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David White is a born salesman who becomes more motivated the more difficult the deal is.
Now the vice president of global strategic sourcing at Merit Medical Systems, White drew on those skills countless times during his years working in commercial leasing and financing. But that rush isn’t what truly drives him.
There are two critical pieces that White needs to feel truly fulfilled in his work, and they’re what motivated him to come to Merit. “I’m an entrepreneur, and so I always need to be building something,” White explains. “Whether it’s a business—which I’ve done a couple times—or a structure within a business, or even a team; I have to feel like I’m working towards the creation of something.”
White also has a deep-seated desire to coach, teach, and help his people excel—an instinct born of his history of motivating and pushing a salesforce. Partly because he’s invested in professional coaching of his own, he knows the value he can bring to those who want to advance in their careers.
“If I’m not doing those two things together, I don’t feel engaged, and it’s a sign that I need to make a change. It’s just something I’ve learned about myself,” he says.
Since joining the medical device manufacturer in 2016, White has had the chance to bring expert guidance and sales experience to the global procurement function. It’s certainly been a chance to build, and the roadblocks thrown up in the marketplace since the pandemic began have made that growth even more impressive.
The current shortage of components and raw materials has been White’s greatest challenge at Merit. Since the pandemic began, virtually every supplier David White works with has had to enforce force majeure clauses in their contracts, liability exemptions that come into play when unforeseeable and unavoidable events prevent the fulfillment of obligations.
“It’s been supply agreements. It’s been pricing agreements. You just watched everything coming to a standstill,” White explains. “There was this ‘toilet paper effect’ with suppliers putting their products in allocation because when businesses don’t have something, they order more of it just to be prepared.”
Materials were simply not available, and at Merit, procurement issues can be a life-or-death situation. “We are creating products that save people’s lives; it’s not just about the business surviving,” White explains. “If we are not able to supply hospitals and clinicians with our products all around the world, people are going to die. It could be incredibly frustrating trying to get people to understand that critical need.”
White worked with his team to mitigate its need by increasing its own raw material production and vertically integrating when possible. They also took an active role in creating direct communication lines with service providers to help them understand just how high the stakes were for getting the materials that Merit needed.
After confronting one crisis, White sees the current economic environment on the brink of yet another. Inflationary pressure has sent prices skyrocketing for the better part of the last few years. While White says it would be unreasonable not to expect to see price increases from suppliers, he hopes that when prices eventually drop, suppliers won’t suddenly be affected by memory loss.
“I think it’s only fair to benefit from those falling prices, and we hope to eventually be on the receiving end of those benefits at some point,” White says, laughing. “I’m good with sharing the increases together as long as we share the decreases together.”
Looking ahead, White’s goal for his team is to tie itself to indices that will help keep the integrity of pricing in check, and while they’ve made gains on those roads already, the VP says there is significant room to enhance those capabilities.
When it comes to his team and the broader business, White continues to find fulfillment in helping employees take ownership of their work. Providing his team members with the latitude to execute on their own terms means they’re able to become the authors of their own success. White demands his team members to take ownership because he knows it’s the most direct path to greater success in their lives.
“I just want to see other people succeed,” David White says. “I don’t need it to be my success story. I want others to feel that sense of accomplishment and purpose that comes with that responsibility.”
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