A former hospital sales rep with American Hospital Supply Corp., Bill McKnight launched Medical Products Sales magazine in 1969. It was the first magazine to target the medical distributor sales rep, and reflected McKnight’s belief that it was the distributor sales rep – not management – who largely controlled and moved market share.
Several years after its launch, MPS became the official journal of the American Surgical Trade Association (later, HIDA). McKnight himself became a well-recognized figure in the industry, attending shows, accepting speaking engagements, playing the clarinet and getting to know salespeople and CEOs alike.
After founding MPS, McKnight went on to start three other healthcare publications: Pharmaceutical Salesman, Purchasing Administration (for hospital purchasing agents) and Today’s Nursing Home. (McKnight owned a small nursing home chain in north suburban Chicago.) He sold his company – McKnight Medical Communications – in 1986. That same year he founded HMMC, an association of senior-level marketing and sales executives with medical products manufacturers.
George Ransdell is recognized as a pioneer in fostering computerization among medical products distributors. A medical corpsman in the Navy during World War II, he founded Ransdell Surgical in Louisville, Ky., in 1958. He explored the benefits of electronic data interchange and automated inventory control for his own firm, and recognized the value of helping his customers automate as well. He introduced an automated inventory-control system for his customers called RSVP.
Recognizing the threat that industry consolidation and group purchasing organizations presented to independent distributors in the 1980s, Ransdell and several others explored starting a national selling organization. To be called the American Medical Distributors Association, the group would have presented itself as a national seller to group purchasing organizations, and hence, compete with the national distributors.
The organization never came to fruition, but Ransdell came to realize that the only way such an organization could compete with national companies would be by gathering data electronically from all its members throughout the country. In 1985, he brought Bill Bartoccini to Louisville to explore the use of automated systems to create a national selling organization. Out of those discussions was born Choice Medical Distribution. Choice signed on 21 distributor franchisees by 1993, but lost many of them to consolidation. Ransdell changed course and began offering the Choice automated system to distributors who otherwise could not afford to develop their own systems. The intent was that these distributors would offer automated systems to their customers, so that their customers could order electronically from the distributors. In this way, independent dealers could compete with what Ransdell called “the bigs.”
Ransdell sold his company to Bergen Brunswig Corp. in October 1998. Its annual sales were $58 million at the time.