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Scott Carlile speaks to KC Roundtable about running lean | KC Roundtable

Scott Carlile; Progressive Medical, Inc.

Scott Carlile; Pro­gres­sive Med­ical, Inc.

is the founder of Pro­gres­sive Med­ical, Inc. ( PMI ), a med­ical device com­pany spe­cial­iz­ing in air mat­tresses for patients suf­fer­ing from bed sores. Carlile owned and oper­ated the com­pany for 18 years before sell­ing the com­pany early last year.

Carlile cred­its much of PMI ’s suc­cess with “luck,” but, after detail­ing the company’s his­tory to KC Round­table , it’s easy to see that “luck” was mostly derived from delib­er­ate, strate­gic design, like con­cen­tra­tion on:

  1. Run­ning “lean and mean:” Carlile and his wife ran the busi­ness by them­selves for eight long years, even split­ting work­space with a land­scap­ing com­pany to share the bur­den of rent and util­ity expenses. Ded­i­ca­tion to stay­ing so lean enabled PMI to stay debt free, at one point pay­ing for a ser­vice truck in cash. And, when it was finally time to grow, PMI could offer lucra­tive salaries to top-tier talent.
  2. Serv­ing a niche mar­ket: Dis­cov­er­ing (and solv­ing) a prob­lem with the sta­tus quo helped PMI vault to buy­out sta­tus. Pris­ons needed air mat­tresses for injured inmates, but with only one or two sup­pli­ers, the pris­ons were forced to pay huge pre­mi­ums for the com­modi­ties. PMI wedged its high-quality prod­uct into the mar­ket at a con­sid­er­ably lower price, help­ing the pris­ons real­ize 45 per­cent sav­ings. The lower price point ignited high-volume trans­ac­tions, PMI still turned a decent profit, and the pen­i­ten­tiary mar­ket now accounts for 70 per­cent of PMI ’s revenue.
  3. Qual­ity cus­tomer ser­vice: Carlile once left a fam­ily vaca­tion to tend to a cus­tomer ser­vice issue in per­son. His wife drove three hours to Omaha while eight months preg­nant to help a client sim­ply plug in a cord. Fol­low­ing the time­less “The Cus­tomer Is Always Right” mantra, Carlile gave every client his cell phone num­ber to ensure each cus­tomer received the high­est level of response and atten­tion. The open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion between the Carliles and their clients even­tu­ally ini­ti­ated free cus­tomer feed­back and mar­ket research, which helped PMI expand its prod­uct lines relevantly.

In light of its suc­cesses, Carlile still faced a few dis­ap­point­ments. While most entre­pre­neurs feel the sting­ing sour remorse of grow­ing too fast, Carlile actu­ally regrets grow­ing too slowly. As soon as Carlile hired a sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive, prof­its soared; if only they’d made that move to grow sooner, Carlile pre­dicts PMI would have per­formed two to three times bet­ter. Fear is what kept PMI ’s growth slow at first. Carlile admits, “If I could give my 17-year-old daugh­ter any advice about entre­pre­neur­ship, it would be to take risks. Don’t ever be afraid of failure.”

is president of Tether New Media , which helps B2B companies raise website traffic by 10 to 30 percent. Follow her .

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