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Philip Yates is the Managing Director of Otto Bock UK, a supplier of innovative products and services for people with restricted mobility, including prosthetics, orthotics, rehabilitation and neurostimulation devices. Based in Egham, Surrey, the company is part of the global Otto Bock Healthcare group. 

What are your main priorities as Managing Director of Otto Bock UK? How do you divide your time?

We’re a family-owned German business, 90 years in the making, and have been established in the UK for 34 years. We have 12 locations and 250 people in the UK and Ireland. When you’ve got such a wide variety of units and clinics in different places, it’s important from a Managing Director’s point of view that we have a clearly communicated vision and planned business objectives.

The difficulty of being in various locations across the UK is communication, which I believe affects a number of companies. Another crucial element to the role is to motivate staff and ensure that we have the right people in the right jobs. An important element from my side is to constantly look for business opportunities, ensuring that we continue to drive the business forward and meet our goals and objectives over the next three to five years.

In terms of how I divide my time, it’s important that I meet with my teams on a regular basis. I also spend time meeting with and listening to our customers, attending conferences such as those led by BHTA and NHS Confederation, and meeting with the wider group of industry leaders.

What customer groups do you identify within your market? Which customer group are you most concerned to develop in the coming years?

The main customer, I would say for 95% of our business, is the NHS – which is a B2B relationship. We engage with many people within the NHS: the management, the medical teams, the buyers and engineers. We also have a commercial sector in terms of the mobility dealerships that we partner with. In terms of development over the next three to five years, we’re focused on training right across the spectrum of healthcare providers and our products. However, the orthotics and mobility markets hold huge potential for us over the next three to five years, because of our investment into technically advanced products.

Is this a good time to be selling innovative mobility products in the UK? How is Otto Bock responding to the challenges of the market?

It’s always important to push the boundaries with technically advanced products. In terms of timing for the UK, I think it does make sense – especially as we are very much focused on driving new, technically advanced products and improving quality of life for users. At the same time, it’s also important that we understand the needs of the NHS and develop products to suit its requirements. Currently we have a small market share in the UK for orthotics and mobility products, but we now have a full complement of products that will suit the needs of customers and end users. I feel it’s important when you’re talking to your customers that you listen to their needs, as that can generate great opportunities.

To meet the needs of the NHS and the current economic environment, we need to keep our costs under control by ensuring that we are a lean organisation: we look at things such as direct delivery and shared services, and utilise IT such as online ordering to keep our costs down. The next few years will be a challenge, but with the right structures, cost control and investments we will be successful.

Our recently launched neurostimulation implantable device is a new area for Otto Bock, as it involves dealing with surgery. We have the full complement of medical and technical teams to support this market introduction: it’s not just a case of selling a product into the market. It will be interesting to see how this important area develops over the next three to five years, because there are numerous offshoots that will come from the huge investment that Otto Bock has already made into this area.

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