Strong customer focus and empowered employees produce strong results
Norine Carlson-Weber has always had a passion for excellence. After being laid off in 1986, she decided to take matters into her own hands and started her own company, Alpha Source, Inc. Carlson-Weber’s relentless efforts to improve processes and empower employees is reflected in the company’s growth and success today. Alpha Source is a thriving business focused on manufacturing and distributing medical devices, replacement parts and supplies. The Milwaukee-based company has 35 employees and posted $12.2 million in 2009 sales.
Employees Focus on the Customer
“Our customers are our top priority in everything we do,” said Carlson-Weber. “In departmental meetings and training, we strive to have everyone understand what we do really impacts our customers and impacts health care. Clearly that is very important. So we instill that value in our employees and try to provide the best working environment we can.”
As with any growing company, there have been some points where tough decisions had to be made. In early 2009, Carlson-Weber realized the time had come to address the company’s high cost of acquiring new customers. She’d heard positive feedback about WMEP from another business owner, so she sought assistance from WMEP. “WMEP was a good fit because of the breadth of their expertise and experience in working with small firms like mine,” said Carlson-Weber. “Having someone outside our organization take a look at the issues we were facing gave us a fresh perspective on ideas for improvement,” she added.
A Strong “Family” Culture
“The first step in the process was to get a good understanding of the culture,” said Keith Bergen, WMEP’s regional manager and sales development specialist. “Alpha Source had a very strong ‘family’ culture actively supported by management.” Employees are encouraged to get job-related specialized training and take advantage of tuition reimbursement. This approach supports Alpha Source’s internal promotion policy. The company also promotes a healthy and comfortable environment for employees, including an on-site fitness facility.
The results of the culture assessment revealed that the source of the high cost of getting new customers stemmed from poor productivity in the inside sales department. The difficult decision was made to downsize and restructure the sales operation and augment it with a field sales staff. Additional training was provided for employees who assumed greater responsibility and larger territories. “Our analysis revealed that the best way to approach sales of medical devices is through building a face-to-face relationship with the customer, rather than focusing on telephone sales alone,” said Bergen.
Sales Restructuring and Training: Productive Change
As a result, Alpha Source hired its first regional account manager for the Midwest. Though the manager had experience in direct sales, he lacked experience in the complex medical device market. “The company believed that a highly motivated employee who wanted to learn could master the complexities of the market with a little time and training as well as coaching and mentoring from WMEP,” Bergen said.
The sales restructuring plan, including the addition of the regional manager position, paid off quickly. The next month, sales increased 20%, despite having fewer employees focused on sales. “Adding a field sales force is something that was necessary and it’s been good for us,” said Carlson-Weber. ”It’s helped us increase our business, especially in the Wisconsin and Illinois markets. We plan to roll that business model out in strategic locations throughout the United States, and I think that will give us a significant increase in sales in the next year.”
WMEP Delivered Substantial ROI
Carlson-Weber said the firm’s investment in WMEP services delivered a substantial ROI and put Alpha Source on a solid financial footing for future growth and expansion. ”The savings we’ve achieved will help us purchase new equipment to further our production, as well as add personnel with specific skill sets to support future growth.”
“I’ve provided sales assessment and training in many manufacturing environments,” said Bergen, “and Alpha Source is unique in its commitment to customers and its commitment to managing the talent in its organization. Norine and her team are providing training and development opportunities that encourage employees to give 110%, all of the time. I look forward to seeing how far Alpha Source can go.”
To visit Alpha Source’s website, go to: www.alphasource.com