As the year winds down, the "2011 Year in Review" has brought to light many of the problems that continue to exist in the spine. What we have learned over the last few years is that our recidivistic nature supersedes our ability to execute. TSB loves to quote Einstein's definition of insanity for the obvious reasons. Management in spine companies are fused in a time warp. They have forgotten where they came from and how they got there, regardless of what you believe, money and power can have a way of obfuscating reality. Dilution or is it delusion occurs. The eventual outcome is that many of these leaders forget what it took to get out of the box, or never understood what out of the box really meant. Considering that out of the box means moving in diverging directions which could potentially result in novel or innovative ideas, the fact remains that when you become the Street's bitch, you eventually lose the eye of the tiger or sometimes the eye of the cheetah. Shareholder value, that becomes your focus, don't believe TSB, just sit in on a Stryker or NuVasive call. Just look at Steve Jobs, love him or envy him, he was a visionary, an outlier, albeit in a completely different industry. It was always about the product. Yet, whatever the inevitable, some of us will leave the industry in a wooden box, while some will leave in a gilded box. The difference is that a gilded box influences others to believe that you were successful, because money is still perceived as a sign of success and power, sometimes even anointing one to sainthood. Regardless, what the Street has predicted for our industry, many continue to live in the past. What worked at Medtronic, J&J, Zimmer, Synthes, or Stryker in the roaring eighties and nineties has outlived its usefulness. The battlefield terrain has changed. The rules of engagement have change and the question remains do the generals have the ability to adapt and survive? Getting your testi's handed to you can be a humbling experience, just look at Nuvasive's recent demise in the stock market. How long does Alex and his minions plan on riding XLiF and neuro-monitoring? As one of our commentators suggested, the stock for this company is a highly manipulated stock. Isn't that a barometer of the lack of confidence that investors have in a company that once touted their innovation and responsiveness as cheetah like? How quickly Lukianov forgets, but then again, isn't some of this about smoke and mirrors? One can only ride the propaganda machine that your public relations company spits out on your behalf so long and then, it's game time. Yes, there are isolated exceptions, whereby some companies are showing growth. But in the larger picture, they are small companies generating growth by shear will, while some do it by buying business a la POD's and POC's. But, as far as the big boys go, or those that want to grow up, let TSB quote one of our favorite philosopher's Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri, "fuggedaboutit." Organic development is something the food industry has learned to capitalize on, the spine industry has lost focus and direction with how it arrived at this fork in the road, vis-a-vis INNOVATION and CAPITALIZATION, and we have no one to blame except ourselves. Where are the emerging technologies? The readers are correct when they poke fun at and criticize the industry leaders. Many can thumb their smug noses, but time eventually catches up with you, just take a visit to the graveyard of spine. Stability, not volatility and movement have reigned over the years, and then for some reason a school of thought emerged that if you are not growing by leaps and bounds, a sudden change in direction will solve your growth problems. It would be interesting to identify when this mercenary attitude become prevalent. Just look at some of the companies within the industry, they are a revolving door. Are the expectations unrealistic? You be the judge.
Consolidation is not a thing of the past, it is the future. No fellow readers the days of start-ups will not disappear. But, it has become difficult to launch anything unless it is truly an emerging technology. Many smaller companies are finding this out the hard way. Access to capital as in the pre-2008 bubble burst is long gone, and with that, so are the excessive valuations. Not only are many of you attempting to figure out how to survive in the battlefield, you are also dealing with leaders that still want to fight in a conventional war. In today's market place, the sales representative or manager that has the ability to preserve and sustain your customer loyalty and revenue is much more valuable, than the gunslinger that rides into town and promises you the world, for the obvious reasons. There are no magic bullets. In addition, they are a hired hand, until the next deal comes along regardless whether its a distributor or surgeon. The tenured sales rep or manager at your company knows what the challenges are that must be addressed in order to maintain your business, the question is does anyone on your executive management team listen and have the cojones to execute, or, does it fall on deaf ears? Is your company listening and being responsive to your battlefield needs? Do you have the ability to be pro-active rather than reactive? But then this has been our point all along. Are you better off than you were two years ago? Maybe that's why we all laugh at the industry. How do you sell when you have no samples, no marketing collaterals, no bone models, an inadequate training program not just on the clinical issues, but on the environmental issues that you are challenged with on a day-to-day basis? Think how absurd it is when company executives claim that they don't want to be like the company that they previously worked for, yet surround themselves with the same people that they worked with at that other company? Create a new culture? Highly unlikely. More like an attempt to catch lightening in a bottle by copying that culture because you think you can do it better, and then one day you wake up and you realize that you are no different than the company that you claim you did not want to be like. You've become the 4,000 pound Gorilla that has an inability to innovate because everything becomes an exercise in accounting, you need to have meetings because everyone needs to cover their ass or wants to be heard, so all that execution that you once told the market you were capable of doing better and faster has come down to a grinding halt. The result is that you start losing customers. You know the people that will only tolerate your BS to a point and then shut you down by moving to another company or product. Surgeons are customers, and an unhappy customer means you're in trouble. So as Jethro Tull once sang,
Happy and I'm smiling walk a mile to drink you water
You know I'd love to love you and above you there's no other
We'll go walking out while others shout of war's disaster
Oh, we won't give in let's go living in the past
Once I use to join in every boy and girl was my friend
Now there's revolution, but they don't know what their fighting
Let us close our eyes outside our lives go on much faster
Oh, we won't give in let's go living in the past
TSB wants to know what you think.