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Alumni Success Excellence and Expertise

Stryker group president: Relationships are key to success in business, life

A 25-year veteran and a nearly-new sales associate talked about their careers in healthcare sales.

Spencer Stiles talking
Alumni Success Excellence and Expertise

Stryker group president: Relationships are key to success in business, life

Spencer Stiles, Group President, Orthopedics and Spine at Stryker, has a lot of reasons to visit the Farmer School. He’s a 1999 FSB grad, he met his wife at Miami, and loves Oxford. And with 25 years’ experience at Stryker, he knows where he might find the future employees he needs. “One of the reasons we're trying to bring more exposure to healthcare at Miami is there's such a need for bright minds, for making a difference. There's big problems to solve.”

Stiles said Stryker is on the leading edge of healthcare and has the sales to prove it. “We actually calculate how many lives we impact each and every year, how many lives we touch. And it's over 150 million human lives every single year. Our products are touching people, our products are going to get better, our products are shaping lives,” he said.

Stiles told students at his Executive Speaker Series talk that one important lesson he’s carried through his career came to him in Morris Hall on his first day at Miami. “I show up there and I unpack my stuff and no roommate shows up. I’m from Green Bay, I don’t know anybody. I come down here and I'm alone. And I'm a pretty self-assured young man at this stage of my life. But I went down to the bathroom and I started crying,” he said. “I remember thinking there, ‘Well, I can sit here in the bathroom, or I can go across the hallway and introduce myself and make a new friend and a new relationship and new connection.”

“I chose the latter,” Stiles said. “It was a really pivotal moment. And I share that story because it opened up my own perception of creating relationships and the power of you asking somebody else to connect.”

He said that being able to form relationships with potential clients is especially important in healthcare sales because the process of selling products can be a very long one.

Joining Stiles on stage was Grace Jacobson, a 2022 Farmer School graduate who is one month into her sales career at Stryker, having just completed 18 months in a marketing associate role – just as Stiles did 25 years ago. “What a marketing associate is, you are basically a product expert. So I was our connectivity expert of our acute care business for our beds and stretchers,” she said. “So what that meant was that for our sales force and key internal stakeholders, whether that's finance, supply chain engineers, they are coming to me with questions. It's a little overwhelming at first, but there's no better way to learn than being thrown into it.”

Jacobson said that this early in her sales career, it’s all about creating relationships. “Every day I am just trying to go and make relationships with my customers. That can be in a variety of different ways. Some days it's literally going to sit in somebody's office and talk about their daughter for two hours and that's my win for the day. And then other days it's a little more formal, whether that's educating on Stryker products that they already own, providing additional education, or providing more clinical education.”

Stiles and Jacobson had a discussion session with each other to give students some insights:

  • “Take your career into your own hands. Network, network, network, take advantage of alumni. I would 1000 percent advise all of you to purchase LinkedIn Pro. Do it for three months. That's all you needed while you're recruiting,” Jacobson said.
  • “I never had a chance to live outside the United States in my professional career. I wish I would've had that opportunity when I was running one of our businesses,” Stiles said. “I would argue that as these opportunities present themselves, you should give them a really, really good consideration.”
  • “The healthcare industry in general is much more complex than I ever knew or even assumed. So being in the healthcare sales program at Miami, I think, puts you leaps and bounds ahead of other students just because you're going to have such a better base knowledge of the industry in general,” Jacobson said.
  • “My daughter’s going to Boston College,” Stiles said. “I got some great advice from the teams today that we talked to in a couple of the classes. They talked about encouraging her to get involved right away. Day one, find these clubs, find these connections, don't isolate yourself to just a couple friends, reach out, because these friend groups can merge and they can expand so greatly at a university.”

Students asked about what Stryker is looking for in new employees. “I would say competitiveness, grit, being willing to not quit,” Jacobson said. “You have to be trustworthy, you have to be humble.”

“We want people to build deep, authentic, trusting relationships with that customer. That is one of our greatest differentiators, the trust in the relationships that our selling organizations have across the area of the customer.” Stiles said. “That's hard to articulate in an interview. It's really hard. But I think you want to think about over your time here at Miami, in high school, your life -- How did you build relationships? What was your method for it?”

No matter what career students may choose, Stiles had one piece of advice. “If you take one thing home from our talk tonight, find something you love, find something you have passion about, find something that's making the world a better place.”

“That’s easy in healthcare,” he said with a smile.

Stiles talking with students

Stiles head shot

Stiles and Jacobson

Jacobson talking