Valuemed Professional Products Ltd. was born on the cusp of a changing world, and thanks to visionary Candi Johnson, president and COO, the company flexed, adapted, and thrived. Now, 30 years since its humble home office beginnings, Valuemed is a growing Canadian manufacturer and distributor of top-of-the-line healthcare products and equipment for the entire continuum of medical, dental, and alternate healthcare professions. Operating from a 40,000 square foot distribution facility in Edmonton, and with warehouse and branches in Saskatchewan and Ontario, the company’s 40 employees work to deliver products quickly to any location in Canada, including very rural communities and major urban centres. From diagnostic, treatment and interventional products, to coffee and tea, Valuemed is the one-stop-shop supplier that pairs premier products with outstanding support and customer service.
“I founded Valuemed in 1988 because I had been working with a variety of different health care related companies and loved the business. I believed I could build it and used the opportunity to start with supplying examination gloves to the healthcare market when those became an essential tool in infection prevention,” says Candi. “I was working fulltime, but I took an opportunity and started the company by working on it during the evenings and weekends. We were never afraid of hard work or change, and failure was not an option.”
Remember, this was the 80s. Not only was the internet non-existent (the primary communication mode was a landline telephone and a fax machine), the expectation for women with young children was to go into established marketing models, not to build something from nothing and then compete for clients and distribution rights. But Candi’s vision quickly paid off. Within months, she opened a warehouse, and in 1993, her husband Wayne joined Valuemed fulltime.
“There was a lot of shipping, receiving, box moving, paperwork – things that we just couldn’t get done on evenings and weekends anymore,” explains Candi.
Wayne’s fulltime commitment was the beginning of what morphed into a family company. Their son Chris joined the company fulltime in sales in 2003 and today, he works as the sales director. The company has seen many periods of very rapid growth: a major location change and an expansion into the hospital business in 2005, a company acquisition in Saskatchewan in 2013, the launch of Valuemed branded products in 2012, and a distribution centre in Ontario along with another major 1,500 product line increase in 2016. Valuemed now serves organizations across the country on national contracts with equipment and supplies.
“Entrepreneurs work a lot,” admits Candi. “I work a lot of the time, but when I want my largest smile, I just look at my three grandchildren: Willa, Peyton, and Declan.”
“Valuemed has endured a lot during a very changing marketplace and time,” continues Candi. “If you think about what’s happened in the last 30 years, most people wouldn’t even know what it was like to work on manual accounting systems or to rely on a fax machine. In small business, a lot of things were not computerized. Wayne moved us into technology. For a small family business, that was a big feat to take on.” Valuemed continues to rise to the challenge as technology changes.
A major benefit of launching in the pre-tech world is the ability to span the needs of every client. As Chris explains, “The new tech out there (social media, etc.) brings new opportunities and new ways to get your message out. There aren’t just one or two channels anymore.” However, many people still use that fax machine! Why? Because today it’s still an easy and still effective way to communicate.
“There are people who want to use print media, people who want to use digital media, people who want to talk on the phone, those who want to meet in person and people who want to do it all online,” says Chris. “We recognise that. In our marketing and in our service, we do it all. We offer all those mediums to our clients and to our staff. We have team members that are skilled in generating online services, and we have others that are at their best face to face.”
Chris continues, “We value our customers and want to make working with us as efficient as possible. That’s why we have these options. We are here to serve the customer, and if the customer wants someone to phone or visit them every week, or if they want to email or order online, we want to do that.”
From stuffing envelopes and mailing flyers from the kitchen table, the agile company now routinely consults with professionals, planners, nurses, physicians, dentists, builders, managers, contractors, and architects to help them outfit their hospitals, surgical suites, or practices with the products and equipment Valuemed supplies. It’s just one of the many services Valuemed offers that gives its clients complete confidence and long-term relationships.
Valuemed was recognized with the National Distribution Company largest sales growth award in 2013.
“We won the overall award for North America!” says Chris. “This Canadian company, against all those American distributors in that giant market!”
For Candi, the awards, the 30 years, expanding to serve the national healthcare market, having her family join Valuemed, the great people working at Valuemed, and the continued growth are validation of the choice she made so many years ago. She pauses to reflect on the journey.
“Valuemed was kind of my moonlighting dream. What I did in those days was not common for women. I didn’t realize it then, but Valuemed turned out to be something some my family could gravitate to, and I was so proud when they did.”
“We have a lot of exceptional manufacturers and suppliers that we work with,” Candi further details what makes Valuemed stand out. “When it comes to working with our suppliers, we have two main philosophies: treat them like we treat our customers and work with those who work with us. We like to be on the leading edge of practice and technology, and help other companies grow as we grow.
“We want complete customer satisfaction. Definitely our staff play a huge role in our success. We try to include them in many of our decisions because they bring so much to us. We love to bring staff on that have ideas and opinions to help us move forward. They have all become part of the growing Valuemed family.”
“If we could tell our clients anything, it’s how much we appreciate their support,” concludes Candi. “We enjoy working with you and will do everything we can to continue to provide an exceptional experience and to help you run efficient practices. There have been so many people that have contributed to the success of Valuemed along the way. I hope those people reading this can smile with pride knowing that they had their part in helping us building something from nothing.”