Hailing from Oakville, Ontario, Canadian Hospital Specialties (CHS) is a premier supplier of medical and surgical products including patient care trays, specialty IV extension sets and other tubing products as well as neonatal, intravenous, anaesthesia, critical care and operating room supplies. We spoke with Director-Brand Development MedRx Vince Morelli, Executive Vice President-Sales Gary Enns and Chief Executive Officer Mike Canzoneri to learn more…
Henry Enns was a Winnipeg farm boy who moved from Winnipeg to Toronto back in the early fifties with hopes of a job in sales. He wound up in the medical device industry.
“In 1967, my father made a decision to leave his current employment and start his own organization. It was Enns & Gilmour,” says Gary. “At that time, the business was really built around being a manufacturer’s agent, where you represented medical devices in Canada for the Canadian marketplace.”
He traveled coast to coast to sell the products, with a primary focus on key distributors that served Canadian hospitals. The early products sold were as simple as face masks for medical and surgical procedures or intravenous catheters.
It was truly a family operation. Gary’s mother was the bookkeeper and inventory analyst who helped to the business grow from its location in a garage into a larger facility based in Oakville. Back in those days, product lines and manufacturers came and went as they got bought out or changed ownership.
“At that time, my father chose to bring my eldest brother Dave Enns into the business. His job was to go out and literally call on the doctors, nurses and other support staff in the hospital to sell his wares. From there the family lineage continued and grew year over year,” explains Gary.
Henry Enns was a special man, who was well known as an industry advocate. A strong business leader, he was also a trusted individual with a strong work ethic. Henry went to Ottawa and helped lobby to make Canada a more viable place to do business, both in manufacturing and distribution. As a lobbyist, he helped to settle the Canadian landscape as it pertained to product tariffs and import duties. These were significant topics within the medical device world at the time.
In 1977, when one of Henry’s major product lines was sold, he restructured and brought in two key people to help run the business. David Enns became president, and Henry stepped away to work behind the scenes to establish what we know today as Canadian Hospital Specialties.
In 1988, Henry was approached by a small – six employees – medical plastics manufacturer Benlan Inc. Canadian Hospital Specialties had represented the Mississauga-based company, and the owner of Benlan was looking to sell. In 1989, it was purchased.
“It was an early brand known as MedRx. We took that manufacturing operation, which was an extrusion and assembly operation, continued to evolve and grow it, and today there are 230 employees,” explains Gary.
CHS makes anything from basic items like trays for the general nursing environment and other high volume needs to smaller volume runs in specialty areas like anesthesia, obstetrics and gynecology.
“We really take the approach where we are trying to be very good listeners in terms of what they need and then develop a solution that fits that need base on componentry for their procedures. This is where smaller batches of work come into play. We have the flexibility to run volumes that meet the customer’s needs but also work well in our facility based on its design and the way it is set up. It is categorized as a truly flexible manufacturing operation,” explains Mike.
The market in which it operates in is very dynamic and unpredictable. An acute care facility does not have the same practices every day because whoever comes through the door really drives what it does, and how it does it.
“We need to partner with them in terms of being able to solve some of the challenges they are going through. So, with our business, we build it with a long-term view. People like Gary and Vince – that have a long tenure, not only in CHS, but in the industry – they understand the marketplace and the customers, so we build our business around that type of ability and skill,” says Mike.
And, all of this is affected by exchange rates on materials that are coming into Canada from other parts of the world. Costs must be managed to keep the impact on its customers to a minimum.
There is also a focus on maintaining its high level of service and ensuring that CHS is an easy company with which to do business. When a customer calls and places an order, the product is there and ready to ship to be used in any medical procedure.
CHS has some relationships with suppliers that span fifty years and some new relationships that are less than twelve months old. “Our focus is to be exclusive with our suppliers, and we see them as strategic partners as we represent them in the Canadian marketplace. With our strategic partners, we have a very intimate relationship around how we operate the business together,” explains Mike.
CHS works with companies that don’t have a footprint in Canada and are looking for representation. CHS not only represents these suppliers as a selling organization but also hosts a strategic planning session with the marketing team. There is a regulatory and quality process to ensure that the products are legally recognized for sale in Canada.
“We have partners that do not have a footprint in Canada. We also have partners that have a well-established sales and marketing regional business, but in some cases, they struggle with volume of their portfolio and their ability to represent in a big geography like Canada. So, we play a role for some of their secondary products that do not really have a focused home,” explains Mike.
Canadian Hospital Specialties has been very fortunate to be able to grow in a unique way, in a very tough Canadian marketplace by securing strategic partners. It requires a different type of skill set and talent. It starts with sales.
“We’ve been hiring specialists that are clinically strong in that specific area, along with very capable sales and marketing experience. And we have been bringing on appropriate resources on the marketing side with marketing managers to go along with decision support or analytics surrounding some of the business development work. It’s always a challenge to get great talent,” states Mike.
Continuous interviews, networking and relationships play a huge role in the success of its efforts in recruiting the best talent available. This is especially difficult in an extremely competitive market. Co-op programs are in effect in through several universities. Students are brought in for a four-month stint, and at any given time there are twenty participants, and the hope is to channel some of the fresh thinking that comes out of these programs.
For future growth, CHS will continue to delight its customers with solutions to their requirements, changes and needs.
“It’s about delivering exceptional value for them in terms of how we help them grow the business, so that not only do they want to continue to work with us, but also look at other potentials. Finally, it’s about adding new vendors and partners or even new products from our side that are complementary to the spaces that we really do well in and focus to be excellent in our key areas,” explains Mike.