Edition: September 1999 - Vol 7 Number 09
Article#: 463
Author: Repertoire

Brad Jacob, Account Manager, McKessonHBOC Medical Group

Met Dewight Titus: September 1983. I was working for Bischoff Surgical Supply (then owned by Intermedco), where things were not going as smoothly as they should be. I was in the back of the office talking with my brother and colleague, Tom, about the possible need to pursue a career with a more stable company like F. D. Titus & Son. In California, F. D. Titus & Son had an incredible reputation for class, quality, and dependability. To our surprise, in walked DeWight Titus touring our facilities. It is a sight that I will never forget. I watched all of the color leave my brother's face as DeWight came up to us and said; ‘Hi, I am DeWight Titus.’

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: Never before in my personal or professional life have I interacted with an individual who possessed on a consistent basis the epitome of class, kindness, consideration, business insight, integrity, and genuine concern for the well being of others.

Oddest thing about Titus: One thing that always amazed me was the fact that he would never, ever take advantage of his reputation and strength in the market. Consideration for all peripheral people and corporations, along with customers, was a part of every decision that he made.

Funniest story: DeWight really allowed each of his employees to ‘own’ that part of F. D. Titus & Son that they worked in. One Saturday, he went to the office and found that he didn't know the alarm combination. Here is the owner of a prestigious corporation, who didn't even know the alarm combination of his corporate headquarters. I think that even though there is a little humor in this story, it shows what kind of employer DeWight was.

Example set by Titus: He would instill the values and principles that not only precipitate prosperity in the business, but would allow people to prosper in their personal lives as well. As my father always told me; if you express respect and manners from your heart toward others, that in itself will carry you farther in life than anything, personally and professionally.

His effect on the industry: There is no doubt in my mind that if this industry hadn't had DeWight as part of its evolving self, it would lack respect, gratitude, the expectation of high levels of customer service, quality on all levels (both inside and outside our offices), respect for the need to partner with the manufacturing community, the need for professional sales representation, and the opportunity for all to make a good living as a reward for hard, effective quality work.

What Titus would say today about this business: ‘What a great business this is. It has been an incredible ride and looking back, there would be very little I would change.’

Craig Rooks, Director of Sales for the West, Medical Analysis System

Met Dewight Titus: I worked for Johnson & Johnson for 16 years. I started with the Patient Care Division, then went to Hospital Services. Back then, 90% of what we used to call the Professional Sector companies sold primarily direct, especially to the hospitals. We had little market share and no focus on sales into the non-hospital marketplace.

In order to learn more about the distribution arena and the non-hospital marketplace, I became an employee of Titus as well as J&J in 1983. Titus paid 50% of my salary.

As an employee, I was brought under their wing. They taught me, and I taught them about J&J products and services. There was a mutual trust. I did this for about a year and a half, then returned full-time to Johnson & Johnson to help put together a division dedicated to promoting our product lines to the non-hospital market.

His effect on the industry: DeWight was one of the first people who led the charge in changing the relationship between distributors and manufacturers. Because of the way he is and his philosophy, he broke down some of the unwritten barriers that had been there. There were always relationships, but they were always at an arm's length. There was no true partnership or trust. Manufacturers and distributors did business with each other because they had to, but rarely for mutual benefit. DeWight was the principal person to change all that. And I lived it first-hand.

He was very instrumental in changing the attitudes of a lot of the big manufacturers in developing strategic partnerships with distributors. As a result of his efforts, he increased the visibility and the viability in the manufacturers' eyes of the importance of the non-hospital marketplace change.’

Dick Wright, Retired, Johnson & Johnson

Met Dewight Titus: I first met DeWight on a sales call in his office in the City of Industry in 1972. I was new to the medical business -- having worked for 20 years with Vicks. Then I went to Johnson & Johnson to head up sales administration. So, I traveled the country with reps to meet industry leaders.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: DeWight is a man who is goal-driven. He sees the big picture and is very willing to change his short-term plans to achieve long-term goals. He loves to establish personal relationships in business. No need for a written contract. A handshake will do.

He's very quick of mind and movement. He doesn't spend too much time in one place or on one subject. At the same time, he's a perfectionist. He will experiment with almost any new business idea. And whenever I need a favor, I know I can count on DeWight.

Oddest thing about Titus: DeWight has always appeared to have three jobs: One is as industry spokesman, primarily through HIDA activities. Second, he had a very tight ship at his distributorship. He seemed on top of everything in the shop. And all of his employees seemed to hop whenever he spoke. And third, you always had the feeling that DeWight had another business starting up that you were going to hear about soon. I mean this in a good way. He's always talking to everybody about everything.

Example set by Titus: He's enthusiastic, positive, end-results-oriented, open to trying any new idea.

His effect on the industry: DeWight brought a lot of change and a lot of creativity to the industry. He also was instrumental in teaching others -- including competitors and manufacturers -- about their own businesses. He spent a lot of time in HIDA meetings teaching. His enthusiasm and cooperativeness moved our ever-rapidly-changing industry. He is one of the -- if not the most -- creative leader in the industry.

What Titus would say today about this business: He'd talk about the future of the industry. He'd be very positive. He'd be looking for new ideas from you as he explained how the business would be done and why his company would lead the change. He'd talk about the future and see if you had any thoughts that he could pick up and move with. And it would be a quick glimpse, because DeWight doesn't sit around very long.

Gloria Romo, Former Executive Assistant to DeWight Titus

Met Dewight Titus: I applied for a job in February 1990 at F. D. Titus reporting to DeWight, then president, and Jerry Neal, chief financial officer. While waiting in the lobby for my interview, all I could hear was laughter coming from the executive offices and I thought to myself, ‘I'd love to work for a place with so much laughter around.’

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: Warm-hearted and very funny. An excellent speaker and very natural in expressing himself to people. His memory for dates and data amazed me to no end.

Oddest thing about Titus: There was never a dull moment when he was around.

Example set by Titus: He was an excellent role model and gave his support people the freedom to make decisions without holding their hands. This is a true leader. I never saw him upset, and he always saw both sides to an issue. He was very open minded and objective. He had an open door policy and always respected the people who worked for him. He made everyone around him feel comfortable and never projected the ‘big boss’ image.

His effect on the industry: He took risks to run a successful company and was open to new technology, no matter the resources it took to get the job done.

John Moran, Vice President of Sales, Welch Allyn

Met Dewight Titus: I met him on the West Coast in his building in 1982. I was with one of our West Coast reps, just having been named national sales manager. I was trying to peddle audioscopes. As I recall, he didn't buy any.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: Highly ethical, very classy. Lot of style.

Oddest thing about Titus: He has at least 23 blue blazers with khaki pants. Like Imelda Marcos had shoes, he has blue blazers.

Funniest story: The surprise party on the boat. (See Don Kitzmiller's comments)

Example set by Titus: He has made a career out of molding and developing young people. He will really take time with younger people if they're willing to listen.

His effect on the industry: A lot of medical supply salespeople would be a lot poorer without his impact. He helped make a lot of people successful. One thing that motivated him: helping the people who worked for him become successful. He shared the wealth. He is a tremendous role model, someone you look up to. He is very generous with advice. He would give advice to his own people, his vendors, his competitors. As a result, I still call him frequently and ask his advice on things.

And when you called on him at his company as a sales rep or salesman, or vendor, you overprepared for the meeting. The reason you did that was not just because they were a big account, but because at the end of a meeting with DeWight, you didn't want him disappointed. He makes people better, because your expectations are, ‘I don't want him to think less of me.’ He is able to inspire that in people.

What Titus would say today about this business: Whatever it is, he'd say it over a Crown Royal Manhattan.

Ron Stephenson, Marketing Professor, Indiana University

Met Dewight Titus: In 1970 or so, Indiana University was putting on a management development program for distributors, sponsored by manufacturers. DeWight and his dad attended. My initial impression was that this was a guy who was different. He wasn't interested in running a ‘country club’ family business. From Day One, he was interested in creating something that was going to be very significant. He clearly understood that, and that conditioned a lot of what he did from then on. I went on to do consultancy for 25 years with him, and served on his board as well.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: What stands out is the way he interacted with and related to his employees, and the way he created opportunities for them. He was demanding. But those people who performed for him were very well taken care of. He had a great eye for people who could accomplish things. I saw him take people who didn't have the background, but DeWight had a feeling about them, and they became very significant people.

I particularly enjoyed seeing him interact with his lower-level employees -- the people in customer service, the clericals -- all of whom he treated as a fundamental part of the business. And he interacted with them as much as he did his key managers. I've had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people in this industry, and what sets them apart is their people skills -- the way they treat people, respect people, and the way they get tremendous pleasure out of giving opportunities to people who perform. He always did that incredibly well.

Oddest thing about Titus: He has almost no hobbies, other than exercise and a fondness for cars. That business was his life. He was the most focused on the business as anyone I've ever seen. If there was a sales meeting going on, he had to be there cheerleading the troops. He also has a fondness for very fine wine.

Example set by Titus: He has incredible people skills. He has dramatic focus. He knew what kind of business he wanted to build; he knew what was required to do that; and he didn't allow for distraction.

His real skills are in sales and marketing. He knows how to understand a market, and how to appeal to that market, and how to build a sales and marketing organization. He doesn't have operations and finance skills, but was good at getting people who were very good at that at a sophisticated level.

His effect on the industry: He brought to the whole industry a role model. I heard lots and lots of young entrepreneurs saying that they wanted to model themselves in the same way. He influenced a lot of people's management style. He was one person who took a family business and made it an extremely strong, professionally managed entity. There's only a handful of people out there who can do that.

Another thing: When you're in any distribution business, you have two sets of customers -- one is the customer (the doctor); the other is the supplier. DeWight always understood that, and he was extremely skilled at working with his suppliers. If there was a problem, he'd let you know about it. No games played. Indeed, the opposite. He made it a company that manufacturers really wanted to deal with.

What Titus would say today about this business: ‘The industry has gotten tougher and tougher and tougher. I've never seen the industry where, particularly on the hospital side, the seller no longer has any pricing power -- it's all in the hands of the buyer. And that's leaking into the physician side.’

Cindy Juhas, Former Head of Marketing, F.D. Titus &Son

Met Dewight Titus: I worked for Dow Chemical and called on Titus. I worked mainly with Norm Hayes (head of sales), but met DeWight a few times. After Dow sold that segment of its business, I went to see Norm and DeWight, who had an interest in starting equipment sales. I had had a great relationship with Titus as a manufacturer, and it seemed like the kind of company I wanted to work for. So I came onboard as a shared rep, with Becton Dickinson (the Clay Adams division) paying half my salary and Titus the other. I did that for about six months, then started working full-time for Titus in 1982.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: He is very, very fair with women. And although he's the greatest guy once you get to know him, it takes a little while to get to that point.

DeWight never stopped anyone from doing whatever they wanted to do to reach their potential. A week after Norm Hayes left, I had lunch with DeWight and told him I wanted to be considered for sales manager. Three weeks later, I got the Phoenix branch, where I ran operations and sales.

If DeWight sees that someone has a talent, he wants that person to fulfill it. So, when I wanted to come back to California five years later, he wanted me to take over marketing for the company, because he thought I had a knack for it. I resisted at first, but he insisted. So I put together the terms and he gave me everything I needed.

Oddest thing about Titus: He never took a vacation.

Funniest story: After I took the job in Phoenix, he came over for my first performance review. I put him up in a beautiful hotel. We went to his room for the review. He went to the restroom, and he was there for the longest time. After awhile, he called to me, ‘Cindy, come here. I want to show you something.’ I didn't know him all that well and didn't know what to expect. But I came around the corner, and it turns out he wanted to show me the bathroom. It was huge. We laughed until we cried.

Example set by Titus: Integrity, first of all. And he was better by far than others in forming relationships with manufacturers. They were real partnerships. He always made them win/win situations. Titus was a fun place to work. He did his best to keep politics out of it. He kept it mean and lean. And he doesn't have such a huge ego that he doesn't believe in getting a lot of input before making a decision. He was the advocate of the sales reps, always making sure they were happy. And in that sense, we knew our jobs as managers -- to serve our customers No. 1, and then to keep the sales reps happy, because they brought in the dollars. So, every day of our life, that's what we did.

His effect on the industry: He was a leader in the arena of manufacturer/distributor relationships.

What Titus would say today about this business: He still has it in his blood. He still lives and breathes the industry. He still has a lot of pride in the people he developed. I still think he thinks it's a great business. We haven't seen the last of DeWight.

Kip Kula, Sales Rep, McKessonHBOC Medical Group

Met Dewight Titus: I was about 24 months into my career when I met him. I ended up working with him for 12 or 13 years.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: DeWight developed a company based on input from individuals. He built a very strong team with very strong players. He was able to take these people and pull them into the business, asking them what it would take to make things click. This gives employees a sense of completeness and belonging. People felt they could make a difference. The company's marketing strategies were in line with what the salespeople wanted and needed. That's a rare thing. The salespeople could give input, and that would send the marketing team in a new direction. Manufacturer participation was equally valued. He respected everyone.

Example set by Titus: In any field in which you earn commission, there has to be trust between employer and employee. This is how Dewight lived his life and ran his company -- on the basis of trust. We were confident of our professional abilities. DeWight was very proud of the company he built and the people who worked for him. Also, he created a professional atmosphere that was fun to work in.

His effect on the industry: The high level of working relationships he built with manufacturers.

Don Kitzmiller, 95% Share Marketing

Met Dewight Titus: DeWight's father introduced me to him in 1973, when I was with IE Industries [later Midmark]. DeWight was interested in the furniture business [e.g., exam tables], but was selling products primarily from West Coast suppliers, because freight was so expensive. But that changed, and by 1975, he was one of our biggest customers. The Titus company had been selling the weirdest colored products -- things like burnt orange and lime green. DeWight changed that to brown. He brought law and order to the West -- on many subjects.

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: If I were on the front lines of battle, DeWight is the person I'd want supplying me with ammunition. He keeps promises and knows how to get things done.

Oddest thing about Titus: His family nickname is ‘Tightwad.’

Funniest story: A party was being given for DeWight on a boat. I got on the boat before he did, then hid in the restroom. When he finally came in an hour later, I casually walked past him and said, ‘Your turn.’ He didn't know I had been invited to the party and wondered how I had gotten there.

Example set by Titus: I don't know of anybody who worked for him who left on bad terms.He was the most secure insecure person when it came to his customers' business. He talks with authority and confidence, but he never took a customer for granted. Also, DeWight can simplify the industry in fewer words than anyone I've ever met.

His effect on the industry: He was the pioneer in getting manufacturer reps to work on their dealers' behalf. Up until then, the manufacturer would sell products to the dealer, and it was up to the dealer to get rid of them. I remember when Midmark experimented with shipping their tables by railroad. An entire carload got damaged. DeWight offered to see if he could sell them at a reduced price in Mexico. From that point on, he owned me. DeWight was able to manage rapid growth in a difficult market -- the West Coast in the ‘boom years.’ He did it by getting very active in the industry. He gained knowledge and expertise from others through his involvement, and so did the industry. When managed care spread to other parts of the country, he was unselfish and offered his help to others. He was a bright light in a foggy world, when everything was changing.

What Titus would say today about this business: ‘Right now, there's more opportunity than there has ever been.’

Jim Stover, Pzresident, NDC

Thumbnail character sketch of Titus: A person of integrity. A person you trust. A person who never takes himself too seriously.

Oddest thing about Titus: He's got a short attention span. When his foot starts moving fast, it's all over. He's not listening.

Funniest story: Skiing on the bunny slopes at Lake Tahoe. Example set by Titus: He was good to his people. He respected them, and they respected him.