Shelly 'sounds off'

Thursday, August 25, 2011

ATLANTA - If anyone could be called the Godfather of the HME Industry, it would be Sheldon "Shelly" Prial.

With more than 60 years' experience in healthcare sales and marketing, Prial has tremendous context on the evolution of the home medical equipment business. Over the decades he has operated his own pharmacies and medical supply stores, worked as a top sales executive for one of the largest medical/surgical distributors in the industry and organized a successful purchasing cooperative for home medical equipment providers.

He attended the inaugural Medtrade show in 1979, when the exhibit hall was in an Atlanta hotel basement. Now at age 84, he holds the title of Medtrade Ambassador and writes a blog called Shelly Sounds Off.

We spoke to Shelly recently to get his perspective on Medtrade and this latest phase of his distinguished career.

How has Medtrade evolved with the HME industry?

It has grown from humble beginnings to the biggest and best show in the industry. Yet even when it began, I noticed that there were an impressive number of providers who were able to attend. Now it is the No. 1 opportunity to meet with your peers and vendors along with attending seminars by the finest teachers in our business. 

Are trade shows like this still relevant?

Some may say the concept is outdated because of the advancements in electronic communications, but I say you cannot replace the value of eyeball-to-eyeball contact with your peers, vendors and speakers. The electronic age may have brought some innovations for sales and marketing, but too often those messages are ignored. You still need to get out there and meet with your business contacts in person.

Did you ever think that one day you would write something called a blog?

Nothing surprises me. It has given me so much pleasure to write this blog, which I hope in some small way contributes to the success of the provider community.

Why do you continue to stay involved with the industry and Medtrade? You have certainly earned the right to retire.

I am not the retiring type. I need to keep busy and keep my mind working. Besides, I think I can still contribute to the well-being of HME providers. It motivates me when an HME provider calls to thank me for something I did. That is worth so much.