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Deborah Williams is an Executive Assistant at IZI Medical. She played a key role in helping the company scale, while preserving its family-like culture. Deborah’s Everyday Hero story is professional and personal, as you will hear from Greg Groenke, CEO of IZI Medical, and from Deborah’s son. 

Based in Baltimore, Maryland, IZI Medical Products is a leading developer, manufacturer, and provider of high quality medical consumable accessories used in radiology, radiation therapy, vertebroplasty and image guided surgery procedures. IZI has built a diverse portfolio of products backed by strong intellectual property and currently sells to more than 1,000 domestic customers as well as internationally across 25 countries. Shore exited IZI Medical in October 2022. 

Transcript

Introduction

Deborah Williams: I am just a go-getter. I don't take no for an answer, and nothing's impossible. Nothing's impossible. No matter what I get, it seems that I can get it done. I just try to get as much done in a day as I can get done. Especially now because I've got more yesterday's than I have tomorrows, so I have to live every moment to the fullest.

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Everyday Heroes, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the people who are building our companies from the inside, every day, often out of the spotlight. With this series, we want to pull those heroes out of the shadows. We want to hear their stories, we want to share their stories.

We want to understand what drives them, why they do what they do, how they might inspire and support others to become everyday heroes too.

In this episode, I talk with Deborah Williams of IZI Medical. If there's one thing I quickly learned, Deborah Williams can get it done. No matter what 'it' is, it seems. But to understand how she gets so much done, you first need to understand what drives her. And you can't talk about Deborah long without talking about family.

The family, she's from, the family she's built, and the sense of family that she's helped create at IZI Medical. When I asked Don Pierce, who is a partner at Shore Capital, why he nominated Deborah as an everyday hero, it didn't take him long to mention family.

Don Pierce: She's someone you can always count on to get the job done.

I think she has a great attitude and goes above and beyond her role at IZI. Aside from that, she's also a very big family person. Family's important to her and she's a very caring individual overall. I think sometimes people in more administrative roles can sometimes have their contributions to the business overlooked, and I think it's important to recognize everyone for a job well done, not just the C-Suite or the executive leadership team, or the CEO.

Deborah Williams: I'm Deborah Williams. I am the executive assistant to Greg Groenke here at IZI Medical. I've been here eight years. I consider this my second home, and the employees are my family and I treat them that way.

We manufacture and distribute medical devices for interventional radiology, oncology, radiation therapy, soft tissue biopsy products, vertebroplasty, neuro-spine. So we're in those markets. The reason that I'm so dedicated is because I believe in the products that we produce. And I love the fact that we produce them here at our Owens Mills facility.

They're not trucked in or anything, so we take pride in what we're doing and our products are inspired by physicians.

Friday Morning Breakfast

Anderson Williams: And you've been at IZI eight years, as you said. How has it grown and changed in that time?

Deborah Williams: When I started there were about 30 employees. Now there are 90 employees, so it's tripled. When I first started in this role every Friday we served donuts or bagels. We have a little breakfast every Friday. When I first started, it was small enough that I could treat them. I like to cook as well, so I would do waffles and chicken, bacon, everything, when I first, it's only 30 people.

Anderson Williams: That's a pretty good relationship building tool right there. Chicken and waffles and bacon, Deborah.

 

Deborah Williams: Oh, yeah. Yes, so prior to me coming they did bagels every Friday, and I'm like, oh, we are not doing bagels every Friday. We can switch it up. And the first day I brought in three waffle irons and a platter of bacon and sausages. Everybody lost their mind. So, I started doing that once a month, but then as we grew, it became unreasonable for me to try to feed 90 people on Friday morning, I'd have to be up all night preparing.

So that's what's changed. It has really grown since I've been here. I'm back to serving bagels on Friday, or Chick-fil-A, especially since the pandemic. It's just, you know, it's not feasible for me to do that anymore.

Anderson Williams: This is Greg Groenke, the CEO of IZI Medical.

Greg Groenke: What really created our relationship and I think allowed Deborah to expand in her role.  We originally brought her into interview for a customer service role and brought her into the organization as a customer service rep. And what became very clear is that Deborah was not only good at interfacing with the customer, was also very good at looking at systems, looking at how her role interacted with the rest of the organization.

But I would say one of the biggest things that I really have, enjoyed working with Deborah over the last several years is really her fostering and being part of our can-do attitude as a culture, and she really embodies that. I think the other thing that she does really well, and you know, that's one of the things that I've really encouraged her to do is make the employees feel part of something special.

Whatever we're doing, the team feels like they're part of something and part of a family. You know, she's the, the person that leads a lot of that.

The Family Hustle

Anderson Williams: At this point, it seemed clear that Deborah can do anything from executive assistant to customer service, to understanding and managing critical business systems, to cooking everyone a hardy team breakfast and the list goes on.

One of the examples that Don mentioned at one point in time, you stepped into the accounts receivable sort of role and ended up making substantial financial contribution in that process. Can you just describe what that was?

Deborah Williams: They came to me and said that they had a need in the AR area and would I take it on. And without even blinking in the eye, I said, sure.

I'm a process person. So I went over, the first thing I asked was process. How does this work? And they really didn't have a written process, so I basically built it from scratch and said, okay, here's what I think I need to do, and I wrote a process up and presented it and asked them if that was okay. I'll do this at 30 days. I'll do this at 60 days. I'll do this at 90 days.

Anderson Williams: It seems like Deborah listening to you talk about that and then thinking back to all of the people and all of the different ways that people lean on you, that you have a real ability to maybe clarify or simplify what otherwise could be chaotic. Does that sound accurate to you?

Deborah Williams: Yes. Yes. I can take a mess and break it up and attack it piece by piece. It helps to have some inherent hustle in you as well.

Anderson Williams: Where's that hustle come from?

Deborah Williams: My dad, my father, and we all got it from him. I mean, he worked 40 years without a day off. So integrity, good work ethic, was instilled in us as kids and we carried on as adults.

You're only as good as your word. That's all we heard as kids, so that's how I live. If I say I'm going to do something, I'm obligated to make sure it gets done.

Anderson Williams: If I picked a, random Tuesday, in your work, Deborah, what is your regular day at work? What does that look like for you?

Deborah Williams: Well, I have my list of things to do, and then I have what I call drive-bys. That's all day long, so no two days are the same.

 

That's another reason why I like the job. Because I have my normal things I have to do as an administrator, and then I have people who depend on me to fill in the gaps. So whenever there's a panic button, they come to my desk.

Anderson Williams: And that's what a drive-by is? It's the, other stuff?

Deborah Williams: Yes. Yes. So, the drive-bys make it interesting, they make it different.

Anderson Williams: Deborah may have gotten her hustle from her dad, but she credits her mom with being the family foundation. She told me her mom is the one who taught her how to be independent, how to dream bigger, and how to be great.

Deborah's stories of her parents helped crystallize for me her mindset and her approach to work and her willingness to do what it takes for her team and for the benefit of IZI Medical. So I asked Greg from his perspective if there was an example of Deborah's work that really captured for him, this idea of hustle.

Greg Groenke: We had a meeting that we were setting up, this was about a year ago, and we basically had planned to have the Shore team bring the booklets in and have all the materials ready to go, and due to weather, that didn't happen. So we sent Deborah out with the file and said, here, you know, come back with the booklets and let's make the meeting a success.

And that's to her hustle, right? It's come into work and immediately the script was flipped, right? It's like, I need you to go out and make 10 of these booklets and, and get it done now. She'll put everything down and say, hey, this is the priority, and like you said, go out and hustle and get it done.

It's that behind the scenes work that a lot of people don't realize and the meeting goes off well, everybody looks around and goes, oh yeah, but then you don't realize the effort that went in behind the scenes to make that happen.

Her Nomination

Anderson Williams: In a fast growing company, plans change, priorities change, and the unexpected can always be expected. The value of having someone like Deborah who cannot only get things done, but can also keep the team together can't be overstated. It's also clear that in the hustle of everyday work, a little bit of recognition and appreciation can go a long way.

You seemed a little bit surprised when you were told you had been nominated as an everyday hero, and I think you said you were glad you weren't on a Zoom call or something, because you had some tears in your eyes. What was that about? What did that feel like for you?

Deborah Williams: One of the things that motivates me is being appreciated.

If I know that you are going to appreciate what I'm doing, I'm gonna go above and beyond. And if I feel like I'm being appreciated, that's all that matters to me. And it really did something to me when I got that email. I'm like, oh my God, oh my goodness. He really appreciates the effort that I put in over the last five years.

I was absolutely surprised. I was like, oh my goodness. Out of all the people that could have been nominated, he nominated me. I was honored. Really was honored. Look, I'm getting choked up now talking about it.

Anderson Williams: And did you tell your family?

Deborah Williams: Did I tell my family? I told everybody I went to the front lobby and screamed it out. "I'm a everyday hero!"

Yeah, I did tell my family, I have a 32 year old son and I shared it with him. We always share our stories every day in terms of our work day. So everybody was really proud. I was really proud. It makes me feel really good and I've been working off of that ever since that day I opened that email.

I've been inspired every day because I know that somebody pays attention. It's not all for nothing.

Anderson Williams: And I'm curious what your son said when you first told him. How did he respond?

Deborah Williams: He said, "atta-boy, mom." Because I always tell him that. So his response was, that's really good. That's great. Now you can go in there and work harder.

I'm like, yep, that's usually what happens.

Anderson Williams: You're cracking me up.

Bringing It Back to Family

Since I knew Debra was proud of her recognition as an everyday hero, I wanted to hear from her, given all we had talked about and all she had accomplished over eight years at IZI, what she had done that she was most proud of. And not surprisingly, she came back to family.

What have you done, what have you accomplished that you're most proud of?

Deborah Williams: My son, having my son and being able to raise him to be a nice young man. People tell me all the time, he's a very nice young man, so he's my biggest proudest accomplishment, is the the young man that he turned out to be.

Anderson Williams: This was too clear and too potent an answer to leave hanging.

So I asked Deborah if she minded if I called her son Elliot to capture his thoughts on his mom and her recognition as an everyday hero.

The reason we ended up calling you, Elliot, is that I often ask in our interviews a question about what our everyday heroes are most proud of, and I usually expect to hear something about work or something they've accomplished or whatever that might be. And your mom said you. So I'm curious why you think that is, and how as a son you respond to that.

Elliot Williams: Well, I'm flattered by it. I thought I just get on her nerves all the time. Because I'm always trying to motivate and pour into her and keep her motivated and keep her from doubting things, you know, giving her things that she gave me.

Like she always tells me there's no reason why things can't get done correctly. Put the effort in. Now you put the effort in and it doesn't work out, you can live with that.

Anderson Williams: Right. 

 

Elliot Williams:  She has a passion for effort, more than anything. I think the main thing about my mom that needs to be captured is that what you see is what you get.

She's truly her. If nobody would see her greatness, she would still be great.

Anderson Williams: Deborah Williams is an everyday hero whose superpower is hustle. She learned her hustle from watching her parents. She has lived it through her work at IZI Medical and in her own role as a parent, and now she's passed that hustle on, to her son.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Deborah Williams, Greg Groenke, Don Pierce and Elliot Williams.

 

This podcast is the Property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

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