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Conversation with the Chairman of Midmark: Anne Eiting Klamar

Conversation with the Chairman of Midmark: Anne Eiting Klamar

MEET ANN EITING KLAMAR

Anne Eiting Klamar is currently the Chair of Midmark Corporation.  She was previously the fourth generation of the Eiting family to hold the title of President & CEO at Midmark Corporation.   Anne was voted into the role by Midmark’s Board of Directors in April of 2000.  She was named to Midmark’s Board in 1993 and served as corporate secretary.  Prior to coming to Midmark, Klamar practiced medicine for more than five years as a staff physician at Family Physicians of Urbana, Ohio.  

Anne is passionate about bringing healthcare to those who would otherwise have none, mentoring young people in business and medicine, sitting on boards of family-held companies, and working at the university level.  She is currently on the Ohio State University Foundation Board of Directors, among a number of other boards, both past, and present.

Klamar received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan and graduated with her M.D. degree from the Ohio State University.  She is also a graduate of the Owner/President Management program at Harvard Business School and is an Executive Scholar with Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  She lives in Versailles, Ohio with her husband, Rob, also a physician  They have two grown sons.

Excerpt from Women in Board Leadership Podcast: Episode 1

Anne Klamar, Chairman of Midmark, has served as Chairman of the Board for more than five years. Prior to this, she was CEO of Midmark for 15 years and spent her early career as a medical doctor. She has served on the Midmark board for more than 20 years and served on several for-profit and not-for-profit boards. Midmark is the only clinical environmental design company that enables a better care experience. At the point of care, their focus is on harmonizing space, technology, and workflows, which allow for more efficient care and better outcomes for patients.  


Can you provide a little bit of background about your family and business?

I am the fourth-generation family Chairman and prior CEO of our family company, started in 1915 by my great-grandfather. We are transitioning from the fourth to the fifth generation.

We have one fifth-generation family member working in the business, not in a leadership role. Still, she’s very competent at what she does—we manufacturer for the medical, dental, and animal health spaces, clinical exam rooms, primarily. But also integrate workflow and design so that we’ve become more than just a medical manufacturer.

We’ve become a medical device company through our digital diagnostics and digital imaging. And now, we are moving forward into the real-time locating system hardware software space to track efficiency in medical office buildings and hospitals. And therefore, improve the efficiency of how medicine is practiced.


Tell me your family and company in terms of the complexity and challenges.

My brother, and sister, and I all worked in the business together. We all were happy with our roles, me as CEO and them in their respective roles. And I have a high level of regard and respect for my siblings, although we’re very different.

My siblings and I look like an odd assortment on the one hand; on the other hand, I respect them for their roles in the family, and we work well together. We don’t think the same way, but we work when you put all three of us together. Is it perfect? No. Is there a dysfunction? There is probably in every family, but when the chips are down, I feel responsible for them and the company. I love them. It’s held us together well.  


Tell me a little bit about your history and becoming Chairman. I know you are serving as CEO for quite a while. What was that transition to Chairman, and what brought it on? 

I am a physician, and I was asked to join our board of directors in 1993. When I finished residency, I was on the board for seven years. There was an external successor brought in to succeed my dad, who didn’t work out. The board then launched a national search at that point. I knew about all the candidates, but I didn’t realize that I was one of them! In April 2000, I was asked to leave the boardroom, and I assumed I would be fired. When I was asked to come back into the room, the board said, congratulations, you are the new Midmark president. I was shocked. I didn’t have the presence of mind to say no. I did say, as a shareholder in this company, this is financially irresponsible. This company is on hard times right now; we are losing money, there was a failed succession plan, and I have no skillsets. The board said they had a high level of confidence in me. Whenever I started to doubt my ability to lead the company, I thought of the board and reminded myself that they would not have put me in this role if I could not succeed. 

For the first four or five years, it was just finding my way and developing leadership skills. Physicians don’t necessarily have great leadership skills. They tell people what to do, and people do it or not. That doesn’t work in business. When I was 15 years into the role, I realized that as CEO, I was tired. I’d given my best and played as hard and as long as I could. In 2015, I told the board that I was ready to retire. I knew I had done my best, and I was prepared to support my successor in the next stage of the business.  

The next day, Midmark’s Chairman called and said that his company was getting acquired and the new owners didn’t need a CEO. It was such lucky timing, as he was my first choice for a successor. When I asked him to be CEO of Midmark, he agreed to do so if I would become Chairman. We swapped roles, he replaced me as CEO, and I replaced him as Chairman!


Let’s turn now to board dysfunction and composition. What have been your issues and challenges in the boardroom, and how has your thinking evolved around composition? 

The board that I inherited was my dad’s board. It was a good old boy, yes-man board. And that worked for him, but it didn’t work for me. I had so many glaring deficiencies in terms of industry skill sets, marketing, and operations. I had to build my board based upon skill sets to support my areas of growth.

When I first became Chairman, I had two quietly dysfunctional board members. One was not a bad person or board member. It’s just that the skill set he brought to the board 15 years before was no longer relevant. The other one was more dysfunctional and largely self-unaware. I used the annual board and peer interviews, which I conduct, supporting information when asking a director to step down. 

In the annual interview process, the board has been great about being honest and transparent about their opportunities for improvement and the frank assessments of their peers. I have had to ask board members to step down; some acquiesce graciously, and others more reluctantly. 

As a Chairman, it’s important to set up the expectations that they are here to serve the company and shareholders. This is not an appointment for life. Directors are evaluated every year and will be voted upon by shareholders.

Instead of terms or age limits, I’d rather have conversations. With term limits or age limits, you’re setting up an entitlement mindset until you hit that limit. And then it becomes awkward to ask people to step down before they reach their “limit” because now you’ve breached into that entitlement range.

Difficult conversations are uncomfortable. Boards would rather wait somebody out, wait out a non-performer than expect excellence and replace a peer.  No board members are irreplaceable, they may think they are, or you may think they are, but you know, boards change. Healthy turnover is good for the board. 

We do a board skills assessment every year, which supports healthy turnover, looking at what skill sets we believe we’re going to need: tied to the future and the company’s strategy. We have had a lot of luck reaching into our networks and asking our networks to network because values and culture are so important to our success. I’ve managed a fair amount of board turnover. Still, it always ends up being better, even though it’s hard at the moment. 


What is your advice for a new Chairman coming into the job or an existing Chairman who wanted to address dysfunction and be the highest performing chairman they could be? What would it be your advice? 

An excellent Chairman has high EQ, including empathy, understanding, courage, and a willingness to be uncomfortable. If you’re going to be a good board chair or even a good leader, you must be willing to sit with discomfort and allow yourself to be challenged. One of the hardest things about being the board chair is ensuring that others feel empowered to tell me no. I need to know people willing to challenge me both in the boardroom and out of the boardroom. The role of Chairman can be isolating because you’re the only one in the room that has the job you have.

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