A lot of people in medical device sales started out in the profession with passion, but Clay Steves didn’t have that when he first started out in orthopedic device. Life happened and necessity forced Clay to put in the work, but when he did, the impact that orthopedic had on patients inspired him to persevere. Consumed by the idea of combining physical restoration with eternal restoration, Clay founded Habakkuk Orthopedic Distributorship, a small firm in Oklahoma City that supplies high-quality implants and provides consulting services to orthopedic surgeons. Clay is a good example of how the most successful people in the industry and elsewhere are able to hurdle the biggest obstacles because they are deeply centered into something that they believe in. In his case, that motivation comes from a deep faith and devotion to Christ. In the first part of his conversation with Samuel Gbadebo, Clay tells the story of how he went from being a college dropout to owning a boutique distributorship that continues to rake success and impact people to this day. He also shares some of the things that leaders need to understand if they’re running a distributorship or planning to do so.
We have an interesting guest. He’s living and leading one heck of a life. He is the CEO of a company called Habakkuk Orthopedic Distributorship out there in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. What’s fascinating about Clay Steves and what he’s doing is that he dropped out of college. He dropped out of university and he found his way and still was able to create a distributorship and get to where he is now with his growing organization and do the great things he’s doing out there in the world.
One thing you’re going to find out when you read about him is he is extremely centered and he centered around his faith. Habakkuk was a prophet back in the Old Testament and it means to embrace. Clay talks about some of that in this interview. He put this entire concept into the integrity of his organization. It’s taken him far and he’s still going places as his organization is growing. It’s an interesting episode. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Clay, how are we?
Samuel, I am better than I deserve. Thank you for asking.
We have with us Clay Steves, CEO of Habakkuk. Before I say any more, I’m going to let you go ahead and introduce yourself. Please tell our audience who you are and what you do.
I appreciate the opportunity to be here and to share. I am from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in the heartland of the country. I am, first and foremost, a son and a follower of Christ. That’s something that I’m passionate about. It will come out as I tell some of my story and even our organization. I’m a husband for many years. If you know me, that is a miracle. Life is full of grace and patience. I’m a father of five incredible kiddos. Four biological and one adopted. The adoption realm is a big passion in my life. I have the privilege of being the Owner and CEO of Habakkuk. It’s an orthopedic device distributorship based here in Oklahoma City for a couple of years as an organization. That’s 50,000 feet of who I am.
Tell us a little bit more about Habakkuk. I understand orthopedics but for those of our audience that might not know specifically what that means and what you’re covering. Why don’t you give us a little more insight into the company?
I’ve been in orthopedic device sales for a couple of years to paint the whole picture. Shoulders, knees, and hips were the wheelhouse that I got into. Originally, my father is a retired orthopedic surgeon. That’s a bit of my story of how I got into the realm and had the connections to. About eight years in, I grew a huge passion for not only the physical restoration, which is remarkable that we get to do every single day, like a patient loses whether it’s playing with their grandkid, golfing with their buddies on the weekend, dancing with their spouse, sometimes it’s getting out of the car. My own aunt has bilateral hips. I can remember one Christmas where she couldn’t even get out of the car. We were going to help her get out and now, with a hip replacement, she’s dancing Zumba, she’s teaching a class, and all this incredible stuff. That’s a physical restoration that, in my personal belief, will run out because we’re still going to die.
For me as we wanted to find a company that had this physical restoration but also an eternal restoration. That’s where the name Habakkuk comes from. Habakkuk is an Old Testament prophet. He’s a Hebrew minor prophet whose name means to embrace. When I founded this company, it’s based on the concept of embracing healing because we wanted to help restore life here physically and we wanted to go internally as well. That’s what Habakkuk is. It’s a small distributorship that was a few years ago. We’re up to seventeen employees now. I shouldn’t say small one when we started with one in a rented house that I had, and now we’re up to seventeen. It’s still small by most definitions.
You guys have so much depth to your company, even down to the name. I love that. Let’s take it back, though. I want to understand where you started and you already said that your dad was an orthopedic surgeon so you were brought into that. Take us back to college. What was going on in your mind with your dad being an orthopedic surgeon? What was it that you wanted to do and how did you move forward?
I attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas so Sic ‘Em. If anybody is reading in that realm, Sic ‘Em Bears. I was a history major. I love context. I love learning from the past. I love the stories of great heroes and heroines and learning from them. I went on my journey and I ended up dropping out of school. I had a lot of personal battles. I failed at school. That’s even a more authentic way to accurately say it. I left school, I battled addictions and substance abuse previously in my life. I dropped out with eight hours left. I shared that for anybody out there who’s either in that season themselves, has been in that, and navigating. That’s a real thing but it’s an overcomable thing. That’s a part of my story.Keep sowing where you need to sow and trust the process. The results will come. Click To Tweet
It was only through grace. It was a gift so I know not everybody has this. Years before I’d been in my dad’s office flirting with the nurses, shaking hands, kissing babies or something, my dad’s rep was there and said to my father back then, “Someday, when he’s finished with school, I’ll give him a job.” I was given an opportunity, a lifeline, and I tried to seize that moment. When I left school, I was given a chance to step into the industry. I’m an entry-level, grunt work, running sets, doing the dirty work late at night, back and forth between hospitals and cities, and all over building a territory. I was given a chance that way. For me, I didn’t study medicine. I wasn’t on the physiological side, PT, or any of those aspects. I was a history guy. It was an opportunity given that I’m thankful for now but I tried to seize back then.
How old were you?
I was getting married right out of school so I was 23 years old at that time.
What was that like? That’s interesting because a lot of people have an interest. They get into this industry and they have an interest already. They’re ready to embrace the science and the anatomy of the body. They’re ready to get their hands dirty in that regard. You being a history major, I’m going to take it that you probably weren’t into it.
No. I was not into it. You’re 100% correct. The principles for learning and understanding apply across all realms. It doesn’t matter what you studied before because I can remember lying in bed at night next to my wife studying implant sizes for our reverse shoulder system that I used to sell. I was like, “I need to memorize these. I need to do that first but then I need to understand why between size 2 and 3 changes 4 millimeters, and 3 to 4 changes to 5 millimeters. I need to email the engineer.” If you know how to learn, study, and you’re beginning to be passionate about the realm you’re in, whatever med device, pharma, you’re going to find a way to learn that and understand it. Just because you haven’t studied the medical side, or anatomy, etc., apply the same principles and you’ll be able to find a way to succeed there.
What drove your passion, though? Did you get into and say, “I like this,” or was there something else behind it?
In the beginning, I will say, providing and surviving. If I look back at myself looking in a mirror, to be honest, it was providing for my family. I had failed previously, literally, and professionally at school. For me, it was an opportunity to say, “I’m going to find a way to win. I want to provide for my wife and our first son.” When my wife got pregnant, we were pregnant with twins. We lost one of the twins. That was a challenging season for us and our son was born at 33 weeks and went to the NICU. The story still gets me. I can remember to this day, Samuel. He was in the NICU for 30 days. He’s healthy and thriving now so I’ll add that caveat. I can remember him coming home.
My wife was working at that time and she’s like, “I’m not going back to work. I want to stay home. This child needs that.” I’m like, “I get it.” In the next month, I got the bill from the hospital and the total bill was over $250,000. I got my commission check for $72.81. I remember that moment being like, “My wife is not going back to work. I’m going to have to find a way.” It didn’t matter what I studied or what I learned. Life was real. For the record, everybody who’s reading, life is real.
That’s my story and my unique aspects of it but everybody’s got that. Are you kidding me? We’ve all experienced this. That’s what I’m saying. Things are out of our control, the stressors, the challenges, and all these aspects. We get to stop for a moment and look in the mirror and go, “What am I going to do with this?” I can’t control the circumstances but I can control how I respond to the circumstances. I can’t draw what I do with it. For me, that was one of those defining moments in the journey, so to speak.
You’ve experienced a lot early. Amen to that. You get into it, you have these life experiences, and now you’re motivated. You’re like, “I’m going to go out and make something happen.” What was the situation that let you know, “I’m doing it. This is happening. I’m living a completely different life?” What happened there?
What’s fascinating about it is I don’t think there is a profound moment. Maybe that’s the thing that I fell into a trap of and I don’t want anybody else to. You’re going to be doing the right work for a long time without seeing any results yet. It’s this concept of a lead-lag metric, cause and effect, sowing and reaping, all these fundamental principles. You’re going to be doing the right sales work, service work, and focus work for quite a while before the fruit shows up.
There’s this element that you’ve got to have the right people in your life who know wisdom, who maybe know the trusted sales process. You’ve got to be able to have people who could speak on a trusted sales process in your life. Even a personal growth or development about who you are and the way that you can transform or elevate yourself because a lot of that, you’re not going to see the results. For me, I don’t know that I had an a-ha moment. I’m making it. I do remember the first surgeon that I ever sold to who said, “Yes.”
I wanted it but I was such a bad salesman. I probably still am. In our world and in the orthopedic device world, you cover every case. The doctor’s rep wouldn’t show up to cases, and I still couldn’t get his business until the day he was in the surgery griping. He was griping about his rep not being there. This is no joke. His scrub tech looks out the window of the OR and goes, “Do you see the guy standing in the hallway who’s waiting to talk to you after this case? You should work with that guy if you want them.” I was going to find a way. I didn’t know what I was doing but I kept showing up. That’s what I’m saying. I’ve been doing that for months and there’s no result, but that moment happens where other people take notice. You treat people right. You do the work. You keep sowing where you need to sow and trust the process because you’ve got wise people speaking into your life. The results will come.
This is with Futur Tek. You’re doing this and making things happen with Futur Tek. I want to understand what happened that allows you to say, “I’m going to take this to a different level and I’m going to get into my own distributorship?”
I look back with such gratitude for the opportunity that I was given there and that was a small distributorship. It was the distributor, me, and one office person. It wasn’t a business of scale. It wasn’t one of these large distributorships you see covering big swaths of territory but it was a wonderful place for me to be pruned, refined, grow, and have a great opportunity for those things. I probably got into two tension points, personally.
One was I’ve always felt a vision for leadership and scale. For me, I desired to be either a part of or even more so to lead something that began to scale and have a larger impact, not only the financial aspect to be frank. If you’re reading this and starting your distributorship, you’re going to take steps back for quite a while. If you’re going to do it financially, which is why a lot of people don’t, because it’s going to cost you money. It’s going to take investment, time, and you’re going to have to totally re-shift what your job is and all these aspects.
The second part was, I was filling a burden and a calling for a company that served a larger purpose than the physical restoration. That was part of my journey in that spiritual restoration aspect when I talk about larger impacts. Those two tension points led to the inflection of starting the distributorship leaving Futur Tek and being able to do that. Our organization is seventeen team members and we expanded into multiple states. We know we were doing the thing we set out to do.Money can be used for good, but it can’t be the reason we do something. If you can do it for a larger purpose, it's always worth it. Click To Tweet
When I look back at that point, if I could talk to that young knucklehead kid years ago who was going through that, I wish I would have done that whole process with more grace, honor, and respect for the people who came before me. I learned some hard lessons about myself and those tensions. It wasn’t a beautiful transition and shaking hands and, “We’re all on the same page.” It was a pretty disruptive and challenging season to be able to start this new company.
Can you speak a little bit of insight on what that looked like?
Between me and my old boss, we began to negotiate what a buyout would look like and what this transition would look like. We kept both changing terms back and forth. It was going to be this and it’s going to be that. Being a small distributorship, one of the advantages you have is you always carry multiple lines. As opposed to if you work for a large distributor or even direct for one of the big orthopedic device companies, you’re going to sell that company and all of their products. That’s it. When you’re a small distributor like Habakkuk, you have more flexibility and you can build your portfolio to pick an upper extremity company to partner with or a knee and hip company to partner with. You can focus more specifically on accustom or a la carte for your surgeons. It would be the aspect.
Our negotiation process would take certain manufacturers, who were going to take what, and how are we going to part ways. If I could go back, I would do it with more honor. I’d be better at handling crucial conversations. I’d be more direct and straight upfront as we are and try to strive to be now as an organization. That’s a part of the process. For everybody, wherever you are, everyone is learning a lesson. Give yourself grace in that process and hold yourself to high standards. Continue to grow and build your failure resume, and pay it forward.
What I love about it is you touched everything. You got in a unique way when a lot of people doubt themselves, especially if you didn’t go to college. People would say, “I’m going to count myself out. There’s no way I can ever do something like that.” You experienced a hard life. You weren’t working for a big company with a big base salary and all these benefits. There’s nothing wrong with that but you went in hard knocks, and you grew yourself to where you are now. What would you say are the top three things for sales professionals? This is something good for people who want to consider and keep in mind if they want to take things to the next level. What are three big things that people have got to be thinking about?
One, don’t self-select before the process. This would even be specifically for people who aren’t in and think about becoming a distributor or whatever. Don’t pre-decide that you can’t do it because there are going to be opportunities. You’re going to have to be aware, stay humble, keep doing the work, and the grit. There’s somebody on the front end like me who doesn’t have a college degree, don’t choose to not apply or get out there because there are companies like Habakkuk. That isn’t a qualification.
I completely understand why they have certain degree attainments that you need to have, we don’t have that because of my own story. I’m like, “I know that there are a lot of great people who can be high performers, have a servant heart, function in a team, and can be exceptional in the OR. These are things we’re passionate about here and they don’t have to have a degree to be able to do those things.” For yourself, if you’ve failed, tried to become a distributor before, you took a run at it and it didn’t work, don’t self-select. Because you failed before, there are a lot of lessons you can learn from that. There is a time for you to step up now to do that. I would say don’t self-select before. The second thing I would say is it’s always harder than it looks.
That is life.
It takes a little bit longer and a little bit harder. Come on, you nailed it.
The moment you accept that premise because we all pursue getting to where it’s easy, comfortable, or we arrived but the truth of the matter is you never arrived. It’s a perpetual process so you become a distributor and you’re now again going to face new challenges that you had no idea that you’re even a part of. You’re like the dog that caught the car and you’re like, “What do I do with that?” You’ve got to recognize that it’s a process. It’s a journey that you’re never going to arrive on until we leave Earth. There are always going to be challenges. There are always going to be unforeseen circumstances.
You’re always going to have personnel challenges, clients who leave you, and people who are unhappy. Welcome to life, as you’ve said, “Welcome to the journey.” It’s always a little bit harder. You never arrived. The last one, and I’ll couple it with that, is it’s always more rewarding. I’m a capitalist. I’m all about making money because money is amoral. It is a resource we can use for good. It is something that can be leveraged to support families, people, and change the world in great ways but it can’t be the end goal. That cannot be the reason we do it. If you can do it for a larger purpose, it’s always worth it. The hard, the mess, and the journey I described in number two, you’ve got to know that is always going to be there. It’s worth it if you’re doing it with people you want to do it with. You’re doing it for a purpose that’s higher than your own. I’ve got to make money to check the box. That’s what I’d say. Always be doing those three things.
You run a company and you’re the CEO. I have to ask this question because it’s so prevalent and everyone is experiencing it. How are you managing the progress of your company through these quarantine times with what’s going on with COVID-19?
It might be in making sure we define that word well. What is progress and what is a success for us as an organization? We celebrated our anniversary. For the first six years, we had had six straight years of profitability and overall growth. That did not happen in 2020. We were backward. At the same time, I will say our team grew. Physically, we doubled the number of employees we had. We grew in our maturation, our understanding, our systems and our processes. I would say we grew up in that season.
The thing you have to do here, specifically as a leader, is to make sure you’re defining what success is. I’m a capitalist. For 2021, we’re going to grow. We’re going to find a way to grow and we’re going to be profitable again. Trust me, we’re going to do it but at the same time, make sure you’re defining what success is like getting our people healthy, helping our people thrive. Life is hard now. Life is always hard and now life is extremely hard. We didn’t lay anybody off, we didn’t have to cut anybody back, and it’s still hard for everybody. We know there are a lot of people around us who are like, “How can we do that?”
As a leader, we’ve got to be centered. We cannot be reactive in this season because it’s a hard time. It’s volatile, uncertain, things are changing, and our people are looking to us to be composed and centered. I’m not talking about faking it until you make it. That’s nonsense, in my opinion. We should hold up our arms and let people see our pit stains. That’s a Pat Lencioni thing because you are human. Everybody knows that you are human and everybody knows you’re struggling with it. Be authentic with them, but at the same time, be centered, be grounded in, “This is hard, but we’re going to make it through.” Have the confidence to go with that.
For me, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. You have to ask my team members if I’ve done well or not. That would be their referendum for me. That’s what I’ve been trying to do this season. Everything is loud. Everything is chaotic, all over the place, and it’s so much out of our control. Let’s control the things we can control, like our responses. Let’s stay grounded, keep our eyes on the purpose of what we’re trying to do as an organization. Every company got a purpose so keep your eyes on that. Keep working towards that and do what you can in the season.
You have five children, you have an organization that’s growing rapidly, you are in the middle of a pandemic, and now we’re talking about what centers you. What centers you? What do you rely on that allows you to say, “Whatever happened today happened. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and go even bigger, harder and better?” What is that for you?
I say this humbly but clearly, boldly, and even in a hard time to say it may be in America with a lot of the tensions going on. I’m a follower of Christ. Faith is a big deal to me. I’m trying to lead myself, my family, spouse, kiddos, organization, community, and anybody who leads me. If we have the context that there’s a larger story we’re a part of, the chaos that we’re in here now is a lot smaller in the context of that larger aspect.
For me, that larger purpose trying to keep that eternal perspective, that long-term perspective, is the thing that keeps me centered because I know when I was trying to do it on my own, I was pretty much a train wreck. When I did it on my own power, that was where I ended up not knowing who I was, hurting a lot of people, and hurting myself. That brokenness is still there, but my perspective has been redeemed, so I’m trying to do it. Since I’ve been given life again, trying to live that life and be able to pass it to others.There is exponential power in a unified team. Click To Tweet
As a leader, I know that you’re taking in knowledge consistently. I’m going to guess that you are a reader. Am I right?
Yes, sir. I am a reader.
You can give us the top three or your top one but we’d love to know what you’re reading now, what you’re learning from now, and what you might even suggest for the audience.
I don’t know if I can do the top one.
It’s a tough question.
It is. It’s like, “What’s your favorite movie?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” I’m an ENFP. I love everything. Give me eight things. On my nightstand, I’m rereading Good to Great by Jim Collins. I’m trying to study previous organizations that were able to go from good to great, sustain that greatness, the leadership that it takes, and the principles to do it. I push pause on it a little bit. I read one called Numb, which is about finding healing and feeling which is written by a counselor here in Oklahoma City that I admire. She’s written that so I was reading that piece. One of the most impactful books I read was Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.
I have never heard of that.
It was about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a priest, a leader, a teacher, and an academic in Germany when the Nazis came to power. It is his story, which is remarkable so put that one on your list. It’s a long read. You’re going to have to stay with it but I promise, his courage and his faith is a remarkable story. That would go up there for me as one that was impactful. If you’re starting a business because the culture is a huge deal to me if you’re a leader, Pat Lencioni. Anything he’s got. If we have a successful culture, a healthy organization, clear priorities, behaviors, mission, how we’re going to succeed, and what’s the most important thing in our company now, all those things. It’s because of learning from Pat and learning about his model from The Advantage, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player, or whatever you want. His content is exceptional.
I’ve read all of those and those are all great books. I read a lot of Pat.
When you’re growing your team, as you’re continuing to grow, what would you say is one of the most important qualities you look for an individual you’re considering?
Humility and awareness. Those are the two things I look for. Humility being the most important because we’re about the eco, not the ego. Take your pick of how you want to say the phrase but I want people who are confident and who believe in themselves. We’re in a business. We’re capitalists. Let’s go compete. Let’s find a way to win, but to do it, not for their own glory, not for their own purpose but for something larger than themselves.
It might even be the teammate next to him. It might be contributing to a nonprofit, their church, whatever it is they’re passionate about. Providing for their kids, their kids’ legacy, and doing legacy building, etc. To have true humility, that’s the number one thing that we try to look for in people because it’s the most important thing long-term for building a healthy team and healthy people. The other with awareness. I want people who know who they are. Our depth and our understanding of who we are, are evolving. It’s a transformation. With awareness, that’s the development for all and the platform for all growth.
Here we have a development culture and we expect our people to be getting better every single day. Sometimes, that’s one step back, two steps back, one step forward, or whatever it is, but our goal is we want to be growing and awareness is the key to that. When someone comes to the team, how self-aware are you? Are you bringing me a resume that’s a highlight reel? Nobody is the highlight reel. Nobody has ever existed as a highlight reel. Don’t come to tell me you are. I don’t want to know your best stuff. I want to know, are you aware of your weaknesses and strengths? I want to know how you deal with your weaknesses. Do you build systems around them? Do you staff differently?
These elements while telling me your strengths as well. I want to know, are you fully aware? For me, those are the two things that we look for the most in team members. Not dumb, not even their training, and even some of their background. The greatest predictor of future success is past success. All these things are true and you want to know these things, but for me, humility and awareness. Those are the two things we look for.
Clay, we can talk all day.
Let’s keep going. I haven’t got to ask you a question yet. I want to start learning.
There are a couple of things I want to understand. A lot of my audience knows what a distributorship is but there are some that don’t. They’re reading and they’re like, “I still don’t understand the difference.” Can you go ahead and explain what a distributorship is and how it plays into the market with larger companies, the Medtronic and the Stryker of the world?
This will be my perspective and understanding of it. You talked about Medtronic and Stryker, you’ve got a large organization, it’s got the resources and almost the network. To be able to create a direct sales force that’s across a large geographic area. The whole US, the world, and even a region that takes a large financial capital investment to get those people and to be able to have them full time and benefits, etc. My perspective is there are a lot of startup companies, innovative companies, medium to smaller manufacturers or vendors, especially in the startup phase, that doesn’t have the resources, the network, the local expertise to be able to scale like that and to have those people. Often, what they’ll do is instead of having a direct sales force, they will partner with local distributors throughout the country that have expertise, relationships, and a team in a small geographic area.
For Habakkuk, we’re based in Oklahoma City. We’ve got Central Oklahoma and North Texas expertise. We’ve got 7 or 8 manufacturers that do not have their own sales force that will say, “Habakkuk, we’ll negotiate together. We’ll talk about terms, etc. but we want you to represent us in this one geographic confined area.” We’re like, “We’ll sell your stuff here.” Right next door in a different state, they’ve got a different partner so they build their network by building partnerships instead of direct team members underneath them. For us, we didn’t have aspiration early on to be all over the world and we couldn’t scale that way so it’s like, “We have expertise here in Oklahoma City, let’s look for manufacturers that would want to sell here, thrive here, grow here that we aligned with, and build that type of a partnership.”
You guys get a lot of time in season.
We’re starting to. Most of our procedures, I’d say greater than 90%, are inpatient procedures for us as an organization. We’re like the Wild Wild West on some fronts. We have more physician-owned hospitals per capita than anywhere in the country, which is a remarkable statistic. We never had a certificate of need before the moratorium. You can’t throw a rock and not hit a physician-owned hospital here. Maybe that’s contributing to it. That’s an interesting talk.Pursue who you are because when you know who you are, you'll know what to do. Click To Tweet
Our total joints haven’t migrated to the ASC setting, like we see in some parts of the country, because we hear about it at AAHKS, the American Academy Hip, and Knee Surgeons, or at the large academy meeting or all these places were like, “We hear this. It’s a buzz term. People are doing it, but we don’t see it in mass numbers to where we’re shifting to the ASC.” Some of our smaller stuff, smaller meaning joint, distal radiuses, some of our fracture work, and elbow work will be done in an ASC.
How large is your sales team now?
Let me go back to the unique strengths thing that we’re talking about. I believe in building a body. I believe the body was uniquely made. Let’s even talk about orthopedics. Let’s talk about medical and all this stuff. Every part of the body plays a different role. The hand, the ear, the knee have specific roles and it can’t do the other person’s job. It was specifically and uniquely created to do its specific role. People are the same way.
I would plug here that’s a biblical principle. Everyone has unique gifts. You have yours and you’re leveraging it now through doing this show. You have a gift of speaking and drawing out your guests of communicating. It’s not everybody’s gift. You and I both know there are introverts that don’t communicate well, but they’re more analytical than us, they can think strategically better than we can, or they’re in the numbers.
We specifically use a lot of tools, Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, and Enneagram. We try to use these to understand these people who are coming to us and we build our team around that. I want all facets of the body to be able to build a holistic, healthy team to be able to win as a whole. On our sales side, we have sales reps. They’re the gift of gab. The high energy walk in the door, “Let’s go sell,” shake hands, kiss babies, and that whole thing. Sometimes, that gifting doesn’t complement towards being processed, driven, or even being exceptional in surgery. I got some team members that do service. That’s what we call our operating room people that cover surgeries.
They’re like a clinical specialist type.
There’ll be another term for it. We use the term service consultant. Those people are not made for sales. We don’t need to be sending them and cold calling and developing a territory but they have a great place in our organization because serving that surgeon while they serve that patient is a part of our mission and who we are. Also, while doing that at an exceptionally high level, managing sets and inventory, and being able to add nuances like, “Sir, I’ve seen this or that at this opportunity in the surgery.”
What we’ve tried to do is build a team that does that. I’ll answer your question. We have seven people in the field. Some are doing service representative or service consultant positions, some in sales, and we started a new one. It’s new for us but not new for other organizations, which is a technician role where they’re not in surgery, they’re not in sales, but what they’re doing is setting up and cleaning up our instrument sets and our implants the day before and the day after surgery. I’m going to say a third part of that body manages our sets because a lot of our surgeries got 15 to 20 pans. You can add hundreds of implants and tubs so it takes a large logistical effort to ensure that we have everything we need.
All of your accounts and customers are familiar with three touchpoints from your company.
Teamwork is a core value here. We believe in the exponential power of a unified team. While we do have account managers and there’s a point person, we’re adamant that we don’t build silos over clients. That was the world I came from previously, where we had, I would use the term mercenaries, to get this one relationship you build your silo on. That is a business model.
It’s a common thing.
It is and they’re financially successful and that’s great but for me, I want to build exponential power. We want more scale and more impact. For us, we raise the standard, “This is how we’re going to perform in the OR. This is the servant heart we’re going to have. We’re going to be exceptional in our team. That doesn’t matter if it’s team members A, B, C, or D so you can be confident, doctor, that when we show up here and get the same level of performance, the same level of expertise, we are going to hold ourselves to it.” They get multiple touchpoints. You’re exactly right because that creates the scale. That creates the opportunity to do more impact across a larger area.
I’m going to ask you a question. It can be a pretty general question but I want you to do your best. For the future, I’m talking 5 to 10 years out, what’s the goal if you can share? What are you trying to achieve outside of making as much as you can and serving as many people as you can?
My heart is to be a part of making the medical device delivery because what we do matters. Even the movement previously to try to go reckless in the ortho world, which failed, I got some great stories in there. The heart behind that was there are gross inefficiencies in the way medical devices are distributed and serviced.
Give us some insight into that because there are readers that don’t know what you’re talking about.
Even in the model of everything I described, one of the things that have happened in the last decade or so would be my context, there have been organizations that went repless. In other words, they tried to eliminate what we do for a living on the ground in the OR from the whole process. Most of this was cost-driven because this is the challenge. Things cost a lot of money and we all understand that. For the system, we can’t keep spending at the level we are.
To cut costs, what they’ve done is they said, “Let’s cut out the middleman. Let’s cut out the distributor or the middle rep, and we’ll go repless. The hospital will buy directly from the manufacturer. We’ll take the instruments and the implants ourselves, and we’ll provide them to our surgeons. That way, we cut the middle person out and whatever portion they were taking from the equation, that portion has now freed up for savings or cost or whatever. We’ll share it together.” Can I tell a story?
There was a surgeon here in town who did that. He went repless. Through a mutual connection, I was honored to be able to connect and sit down with him after the clinic one day at his office. I got an appointment and I showed up. It had been going for a while that he had been repless and it was a buzz all over the town. When these things happen, you know how it is. A rep changes jobs or somebody changes practices. It’s a buzz. It’s a rumor.
The rumor mill starts.
Everybody knew about it and everybody has been talking about it so I show up and I get this appointment. We sit down together and I thank them or whatever. I looked at him and said, “Doctor, I want to tell you, thank you. It is so awesome that you went repless.” He was like, “What? Everybody else is pissed at me now. Why would a rep show up in my office and say that this is awesome?” I was like, “It’s awesome for two reasons. Number one, I love disruptive thinking that is about efficiency, saving money, and yet still providing quality care for patients because that’s what we have to do at the end of the day. We cannot drop the quality of care that we provide for patients because that could be my mom, your mom, or my spouse. It matters that we have to provide quality care but I love when people are trying to find efficiencies to deliver that same level of care in a more productive, more cost-effective way. I love it. Great job. Two, you’re going to prove the reason for our job that this isn’t going to work and your experiment is going to prove why we add value to the system.”
He was staring at me. It was great. Here’s a great lesson in the sales process. There was the pregnant pause. Now, this is a friend of mine. I’ve got to know the surgeon well. He’s an incredible man. He’s a huge introvert. I now know this because he’s now done the Myers-Briggs stuff with us, so I got to know his. I’ll now know he’s also an introvert but that time I was like, “This tension is building. This is nerve-racking.” He sat there and he goes, “That’s interesting. We’re having conversations about hiring more personnel internally as a hospital to manage all the inventory because it’s such a train wreck right now.” I was like, “Don’t do that. Tell that manufacturer to connect with me. We’ll take care of you. Watch. Give me an opportunity. You connect me with them and I’ll ensure your costs won’t change. We’ll fix your operational issues.” That was years ago and we still work with that surgeon to this day.
What I would say is this, I hope the industry moves this way and my desire is for our organization and we have now started a sister organization with Habakkuk called TelOrtho, which is the next iteration to work together. To be a part of revolutionizing the way orthopedic devices are serviced and distributed throughout the country. This can be a principle in life for 2019 to come back. 2019 in that world is never coming back. We’re going into a new future. How do we leverage technology? How do we leverage telemedicine? How do we leverage efficiencies and operate? You could get on your phone now while we’re sitting here, you could order something on Amazon, and it will be delivered later that day. You’re going to get a text picture from the delivery person that’s going to show up in your inbox 30 seconds later, there’s going to be a picture of it on your front desk, and it’s going to ask you for a feedback loop of, “Would you like our experience?” Do you know what I’m saying?
The operational efficiencies are here. What we have to do is we have to be willing to go and have the courage to go against the status quo. We have to coalesce these elements together to create the same standard of care for our patients, the same standard of service for our surgeons but we have to fix the process up until that point. That’s my dream for the next five years. You got me going. You found my button. That’s what I love and that’s what I’m passionate about. For us, and I’ll even weave it for me personally. The new entity of what we’re partnering with is called TelOrtho. These are sister companies that go together. TelOrtho plays on the telemedicine aspect of what we do using video, but even more so it’s rooted in the word Telos, which is the Greek word that is also from the Bible in the New Testament. It was the word that Jesus used on the cross when he said it’s finished. What it means is it’s the completion point of so much more before it. For us as an organization, you’re never going to fully eliminate the old way.
I’m getting preachy here because I’m passionate about this. If you look at the Old Testament, the New Testament, they go together with perfect intention. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have what Jesus did without everything that built up to it. For us, Habakkuk and TelOrtho will come together and it will be the completion or the new version of the old into the new as we then move into the future of device distribution. There is a better way.
There is a way we can maintain the same level of care because what we do matters, like in the history of that doctor and my aunt who’s now dancing Zumba. She’s not doing Zumba now. They’re in the COVID quarantine. She was able to do it before. Giving people their life back and having it restored matters. How do we find a way to make that sustainable? How do we find a way to make that scalable into the new future because we said the old isn’t coming back?
Clay, this was great. You gave us so much insight and thank you for tying it to so much meaning. You clearly think it through down to the detail on why you’re doing everything you do. From what I’ve seen, that’s what helps smaller companies become giant companies. That’s what helps everyone move forward rapidly when they’re operating with meaning every step of the way and that’s clearly what you guys are doing. Is there a resounding message you want to leave with our audience? Remember, we have people that want to get into the industry, people that are in, and people that are leading it. What would you like to share with them?
When you know who you are, you’ll know what to do. That’s what I would say. If there are people who are wanting to get in, it’s a lot of economic uncertainty around us. From where I’m from, oil and gas is a large industry, and it’s struggling now. There are a lot of great people who have been without work for a long time. You get stuck in this liminal space and on these waiting seasons. Use that as an opportunity to take a deep breath and spend some time with yourself. When you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.
Pursue those opportunities that you feel, tug, conviction, or that, “This doesn’t make sense. It’s not the right number,” “I was making this before and I want to make that,” or pursue the purpose that you’re feeling called to. Pursue that purpose, thing, or whatever that is, because everybody is going to be different. Yours is different from mine and mine is different from the next. Everybody has one. Everybody was made for that. Pursue who you are because when you know who you are, you’ll know what to do.
It couldn’t be said better. Clay, this was awesome. We are definitely going to follow up with you because we can’t wait to see all the things your company does in the future. Thank you for spending time with us.
Absolutely, thank you for the opportunity to connect and share. I love what you’re doing. It was an honor to be able to spend some time with you.
I’ll talk to you soon.
That was Clay Steves. After talking to so many people, I’m not even talking about the show, I’m talking about life in general, what I’ve noticed is when most people center themselves deeply into something, whether it’s their faith, philosophy, the deep belief in what they’re doing, they’re able to get through all sorts of things, and get themselves to a completely new space in light of all the biggest obstacles. That’s one reason I knew Clay, and I wanted his story to be heard because who would have thought that you could drop out of college and take yourself to a level that he’s taken himself to and in light of having a family of five. That’s a lot.
When you hear about that, you think, “How in the world did somebody do that?” When you talk to him, you quickly see that when you’re centered, you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. You have something that motivates you to go after it consistently every single day. There is nothing you can’t do. That’s what I loved about this episode and this interview. It’s something for all of us to remind ourselves and take note of. We’re all going through something or going to go through something at some point.
Sometimes, it’s going to be so difficult that we’re going to be looking around wondering, “How am I going to get through this? What am I going to do to get to the other side of this?” It can be in our profession, personal life, or with something we’ve taken on. I sincerely believe that if we’re centered and we have something that we’re deeply centered in, that’s going to sustain us and that’s going to get us through. As always, thank you for reading.
If you’re someone out there that wants to work for a company like Clay’s, or you’re looking to get into medical device sales, pharmaceutical sales, molecular sales, genetic sales, or tech sales. Also, if you’re coming from any industry, whether you’re a nurse, a B2B sales rep, someone in customer service, or a teacher, if you’re someone that wants to get into this space, you need to visit EvolveYourSuccess.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn under Samuel Adeyinka. Send a message or visit EvolveYourSuccess.com, select Attain A Medical Sales Role and follow the prompts. Get in contact with us and let us help get to where you’re trying to go.
If you’re someone out there that’s trying to break through, you want 2021 to be your year and you’re thinking about getting into a different position or you’re thinking about hitting top-tier performance in your territory, find us at EvolveYourSuccess.com, select Improve Sales Performance, or find me Samuel Adeyinka on LinkedIn and send a message. One of my people will contact you. We’ll get you in conversations with us and we’ll get you on the right track.
We have a great sales training program. That’s great for teams and it’s great for individual professionals. It’s such an honor to have these guests on the show and get into their lives. Also, share what’s going on behind those closed doors so anyone reading can get some insight and make better decisions in the life they’re trying to lead. Thank you for reading and make sure you read the next segment of this interview.
Clay Steves, CEO of Habakkuk and Podcast Host. He founded Habakkuk in 2013 with the purpose of providing exceptional product to orthopedic surgeons.
After more than 10 years in the orthopedic industry, I recognized a common pain point amongst orthopedic surgeons. Frustrated with limited technology and inadequate training and consultation, I set out to create a company that would disrupt current industry standards and create a focus on serving surgeons, rather than finances.
Based out of Oklahoma City, Habakkuk is dedicated to delivering both exceptional products and performance to our surgeons, both locally and nationwide. We believe in the exponential power of a unified team and we uphold our values through every challenge. Because of our values, we stand out within the orthopedic community. Continually focused on our surgeons and their patients, we believe in helping restore life both physically and eternally.
Our four core values – servant heart, teamwork, excellence and perseverance – act to guide us as we humbly strive to serve our surgeons and patients every step of the way.
Clay enjoys spending time with his wife, Kirsten, and their five children, Noah, Gavin, Isaac, Graham and Noelle. Clay enjoys singing loudly for all to hear, watching his scenes as an extra on the West Wing and cleaning his 1999 All-State Competitive Drama trophy.
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