Featured Leader: Bob Simpson

Bob SimpsonBob Simpson has been the president and CEO of LeeSar and the Cooperative Services of Florida since 2002, and he loves what he does. Simpson’s long and diverse background in the healthcare industry started back in 1965 when he joined the United States Army. Serving two tours in Vietnam and one tour in Korea, Simpson saw firsthand as a combat medic the critical importance of supply chain to get medics what they needed, when they needed it, in order to save lives. This experience sparked a passion to make a difference in supply chain, a passion that Simpson has pursued throughout his life.

Simpson’s desire to improve supply chain for healthcare providers goes hand in hand with his passion to make a difference in the lives of patients. Following the tragic death of his teenage son, Bobby, who was killed by a drunk driver in 1989, Simpson wanted to do something to honor his son’s memory. As his way of making a difference in the lives of children in need, Simpson founded Project Perfect World, a non-profit medical mission charity that provides free surgeries for children in poverty-stricken countries. Now more than two decades later, Project Perfect World is still sending highly skilled medical mission teams to Ecuador and other areas of need three times per year.

In addition to his knowledge and experience on the provider side of the healthcare industry, Simpson also knows what it’s like to be on the receiving end of healthcare as a patient. He explained that it was actually a fateful experience as a patient in 2001 that led him to his current position with LeeSar.

Simpson went in for a routine physical and received the shock of a lifetime—he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and told he had sixty days to live. However, thanks to the skill and expertise of Dr. William C. DeWolf at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Simpson’s life was saved after an eleven-hour surgery. That frightening experience led him to reevaluate his priorities. At the time, his job required him to travel extensively, and he often was away from his home and family all week. After the surgery, Simpson and his wife decided it was time for him to resign and find a new position that would allow him more time at home.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned in life came through the loss of our son and through my experience with cancer: family comes first.”

Shortly after putting the word out that he was looking for a new position, Simpson was presented with the challenging but exciting opportunity to change and improve supply chain processes through LeeSar. Simpson explained, “One reason I took this job was so I could spend more time with my wife, Linda. The second reason I took this job was the challenge.” Simpson accepted the challenge, and hasn’t looked back yet.

Working at LeeSar is a far cry from Simpson’s very first paid job, working as a tool and die maker while in high school. But as was evident throughout the interview, Simpson truly enjoys and is passionate about what he does. He explained that the best advice he ever received was:

“Do a job that you enjoy doing. Don’t do a job for pay. Do a job that jumps you out of bed in the morning.”

When asked what he sees as the most important skills or attributes for accomplishing his job with excellence, Simpson shared five things:

  • Focus– “To stay focused on the mission of this organization to keep the cost down and to at the same time give a high quality of products so the outcomes are right.”
  • Negotiations– “Negotiations are us reaching out to the people who supply us with the product, looking for a fair deal that benefits both organizations and that will have a positive impact on our customers.”
  • Commitment– “Fully committed to what we do… Not only committed to LeeSar, but committed to the community that we live in.”
  • Vision– “You should always have a vision about what can be the best you can do… What I do next week will be the best for that week, and then the vision will take me to the next week.
  • Salesmanship– “You’re always selling. Whether it’s to the leadership in the hospitals selling a prospect of how to change things and make things better, or in front of the boards selling your thoughts and ideas, you’re always selling. Salesmanship is key.

Another thing Simpson points to as highly critical to achieving excellence within the industry is learning from others through networking.

“I get my new ideas by visiting with industry leaders, by visiting with people outside of healthcare, by seeing what other supply chain logistics experts do, by attending conferences, and by simply talking to people. Networking is worth its weight in gold.”

When not busy doing the job he loves so much, Simpson pursues his other loves—family, fishing, boating, and classic car restoration. He also has faithfully been checking things off his bucket list, including climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, participating as a crewmember on a yacht in America’s Cup, and touring Italy.

As the interview wrapped up, Simpson shared two things he would be sure to learn if he were starting over in his education and career: “Ballroom dancing. You cannot go to fundraisers, social events, board meetings, etc. without being able to dance. Secondly, learn how to play golf. I’ve seen more big business deals done on the golf course than I’ve ever seen done in a board room.” Great advice for anyone setting out in their career!