Irwin Selinger, a founder who has soared onto the INC. 100 with two different companies, is back for an encore.
In 1979, he guided Surgicot Inc. to #21 on the list. This year Patient Technology Inc., his second medical-products firm, in Hauppauge, N.Y., is #41. Not a doctor himself, Selinger finds out what physicians need by such unorthodox methods as working without pay in a hospital supply room.
He was marketing staplers for Swingline Inc. in 1965 when a stockbroker advised him that health care was a fertile area for business opportunities. "At that point, I knew nothing about health care," says Selinger. But he did know that the wanted to run his own company. To learn the business, he signed on as marketing director of a small medical-supplies company in 1966. Two years later, he met a scientist who had developed a new sterilization system. Selinger acquired the system and founded Surgicot, which reached $25 million in sales in 1979.
Selinger couldn't resist a buyout offer from Squibb Corp. the same year, he continued as chief executive officer. "No one was a more gung-ho Squibb man than I was. I mean, my wife wore Opium perfume because it was made by a Squibb subsidiary."
Within months, the perfume didn't smell so sweet. A company officer criticized Selinger for flying coach, cautioning him that corporate executives flew first class. Then Selinger initiated an acquisition without so much as convening a committee. "I just went to the company president and said, 'Let's make a deal.' "Squibb was appalled. So was Selinger -- at Squibb's reaction. "There are no bad guys in this story, just two cultures, two irreconcilable mentalities, "he says. Selinger left as a full-time employee in 1980, starting his new firm in 1981 with a line of medical instruments that Squibb had turned down.
Now more than 20 former Surgicot workers are back where they were a decade ago: at an INC. 100 company founded by Irwin Selinger.