On the heels of National Manufacturing Day, I had the opportunity to visit one of Utah’s largest medical device manufacturers—Merit Medical. As I walked through the halls of Merit’s expansive South Jordan campus I wasn’t just struck by its size, but more so the ability of the company’s Chairman, CEO and Founder, Fred Lampropoulos, to remember the name of every employee we passed along the way. When you consider that there are more than 2,000 people who work at Merit’s global headquarters in South Jordan, you realize the kind of leader Fred Lampropoulos is—one who hasn’t forgotten about his humble roots and who truly exemplifies the lessons he learned as a U.S. military and combat officer.
Fred isn’t shy about sharing the story about how his family found themselves in Salt Lake City, Utah. How at 14 years old, he was told by his mother to gather up his belongings and throw them in a bag because they were leaving Boston and heading to Utah, and how their first home in Salt Lake City was Pioneer Park, where his family lived in their car for close to two weeks. If it weren’t for the Greek community and Ted Speros of Lamb’s Café, Fred doesn’t know where his family would have ended up. He says the generosity of the community, and specifically that of Speros, taught him the importance of giving back.
“I think the important thing that I’ve learned, and the thing that I’ve tried to do, is to try to find the balance of building a business and taking care of my employees, but also being involved in the community to the best of our ability,” said Lampropoulos. “So whether it be the Junior Jazz, or the Tuacahn in southern Utah, Utah Opera up in Logan, or whether it be STEM education…the homeless shelter, the Food Bank, the Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army…Here at Merit, we’ve really tried to do what companies ought to do, and I think we’ve been immensely blessed and rewarded for those things.”
Fred Lampropoulos founded Merit Medical in 1987 with the goal of becoming the world’s most customer-focused health care company. Now, 30 years later, Merit is a leading manufacturer and marketer of disposable medical devices and holds over 800 patents and pending applications representing thousands of inventions used in diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic procedures. With facilities in the United States, The Netherlands, France, Ireland, China, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Singapore and Australia, Merit Medical employs close to 6,000 people and generates nearly a $1 billion in global revenues.
“15,000 patients a day have their lives spared or improved because of a product Merit makes,” said Lampropoulos. “Every single day.”
As you may well have guessed, Fred is not the kind of leader who takes credit for his company’s success; instead he always makes a point to celebrate the team. “To have a staff of people who have been around, who understand the culture, who understand the message and who have that loyalty—that’s what helped build this business,” said Lampropoulos.
But in this day and age, and with Utah’s tight labor market, how do you build a team of loyal employees? It’s not just about remembering people’s names says Lampropoulos, “it’s about making sure the work experience keeps people interested and involved in your business.”
It’s about having things like a health care clinic. While Merit Medical strives to “improve the lives of people, families, and community,” its mission starts with their employees. At the Merit Care Clinic employees, their spouses and children can get easy access to treatment. “We have our own doctors here,” said Lampropoulos. “Our employees can go down and get a prescription filled here. Our next thing is to put in a dental clinic, because I didn’t get good dental care as a kid and as an adult you kind of pay for it. It’s expensive and it’s time consuming, and so to have the ability to bring your family here and be able to get dental care, cleaning and basic dentistry, it’s really kind of neat and something I really want to do.”
Putting his employees first, looking out for his troops so to speak, is something Lampropoulos learned during his days in the U.S. Army. “I was taught three simple things, if you keep your men informed, if you feed them—look after of them, and if you don’t put your interest in front of theirs, they will follow you to the ends of the earth and they’ll die for you,” said Lampropoulos. “Think about those simple rules in business, pretty simple stuff, but those are the keys to success and they’ll get you just about anywhere you want to go.”