c01a.jpg (7139 bytes)He was a Southern Boy with a headful of steam,
Dreaming of publishing magazines.
Gonna get himself a Beemer, living the American Dream.

Jack Spears published the first issue of Second Source in April 1986 from a kitchen table in Charlotte, N.C., and today’s 24×7 can be traced to that seed. He remained on-site longer than most entrepreneurs, but this summer Jack decided it was time to pursue a new venture. He started out as a service tech, so it’s not surprising that his tinkering leaves the healthcare technology industry in better shape than it was when he arrived.

Always the gadfly, Jack used Second Source to nip at companies made bloated and arrogant by years of reckless healthcare spending. Jack invented the “Narcissus Award” in 1988 and presented it to misguided managers and greedy corporations that outrageously insisted their equipment couldn’t be serviced by customers and independents.

In 1989, Jack condemned the American Sterilizer Company’s second attempt to enter the independent service business by purchasing TRW Medical Electronics.

“Why does Amsco think they now can come in and embrace the TRW guys, when last month the old line Amsco employees were trying to put TRW’s medical service division out of business?” he wrote. “There is just something different between a pipe wrench and a logic analyzer. Steam and electronics just don’t mix!”

I was a “TRW guy” back then, and I knew Jack was right. My bonus was based on reducing my customer’s expenses; my Amsco counterparts got bonuses based on increasing parts and service revenue. We fought like “Itchy and Scratchy” that first year.

When I met Jack a few months after the column came out, I thanked him for printing something a lot of TRW and Amsco troops wanted to say, and I said I was stunned Amsco’s management didn’t respond. “On the contrary,” said Jack, his Tarheel grin spreading from ear to ear as he flipped open the Second Source Biomedical in his hand, revealing an interview with the president of Amsco Engineering Service, Dave Bellitt.

Jack’s believed in making his magazines an open forum for the industry and in making the industry open for fair competition. “We at Second Source prefer the benefits of competition and the ability to make a choice when dissatisfied with a particular product or service,” he wrote in 1987. “If we limit the hospital’s right to choose a service provider, we will expose ourselves to the perils of monopolistic practices.”

Jack, Jack. Ain’t coming back.
He’s moving off to cyberspace, he finally cracked.

Second Source led to many innovations — a weekly fax newsletter in 1993, a Web site with daily industry news in 1996, an exposition for the business of healthcare technology management in 1997, and all along, a variety of magazines.

He built all this by surrounding himself with talented people, providing the resources needed to do quality work, and by giving his crew the freedom to try new ideas. 24×7, HealthTech, and our many corporate cousins will continue to thrive for years to come thanks to a management style Jack recommended to Second Source readers in 1988:

“A word to the wise for managers and supervisors — please do not isolate your employees from any sources of information; instead, encourage their growth and development. The results will astonish you and you might receive what you have been trying to get all along — respect.”

Jack earned our respect, and one heck of a going-away party, where we sang “Southern Boy,” a song written for Jack by several staff members. It’s the same song quoted in this column.

Jack’s new adventure is, like most of his ideas, a bit risky — an Internet business that he hopes will become an open, objective information forum for technology acquisition. “Our mission is simple,” his MedNeti manifesto explains. “To build and drive the growth of medical and healthcare net marketplaces that provide valuable resources and interactive opportunities for buyers and sellers of products and technology.”

Don’t count him out, cause you’ll be dead wrong,
By the time we finish singin’ this song
He’ll be moved onto something, he don’t stay still too long.

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