When Valeri Marks interviewed for the Medical Technology Associates CEO post, she instantly connected with the owners.
“It’s a nice sized company, and the owners had a vision of growth,” she said. They identified deep issues and she was eager to take them on. In September 2013, she became CEO of the family-owned company that provides testing services and equipment to hospitals and pharmacies to ensure compliance with patient life safety codes for medical gas, bacteria/mold and airflow.
When she took over, everything was up for review. Years of prior management running way too lean took a toll. She dug into operational issues in accounts receivable, inventory, process improvement, employee policies.
The culture also needed a lot of work. Initially, employees set in their ways pushed back with excuses like “we’ve always done it this way.” So Marks made trips to company offices and strategized, granting local empowerment to fix things, but ensuring she had measurement and follow up methods to be sure.
“Trust but verify, If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your customers.”
When the business started to turn around, the owners responded.
“The message was, you start showing you can get on the right trajectory and we’ll reinvest,” she said. That was also confidence in Marks’ turnaround skills, she said. The company bought new vehicles and computers.
To succeed, Marks mentored her five regional managers on P&L growth and launched a customer retention system to inspect gross margins. She helped restructure pricing on products and created indicators for tracking success. She’s had record-breaking financial results at MTA, including growing the Texas market by 904 percent, growing the pharmacy division profits 1,395 percent from a loss, and growing Florida region profits 42 percent. Headquartered in Largo, MTA has customers in 48 states and employs 82. It now has $18 million in revenue.
GROWING UP FAST
Marks grew up poor in Elwood, Indiana, the oldest of five siblings. Her dad left when she was 13. As a kid, she wanted to be a legal assistant. Her mom was an X-ray tech and she was gone a lot, often late at night.
“It forced me to grow up quick with a lot of responsibility,” she said. “I whined a lot as a kid about how unfair my life was but I look back and feel so blessed.”
She spent the first 20 years of her career at AT&T where she progressed from engineer to Internet Division President, a division in which she generated $34 million in revenue.
Even though she worked at a public company, the autonomy she was granted gave her an entrepreneurial bug. She left the public company world, running investor-backed private companies in Boston, Charlotte and here in Tampa Bay, where she relocated in 2006 with her husband, Tim, CEO at Metropolitan Ministries.
She’s been and advent percipient in the Tampa Bay business community. Business associations include the CEO Council of Tampa Bay, the University of Tampa John P. Lowth Entrepreneurial Center, and Association for Sanitary & Healthcare Engineers.
“My CEO career has been focused on running services companies where I can leverage technology to drive strong financial and operational results,” she said. Some of her strongest wins as a longtime chief executive: delivering at least double digit improvements in revenue, profit and/or operations, adding jobs, building high performance teams and improving gross margins by 30 percent.
Overall Winner & Healthcare Sector
Now, with cash flowing beautifully and MTA growing fast, she has the reverse challenge from where she started – managing growth.
“We went from at times not knowing if we can make payroll to now when the volume of transactions is coming so fast,” she said. “We’re not willing to compromise quality.”
Soon, MTA will be on the acquisition path once it has the systems in place to handle the growth, she said.
Throughout her career, Marks said she’s had to overcome adversity as a woman leader. At MTA, she also faced issues around an industry set in its ways, a family business with infighting and poor retention and new competition.
Facing all “as a woman in a male dominated, blue collar industry made it overwhelming.” To go beyond obstacles, she had to get the right people “on the bus,” build a great culture, leverage technology in new ways, drive process and manage by fact.
Article Source: Tampa Bay Business Journal