How Walter Rosebrough Jr. developed a strategy to keep Steris Corp. on the right track

Walter Rosebrough Jr., president and CEO. Steris Corp.
Walter Rosebrough Jr., president and CEO. Steris Corp.

NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Public Company
Walter Rosebrough Jr.
president and CEO
Steris Corp.
When Walter Rosebrough Jr. joined Steris Corp., the billion-dollar global business was struggling with low growth, a high overhead cost structure and questions regarding its go-to-market strategy. In addition, health care reform was in its beginning stages, which posed the threat of limited growth in Steris’ primary market.
Rosebrough worked with management and the board of directors to develop a strategy for restructuring and a growth program to move the company forward.
Rosebrough recognized that Steris had a prestigious history and great potential. What he could not have foreseen were the unanticipated challenges that hit the company within a few months of his arrival, which were notification from the FDA that the company’s foundational and flagship product, System1, could face extinction in the U.S.; a global financing meltdown that impacted spending in all markets and particularly capital spending, which is 40 percent of Steris’ revenue; the uncertainty of health care reform; and aggressive intervention by two activist shareholders.
The results that Steris employees have accomplished in the face of those challenges have been stellar. The company has grown earnings per share at a compound growth rate of 15 percent per year from fiscal years 2008 to 2012. This performance is in excess of the general market, the health care equipment and supplies industry and Steris’ comparative company peers.
As of this year, Steris only had a couple major products that existed six years ago, truly showing the impact of Rosebrough’s emphasis on research, development and product line reinvigoration.
A major initiative was to in-source parts of production that have historically been outsourced. Steris invested more than $20 million in capital through the course of 18 months, and as a result, created better quality, enhanced delivery reliability and lowered costs, all while creating hundreds of jobs in the U.S. and in Northeast Ohio.
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