A View From the Top: Debbie Kalk of Reliable Medical

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The interview below is part of a series from McGuireWoods that features interviews with C-suite leadership of private equity-backed portfolio companies. To recommend a leader for a future interview, email Holly Buckley at hbuckley@mcguirewoods.com.


Q: What do you believe is the most significant current challenge to growing your business and what will be necessary to overcome it?

Debbie Kalk: The pandemic and resulting economic environment have created difficulties for many businesses, and we've been facing the same challenges. We have needed to make difficult strategic decisions and learned to navigate scenarios we never expected to face. Still, we are financially strong and have continued to invest in our team. We are confident in our ability to continue to grow and identify opportunities to partner with other companies that are attracted to the stability and leadership support that Reliable Medical provides.

Q: What positions or organizational structures did you wish you had implemented earlier to reach your goals?

DK: It became apparent after our first acquisition that we needed to hire key leadership to better support growth and expansion. I think we have done a good job layering leadership, improving operations and being careful and mindful about timing and change management as these changes have made sense for the business.

Growth with sensitivity to the importance of our culture has been the goal. The leadership positions we've added have focused around better supporting our people and vision as the company expands.

Q: What advice would you give if a family-run business is thinking about pursuing private equity but worried about the possibility of losing some of the family dynamics that contributed to its success?

DK: Partnering with the right investor is critical. You are looking for someone who understands your industry and shares your values. When I chose to partner with Seven Hills and Matt Pettit, it was because I felt strongly that our vision and core values were in alignment. We aim to grow, not just for the sake of growth but rather where it makes sense culturally. Seven Hills shares those values and encouraged this approach.

Reliable's vision is not just client-centric, but people-centric. Our mission is to improve lives for the communities and clients we service and for the people on our team as they truly are family. It is possible to grow while maintaining your culture. This is largely attributable to having a financial partner that embraces your philosophy. Family and culture are the priority in my personal life, with family including my personal family and work family.

Q: What characteristics do you look for in administrative leaders within your organization?

DK: I gravitate toward forward thinkers or visionaries who can see the big picture and get excited about growth and opportunity but also have the right servant leadership approach in supporting the Reliable family. The best organizations are ever-evolving, so it is important that our leadership remain flexible and creative while embracing change and technology.

Q: What do you think is the key to retaining your talent?

DK: Authentically connecting, treating them well, investing in them and giving them the opportunity and tools to be successful. It is important for morale and loyalty that we focus on flexibility and work-life balance. We support their strengths and help them further develop. We care a lot about education and training and offer career path options that encourage them to pursue their passions.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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