That’s an oversimplification of what the president and CEO of PhotoMedex has done to grow the Montgomeryville medical products company, but not by much.
When O’Donnell came on board six years ago, he shifted the focus of the business from products for cardiology to those for plastic surgeons and a new treatment for skin disorders. He has also acquired two companies to add both product lines and experienced sales and technical personnel to the PhotoMedex competitive arsenal.
The fast ramp-ups have resulted in rapid sales growth, with revenue reaching $28 million in 2005 and expected to hit $38 million this year. O’Donnell says that growth has been key to both attracting and retaining talent.
And while acquisitions are a part of his future strategy, O’Donnell says he’ll be selective about the companies PhotoMedex acquires, making sure that both the people and the product are a good fit.
Says O’Donnell: “We have to make sure that we focus like a bullet in flight on the products we have at hand and that we don’t get carried away with growth for growth’s sake.”
Smart Business spoke with O’Donnell about the challenges of building a business and how he attracts top talent to his company.
What has been the greatest challenge in building PhotoMedex?
One of the most challenging things is to recruit the type of talent that you need. You’ve got a small company in a region that’s flush with opportunities, so PhotoMedex has to rise above the rest and sell its cutting-edge technology.
The laser for treating psoriasis and skin disorders is a brand new idea. So the initial quest was to get out there and be heads above the crowd with new technology and try to get that talent. That’s the most difficult thing.
Once you’ve got your initial management team in place and the technology surrounded by strong intellectual property, then what you want to do is surround it with the key opinion leaders in your field, and we’ve got the who’s who in dermatology, patents and the management team.
How did you develop your work force?
After the research and development of the product was completed, we hired a sales organization, and that sales organization was very small until we knew that the product was ready to be launched in a larger way. Then what we did is bought a company called ProCyte Corp., and that brought a whole line of specialty pharmaceutical products for dermatology and plastic surgery.
They also brought an entire sales and marketing team, 25 direct salespeople and seven direct marketing people. So you can see how the company evolved from your basic development stage company with that acquisition, which led us to the commercial phase.
Once we knew that the product was going to be developed and the salespeople started selling it, we bought a company called Surgical Laser Technology in Montgomeryville, a very successful laser manufacturing company.
It was a high-flying laser company. They were making most of their products for the operating room. Once we knew that XTRAC was going to be successful, we made the acquisition of SLT, and they brought another 150 people into the company.
How have you attracted top talent in a competitive market?
A lot of people think they’d like to get trained by the large companies and then get out. And we pay competitive salaries. We don’t pay much less than the large companies, but the benefit we give our employees is that they have stock options in a small and growing company, which can be very valuable, and they can make an impact much quicker here than they could at a large company.
At Boston Scientific as their product manager, it took me nine months to change the label of a product from white to blue. Here, we can do that this afternoon.
It’s one thing to attract talent, but how have you managed to retain it?
One of the things I’m most proud of with PhotoMedex is that very few people have left the company since its inception six years ago, even through the original phase of starting the company. Very few people have left, not even a handful, and we have over 200 employees today.
It’s because, I think, that they clearly understand the vision, they see it demonstrated every single day that we have the ability to do what we say we’re going to do. We promise and deliver as much as we can, and that kind of credibility with the people that work for you is invaluable.
Six years ago, we had zero sales, this year, $38 million in sales, next year much more than that, so they really believe that we can be a $200 million medical device and specialty pharmaceutical company.
How to reach: PhotoMedex, www.photomedex.com