2015 BC CEO Awards: Edward Wright

Former Cartier executive, named by BIV as top CEO in this year's small-medium public company category, builds brand awareness as leader of health-care services company

Edward Wright, CEO of CRH Medical Corp., brought his expertise in the realm of branding – gleaned from years with luxury retailer Cartier – to the health-care field | Rob Kruyt

In 2006, Edward Wright was the senior vice-president of retail for Cartier’s North American wing based in New York. He’d been with the jewelry giant for almost two years and was managing a $300 million retail business with more than 40 American locations.

A friend of Wright’s, Tony Holler, reached out to him with an interesting opportunity. Holler had founded and sold ID Biomedical Corp. to GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) for $1.7 billion before turning his attention to the CRH O’Regan System, a non-surgical method of removing hemorrhoids. CRH Medical Corp. (TSX:CRH) was born. Holler thought Wright would be a good fit for the new company.

“I had known Edward Wright socially for a number of years and had viewed him as a bright, aggressive executive who had been very successful in the luxury goods industry,” Holler said. “I also knew that he was very focused on building relationships based on trust and friendship.”

Holler persuaded Wright – who had also worked for Baume & Mercier from 1994 to 2002 – to leave the industry he’d made his name in for an unproven health-care services company. When Wright joined CRH, the company was working on building clinics and bringing patients in for the O’Regan System.

It was also spending a lot of money on marketing and was deep in the red. Wright spearheaded a push towards a direct-to-physician model through gastroenterologists.

“Our goal was to give [doctors] the education and support necessary to create a paradigm shift in the treatment of hemorrhoids, giving them the ability to provide a continuum of care to their patients,” Wright said. “To date we have trained nearly 1,500 physicians on the use of our technology with more than 115,000 procedures annually.”

Wright said that what he lacked in health-care experience he made up for in other areas.

“My background for 20 years was in the luxury goods business, and I think some of the things that made me an effective CEO is I’ve worked and lived in different parts of North America,” he said. “I spent a number of years in Toronto and a number of years in New York, and I think having the ability to work in different industries, the ability to work in different environments, has helped me immensely. Over that time, all of those experiences have allowed me to garner a perspective.”

This year, shares of CRH doubled on the heels of another big endeavour, the $73.2 million acquisition of Gastroenterology Anesthesia Associates, one of the biggest providers of anesthesiology services to gastroenterologists in the southeastern U.S. Since 2007, when Wright joined CRH, the company has undergone a turnaround from $4 million in losses to $28 million in profit at the end of last year. Wright said the plan has always been to use his retail experience and apply it to the health-care services sector.

Cartier, founded in Paris in 1847, is an instantly recognizable brand around the world. Wright said having worked for both the French jewelry giant and Baume & Mercier has given him the ability to emphasize branding within a sector that usually focuses on other departments.

“[Cartier and Baume & Mercier] are strong-brand businesses, and understanding the business of brands and the significance of a strong brand and what you can do to leverage your brand is very meaningful,” he said. “So when I moved to the health-care industry one of the most important things for me was to understand CRH. And the philosophy of CRH is we’re very much a commercial health-care company and we’re about creating demand for products and services.”

A day in the life: Edward Wright describes a typical timetable of his working day

6:15 a.m.: Preparation for the day and conversations with individuals involved with the capital markets

7:45 a.m.: Arrive at office

8-10 a.m.: Conference calls regarding overall operations, strategy, updates on potential acquisitions

10:30 a.m.: Review and respond to emails and calls

11:30 a.m.: Sales team updates – sales targets and growth, customer engagement and outreach discussed

12:15 p.m.: Working lunch at the office or lunch meetings

1-3  p.m.: Introductory and update calls with investors, analysts and fund managers across North America

3:30 p.m.: Meetings with direct reports for operational updates and to discuss any day-to-day issues

5 p.m.: Review and respond to emails and phone calls received throughout the day

6 p.m.: Home or external committee and board of directors responsibilities

8 p.m.: Prepare and organize for the following workday

Join us to celebrate on November 3 when Business in Vancouver and MacKay CEO Forums present the 2015 BC CEO Awards at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For more information or to register for the event visit our events page.