In just over two decades, Mike Miller founded and led Stealth Technologies from a five-man operation supplying high-performance auto parts to its existence today as Orchid Orthopedic Solutions, one of the larger contract manufacturers in orthopaedics. Upon his retirement as CEO, we asked Mr. Miller parting questions—from what he set out to accomplish with Stealth Technologies, to his hardest decision, to his greatest advice to the next generation of orthopaedic leaders.
BONEZONE: On day one of founding Stealth Technologies, what was your vision for the company?
Miller: On day one, I sought to bring the use of near net and net shaped forging to the major OEMs in the orthopaedic industry, as a means of reducing the expensive machining operations that were the norm at the time.
Five years ago, we asked Mr. Miller where he thought the industry would be today. His predictions were on target, in that regulations and price erosion would continue to have strongholds on the industry, and that companies that are able to accept these headwinds as the norm while remaining nimble will be positioned to succeed. That latter prediction is a lesson for five years from now, as well.
Mr. Miller’s answer
from March 2012:
We see steady growth for the companies that have the courage to change and adapt to the market challenges. The next five years will see a lot of changes in our industry. Regulation will always be a challenge, as well as price erosion. Companies that get better will be successful. Companies that don’t will cease to exist. I believe that orthopaedics is still the greatest industry to be in, and we are pleased to play a small part in its success.
BONEZONE: What was the impetus for the company entering orthopaedic device manufacturing? What do you remember about the moment when you thought that orthopaedics would be an attractive market?
Miller: During the early stages of my exposure to the orthopaedic market, I had a chance to get a glimpse of the supply chain, and it seemed fragmented and expensive. Once I began to understand the needs of the industry, I could see the underlying growth opportunities that drive the industry like increased incidences of osteoarthritis, very active people, obesity and especially an aging population that would need reconstruction as a therapy. When you look at where we have been and where we are headed, I believe that my thesis remains valid, and companies like Orchid are needed to meet customer demand for better therapies and cost containment to support rapid future growth.
BONEZONE: Acquisitions have reshaped the supplier market in recent years. Orchid is a good example, as the company has acquired more than a dozen entities and Orchid itself has been acquired. What lessons can you share about M&A?
Miller: Orchid’s acquisitions have been very strategic; these were not random or opportunistic, but were well thought out and designed to enhance Orchid’s relationship with its customers. Orchid has consistently acquired companies that were on the leading edge of the technology they offered and, therefore, were capable of strengthening our customers’ relationships with Orchid. We have looked at many companies, more than you can imagine; by doing so, we became experts in understanding the industry and selecting only acquisitions that increased the value of Orchid to its customers, making Orchid their strategic partner. Integration of the companies Orchid has acquired has been a talent that Orchid has developed, a skill that has allowed new entities to flourish as a part of the Orchid family.
BONEZONE: To reflect a bit on your professional experience, what was the hardest decision you had to make?
Miller: I must say that this is a difficult question to answer. It seems that some of the most difficult problems I faced required hard decisions, which all took deep reflection and some tenacity during my career. I think when I decided to bring in financial partners to Orchid, that initially was a very difficult decision. But, looking back on that decision, it now seems like a no-brainer. Without the capital to acquire new technologies, Orchid would never have reached the size and scale it enjoys today. Looking back, I also now appreciate the great people from those companies who had faith in Orchid, and me, and our team, taking risks that were essential to our success. It was a scary decision at the time, but, it created the most capable and valuable company in contract manufacturing in the orthopaedic business that exists today. I am very thankful for companies like Altor, our current financial partners, for their trust and faith in Orchid and can now, in retirement, look back on the road we traveled together and say proudly that we are truly partners.
BONEZONE: What is your most significant professional accomplishment?
Miller: The obvious answer would be that when we started in late 1989, we had a concept and nothing, literally nothing, and today we have almost 2,000 employees with 15 plants around the world, with operations in five different countries. But the truth is that my proudest accomplishment is really that I was lucky enough to work with some incredible people. I would love to list all the people who contributed to Orchid’s success, but it would take up more room than you might be inclined to give this article. The people who make up the Orchid family are truly extraordinary, and deserve all of the credit for Orchid’s stature and standing in the market today. Some people have left, retired, moved on to greater heights, but all contributed to Orchid’s success. It was working with all of those people, and having the pleasure of leading and learning from them, that I will treasure as my greatest professional and certainly personal accomplishment.
BONEZONE: In your experience, what are the key attributes of a successful businessperson? Have those attributes changed in the last ten, fifteen years? How?
Miller: I have a couple of things that I would say about the successful business people I have met, that led to my using the things that I observed, and the lessons that I learned along the way. I always answer this question like this: there is nothing more valuable or more important in making your chosen endeavor a success than “dogged persistence.” There are so many naysayers in the world; all along the path to building your dream, if you have any moment of timidity, or if you quit, you will be swallowed alive by people who want to prove that you are wrong, and would enjoy being the ones to say “I told you so.” Belief and “dogged persistence” have served me well in this journey. I made many mistakes along the way, but I never gave up on the core values of our company: to provide everyone associated or connected to Orchid a chance to ”live a better life,” from patients we will never meet, to customers who placed their faith in us, to employees who gave incredible effort, to vendors who served us (like ORTHOWORLD founders John and Shirley Engelhardt), to companies that invested and risked much on our vision, to every person who has interacted with Orchid.
BONEZONE: Last remarks. What advice would you offer a young person entering the ranks of an orthopaedic company?
Miller: If you are entering the orthopaedic service industry today, you have made a good decision because this is an exciting, changing, growing business—so it needs you. Take your position seriously, as people are placing a tremendous amount of trust in you, and enjoy what will be a great ride!