As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became a C-Suite Executive,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Day.
Scott Day is the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Gramercy Extremity Orthopedics (GEO). Scott is an accomplished medical device executive experienced in commercial & operations leadership — sales, marketing, medical education, national accounts (GPO), M&A — for orthopedic implants, sterile-packaged instruments, and soft tissue biologics solution providers.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I have always had a driving curiosity and desire to learn ‘more.’ Wanting more is what took me from a degree in English literature to heading commercial operations for an innovative medical device firm, Gramercy Extremity Orthopedics (GEO). I actively sought more knowledge, more insight, more responsibility, and even more travel. My curiosity is about understanding how the world works, and how I can make it better. I am fortunate to work in the medical device market, which is driven by equal parts innovation and service to others.
Prior to GEO, I was Vice-President of US Sales & Marketing for Orthofix’s orthopedic business unit. Before that, I held leadership roles at large health science companies, most notably, Stryker.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Of course. My most interesting event became the catalyst for an impactful career change. I was on-site, at a client, while I was working for Ernst & Young conducting an advisory / financial statement audit. This was a routine assignment and one where I really enjoyed the business they were in — medical device manufacturing. As is common for auditors, I led a number of walkthroughs and interviews with management and staff, and often had the feeling that their work was meaningful, not simply building widgets. As this particular audit went on, I realized that this was a great place to work and was amazed when senior management approached and offered me a job! That company was Wright Medical, and I worked there for five years — kicking off a career that’s now spanned two decades. You truly never know what opportunities are right around the corner nor when they may materialize.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
My mentor in the business often told me, “Scott, you treat your people like you work for them — and not the other way around — and you will be wildly successful.” That seems simple and, perhaps, even obvious but it is truly the most impactful insight that was shared with me and has become my most frequently applied bit of advice. In our sales organizations, for example, we don’t ‘manage’ field-based sales reps. I encourage our team of regional business leaders to ‘partner’ with our reps and distributors. It’s a subtle, semantic point, but one — when authentically practiced — makes a huge difference and lends itself to a winning culture.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your leadership style? Can you share a story or an example of that?
Great question and, to be candid, I’m fighting the urge to impress your audience with my knowledge of English literature. Joking aside, I found ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell to be particularly relevant. He points out three things that have become key to my own personal and professional development — have a strong work ethic, understand that no one is self-made — success is shared, and sometimes your wins are due to nothing more than luck. This approach requires you to work hard, share victories and to not take yourself too seriously.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
GEO stands out because it was formed from a simple idea. We believe that a more cost-effective, user-friendly, and effective way can exist to deliver orthopedic medical implants in today’s healthcare environment. Now, I realize that without some context of what happens in an operating room (OR), this may not be meaningful to many people, because they’re normally not aware of the many steps involved in a surgery.
The steps leading up to surgery usually start about a week or two before, with a surgeon ordering what they will need for a specific operation — the plates, screws, and all other materials. Prior to surgery, those implants and instruments must be sterilized in the facility. During surgery, those pieces must then be opened, laid out and ready for use in the OR.
The surgical team typically needs implants and materials in a variety of sizes to accommodate the unique anatomy of a patient. Given the need for various sizes, you can imagine this makes for large and complicated implant trays, and because many surgical hardware systems are cumbersome, a representative from the device company is often needed in the OR to provide intra-operative advice. These factors, as studies have shown, can increase the opportunity for contamination, surgical site infections, and delays, all while the patient is sedated. Meanwhile, there are usually members of the clinical team keeping track of all the devices, implants and instruments, patient vitals, and billing information.
The part some people may not know about an OR is the importance of keeping everything sterile. Most hospitals sterilize their instruments and devices — like drills — between surgeries. Sometimes they come back sterilized, but as with any complex system, there is the opportunity for human error. In these cases, the surgery may literally have to stop while the instruments are re-sterilized. These delays have a domino effect on all aspects of surgery and the practice. For example, delays can impact how long a patient is under anesthesia and can push back the next surgery for the next patient.
At the end of the surgery, the hospital staff tracks all the devices, then must go into a computer, log everything in, and place new orders. Many of these activities usually occur at the end of the month. What I hope I’m conveying, is that there are many steps, variables, and opportunities for human error.
GEO provides solutions to these challenges. A patented and proprietary radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology supports traceable supply management and enables a ground-breaking point-of-sale delivery system called the GEO CART® GEO CART is a best-in-class approach to pre-sterilized, single-use orthopedic implants and instruments. They are what surgeons call “intuitive”, so GEO reps are not always needed in the OR.
Combined, our products help hospitals and surgery centers improve sterility measures and streamline inefficiencies. These are all critical aspects of bringing value to hospitals, surgeons, and their patients during a time of increased general concern about contamination and an evolving surgery sector. GEO is uniquely suited to be a partner as we lead the way toward a more sustainable and safe way to provide optimal surgical care.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
Love what you do, learn all you can, and be the most helpful person in the organization. If you do that, success, salary, titles, and recognition will certainly follow.
So that sounds easy and straightforward but consider this: choose an endeavor you want to be involved with and place yourself where you can build lasting relationships. GEO works very closely with orthopedic and podiatric surgeons across the country, which helps us see the practical challenges clinicians face. We then work with them on improving patient safety and leveraging sustainable solutions. If you can find a rewarding career like this, you are setting yourself up for an exciting and limitless journey.
You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Resourceful, Differentiated, and Risky:
- Resourceful is a term I absolutely love. It demonstrates a level of desire and determination to complete a task or achieve a goal. No excuses.
- Being differentiated is unique, especially in the medical device world because, for many years, success in our industry meant you had to follow one path and one path only. You were a rep, then a manager, then maybe you were tapped to lead an area and ultimately a business unit. I was fortunate to lead a business unit at a publicly traded company and now, an innovative start up by starting a career in accounting! This is unheard of …but I use my accounting experience to speak the language of health system CFOs. My English degree greatly helps me clearly and effectively articulate my messaging. Certainly, it’s a different way to look at my world, but it works and works well.
- Risky probably isn’t a trait your audience frequently hears in this type of exchange, but the willingness to take risks has, to date, paid dividends professionally. Risk could be relocating, taking on new roles, or tackling new geographies. The willingness to accept what others won’t or can’t provide opportunity, and that’s all we can ask for in business.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a C-Suite executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what a C-Level executive does that is different from the responsibilities of other leaders?
In the C-suite, the buck truly does stop with you. That is an awesome responsibility that requires the gift of perspective. A C-level executive must comprehend the challenges directors and managers face daily. Being empathetic while keeping an eye to resolution and/or prevention is where, I believe, middle management and the executive wing are separated. The good news is that perception and empathy are perfected when used. Practice and experience matter, in my opinion.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is that you now call all the shots. Not true. Being a C-suite executive is a constant job of gaining consensus, obtaining buy-in from all internal and external stakeholders. Another aspect of that is what you say doesn’t necessarily happen, at least not immediately! You must change people’s behavior to make things happen. People need to believe — truly believe — in what you say to implement and execute your strategy.
What are the most common leadership mistakes you have seen C-Suite leaders make when they start leading a new team? What can be done to avoid those errors?
From my experience new C-level leaders can lose their way by trying to do too much too quickly and this is common mistake that many of us have fallen victim to. You get promoted, you have a vision and now, the mandate to make change. But new leaders must always remember to learn the existing culture of your new business unit, team, etc., before making sweeping changes. Even if the situation is bad, an acute understanding of what makes performance poor, for example, is critical to shaping a winning environment. Be prudent. Be judicious.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Tough question, but an easy answer: attention to detail. This is obviously a more pervasive comment but can be applied to all aspects of any business. I was fortunate to pursue an MBA right out of undergrad and I focused my studies on accounting and finance. I even worked with Ernst & Young for a few years shortly after graduation. While this has nearly nothing to do with med device, the accounting and audit experience taught me the valuable lesson of paying attention to everything. Further, this mindset teaches that ‘everything’ leads to or can affect another business unit, another intra-company function, and even inter-personal relationships.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading From the C-Suite”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- The feedback well dries up, so you must dig deeper. The message here is that the more senior you are, the less open, honest, and direct people might be when giving you feedback. Creating a culture where it’s ok to share is critically important. Leading by example and not thinking you’re too good to do any task you’d ask your team to do are good ways, in my experience, to foster those beliefs. If you don’t dig deeper, it’s easy to just assume everything is okay.
- Get comfortable promoting yourself and your company. The essence here is that up until you make the C-Suite, you rely on others to promote the company until suddenly, as part of an executive team, you ARE the company. You must get comfortable with appropriately promoting yourself in an effort to promote the company’s brand. Whether we like it or not, particularly in the age of social media, a low profile means no profile.
- The shadow you cast is constant. You become a 24/7 role model of ‘setting examples’ and there’s nowhere to hide. However, you are particularly visible when things go wrong. How you react to tough news, in a crisis, or when a 51/49 decision must be made, is fully scrutinized and amplified. How you respond is talked about, remembered, and can be etched into the culture of the organization for years to come. So…. Create meaningful and positive experiences that are memorable for all the right reasons. That includes being emotional, authentic, and vulnerable.
- Presence in the moment is everything. It often feels like nobody gets enough of you, so ensure that everyone gets the best of you. Whether at work or home, work-life balance is constantly compromised, so I’ve learned that being my best self in the moment goes a long way to compensate for me not always being there or being available. It takes energy, effort and it must be genuine, but it is the one thing that’s totally in my control, and it’s the least we can give.
- Being brutal with your time isn’t a crime. At first, it plays to our egos that everyone wants a piece of us, but it’s not healthy or sustainable if being engaged turns into micro-management or creates a culture of reliance. I have learned that it’s crucial to choose and signal what you do and don’t need to be involved in. Delegate, trust, empower, and block ‘your time’ in your calendar for you.
In your opinion, what are a few ways that executives can help to create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
For me, culture is an outcome of the stories we tell. The new stories eventually replace the old stories, and the culture of the organization evolves. If the stories being told are anchored in set cultural values, and the executives uphold and champion them as the loudest and most powerful advocates, the organizational culture will quickly flourish. We believe at GEO that helping every member of your team understand how their work is making a big difference greatly impacts the business and culture of the company. Additionally, if you connect your business to larger trends in the outside world that have meaning in your team members’ everyday life that will impact your culture as well. If you care, your teams will care. You don’t have to be changing the world, but helping your team see how they are changing patients’ lives or supporting a community hospital to conserve water or provide better local jobs — that gives everyone on my team a feeling that what we do matters, including myself.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’ve joined a movement that aims to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, as the Expert-in-Residence for a Kenyan-based company, Ilara Health. They make common diagnostics accessible and affordable to millions of people in East Africa who, today, struggle to gain access to basic blood tests and diabetes screenings. Ilara makes tests more affordable, with faster turn-around time, so patients don’t spend time and money visiting far-away labs, and store patient records for higher quality follow-up visits. It’s my hope that this challenges other healthcare C-Suite leaders to answer a similar call.
But let’s not stop there. One of GEO’s initiatives that is most meaningful to me right now centers on our desire to help reduce resource inefficiencies generated by many hospitals and surgery centers. Already, our pre-sterilized, single-use surgical instruments and device kits reduce the energy, water, and staff time needed to keep sterile equipment in surgeons’ hands. While single-use equipment may seem counterintuitive to reducing waste, all plastic trays that GEO implants are packaged in are 100% recyclable. And since these kits are pre-sterilized, they eliminate the need for sterilization through high water-consumption medical-grade autoclaves. After each surgery, each conventional sterilization cycle takes hours to complete, and uses hundreds of gallons of water per hour. The EPA has noted that wastewater at hospitals accounts for 7% of the total commercial water consumption in the nation. And the Wall Street Journal has reported that 15% of all water in US hospitals goes to clean traditional device manufacturers’ non-sterile implant kits. We can do better, and we will.
How can our readers further follow you online?
Follow news about the entire GEO team, including upcoming announcements about product launches and leadership initiatives on Instagram @gramercyortho, on our LinkedIn page, or at https://gramercyortho.com/.