Bernd Krebs admits he’s happy. Very happy, in fact. After all, the Sunrise Medical executive is living in America’s happiest city. Home for the Senior Vice President of Global Product Management and Engineering is Boulder, Colorado, a city nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about 40 kilometres from Denver.
A city topping National Geographic’s 2017 list of the happiest and healthiest cities in the US; it’s the perfect environment for planning the improvement of people’s lives.
Sunrise Medical is a world leader in the development, production and distribution of rehabilitation products, including wheelchairs, hand cycles, mobility scooters, power wheelchairs and walkers, aimed at getting children and adults with mobility problems moving with ease and in style.
Headquartered in Malsch, Germany, and in Boulder for the North American division, the company employs more than 2,300 people in production facilities in Germany, Spain, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, China, the UK and the US, and in medical retailers and wholesalers in more than 130 countries.
A dedication to development and improvement
Sunrise Medical is renowned for its dedication to development and product improvement, with a particular focus on flexibility, safety and ease of handling. Back cushions and systems to enable proper posture and positioning are meticulously designed to suit the diverse requirements of users. And among its 10 brands – such as RGK, Jay and Sopur – are the cleverly named Quickie, Zippie and Breezy, which are enough to inspire anyone to get out and about.
The company also relies on the experience of its own wheelchair users, employed in crucial positions to provide insight and input into the
development and adaptation of wheelchairs, and to consult with individual customers. Meanwhile, its sponsorship of disability sports, including the electric wheelchair hockey league and the hand-bike team Team Sopur Quickie, provides a vital connection with athletes to understand the requirements for a mobility vehicle under extreme stress.
If you follow, you do not win.
Bernd has been with the company for 20 years, witnessing trends in business come and go, competition increase, and technology change enormously. However, he believes the essence of Sunrise Medical has never changed, nor has it wavered from its fundamental focus.
“We aim to improve the lives of our customers and work tirelessly on innovations to help them get on with their daily lives,” he says. “We need to understand their pain, so we listen a lot. We have to really appreciate what a customer is looking for, to know what needs to be done, while also realising what cannot be delivered.
“We are constantly monitoring and benchmarking our top competitors to interpret their strategies,” he adds. “We work with the motoring and aircraft industries to understand the latest in lightweight alloys and carbon fibre, and we tap into research programs at universities to keep abreast of what is coming next. If you follow, you do not win.”
Working with a flat hierarchy
Bernd is a strong supporter of a flat hierarchy, which he believes speeds up decision making to create a faster, more dynamic working environment where discipline on the process is ensured and communication among staff is paramount.
“We’re a fair-sized company for our industry and believe a fast company is successful, not necessarily a big one,” he says. “Our green policy has increased tremendously over the past five years.
We focus on environmental sustainability, embracing processes to conserve natural resources, avoiding pollution and actively reusing materials and recycling.”
Meanwhile, there’s life out there in Colorado that Bernd is happy to return to after his business travels. “Denver International Airport is an ideal hub for me with direct connections to all our development centres in America and Europe,” he says.
“But I love to come home. We have 300 sunny days a year, which is tremendous. I spend spare time with my family, hiking, biking, motorcycling and skiing. We love being outdoors. And of course, we’re living among the happiest people in America.”