Please see below for the latest installment of our interview series, A View From the Top. This series features interviews with C-suite leadership of private equity-backed portfolio companies. This installment features Debbie Kalk of Reliable Medical. To recommend a leader for a future interview, email Holly Buckley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What do you believe is the most significant current challenge to growing your business and what will be necessary to overcome it?
Debbie Kalk: The pandemic and resulting economic environment have created difficulties for many businesses, and we’ve been facing the same challenges. We have needed to make difficult strategic decisions and learned to navigate scenarios we never expected to face. Still, we are financially strong and have continued to invest in our team. We are confident in our ability to continue to grow and identify opportunities to partner with other companies that are attracted to the stability and leadership support that Reliable Medical provides.
Q: What positions or organizational structures did you wish you had implemented earlier to reach your goals?
DK: It became apparent after our first acquisition that we needed to hire key leadership to better support growth and expansion. I think we have done a good job layering leadership, improving operations and being careful and mindful about timing and change management as these changes have made sense for the business.
Growth with sensitivity to the importance of our culture has been the goal. The leadership positions we’ve added have focused around better supporting our people and vision as the company expands.
Q: What advice would you give if a family-run business is thinking about pursuing private equity but worried about the possibility of losing some of the family dynamics that contributed to its success?
DK: Partnering with the right investor is critical. You are looking for someone who understands your industry and shares your values. When I chose to partner with Seven Hills and Matt Pettit, it was because I felt strongly that our vision and core values were in alignment. We aim to grow, not just for the sake of growth but rather where it makes sense culturally. Seven Hills shares those values and encouraged this approach.
Reliable’s vision is not just client-centric, but people-centric. Our mission is to improve lives for the communities and clients we service and for the people on our team as they truly are family. It is possible to grow while maintaining your culture. This is largely attributable to having a financial partner that embraces your philosophy. Family and culture are the priority in my personal life, with family including my personal family and work family.
Q: What characteristics do you look for in administrative leaders within your organization?
DK: I gravitate toward forward thinkers or visionaries who can see the big picture and get excited about growth and opportunity but also have the right servant leadership approach in supporting the Reliable family. The best organizations are ever-evolving, so it is important that our leadership remain flexible and creative while embracing change and technology.
Q: What do you think is the key to retaining your talent?
DK: Authentically connecting, treating them well, investing in them and giving them the opportunity and tools to be successful. It is important for morale and loyalty that we focus on flexibility and work-life balance. We support their strengths and help them further develop. We care a lot about education and training and offer career path options that encourage them to pursue their passions.
About Debbie Kalk
Debbie Kalk joined Reliable Medical in 1998, bringing more than 20 years of experience in healthcare roles with companies including Merck. She originally was hired to document, train and facilitate OSHA compliance and obtain Joint Commission accreditation. In 2006, Kalk was promoted to executive manager, overseeing the management and leadership team as well as finance and billing. After serving as vice president, she assumed the role of CEO/president of Reliable Medical, overseeing the strategic direction and operations of the company with an eye on future trends and continued growth.
In 2019, Kalk was honored to be named one of four finalists for the “HME Woman of the Year.” Kalk currently serves on several boards, including National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology, and works with CRT manufacturers and providers on legislation and patient advocacy. Across the home medical equipment industry, she is known for her forward thinking, operational excellence and extraordinary leadership skills.
Kalk is an empowering leader who believes in the change management philosophy of rewarding and recognizing the contributions of her team. She is committed to championing her employees and is proud to lead a company that has been voted a “Top Workplace in Minnesota” for the past six consecutive years. Kalk’s goal is to continue to drive profitable revenue and growth without compromising the quality of patient care and the culture that has made Reliable Medical an employer and provider of choice.