Zoning In with Trent Northcutt

Since its founding in February 2012, Aurora Spine has launched more than a dozen products and became a public company traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange. BONEZONE® discussed the keys to growth management with Aurora Spine CEO Trent Northcutt at the International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery Annual Meeting.

BONEZONE: In the last year, you’ve announced a CE Mark, two 510(k) clearances and launched on the Toronto Stock Exchange, just to name a few milestones. As the CEO, how have you managed company growth?

Northcutt: We set out to raise private money first. None of it came from surgeons; we did it through private individuals. We grew the way we did because we wanted to pay back our investors. One of the biggest groups that invested in the company actually came out of Canada, so we went public on the Toronto Exchange on September 10 of last year.

We wanted to create a company that was modern, that was advanced and that was going to make a difference in the market. It wasn’t just about revenue; it was about ingenuity and being unique and new to the industry, and if we found products already on the market that we liked, we wanted to make them better. We worked our way to the Toronto Exchange to pay back out investors. We opened up at 70 cents and closed that same day at $1.40.

BONEZONE: A handful of orthopaedic and spine companies have gone public in the last year or so. Are IPOs becoming a trend?

Northcutt: It certainly seems as though it’s a little trend. What it does is give you two sources of capital—it gives you cash and it gives you stock. It allows you to work in two different ways, because you can trade with stock and create more value, and you don’t drain your cash as fast.

You have to have a stomach for going public, because you’re going to undergo a lot of scrutiny, transparency. You have to have your ducks in a row financially, and your team has to be ready. I recommend that everyone use an IPO checklist to see if their team or company is ready.

BONEZONE: What does the checklist cover?

Northcutt: Transparency—document details, reporting, audits. Moving toward an IPO, you have to be focused. You have to be available to investors, because they’ll want to talk to you about how the company’s doing. You have to prepare for and attend new types of meetings. You have to attend shareholder meetings. You have to attend industry financial meetings to present the story of your company. We like it because we have a good story—it’s fun to tell over and over again.

BONEZONE: What opportunities have going public afforded Aurora Spine?

Northcutt: No. 1, it helps us with hospital approvals. Some hospitals are asking for companies to be publically traded. No. 2, it’s going to give us a nice platform, a springboard. Our goal is NASDAQ in spring of 2015. No. 3, it allows people to look at Aurora. There are a lot PODs. We’re an anti-POD company. We don’t sell to them; we don’t take money from position groups. The fact that we’re public now, surgeons, reps, hospital administrators, friends and family can invest in Aurora if they believe in the company.

BONEZONE: What advice do you have for others on managing fast growth, whether that be product lines, new markets, etc.?

Northcutt: You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I tend to work with the same people again and again. I’ve been fortunate to work with talented surgeons who have always given me a shot at selling another product portfolio. I’ve also worked with tremendous distributors around the country that have followed me from one decision to the next. They’ve said, ”Okay, I know that this is a company whose management team is going to give me the things that I’m used to getting, and I know that they’re going to do something new.’ “ The advice would be to stay true to the people who got you to where you are now, because that’s the reason why you’re there. Live every day with an attitude of gratitude.

BONEZONE: You’ve been in the medical device industry for two decades. What lessons have you learned?

Northcutt: I’ve learned to be humble, because you don’t always get what you want; you don’t always know what’s going to be the next change. In medical, one day the pendulum is swinging this way and the next day it’s swinging back. You have to find your center. What do you believe in? What are your core values? What are your company’s core values? That will provide you with boundaries and won’t allow you to swing to the right or the left, because you’re never going to catch the next trend.