Tim Scannell's Remarkable Career | Orthopedics This Week
Company News

Tim Scannell’s Remarkable Career

Tim Scannell: Executive Advisor and Former President and COO, Stryker / Source: Stryker Corporation

About 40,000 people work for Kalamazoo, Michigan-based Stryker Corporation. When Tim Scannell, Stryker’s recently retired President and Chief Operating Officer, joined as a rookie sales rep in 1990, that employee number was about 2,000 (and about 500 were in marketing and sales). Since its founding in 1941, probably more than 100,000 people have worked at Stryker.

Of all those people, just six have their individual photos in the History of Stryker web page—Homer Stryker, M.D., Lee Stryker, John Brown, Stephen MacMillan, Kevin Lobo, and Tim Scannell. Tim’s presence on that particular page, a page dedicated to highlighting the most consequential people in the history of Stryker speaks to his impact on the company…and, from this writer’s perspective, on orthopedics overall.

On August 18, 2021, after a 31-year career at Stryker, Timothy Scannell announced that he was going to retire, slowly, with his final day being March 30, 2023. On October 1, 2021, Group Presidents Andrew Pierce and Spencer Stiles took on Tim’s President and Chief Operating Officer duties. Tim Scannell is 57 years old.

Here is Tim Scannell’s remarkable story.

It Started With a List

“I always wanted to pursue one of a four career paths: 1) Play in the NFL, 2) Coach football, 3) Be a federal agent, or 4) Be a ‘businessman,’” recalls Scannell. Notably, he compiled this list while in junior high school. No accident that football was listed 50% of the time. It was, by far, his preferred career option and as a senior in high school in 1981, he was considered to be the biggest collegiate football prize coming out of Pennsylvania. He was big for a high schooler and, by all accounts, an immensely talented player.

State College, Pennsylvania, in the bucolic central Pennsylvania region known as Happy Valley, is Tim’s hometown. It is also next door to football powerhouse Penn State. Scannell’s father, Bob, was Penn State’s Dean of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from 1970 to 1980 and then Vice President and Dean of Commonwealth Education, in charge of Penn State’s 17 extension campuses and continuing education.

Growing up, Tim was a great Penn State football fan. As his father explained to a New York Times reporter in 1982, “He seldom has missed a football game at home [Penn State]. And he has many strong ties to the university through friends and their parents.”

But, as his father also explained, ''Tim and I agreed when the recruiting started that I would not tell him what to do. I wanted it to be his decision. After all, he's the one who'll be going to college. It was a difficult choice for him. I could hear him pacing around downstairs late at night at the time he had to make up his mind.''

“I can remember taking my visit to Penn State and at a dinner being asked by the coaches, ‘well, where are your parents?’”, explains Scannell “And I said, ‘They're not coming.’ A day or two earlier my dad said, ‘I'm not going to college, you're going to college, you go on your visits, and you figure out where you're gonna go.’ He basically pushed down the decision to me and kept out of it.”

Ultimately, Tim chose Notre Dame (where his father had also played football and his grandfather was Chairman of the Phys Ed department for 40 years).

Said Tim’s father at the time, ''I think he wants to go to college away from home. The choice between Notre Dame and Penn State was so difficult that I thought for a while he might avoid it by picking Michigan.''

Notre Dame Football as a Foundation

“I was drawn to Notre Dame for its superb undergraduate educational programs, championship caliber football, faith-based education, and family ties.”

Scannell, as he understood fully, was entering a world defined by intensity, discipline, persistence, and hard work. “I wouldn't try to sugarcoat or disguise what big time college football was like. During the season, you're spending 60-70 hours a week on athletics and that really does define who you are and how you must spend your time,” explains Scannell. “Balancing athletics and academics is very challenging and collegiate athletes must mature very quickly to deliver in the classroom and on the athletic fields.”

Tim Scannell, (2nd row, far left) Notre Dame senior, football captain

And, as he also remembers, there is no feeling quite like competing in front of 100,000 screaming fans at home or on the road at places like Michigan’s stadium or the LA Coliseum or on national TV where millions of people are watching. “You grow up in a hurry and learn to deal with pressure!”

Tim was the only freshman on the offensive front line to letter in '82 and appeared in the final eight games. In his senior year, he became an Irish captain and second-team All-American as an offensive guard.

He would also bring many of those lessons with him to Stryker.

“I personally feel blessed to have come through that cauldron of fire at Notre Dame. Like Notre Dame, Stryker has a performance-driven culture where expectations are extremely high, and you are expected to deliver outstanding results. But you also have a lot of fun and get to help make healthcare better, which is really phenomenal.”

“When we recruit and hire salespeople, we look for courage and significance. We look for people who feel that they belong working with the phenomenally educated, well trained, talented surgeons and nurses that we are privileged to serve. Our reps must be confident in the value they bring to the operating room, when educating and selling products. For me, football was a terrific training ground for so much of what I did in my career. As in athletics, in business you try to help others, you try to achieve common goals, and generally try to be a good teammate and collectively deliver outstanding results.”

Scannell graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in marketing.

Missing the NFL Draft

In his senior year, Tim injured his knee severely and the team had, for Notre Dame, a poor 5-6 season. Certainly, those two factors didn’t help when the NFL draft rolled around. His name wasn’t called. It was one of the greatest disappointments of his young life.

Playing in the NFL had been one of Tim’s 4 basic career goals. The Dallas Cowboys did invite him to training camp as a free agent. “After a couple of weeks of grueling 2 a day practices, I got a knock on my door at 6:30am and was invited to meet one-on-one with legendary coach Tom Landry,” recalls Scannell. “As you might imagine, I wasn’t invited to see the head coach to hear what a great job I was doing, but rather to be told that it was time for me to start my career outside of playing football!”

While the disappointment was real, Tim still remembers his NFL experience with gratitude—not only for the rare experience of competing at that level, but also getting a free agent signing bonus! “I used my ‘free agent’ signing bonus to buy my first car! An 8-year-old Cadillac Sedan Deville for $2,800!”

Tim returned to Notre Dame to earn his master’s degree in business administration and to serve as graduate assistant coach on legendary coach Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame staff in 1987-88.

Becoming a Federal Agent

Upon graduating with a Notre Dame MBA, Tim determined he didn’t love football enough to dedicate his career to coaching and applied for FBI and Secret Service jobs (#3 on the list). He landed at the Secret Service where he had the honor of serving with a group of phenomenally dedicated and brave employees. He investigated financial crimes and helped protect several of our elected officials including brief assignments supporting protection of the President and Vice President and their families.

Why law enforcement?

“Growing up I had two FBI agents who were neighbors.” He explained. “That career path was always exciting to me. These gentlemen were true salt of the earth people and great family men…kind of like what you would expect a government agent to be. I admired them and thought their work seemed very engaging!”

Tim absolutely loved the job, the people there, and had many great and exciting experiences. He also took care to note to OTW, that his own tenure at the Secret Service was brief and while quite interesting, really, the spotlight, he said, should be on those who’ve dedicated their entire careers to that profession.

Enter Stryker

It was back at Notre Dame, at a football tailgate party no less, talking to his former college roommate Tony Furjanic (then a Stryker endoscopy rep) that Tim first learned about Stryker, selling and the medical device world.

That discussion occurred at a particularly important moment in Tim’s life. During his second year as a federal agent, he married his wife Brigid and, together, they had come to realize that his extensive travel requirements were not, shall we say, well aligned with plans to raise a family.

Tony’s description of the business world caught Tim’s attention. After all, being a “businessman” was career goal #4 (and, notably, that list was in rank order of attractiveness). But the world of business was not something he really understood well.

“My dad was a college professor and administrator, and I would guess 70% of the adults I knew were employed at Penn State, so I didn't really know what being a businessman entailed…beyond things my dad would say like, ‘You know that guy’s in sales and he does really well.’”

After hearing about the sales profession and Stryker’s endoscopy business, Tim Scannell, future President of Stryker, made that fateful decision to sign up and learn how to sell, the Stryker way.

A Different Kind of Big Leagues

“When I came into Stryker, I met incredible leaders like John Brown, who is certainly every bit as intense as Lou Holtz, but, of course, different stylistically. And I learned quickly that Stryker was the big leagues in business and in the med device world and had some incredibly strong leaders that demanded accountability and performance.”

Sales training at Stryker in the early 1990s was intense and challenging. Rookie salespeople like Tim had to learn all the procedures and products and, in Tim’s words, “Immediately take on the immense responsibility to wheel products into surgery and help educate clinicians on their proper use.”

In those moments, as any medical device sales rep can attest, in the OR, the patient is on the table and the surgeon is using your products. You, the rep, are responsible for providing education and expertise. Not everyone can do it. Most people can’t do it.

“Whenever I had the privilege of walking into an operating room, to sell products, to demonstrate or to observe and learn, I always felt this real excitement, almost like a game day in football, that I was entering a truly fascinating place where critically important things were happening.”

Endoscopy, Biotech, Spine

Tim joined Stryker’s Endoscopy business at the very moment minimally invasive procedures were booming. His call points were arthroscopy and general surgery. Laparoscopic cholecystectomies were in full swing and arthroscopic procedures were flourishing as techniques evolved. Endoscopy was growing by leaps and bounds and Tim grew with it. But growth did not diminish Stryker’s basic small company culture. The layers, for example, separating a rookie salesman from the CEO were few and semi-transparent.

Tim Scannell and John Brown

Remembers Tim, “John Brown stayed close to our sales teams and did his very best to shake hands and congratulate every sales quota achiever each year. John loved our customers and truly appreciated the important work our sales representatives did to help our customers make healthcare better every day. We learned from John the importance of taking care of our sales forces and treating our customers with reverence.”

As Tim moved up in the organization, he attracted more and more interest from senior management. In 2001 John Brown, then the CEO, asked Tim to take on the challenge of Vice President and General Manager of Stryker Biotech. Medtronic was bringing Infuse, BMP2, to market and Stryker Biotech had BMP7, brand named OP-1. As Tim remembers it, “John Brown sent me out there with an FDA HDE approval to use OP-1 for long bone nonunion fractures in trauma. It was a hard, complicated, highly scientific, intense business with unique clinical and regulatory challenges. John Brown really put me through a baptism of fire with the challenge.”

By 2003, Stryker’s leadership decided Tim’s skills would be better utilized in a larger commercial business as opposed to Stryker’s early-stage biotech venture and Tim took on the role of Vice President and General Manager for Stryker’s Spine business.

Kevin Lobo and Tim Scannell

It was a good match. “I loved the fact that in spine you had intense and quite frequent surgeon interactions.” The intensity of customer relations in spine was a sharp break from either endoscopy—where the sale was often made to dozens of customers across specialties—or biotech, which was deep in the scientific weeds. “Working in the spine business was highly invigorating and highly challenging. Spine really was a great deal of fun.”

In 2009, Tim became a Group President and in 2018 Tim was appointed Stryker’s President and Chief Operating Officer. Over the last 13 years, as Tim moved through these key senior roles at Stryker, he was an integral part of Stryker’s remarkable transformation into an international medical device and technology leader.

Lessons From a Leader

For this writer, one of the best parts of interviewing successful managers is hearing them describe their philosophies about people and business. Tim was no exception.

“When you're running a business, that's your market, your customers. You are the face of the organization. I like to ask our sales leaders: what's your morale on a one to 10 scale? As the leader, whatever your answer is, it is likely to be the high watermark for the organization. So, I better hear a ten or a nine.”

“The same is true for a division president or general manager. You better bring your ‘A game’; you better be enthusiastic; and you better exude positivity.”

The Stryker Team

Throughout his interview with OTW, Tim continuously re-directed the spotlight to the broader Stryker team.

“It’s been a true honor and privilege to work with thousands of tremendously talented and committed doctors, nurses, and Stryker colleagues over the last three decades! I am grateful to all for making it a phenomenally satisfying and rewarding experience.”

“Kevin Lobo, who's had a phenomenal tenure, has really taken Stryker to a whole different level of performance and done a terrific job.”

“Andrew Pierce and Spencer Stiles are the group executives, charged with leading our commercial businesses today. They both grew up in organizations within the med surg area that I was a part of, I've known them both for 20 plus years, and they're both tremendous performers who have and will continue to deliver outstanding results year after year.”

“Additionally, we have a superb team of talented, long term Stryker veterans running our operating divisions. They include seasoned top performers Mark Paul, Brad Saar, Dylan Crotty, Brent Ladd, Brian White, and David Mercado. And more recently appointed division heads Mike Panos, Don Payerle, Robert Cohen, and Robbie Robinson. Overall, we are very fortunate to have so many dedicated, top performers who have focused on our commercial markets for multiple decades!”

“Customers often express their appreciation for the long tenure and deep domain knowledge of our division heads, each of whom is remarkably committed to helping their physician partners advance the medical fields in which they participate.”

Last, Tim pointed out that Stryker’s sales teams have long been critical to Stryker’s outstanding results! “We are fortunate to have built a culture highly focused on making Stryker a great place to sell! I am incredibly proud of the outstanding service provided by our sales teams and their dedication to making healthcare better and supporting our customers each and every day.”

After Stryker

Tim Scannell is still in his 50s. It is entirely possible, that his prime years remain ahead of him.

“I am passionate about helping businesses and leaders succeed and contributing to great innovation and technology that improves and save lives.” Tim sits on two non-Stryker boards, Insulet, which is attacking diabetes and Novocure, which is addressing various forms of cancer.

Tim and Brigid Scannell bracketing their family

“I also have a lot of exploring to do and a little bit of soul searching. On the personal side, I have to learn to relax more. I hope to ‘make up for lost time’ in many areas. More family time, travel, volunteering, philanthropy, and continued learning. And develop hobbies beyond reading, traveling, exercising, and watching sporting events. We’ll see how that evolves! There might be a boat, a bike, a fishing rod, and a few golf clubs in my future…I can’t say for sure right now!”

Sounds like a new list is coming together.


Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.