The Success of Synthes Trauma with Daniel Gennett

How the previous chairman and president of Synthes USA Traumas expertise paved the way for extraordinary successes.

Daniel Richard Gennett has been a leader in medical device sales and innovation. His insight into the needs of medical personnel and understanding of medical device sales and product development led to a highly successful story for Synthes and the Synthes Trauma Division. His goal has been to help all involved to understand the benefit to a “leading-by-serving” approach that keeps them steeped in the growth processes of the company.

As a past chairman and past president of Synthes USA Trauma, Daniel Richard Gennett (who more commonly goes by “Rick Gennett”) has experience in working with top talent and identifying important industry trends. His commitment to the company and leadership in the orthopedic trauma industry helped grow the bottom line and focus on technical development for the Global Synthes Trauma Division. He started at the bottom level and spent his career moving to the highest ranks of a global company worth billions. When he retired, he did so after watching his company complete a major milestone for success.

Daniel “Rick” Gennett graduated from Wilkes University in 1971 with a B.S. in Psychology, making the Dean’s List and President’s List as a top student. He completed his B.S. with a strong desire to grow as a professional and a deep understanding of what makes people tick. He went on to teach for a year before jumping into a sales and then a sales manager position at Monroe Business Machines from 1972 to 1975. After some success at Monroe, he landed a spot with Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon Division, where things started to fall into place. 

At J&J, Daniel stayed in the company for ten years learning a lot about the medical device business. He worked several positions within the company, moving up through the ranks as a salesman, Manager of Marketing Research, Product Manager and Division Sales Manager. While in these positions, he learned the medical device business from a number of angles. His experience gave him insight into the medical device industry and product development. He absorbed knowledge at Ethicon, preparing to continue his career in the medical device industry and solidifying that he wanted to stay in this industry for the rest of his career.

His decade-long stint at Johnson & Johnson came to an end as he found a new place to learn and grow as a leader. In 1985, he moved to a small company led by Swiss entrepreneur and philanthropist Hansjoerg Wyss. Gennett learned many skills from this world-class business leader that he would take with him into his own position of leadership within the company. Synthes USA was founded by Wyss, starting with a manufacturing plant in Colorado. Prior to that, Synthes was a Switzerland-based medical device manufacturer. Wyss was well known for his strategy that turned Synthes and it’s two sister companies (Mathys and Stratec) into one unified organization – Global Synthes. 

Within Synthes USA, Gennett rose from regional manager to national sales manager. He continued offering the company value with his sales experience, moving to VP of Sales. He then became the President of the trauma division for Synthes. His role in product development and sales was a key part of Synthes success.

During this part of his career, Daniel was sent to Boston to earn an Executive Degree from Harvard Business School. As one of the top business schools in the World, Harvard further shaped his understanding and innovative approach to business. While attending Harvard Business School, Daniel was surrounded by 200 company presidents also in attendance. This was a motivating atmosphere with a lot of opportunities to learn from mentors and peers.

Over several years, Daniel worked alongside his VP of Product Development to complete the trauma product portfolio. At the same time, Daniel and his sales management team grew the Synthes sales force from approximately 40 sales consultants to over 700 by 2014.

In 2010, Daniel was succeeded as President by his VP of Product Development, IV Hall. He then moved on to Chairman for four years where he continued to support the development of the trauma product portfolio and Global Synthes.

During Daniel’s 30 years with the company, the Synthes Trauma Division grew from several million to over $1.5 billion in sales.

Daniel believed in two key strategies that were important for enabling this growth. He strongly believed in having enough highly trained sales consultants on payroll to offer technical support to surgeons and operating room personnel. He also held that his sales management team must adopt the principle of “servant leadership.”

His insight led the company to offer the kind of personal connection and support that professionals found key in their business decisions. He was supported by his VP of Sales, Ken Carpenter who is still heavily involved in implementing the strategies that led to a highly successful story for Synthes Trauma.

His “servant leadership” strategies were influenced, not only by his training under Wyss, but by the world-class organization of surgeons (AO Foundation). Those surgeons who dedicated their lives to the care of the trauma patient were inspiring to Daniel and set the tone for how Synthes Trauma was managed.

Daniel pushed to have a strong team surrounding him, including his VP of Sales Administration, Dave Waibel. With a busy travel schedule, Daniel chose a professional with a strong finance background and servant mentality to capably run the daily operations of sales management. When Daniel wasn’t able to be involved in person, he made sure top talent was continuing on with his high standards and insightful approach to sales.

Daniel is the first to say, the Synthes successful story was primarily because of the dedication and intelligence of our sales consultants. And the expansion of the sales force worked well, bolstering the market share to a dominant position. The unsurpassed reputation of Synthes trauma resulted in attention from some big names. In 2012, the Global Synthes sale to Johnson & Johnson was set at approximately $20B. This was a huge success for Daniel and the rest of the Synthes team.

In a way, Daniel came full circle—he went from working smaller roles within Johnson & Johnson to participating in the sale of Synthes. His knowledge built from experience at Johnson & Johnson made this an ideal fit.

Daniel Gennett continues to support other leaders looking to find creative approaches to their own guidance strategies. He believes that being intertwined within the processes of the company is important to success. His understanding of leadership includes a pursuit of serving the client or customer in ways that go beyond the expected transaction of a sale. When customers are impressed by this kind of dedication, they become loyal customers that return and support business growth.

With a “servant leadership” approach, upper managers and company presidents can win the favor of their teams and customers. He strongly believes that surrounding talent should be nurtured and recognized. A successful company is made up of a number of talents coming together. Without those involved, the leader can only do so much. Daniel believes a great leader knows how to cultivate a great team and understands what motivates the people involved.

His successes within the industry continue to set high marks for entrepreneurs and business leaders following in his steps. Today Synthes Trauma continues to create parts for broken bones, fractures, deformations and displacements. The supportive plates, screws, fixation supports and other medical devices are used by trauma surgeons all over the world. This can help with shoulders, wrists, ribs, feet, elbows, ankles, shins, hips and so much more. The work done by Synthes Trauma continues to help support those who need emergency care and a surgical intervention for injuries or deformities.

Daniel “Rick” Gennett is proud of his work at Synthes and the accomplishments his team completed there. The sales records were impressive and the approach to customer support was unparalleled. Daniel is especially appreciative to the Synthes Board and Dr. Jeffery Mast for their guidance and support. He retired in 2014 after a successful run in a career spanning more than 43 years, with over 30 years spent with Synthes Trauma. His loyalty to the company and industry led to many important moves that supported the trauma surgeons he admired so much.

In his retirement, Daniel has turned to investing in business ventures and advising startups. A few of the companies he’s worked with include: CD Diagnostics (acquired by Zimmer in 2016), LaunchPad Medical, HD Lifescience, Laschal and Wavi. Daniel is married to his wife of 45 years, Claire who he met at Wilkes. He has two children – David and Lauren and one six-year-old grandson, Robin who he spends his days in Boulder fishing with.

Article Editor

Pamela is a television journalist, humor writer and novelist. Her first novel, Allegedly, was released in 2015 by St. Martin’s Press. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She and her husband, Daniel, have a 3-year-old son, Carter.

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