The quest for new technologies has been the bedrock of Rhode Island based Davol’s growth and success. Throughout the company’s 138 years in business, Davol has persevered through many of our country’s challenging economic times. President John Groetelaars shares his thoughts on Davol/BARD’s entrenched climate of innovation and globalization, key drivers for expansion efforts in today’s marketplace.
Q. What advice do you have to share with our membership in dealing with the current challenging economic environment?
JG: Stay agile and open to change. Use our company for example. Over 130 years ago we started with basic rubber products. Not a single one of those original products remains in our production line today. Forty percent of our current sales involve products that were introduced within the last three years. If we don’t continue to reinvigorate, we will fall the way of some of the high tech companies that maxed out with one product line. Being cautious and conservative is no longer linked to survival. It is important to fully understand your markets to find segments that are growing and invest in them.
We are here to be successful. Ideas and inspiration for our innovations come from:
Although the inch ups are important, break through innovations are the heart of Davol’s focus. Given the tough, competitive environment, there is less of an appetite for little improvements. We need to be better, more efficient, faster, cheaper, and ideally, all three. We scour the globe for the best ideas, technology and services. Breakthroughs lately have been in the form of tech transformation. More emphasis has been placed on fewer, but bigger (more financially risky) projects. My advice –in order to keep innovation flowing and continue commercialization you have to understand the consumer’s need. Don’t assume.
Collaboration is also a key ingredient for expanding innovation opportunities at Davol. We currently join forces with big teaching/research hospitals and labs throughout the US and companies like Ximedica, where we partner as co-developers. We are in the process of exploring collaborative opportunities locally with Brown, Lifespan’s tech licensing group and Betaspring in an effort to broaden our reach.
Q. How would you advise local companies interested in venturing into the global market?
JG: Spend time objectively assessing which global markets have a high potential for your product/service. Follow up with a deeper dive in the region, meeting and talking with potential customers or business partners to develop a prioritized list of opportunities that help you garner success and gain experience. This list should be long enough to have a full pipeline of business opportunities but not too large that your efforts are too diluted. Find early successes and build on them while gaining critical knowledge of the market and regulatory climate in the targeted area.
Q. Over the years, how has your business grown/adapted in the ever changing marketplace?
JG: Ten years ago, we were fairly conservative, skeptical about where and how ideas germinated and developed. Today, thanks to the advancement in technology, that has all changed. Our objective is to be #1 through best evidenced and priced product lines, making them well-affordable in the world of public health care. There are two avenues that create options for growth: globalization and innovation. Our strategies drive product innovation, making us open to change. We are constantly looking for new technologies, acquisitions, and core tech. A big trend in globalization is in refining how we bring in tech from international sources, and then transfer to our R&D pipeline. In June we announced our expansion into Russia, offering an exciting new chapter in our company’s growth.
To support our vision (advancing patient care with leading solutions in area of soft tissue repair) we employ over 100 scientists focused on research and development with 1200 employees worldwide in roles that include sales and manufacturing.
In the US, it is important that we invest across the spectrum –in high growth as well as low or negative growth markets, where there is high unemployment and thus, lack of insurance or ability to afford co-pays. We invest in low growth areas to address the patient trend to avoid health care through less doctor visits or administration to hospitals. We can make the greatest product in the world, but if patients do not have access to our lines, we will not grow. The same factors apply overseas, especially in European countries. The economy has forced change. It has impacted how we look at the innovation pipeline. Today there is more scrutiny of economies in addition to product performance. This was a driver toward our current international focus.
Q. Give me three words that describe your culture at Davol.
JG: Candid, caring and driven.
Q. How do you develop your workforce?
JG: We have specialized talent needs at Davol --and there are shortages of qualified candidates locally. As a result we search nationally for our talent draw. We recruit from the greater Boston area, where the housing market creates a challenge for prospects looking in that community. RI appeals to our recruits for cost of living (compared with Boston) and quality of life. We find that the folks that do move here, like it. A lot. Davol stays loyal to RI for those factors and the close proximity to Boston. We continually need to recruit and attract talent to evolve and survive.
Q. Why affiliate with an organization like GPCC?
JG: It is important for businesses to be engaged in forums that contribute to and support a strong local economy. Throughout our 98 year association with the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Davol’s GPCC membership provided our management team with that vital link to the RI business community and government leadership, offering a means to interact and participate in local concerns. Through the Chamber’s outreach, Davol participates in the RI Business Plan Competition as judge to help support local job creation and innovation.
Secondary to bridging a means for our community engagement, were the many benefits that accompany GPCC membership.
Bard Davol is the market leader in comprehensive soft tissue reconstruction, delivering a growing line of mesh prosthetics, biologic implants and fixation systems to compliment innovative techniques for inguinal, ventral and other hernia repair procedures. Our researchers are constantly engaged in expanding the range of soft tissue repair with products aimed at providing exceptional quality and value –qualities that clinicians, physicians and patients have come to depend on.