While attending the MD&M Minneapolis trade show last week, I spent time with many packaging professionals and MDMs, including Connie Anderson, a Regional Manager with Oliver Healthcare Packaging. Connie is a true industry expert, having been in packaging for over 25 years. We sat down with Connie for a quick interview we thought you’d enjoy.
Lori Najmola (LN): Hi Connie. Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell our readers a little bit about you?
Connie Anderson (CA): Sure. I started out in packaging directly after college, and my first position was in the marketing team of a well-known MDM. A co-worker of mine suggested that I give sales a try, so that’s what I did. I met so many people in the industry, and I eventually moved from MDM to packaging. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Lori Najmola (LN): Tell me about the packaging industry when you first joined. What was it like?
Connie Anderson (CA): When I started out, there were very few women in the industry. To be taken seriously, you had to work extra hard to excel. I had to learn how to be authoritative and provide expert guidance, without being “difficult”. Early on, I learned a valuable lesson—always be prepared and follow through on promises made. Relationships are about trust, and building trust takes work. I was always willing to put the effort in, and that has paid off for me.
LN: How has the industry changed over the years? Have those changes impacted the way you work with customers?
CA: When I first started working, there was no internet, email, or cell phones. Crazy to think about, I know. That made personal relationships a must. You talked with customers in person a lot and got on the phone to cold call for new leads. In-person meetings were essential, so I spent a lot of time on the road.
Today, a lot of communication is done via email. It’s not always easy to get customers to agree to a face-to-face meeting, especially post Covid. As a result, there is less personal relationship building, which makes loyalty harder to come by. Due to the number of acquisitions occurring in the medical device field, I would argue that relationships are more important than ever before. Smaller companies could eventually become a part of a larger company that may not be a current customer. “How can I open doors” is on constant replay in my mind, and at the end of the day … it all comes back to connection.
LN: If you had one piece of advice to offer those just starting out, what would it be?
CA: I would start by telling them to be diligent and work hard. Build partnerships with other team members and work closely with your internal teams because response time is the key to success. Lastly, I would tell them to always be true to themselves.