Retiring after 43 years at Stryker
Dave Simsick joined Stryker in 1975 when Stryker was just a 270-person company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 43 years and 38,000 employees later, we celebrate Dave’s successful career as he enters retirement. Hear from Dave as he recaps four decades with Stryker.
Why did you choose to work at Stryker?
In 1972, I worked at the Kalamazoo Airport fueling aircraft for the local FBO (now Duncan Aviation, then Kal-Aero) serving corporate customers, the airlines, WMU and others that popped into AZO. One of our customer's aircraft was Stryker’s Aero Commander (I still remember the aircraft # N2244S). Upjohn, Stryker, and WMU were the big guns in town for employment. I always thought highly of Stryker via the guys that piloted and used the aircraft and all of those around that experience with Stryker.
In 1975, 3 days before my 20th birthday, I first walked through the door as a Stryker employee. I had popped in just about every week prior to that day for months to keep my face in front of the HR folks. I had built a relationship with that nice “HR lady” to the point where she knew my name and conversed with me using my name each time I visited before I was hired. I have highlighted the word relationship for reasons I will share below.
What has been your career path here?
I started my first-day “notching burs”. We had a machine that would index and cut the features that allowed our customers to locate and lock burs into the various powered handpieces we manufactured. At that time, we were 270 people and $17 million in sales. Within a few months, I moved to the Shipping department and worked loading stretchers and every other form of Stryker product into packages and crates bound for hospitals.
Dr. Homer Stryker was still a regular at the plant at that time. We hired John Brown from Squibb in 1977 and he was a joy to be around. He remembered everyone's name. He built relationships with our employees. He knew my mom’s name and asked about her regularly.
I had a boss in Shipping named Jim Foster. He was hilarious and had a one-liner for just about everything. He kept us laughing at every opportunity (keeping it light and keeping it fun.) He built relationships with everyone in the plant and with all the transportation companies we used.
I was blessed to be able to take over for Jim when he retired. And I maintained and cared for the relationships with the carriers that took care of us and our customers. My relationships with these carriers allowed me to learn where competitive advantages were so that I could apply appropriate pressure to get the best deals for Stryker and our customers. When you nurture and cultivate good relationships, they routinely bear fruit. That’s where I caught the bug and learned to be an effective negotiator (something that has paid off very handsomely over the years in my career here).
In 1992, the company saw fit to share an opportunity for me to move to Purchasing. I truly enjoyed building relationships with everyone on the shop floor that needed a steady supply of parts to build MedSurg beds (as we had just launched that product line). I also built relationships with our suppliers and at many levels within these suppliers so that if there was a quality, supply or cost challenge, I knew exactly who to include in the next phases of discussion to get to where everyone was happy. I maintain those relationships to this day.
I became a cost reduction specialist (I like “cost assassin” but it doesn’t look as good on my business card as I would have liked) and have thoroughly enjoyed finding ways to protect Homer’s checkbook over the years.
Over the past 3 years, I have served our 42 plants as a steering team member of the Equipment Standardization Team (EST) and have enjoyed the supreme and successful collaboration of a network of brilliant engineers...all working toward the goal of collaborating, leveraging and winning while buying equipment to manufacture our products around the globe.
What kept you at Stryker for more than 40 years?
As is by now painfully obvious, you see that I have highlighted the word relationships as much as possible. There is nothing more gratifying than to be able to rely upon solid relationships at any level in any building, with any supporting inside or outside force and on any continent when your mission is making healthcare better.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting their career at Stryker?
You guessed it. Build relationships that are genuine and that will instill in others that you can be relied upon and that you will rely upon to serve our mission. I routinely run into those I’ve built relationships with in many corners of the globe and my wife asks me, “how in the heck do you know all of these people?”. I tell her that...well you guessed it. And it’s what I have jumped out of bed every morning for the past 43 years to enjoy doing.
What will you miss the most about Stryker?
I will miss the daily engagement with eager, intelligent, loving employees on many continents that I have been blessed to serve with. But I’m certain that we’ll cross paths again.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Take care of each other and build relationships that you will rely upon when you most need them and that you can be relied upon when others need your support.
Finally, we used to have a contest where you would enter a short saying about our customers or quality or other topics of inspiration. If your name and offering was one of 12 picked, you got your picture on the company calendar, a vacation day and a check for $25.
One of my most cherished pictures is one of my old pal Homer handing me my $25. He was a jewel and I love having been able to serve his mission.
Thanks very much indeed,