Dr. Walter Leise III, President and CEO of Sarasota Medical Products, Inc., was recruited to work for Abbott’s Diagnostic Division after completing his PHD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Chicago. He primarily served as the interface between Research & Development and Manufacturing. He soon got involved with Six Sigma, a set of techniques and tools driven by data for process improvement, and was selected to run the Global Molecular Development Group. Not long after, he decided to get his MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. Around this time is when the idea of starting a company entered the picture.
Leise explained, “My dad and Denis Keyes, now VP of Technical Operations, said they wanted to start a company. I asked to use it as a benchmark during my MBA program. As time went on, it kept looking like a great opportunity. We didn’t see anyone else that was doing what we were going to do. I made the decision to invest in the company. We raised capital through a $1.7 Million SBA loan. After graduation, I moved down to Sarasota to run SMP.”
Sarasota Medical Products (SMP) is a leader in the manufacturing and contract manufacturing of Wound Care and Ostomy & Infection Control products. They offer a full line of proprietary hydrocolloid adhesive wound dressings for the professional and consumer market available for private label customers. They also offer turnkey solutions for customers looking for medical grade adhesives and other private label products.
Leise recently encountered a manufacturing challenge and engaged with GrowFL’s CEO Roundtable Program for assistance and to glean some first-hand knowledge from the other CEOs that participated in the program. Leise explained, “SMP had an opportunity to contract manufacture for a multi-billion dollar company. We weren’t sure if it made more sense to go through a brand we manufacture for or compete with them.”
“The opportunity was vetted out through the roundtable,” he said. “The decision was made to push it through brands at a preferred price point. The brand would do the heavy lifting and we wouldn’t have to compete with other companies.” Leise had nothing but great things to say about the program. “I wouldn’t be successful if it wasn’t for the GrowFL program. I’d be spinning my wheels. The roundtable represented a broad range of experience. They were all manufacturers in different industries, but with much of the same challenges. They gave me a lot of foresight into things I need to look for as we grow. I have a great group of managers at SMP, but you can’t talk with them about everything going on in the company. It was nice to have a roundtable to share some of those ideas with.”
Leise has some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Nothing prepares you for it,” he said. “You just have to lay it all on the line and don’t take things personally. Look at the bigger picture despite daily setbacks. I’m also very fond of the Richard Branson approach. I’ll say yes to a request from a customer, even if I’m not entirely sure I can do it, and then hold myself accountable for getting it done.” Leise also recommends reading Good To Great by Jim Collins and Influencer by Kerry Patterson. The Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment, gleaned from the GrowFL CEO Roundtable Program, is a tool he recommends for helping businesses to better understand who they hire.
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