When Patrick Kelly founded PSS/World Medical, in 1983, most doctors bought supplies from companies selling to hospitals and nursing homes, but the suppliers' big trucks would only make a delivery once a week. The next-day service offered by PSS was a novelty and a competitive differentiator. Then Kelly decided to go after his biggest competitor, Taylor Medical. He put a salesperson into Beaumont, Tex., the competitor's home base, even though he knew that the rep wouldn't make any sales at first. PSS also sent in a truck every day, regardless of whether it had an order in Beaumont. "But there's nothing to deliver," exclaimed the local manager. "The driver thinks you're crazy!"
Kelly explained his reasoning: "We wanted the salesman to see that van going to Beaumont every day. He'd know it was his responsibility to fill it up. Also, that truck had to go every day, regardless of whether it was empty, because we never wanted to offer anything less than same-day service." The sight of an empty van in his territory every day motivated the salesperson to crack the competitor's market.
PSS, which is based in Jacksonville, Fla., now has a branch in Beaumont that does $5 million a year--and back in 1995, it acquired competitor Taylor Medical.