted anything on wheels, whether it was a cool car (like his 1985 baby blue Jaguar convertible, 2003 Land Rover or 2000 Porsche), a motorcycle (he had several), a Vespa or a bike (he had mountain bikes, road bikes, a tandem bicycle and a folding bike, which he could fit in a suitcase and take along on business trips). And he wanted some cool things that weren’t on wheels, like kayaks and sailboats. He wanted a good family life, and built just that with his wife, Priscilla, and two daughters, Lily and Carolyn. And he wanted the temperature in his office to be just so, as participants in IMCO’s “thermostat wars” can attest. But in his professional life, as an award-winning salesman, he wanted the order.

Childrey, who was national director of sales for Zoll Medical Corp., died in October in a motorcycle accident. He was 48.

“Phil was a real salesperson,” says Dick Moorman, vice president of sales, Midmark, who hired Childrey in March 1989. “He was hard working – the most competitive guy you ever saw. He always had a plan. He was always prepared. Man, could he close. He was great at listening to what the customer said and then taking what the customer said and using it to bring the customer to a positive decision.”

In fact, it was his ability to close that led to his marriage to Priscilla, according to R.G. Capron, a friend of Childrey’s and zone general manager for the Southwest for Henry Schein. She was looking at Aunt Jemima pancake batter in a grocery store, when Childrey talked her into buying Pioneer Brand, a Texas company, on the grounds that by doing so, she would be supporting the Texas economy. “She put the Aunt Jemima back and bought Pioneer,” says Capron. “He was amazing.”

He came prepared

Childrey was born in Richmond, Va. His father, Roy, was instrumental in building General Medical (now McKesson Medical Surgical) with that company’s founder, Max Goodloe. (After retiring from General Medical, Roy Childrey co-founded StarLine Dealers Association, now National Distribution & Contacting Inc.) The younger Childrey spent much of his youth in Nashville, Tenn., though the family moved to Dallas and then Atlanta. He graduated from Georgia Tech University.

“My early impression of Phil was, ‘this guy is aggressive,’” recalls Moorman. “He came prepared [for the job interview]. He asked for the order.”

Based in Colorado for Midmark, Childrey covered a large geography for Midmark, from El Paso, Texas, to Salt Lake City. When the opportunity for the Dallas territory opened, Childrey interviewed for the job. “Needless to say, Phil came prepared, had a plan and asked for the order once again,” says Moorman.

Childrey excelled in Dallas. “He had great skills in building relationships with distributors, and was equally good in building business contacts at the end user level,” says Moorman. “If you got Phil in front of a customer, you were certain to get an order. That reputation for success quickly spread throughout distribution.”

One of the distributors who got the message was R.G. Capron, then with a small distributor in Albuquerque, N.M., NM Chemical Surgical. “He showed up at my office mid-morning, came in, sat down and introduced himself,” says Capron, about their first meeting. “He started talking about the ‘new’ 75 power table promotion and wanted me to bring about 50 power tables into stock, put on a Power School, ride with my reps and start making sales calls that day.”

NM’s reps were out until later in the day, so Childrey looked at his watch – it was about 11 a.m. – and suggested that he and Capron go to the race track 60 miles north in Santa Fe. “Well, I did like horse racing, but I didn’t really know what that had to do with selling power tables,” recalls Capron. “But I told him I did, and he asked if I could leave the office for a few hours. It was right before lunch and I thought, ‘Sure.’

“We walked outside and there in the parking lot was a bright yellow Lincoln Town Car, you know, the old style that was about a block long. Impressive and over the top, just like Phil.” It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between the two men.

The art of sales

Childrey became Midmark’s sales rep of the year, and was promoted to regional manager for the company’s medical division, earning “Regional Manager of the Year” honors. He eventually became director of sales for Midmark Diagnostics division and was instrumental in building an entire sales force for that division, says Moorman.

“He was very skilled at the art of sales,” says Moorman. “He took the sales training we taught and really lived it. He made the sales process seem natural. He always reached his goals. If he missed anything at all, you could tell it was very painful to Phil. He absolutely hated to anything.”

“Phil didn’t give anything away,” says Capron. “Lots of times, a distributor rep would call Phil and ask him for something free to close a deal – a free foot control, arm board, upholstery upgrade. Phil didn’t think you needed to give things away if you were selling the right way. Reps had to be stronger and better selling Midmark tables, because they weren’t going to get all the free stuff to close the deal.”

Childrey used his substantial relationship skills to enlist the support of distributors, says Capron. “He was Midmark 24/7. There was nothing that he did that wasn’t selling or positioning things for future sales. He owned a house that had three bedrooms. At the time, PSS was just getting started in the Dallas market. He knew the rookie PSS reps weren’t making much money, so he rented bedrooms to them to offset the cost of the mortgage. I’m sure he sold a lot more tables through PSS as a result.”

Sales trainer

Childrey had another skill: “He could multiply himself with his distributor reps by teaching them the sales trade as well,” says Moorman.

That was one of the skills that Childrey exercised upon joining IMCO in 2006. As IMCO’s corporate sales trainer, Childrey and Director of Member Relations Angie McLaughlin held training sessions in the field for IMCO members. “He was a storyteller, and he thought out of the box,” says Karen D’Arcy, director of marketing services. Childrey was creative with promotions, and he brought that creativity and “why not?” attitude to his training. His ability to communicate with field reps was extraordinary, she says.

As IMCO’s director of equipment development, Childrey also brought a vendor’s mentality to the organization, says Yate Farris, IMCO’s vice president, primary care markets, who first met Childrey when Farris was sales manager at Winchester Surgical in North Carolina. “He knew how to deal with vendors.

“He believed in distribution,” continues Farris. “He was out there championing the distributor. That’s why IMCO was a fit for him.” Though Childrey and IMCO enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship, he seized an opportunity to become Zoll’s national director of sales in June 2011.

The biggest heart

In July 2012, Childrey and his wife, Priscilla, took their folding bicycles to New York City, where they spent a couple of days riding all over the city. “He said he wanted to take me to New York. So we stayed in Manhattan and rode our bikes the whole time,” she says.

“Phil had the biggest heart,” says Priscilla Childrey. “Whether it was business or personal, he wanted to always try to help people. That’s the kind of person he was.”

“Phil lived life to the fullest,” says Moorman. “He had a real zest for it. He was definitely not afraid of anything. He would take risks for sure. Calculated risks. He was the most competitive person I know. He would do his best to beat you in anything. You name it. Ping pong, cards, arm wrestling, racing, or tiddlywinks. Phil was a winner.

“I remember years ago beating Phil in ping pong. He was the better player, but that night I beat him two out of three games. Every time I saw him, he challenged me again because that stuck in his craw. I never gave him the pleasure of playing me again, because I knew he would beat me, and I reminded him all the time that I retired the champion between us. I am sure that is still bothering him in Heaven.”

“He was a true friend and a fast friend,” says Capron. “Wherever he went, he had the ability to engage people and get them to talk about themselves. He was smart, polished, gregarious and fun to be with. Personally generous to a fault, he was there if you needed him. Strong-willed, opinionated and forceful, he was a big personality that doesn’t often come along. I deeply miss him.”

Repertoire readers can honor Phil Childrey’s memory by contributing to “Begin Again,” a Halifax Health program for grieving children, in Daytona Beach, Fla. For more information, go to or call 386-258-3237.