As the old platitude goes, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
From Medelita’s initial conception, the founders made a deliberate decision not to delegate challenging business functions to an outside company. They refused to risk compromising the quality of the brand that they were painstakingly creating. In order to achieve the exceedingly high standards of quality that were envisioned for the company, a fully integrated team would be needed to coordinate each operating level of the business under the same roof.
What makes Medelita unique is that it integrates multiple businesses and disciplines into a vertically-integrated, cohesive brand. Apparel manufacturing, product customization, world-class customer service, fulfillment, and a multichannel sales strategy converge to establish the company identity. The brand draws on the company founder’s unique personal experience working in level 1 trauma emergency rooms. This background, combined with a passion for fashion, manufacturing, and high performance fabric technologies is what drives Medelita’s mission. A personal touch is provided to an elite, professional customer base, including on-site embroidery, concierge level personal service, and same-day-shipping on standard orders from a fulfillment center just outside Irvine, CA. Finally, Medelita’s unique sales strategy mirrors the founders’ ambition to corner the medical apparel market: selling direct to small businesses and individuals online while serving large national contracts with integrated online private stores and providing traditional retail partners with wholesale products.
Medelita’s operative structure defies that of most business paradigms. Many successful companies find a niche in their respective markets and choose to operate at one level of each market’s supply chain. Taking a different approach, Medelita has successfully integrated all levels of its supply chain into one company - effectively assimilating multiple businesses that must work together to oversee each product from manufacture to distribution.
If you can find a way of coalescing multiple businesses to successfully operate as one company, the payback can be immense. However, the risk of starting up multiple businesses simultaneously is significantly riskier if you are unable to get these different operating levels to function together cohesively and create revenue.
When asked how the company was able to achieve this staggering feat, Medelita CEO Joe Francisco identified six key business practices that paved the company’s road to success.
From the company’s initial outset the founders immediately recognized the critical role technology would play in growing Medelita. Demonstrating an adroit understanding of how they could harness the power of technology to perfect their brand, the founders integrated specialized technology into every level of the business. Technology allows a new enterprise to be nimble, lean and aggressive. Building for growth while maintaining a high level of operative excellence requires forward looking technology and a great team to identify, test and implement the tools to keep pace with a demanding growth curve. The tricky part is identifying the right technologies and modifying them often for your specific business - this allows you to leverage them to their greatest advantage.
When merging together the operations of multiple separate businesses, it is critical that the overall bottom line goal of the company is identified and emphasized. A well-defined goal should be simple yet profound, allowing every employee in each business function to have a clear understanding of his or her role in achieving that goal. Because they are all approaching their duties from the same perspective, employees are able to make independent yet cohesive decisions. In other words, a well-defined corporate goal should empower employees and their understanding of why they do the things that they do.
Recruiting the best talent for each specialized role of the business will be essential to ensuring the success of your company. This is where being a small business has a competitive advantage: the smaller scale allows executives to develop a thorough and appropriate recruitment strategy and personally oversee each new potential hire to make sure their skills and values are aligned with that of the company. Walt Disney said it best: “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”
All employees, regardless of their function, perform better when they have an understanding of how their role contributes to the success of the company. When workers are held back and limited to specific departmental communication, performance suffers. However, communicating effectively between departments is especially difficult when each team is operating within a different business function. At Medelita the solution to breaking down these inter-department communication barriers was the development of a horizontal corporate structure. Rather than having information trickle down through a chain of commands where particulars can get left out or lost in translation, the horizontal corporate structure allows each employee to independently access the information they need, when they need it.
Core Values and Customer Service
Core values are the ideological backbone of a company. These specific driving principles are a reflection of how your team will do business. At Medelita, where multiple business channels must work synchronistically together, the core values of innovation and world-class customer service above all act as an umbrella that unites every department and gives each employee an idea of best practices to follow. These fundamental core values are the glue that merge four separate business functions into one cohesive brand.
Medelita’s horizontal structure is remarkable because it breaks down corporate hierarchical norms and creates an environment of happy, fulfilled workers who feel like they are an important part of something bigger than themselves. Employees are celebrated for their accomplishments and given the autonomy to learn from their mistakes. The company expects nothing less than the best from its staff, while respecting the personal needs of each employee. Such a corporate culture fosters the personal and professional growth of every member of the team, as well as giving the company the ability to learn from its employees.