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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Looking Back and Forward at the Same Time

It has been a long time since I visited Spectranetics Inc. This is the company for which I toiled during the end of the last century and the first four years of the 21st... and if that sounds like a long time ago, for me, it is. In fact, it has been seven years since I worked with the team at SPNC... that's over 10% of my lifetime... and I figured I was a) over it and b) would have forgotten much of the technology and even the people.

I was wrong on both counts. As to a) above, I wasn't over it. So much happened during my tenure there that it is probably impossible to forget.

Perhaps I should explain what SPNC is about... this is a company that develops, manufactures, markets and supports interventional cardiology products. These are the tools with which specially trained physicians (we call them interventional cardiologists, electro-physiology (EP) cardiologists, vascular surgeons and interventional radiologists) might intervien when patients have had, or are about to have a heart attack; have to have a pacemaker replaced; or have clot and plaque build-ups in the lower leg, causing severe pain limited walking ability. These products are in the form of catheters that are threaded through arteries or veins into the heart or peripheral regions of the extremities. They are then attached to a cool temperature (40C) Excimer Laser which 'ablates the plaque, scar tissue or clot that is causing the critical situation for the patient.

OK, so I was wrong about being "over it". I had grown to love the action of the job and the incredible rush one gets when one sees a patient survive and then thrive because a very talented physician used our products to save a patient's life. I guess I will never be over that feeling. When I walked into Spectranetics on Monday, it was like 2004 all over again. I wanted to call my troops and customers and make things happen. More on this feeling later...

I was also wrong about b) above... I had forgotten almost nothing about the clinical aspects of the business, the motivation, the budgets, the customers and especially the team. I always understood that a sales and marketing team is only as good as the product needs analysts; the engineering in the product; the production systems from material purchasing, through manufacturing, and the built-in quality systems; the shipping and receiving teams; the installers and service team and so on... and as I met these people while walking the halls of SPNC, I realized how much they had meant and still mean to me. I also met several people in the administration and non-line organizations... Finance, Human Resources, Planning, IP, IT, Regulatory and so on. And I remembered all of them... except that there were a lot of them no longer with the company. At least I hadn't forgotten... at my age, that's a great thing to realize!

So, I had that feeling that I wanted to call the troops and customers... it was an urge... but when I thought about it afterword, I realized that I would be calling them to say... WOW! I saw a lot more than I had expected to see in the form of energy, commitment, enthusiasm and so on. I didn't need to put my hands on the current catheters... to know that they were probably as good, or better, than we had seven years ago... and those were great! The people I met, and the few that I knew, were able to convey to me that they had a product, a team, and a leadership that is capable of expanding this wonderful technology through the industry.

My experience is that the Excimer laser energized catheters in the hands of talented, experienced interventionalists; in properly triaged patients... has the potential to extend and improve the lives of tens of thousands of people who would otherwise have compromised emergent outcomes. This company has not only survived the many challenges proffered by 'executives past' it has thrived.

With the leadership of the new CEO, Scott Drake; CFO, Guy Childs; and the new Chairman of the Board of Directors, John Fletcher... I am convinced that Spectranetics is on solid ground and will keep developing innovative products in the image of Bob Golobic the founder. For certain I am not here in giving any investment advice, and I should disclose that I have recently purchased 1,000 shares... but I do wish that I still had the many thousands I once purchased as an investor.




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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!