Friday, February 28, 2003

LONGMONT, Colo. - The gears in Sunrise Medical’s executive offices shifted again last month as the company announced its new president of commercial operations, including home care in North America. The latest addition is Mark Liebetrau, a former v.p. and general manager of a $1.1 billion division at Hillenbrand Industries.

Liebetrau slides into the Sunrise Medical space vacated by John Kitts last summer. Kitts had wanted to lead Sunrise Medical in North America and had been frustrated by the company’s decision to install Raymond Huggenberger in a new position with jurisdiction over North America and Europe.

Although Liebetrau is new to home care, he is no stranger to markets driven by Medicare and Medicaid, or to markets that have been dramatically reoriented by government policy shifts. At the helm of HillRom’s $150 million nursing home division, Liebetrau watched the advent of PPS transform the long term care industry.

Prior to PPS, HillRom pursued a traditional marketing strategy with product development and product managers. Afterward, said Liebetrau, the old way of bringing product to market seemed less relevant.

“Instead, we spoke to executives in the long term care industry about what kept them awake at night and what they were most concerned about,” said Liebetrau. Instead of pushing products alone, the mantra at HillRom became products, programs and services.

Liebetrau’s track record is expected to hold him in good stead at Sunrise, according to Huggenberger, especially as the industry braces for possible changes through competitive bidding and inherent reasonableness.

Banking on paradigm shifts brought about by innovative product development isn’t the sure bet it was, according to Huggenberger.

“We have to move away from being solely a product driven company,” he said. “Product will continue to be the most important ingredient of our approach because there is no strategey without product. But we can’t solely base our wholesaling effort on product anymore. We have to add value to our customers. It can be services, it can be product, it can be a combination of both, it can be all sorts of things.” HME