Friday, March 7, 2008

Economic Downturn

The news is rife with reports of lost jobs last month. 63,000 job were eliminated, the most in five years.

On my end, I've definitely seen an increase in the number of applications from certain job markets that were previously "dry". In particular, there has been a flood of resumes from folks in the real estate and mortgage industries seeking higher ground. I think there has been a bit of a shake-out in pharma as well. Talking to folks who are focused more on B2B sales, I sense some concern about the willingness of businesses to expand and invest in services and capital equipment.

I am far from being an economist, but being a recruiter does put you close to job trends in the economy.

Medical device sales is touted by some as "recession proof", the idea being that medical care is a necessity, and not something people can put off as they would buying a new car or refrigerator. Again, while I can't put cold, hard numbers to this entirely plausible theory, I can offer a few interesting anecdotes.

I asked one of our distributors recently if he felt there was truth to this statement. He said that in his 20 years in the industry, there hadn't really ever been a serious slowdow, despite fluctuations in the larger economy.

A couple of months back, someone applied for an opening that had just recently been filled. The person was from the mortgage industry and was pleasantly persistent, such that I was prompted to call and speak to him briefly to explain the situation. In the course of our conversation, I found out that this young man's father had worked for Linvatec back in the '90's.

I ended up talking to his father, who told me that he'd always told his children that he had chosen a career in medical sales precisely because of the stability of the industry. When you have mouths to feed, avoiding industries that are feast or famine, boom or bust becomes all the more important.

"I think my son is finally starting to understand exactly what I was talking about," he told me.

Some salespeople I talk to seem to focus on base salaries and expense packages as the primary measure of stability in a company or opportunity. I think this view is too narrow. The industry itself can have a huge impact, as many have recently seen first hand. I think some other important factors are: stability of the management team, average tenure or turnover in the salesforce, consistency of the compensation plan, the breadth of the offering. On these measures, I think Linvatec is very strong.

I wonder how many people have seen what they thought was a solid career, solid success vanish in front them. Some will ride out the lean times, while many will start from scratch establishing themselves in another industry. It takes a lot of hard work to succeed in any realm, a lot of hard work to develop your product knowledge and base of contacts, master the nuances of the sales cycle particular to your industry. And even more hard work to start all over again.

I think many sales people are self-starters who want to have control over their own destiny, a big part of that being their own income. Although nothing is absolutely certain in this world, I think building a career in medical device sales offers favorable conditions that put salespeople in a position to exert a good measure of control over their future. They aren't likely to see their hard work swept away by a downturn in the economy. Even now, despite the challenges in the larger economy, medical device reps can continue building their careers, onward and upward.

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