Making the Most of Things

Edition: September 2013 - Vol 21 Number 09
Article#: 4330
Author: Repertoire

It doesn’t matter if you work for a small independent or a national firm; it’s what you make of it, says Charlie Simpson, sales manager and vendor relations director, Medical Supplies Depot, Mobile, Ala. Simpson was recently selected as Member Representative of the Year by National Distribution & Contracting.

“Most every advantage one side has, the other side has a counter,” he says. “Right now we are seeing a lot of consolidation, and some people fear the nationals will really gain an upper hand, but in reality, I see opportunity for new independents to grow into leadership positions and innovate where they can.”

Medical Supplies Depot is a division of Saad Enterprises, a 40-plus-year-old, family-owned company that provides a variety of healthcare-related services along the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast, including home health and hospice services, four retail durable medical equipment stores, therapy services, private-duty staffing and sitter services, certified nursing assistant (CNA) services, phlebotomy tech training and telehealth monitoring. Medical Supplies Depot supplies the Saad companies exclusively, and also sells into the home health, hospice, DME and long-term-care markets. The company is also active in the governmental market at the state and local levels.

“In the case of Medical Supplies Depot, we see ourselves as able to compete favorably against the nationals on both price and responsiveness, particularly at the small customer level,” says Simpson. “What the nationals have on us in volume and acquisition price, we can counter with lower overhead and increased responsiveness, due to our smaller size and ability to adapt more easily and remain competitive. We cannot always offer all the add-on services, but we can definitely hold our own on the personal service front.”

Diverse business

Born and raised in Columbia, S.C., Simpson graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s of science degree in business economics from Wofford College, home of the Terriers, in Spartanburg, S.C. “In school, I was interested in going in a lot of different directions after graduation,” he says. “I looked at going to law school, getting a master’s in sports management and several aspects of sales.” But he joined Saad Healthcare’s home health agency in Biloxi, Miss., drawn in part by the diverse nature of Saad’s business, which offered multiple avenues for advancement and levels of responsibility.

Six months later, he became a salesperson in Saad’s just-opened DME store in Biloxi. “It was a new location, which I felt I could make into my own personal opportunity,” he recalls. Except for 18 months working as a project manager for a company that did fund-raising for non-profit organizations, he’s been with Saad ever since, including Medical Supplies Depot, which he joined in June 2001.

Business partner

As vendor relations director, Simpson works with vendor partners, negotiating pricing and contracts, evaluating product-line additions, and handling purchasing. As sales manager, he works closely with the inside sales team and the company’s outside sales representative. “Since we only have one rep in the field, my role is not that of a traditional ‘ride-along’ sales manager,” he explains. “And we are a little lower key than most when it comes to call reports and all that type of paperwork, which really makes me more of a partner than a manager.”

Colleen Stern, NDC managing director, says, “Charlie Simpson was chosen as our award winner as he is a great business partner for NDC. He’s an active member with us and is very collaborative in his approach with his business.”

“Charlie has always been supportive of NDC,” adds NDC Territory Manager Carl Dews. “He sees the value in what we do and offer, and works very hard to maximize his volume with us. He also proactively and regularly reviews his direct purchases to see what can be converted to NDC’s warehouse program. Charlie is a team player and is always willing to share info with other members, and embraces the idea that we’re here to help each other as members.”

Adds NDC Territory Manager Mike Otten, “[Charlie] is a good resource for us, as he is continually referring or asking for us to bring products into the warehouse, but also understands the dynamics of getting that done.”

Listen first, no matter what

Simpson calls healthcare “a vibrant and complex industry filled with some really great people. Without a doubt, if I changed industries tomorrow, I would maintain a ton of great friendships with colleagues I’ve bought from, sold to, competed against, learned from, worked trade shows and conferences with, and talked shop with.”

Successful reps are those who listen first, no matter what, he adds. “Customers will tell you what they want, and it is our collective job to get it for them. That does not always fit neatly into what we want to sell or what the monthly promotion is. But being a friend who listens first and then offers solutions and service always seems to work out better than trying to figuratively kick a door in and act like you are the solution to all the world’s problems with one price list.”

The market is continually changing. For that reason, reps need to read as much as they can about sales, the industry and the challenges their customers face, says Simpson. “But at the end of the day, you cannot learn to be successful solely from a blog. Sales is a trial-and-error business, which is impossible to master without the sweat equity of going out and working hard at it. An old manufacturers rep friend of mine, who is now retired, once told me that ‘Every one of us is on commission, but the ones that know it have an advantage over the ones that do not.’ That is the absolute truth from my perspective, and not a day goes by that I do not think about that statement.”

2013 National Scout Jamboree

At press time, Simpson was preparing to spend two weeks in the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, a once-every-four-year event for the Scouts, expected to draw about 50,000 Scouts. He serves as an assistant scoutmaster for his son’s troop and was selected as one of the assistant scoutmasters from the Mobile Area Council to attend the National Jamboree. He’s already making plans to help lead a group from Mobile to a backpacking trek in the northern New Mexico mountains next summer.

Having been a Boy Scout and have attained Eagle Scout status himself, Simpson sees his volunteer work “as a means to help pay forward to the next generation for the help I received as a boy.

“I enjoy the high adventure aspects of Scouting, but my favorite part really is helping the boys with rank advancement,” he says. “The Boy Scout program teaches practical life skills like teamwork, physical fitness, outdoor skills and problem solving, to name a few. As far as I am concerned, there simply is not a finer extracurricular activity out there for preparing boys to be productive and successful adults than the Boy Scouts of America.”