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Picture-perfect growth Featured

1:23pm EDT August 30, 2005
When asked how he handles the rapid growth of his company, Randy Skiles responds with a chuckle.

“Does one ever really manage growth, or does it manage them?” he asks. “Well, you’d like to say that you could, but I think most of the times it tends to manage you.”

While that’s what Skiles says, his track record proves otherwise. As CEO of Shared PET Imaging, a Canton-based company providing PET scanners to hospitals and health care centers, Skiles has managed his company’s recent growth quite successfully. Over the past five years, sales have increased more than 2,500 percent, and operations have expanded into several states.

Smart Business spoke with Skiles about his secrets to managing communications and employees in a fast-growing company.

How have new technologies helped your company grow?

For anyone trying to build a company today, everything’s faster. It’s not like 50 years ago when communications were slower, timelines were slower, technological advances were slower. Now, things are the speed of light. You can do deals faster, you can hire people faster, everything’s much faster, including your competition. You communicate faster, you can communicate much more effectively. You can definitely grow quicker.

What are the drawbacks to fast growth?

One is you sometimes become separated from your customer. If you fall into the habit, as some people do, of e-mailing back and forth, one could say, ‘Well, I’m staying connected more often,’ but in truth, you’re not in front of them.

All businesses today ... welcome the opportunity to communicate more effectively, but they sort of lose that personal touch. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, it just is.

How do you avoid that separation from the customer?

We have regional account specialists that are in the field every day, contacting and developing and continuing to improve our account relationships. Their job is to go out and just visit with our customer base, which are primarily hospitals, and communicate with them on a variety of levels. Are we doing everything that you want us to do? What are we doing in the way of educating your physicians and patient base? We can communicate not only what we’re doing but what they expect of us.

In addition, the regional account specialists can go to the community, they can educate the physicians, the office staff, the patients, they give talks in the community. And in that process, they also solve problems.

How do you convey stability and security to your clients during times of fast growth?

I think it’s staying connected. Good communications. One of the things that I live by is I’d rather solve a problem that’s only a week old, not a year old.

If a regional account specialists goes back in and is talking to the account and says, ‘We’ve upgraded our equipment and want to talk to you about the contract,’ you’re not dealing with a problem that’s been hanging out there a long time. Anyone in growth needs to just handle the problems; listen to the customer and handle the problems effectively.

If we’re sending out a regional account specialist and they’re not effective, they’re not finding out the problems, then we can’t deal with it. So the first thing they’re taught is how to find out the problems.

Don’t go in there and just hear all the good news. Find out — are you happy with the images we’re producing? Are you happy with the technologists? Are we giving you all the right information? What more can we be doing?

How do you solve problems once they’re discovered?

As [problems] come back out, they’re disseminated through the organization and everyone solves those problems. We focus on them, and we get back in there until the customer is absolutely happy. As fast as you can grow based upon all the technology, [customers] can tear your business apart because they can communicate their dissatisfaction fast. So if they’re not happy with you, then they’re going to be able to tell a lot of people.

It’s all about managing. And if you really boil it down to it, it’s people. If you can get in there and do the right things for them and provide the best technology, it’s left up to the people. Am I solving your problems?

You may like me as a person, and we may communicate on some level, kids, fishing, whatever it may be, but at the end of the day, am I solving your problems? If I can do that, then you can go on to the next item on your list.

How do you keep the employees motivated?

People work for their families ... but more importantly, they need personal satisfaction in what they do. We deal in medicine, and we deal with a very sick part of the population. Primarily what we image is cancer, or to find out if someone has cancer.

When we’re dealing in those environments, [employees] really need to feel they’re contributing, that it’s not just a paycheck. Once they feel as though their contribution had an effect on this company, it’s a lot easier for people to feel challenged.

We try to communicate with everyone that, if you were to walk into our office and look at everything that’s been created, it’s been created by the people that work here.

Someone created every form, every instrument, every tool, every policy. We try to make sure that people feel connected to the company in many ways.

How to reach: Shared Pet Imaging, (800) 685-2104 or http://www.sharedpet.com