An MD&DI August 1999 ColumnCreative Thinker Succeeds by Adapting to New Environments
In search of an outlet for his creative talents, John Redmond, vice president and general manager of medical devices for Gliatech (Cleveland), used to dream of becoming a writer. With this goal in mind, he earned his BA degree in English. But after interviewing for several newspaper positions, his practical side forced him to reconsider his choice and undergo a reality check. "I had to eat," he states bluntly. In light of this statement, it seems fitting that Redmond found a job as a sales representative in the food industry. But while this may have kept him well fed, it didn't nourish his desire for creativity.
It was only in 1976 when Redmond started working as a sales representative for Codman (Randolph, MA), a market leader in neurosurgery, that he found the outlet he was seeking. "I fell in love with the surgery side of the business," he says. "And as I began to develop my career in the medical device industry, I was able to satisfy my creative side by helping surgeons develop instruments." Redmond would observe surgery so that he could determine what problems the surgeons were having. He would then attempt to develop an instrument that would help them solve a particular problem.
In 1980, Redmond started working for V. Mueller (Niles, IL), where he continued to design neurosurgical products. As product manager for neurosurgery, he developed and introduced the Collis spinal set, which generated sales of more than $1 million per year. It was during this time that Redmond began to gain the knowledge and experience that would eventually help him to start his own business. Craig Moore, Mueller's vice president of marketing, served as a mentor to Redmond in this regard by allowing him to manage the neurosurgical product line as if it were his own company. "Craig really allowed me to grow and experience many things at a product manager level," says Redmond.
After five years with V. Mueller, Redmond continued his work in neurosurgery as business development manager for Aesculap (Burlingame, CA). In 1989, he and his former wife Jill started Redmond NeuroTechnologies Corp. in their basement. "I founded my own company because I was frustrated with the fact that large companies didn't really listen to the customer," Redmond explains. "Too many would discontinue products if the market wasn't large enough. Their decisions were based on internal economics and not on customers' needs." Redmond decided that his company would focus on one specialtyneurosurgery. The company operated for eight years, until the consolidation that was taking place in the industry started to dry up Redmond's distribution channels and he decided to sell the business.
After selling the company to NeuroCare Group (Pleasant Prairie, WI) in 1997, Redmond stayed on as vice president of marketing and business development until he was recruited by Gliatech, a company that researches, develops, and commercializes therapeutic products based on understanding the properties of glial cells, a major component of the nervous system. Redmond's primary responsibility is the commercialization of the Adcon product line, a series of proprietary, resorbable gels and liquids designed to inhibit postsurgical scarring and adhesions that occur when tissues and organs bind together. The product is applied directly to the surgical site, providing a barrier between tissues and organs. After approximately four weeks, the gels and liquids are absorbed naturally by the body.
For Redmond, one of the greatest challenges has been taking what was essentially a biotechnology company and building a medical device business. "It's a different world for some of the people involved in the company," he says. "One of the challenges management faces is changing and adapting the culture of the organization to a more commercialized type of business. We are currently going through a strategic planning process to address these issues and create a unique vision for what we see as a hybrid type of company."
Redmond believes that companies must be willing to adapt if they are going to succeed. "I think one of the mistakes that a lot of companies and managers make is that they don't stay open to change. This industry is changing so rapidly that you really need to be able to evaluate your position and adapt frequently." He also recommends managers surround themselves with a diverse group of employees who not only buy into the direction that the company is taking, but challenge them on issues as well. "The key is people," Redmond stresses, "not only employees, but customers as well. This product has so many applications, and customers are saying, 'We can use this product here, we can use it there.' We really need to listen to them."
Kassandra S. Kania is associate editor of MD&DI.