Hands up if you’ve ever heard of the Tribe Medical Group. No? How about Arthrex Inc.? OK, never mind.
Although few people in London and Southwestern Ontario have heard of either company, there’s a very good chance many of them have used the companies’ products. Some are walking around with them every day, following arthroscopic or orthopaedic surgeries.
Thousands of people have pins, rods, joints and other items in their bodies, giving them relief from pain and something approaching full range of motion. Florida-based Arthrex makes the devices, and London-based Tribe sells them across Canada.
Surgeons in all parts of the country depend on Tribe to deliver the specialized devices and products they need to perform surgery on their patients. As you can read in my cover story for this month’s Business London magazine, it’s a role Tribe takes very seriously. Since 2008, the company has grown impressively and now employs 80 people.
With sales this year of about $36-million, it’s still a bit of a niche. But co-founder and president Gordon McArthur is perfectly happy with that. He wants the company to continue offering specialized and personal service to its customers – a few hundred surgeons scattered across Canada.
“Arthrex sells about $2-billion every year. We’re a tiny part of that. We have a great relationship with them, but they mostly just leave us alone and let us do our thing,” he says.
Arthrex is privately held by its founder and contracts with companies like Tribe to sell its products worldwide. Tribe trains its own sales force with an intensive six-month intern program and never stops stressing the importance of helping surgeons help their patients.
It’s one thing to emphasize customer service if you’re a craft beer rep making sure an independent bar gets exactly what it needs on hot summer weekend. The stakes are slightly higher when a surgeon is counting on her rep to deliver a new hip or knee joint going into a patient first thing Monday morning.
Tribe stocks about 4,500 products and has access to thousands more, including tissue and organs from a separate supplier.
Because it specializes in sports injury repairs and minimally invasive surgeries, it would be hyperbole to say Tribe is in the business of saving lives. But it’s absolutely true to say it’s in the business of improving the quality of life for thousands of people every year. The fact that few of those people have ever heard of Tribe doesn’t make it any less true.