New Faces in O&P Leadership

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A conversation with Kenneth Wilson.

Kenneth Wilson

In the second installment of our interview series with two company chiefs who are relative newcomers to O&P, The O&P EDGE talks vision and goals with Kenneth Wilson, president and chief operating officer of SPS, headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia. Prior to joining SPS in September 2011, Wilson spent more than 20 years with Cardinal Health, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, specializing in the delivery of medical/surgical and pharmaceutical products to physician offices, ambulatory surgery centers, clinical laboratories, and other outpatient care sites, rising to the position of senior vice president/general manager.

O&P EDGE: What is the most important factor in your organization?

Wilson: Organizations are complicated; one single theory is difficult as so many things are critical. We place great emphasis on our people and our customers. We want to continue to grow our organization's talent, developing our people for greater things today, as well as additional leadership in the future. Create great people, and the organization's successful progression will follow. Regarding our customers, we need to truly understand their needs and create value for them. Our focus on our people and our customers goes hand in hand.

O&P EDGE: What is your vision for your organization?

Wilson: At SPS, we participate in a number of businessesódistribution, labs, shoes and inserts, and manufacturing. If I have one vision for all facets of our organization, it is excellence in all that we do. We must ask these questions daily: Are we excellent? If not, can we be? What must we do to get there? We must never be content with anything less than excellence in sales, manufacturing, production, customer satisfaction, and everything else we do.

O&P EDGE: What are your top goals for your organization?

Wilson: The overall goal of SPS is growth in who we are and what we provide. We have the people and platform to do so. To do this, we must:

  • Continue to improve our value proposition to our customers. More than ever, our customers need us to come through for them. It is critical that we continue to add value to those relationships through our services and delivery.
  • Continue to enhance our supply chain partner relationships. That means we have to choose good partners. After doing so, we have to deliver for them as they deliver for us.
  • We must integrate more advanced technology into our businesses for efficiency and ease of doing business.

O&P EDGE: What challenges will you have to overcome to meet these goals?

Wilson: No doubt, the economy has made reimbursement and legislative aspects of the healthcare environment uncertain. To reach our goals, we must seek new ways and services that will help make our customers more successful in what will be a challenging future for all. Though we are very well positioned to do this, we will all have to push ourselves, think differently, and change more quickly than ever.

O&P EDGE: Where do your organization's best ideas come from?

Wilson: Really, a number of places. First, many come from the expressed needs of our customers. To be responsive, you sometimes find you need to go in a different direction. Second, a number of excellent ideas come from our employees in the field who work directly with patients and customers every day. They see it and understand it. We also have a talented and developing leadership team with a clear vision supported by a robust combination of experience and strategic foresight. We also examine the industry for thoughts and ideas. There is nothing wrong with imitation.

O&P EDGE: What is the one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?

Wilson: A very smart man once said, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." So vision is key. Aside from vision, a leader must be fearless and passionate in execution, flexible in dealing with people and circumstances, and elevating in posture.

O&P EDGE: Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader? How did this individual impact your life and career?

Wilson: There have been many great friends, coaches, and teachers who have influenced me, but two in particular come to mind. My father was a poor man and a farmer/sharecropper. His work ethic, dignity, pride, and joyous approach always influenced me. He was also the nicest man I have ever met. In business, it was a man named Mark Parrish, formerly president of a pharmacy group at my previous employer, Cardinal Health. He noted my strengths, but challenged me not to be too dependent upon them. Because of him, I discovered new strengths I did not know I had. I would not be here if it were not for him.

O&P EDGE: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

Wilson: First, I try to hire great people who bring different strengths to our organization. Given that, I had better listen. We encourage openness to other perspectives and listening to our teammates and partners in every scenario. We also look to industries outside our business. Creativity and innovation are critical in these times.

O&P EDGE: What is the biggest challenge facing the O&P industry today?

Wilson: In my opinion, it is the tremendous gravity pushing down on our business legislatively and regarding reimbursement. We will continue to work with our customers and partners in new and creative ways to keep our businesses viable as they are now.

O&P EDGE: Do you work with other business and/or thought leaders in the O&P industry to communicate core needs, values, and/or issues? If so, how do you do this?

Wilson: Yes. Our affiliation with the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy), the Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA), and other organizations, customers, and supply chain partners give us great insight into the industry. We also stay in tune with our competitors and important leaders who impact our industry. We will continue to do this.

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