Based on a strong foundation, Warner Tech-care Products takes up the torch once carried by its parent company, Hagemeyer.

 Teresa Nelson, president of Minneapolis-based Warner Tech-care Products.

It has been 104 years since a small family firm, launched in the former Dutch East Indies, was created, laying the foundation for a company that has become a leading global supplier of electrical, safety, and related products. In the century since, Netherlands-based Hagemeyer has blossomed into a large and leading company in its market niche, providing a diverse range of business-to-business products the world over.

It is from this strong foundation that Warner Tech-care Products Inc, a national provider of an impressively diverse range of hearing aid products and accessories, was born this past December. It was once a Hagemeyer division known as Warner Industrial Supply, but its assets have been purchased by a 25-year Hagemeyer veteran, Teresa Nelson, who is now leading Warner Tech-care Products as its president.

 Built on Reputation
Based in Minneapolis, Warner Tech-care Products seeks to build on the reputation it built at Hagemeyer as a premier supplier of hearing products. The company’s new marketplace, however, will be somewhat narrower, as it exits the business of supplying to manufacturers and now focuses exclusively on selling into the hearing professional marketplace.

The separation from Hagemeyer, Nelson says, made sense because “we were a small division that would cater to hearing aid manufacturers and audiologists, and their main markets are electric, industrial, and safety.”

On several levels, while Warner Tech-care Products is only in its infancy as a stand-alone company, its preliminary prospects for success look formidable. One reason is the continuity and depth of the company’s experience. Boasting some 60 years of collective staff experience in hearing product sales and marketing, the company has retained almost all of its former Warner Industrial Supply employees. Since December, Nelson says, it also has sought to strengthen its customer service focus, adding personnel resources in that area.

A Comprehensive Catalog
But perhaps the company’s strongest competitive advantage is the extraordinary depth of its product line. Its 110-page catalog reveals a nearly comprehensive offering of hearing aid products that lives up to the company’s promise to be a “single source supplier with the most complete line of hearing aid products for audiologists and hearing instrument specialists.”

“We offer impression materials, diagnostic equipment, listening devices, tools, and repair products for repair and modification. We are pretty diversified,” Nelson says.

Warner Tech-care Products’ account manager Kathy Palmersten, a 7-year company veteran, says the company sees its full range of hearing products as its primary competitive advantage in its marketplace. “In the past,” she says, “other distributors have not been quite as strong in tool and repair products. We have gone a step forward with that, providing a lot of tools that are needed for repair.”

Nor has the company placed too many of its product eggs in one basket. Palmersten says the company’s revenues by product are “really quite evenly distributed.”

The company’s ability to offer a diverse range of cutting-edge hearing products stems in part from its marketplace experience. “We have serviced manufacturers for so many years,” Nelson says, “that we have adopted many of our products around what we know audiologists and hearing aid dispensers are looking for out in the field.”

A Private Label
The company also boasts its own private label line of products, known as Tech-care. “It’s personal care products,” says Nelson, “like our ear freshener, ear gel, dry aid kit, ear wax removal systems, and our private label impression materials.”

Continuing to build this private label line is a top company objective. Palmersten says the company’s priorities are focused on “our ability to come out with more private label products, and we will continue to work with local manufacturers to always have the newest materials available.”

Like many companies fresh off a spin-off, Warner Tech-care Products is now focused on establishing its new brand. Its new Web site, www.warnertechcare.com, will be launched in the coming months, affording the company the ability to process orders online. Customer communication also will be a priority. Says Palmersten: “We will be more aggressively looking at communicating with our customers, through newsletters and mailings, than we have in the past.” And the company expects to continue its presence at major trade shows in the year ahead.

Nelson feels the company’s base in Minneapolis also is proving advantageous. “Minneapolis is kind of a mecca for hearing aid manufacturers,” she says. In addition to its corporate headquarters, the company maintains 85,000 square feet of inventory space there, which permits it to offer same-day shipping to customers.

Additionally, Warner Tech-care continues to draw on the benefits of its past Hagemeyer affiliation, during which it established an abundant number of manufacturer relationships. “Because we were part of a large organization,” Nelson says, “we have been able to maintain the buying power that we had when we were with Hagemeyer, and we are still able to buy those products direct.”

But its new standing as a smaller company also is proving beneficial. “All of our customers have been very supportive about the new purchase of the business,” says Palmersten. “Many of them are small business owners themselves, so they feel they are participating with us.”

Warner Tech-care Products’ new Web site, www.warnertechcare.com, will launch in early 2004. The company also can be reached by toll-free phone (800) 328-4757, or by fax (800) 328-4756.

Michael Johns is a Deptford, NJ-based health care executive and writer. He has served previously as vice president of Gentiva Health Services, the nation’s leading provider of specialty pharmaceutical and home health care services, and a White House speechwriter to former President George H. W. Bush.