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    (Podcast) - From Recalibrating Lab Equipment to Redirecting Company Focus

    By ZAGENO Team - 6 minutes read

    Today, we're very pleased to welcome Colleen Lyons, marketing manager at Marathon LS to the podcast. 

    Colleen, thank you for joining us. 

    Thank you so much for having me. 

     

    I'm always fascinated by company names. I started a company back in the day and I created this fancy name for it. So, when I was preparing to speak with you and I thought about the meaning of Marathon LS, I quickly assumed LS stood for life science.

    And then I thought about “Marathon” and I was thinking, okay, that's got to be about endurance. Am I close to right, there? 

    Yes. So, for my first couple months of working here, I thought the LS stood for lab services. So I was...

    ...that would have been good, yeah!

    Exactly, so it fits whatever you're looking for. But yes we say innovation is a marathon, not a sprint.

     

    Well, you've forecasted my next thought because, at your core, your business is a service organization. Your team's expertise is not in science per se but in the engineering of laboratory equipment used by scientists.

    It was fascinating because the industry does take for granted that it needs to meticulously maintain, calibrate, and repair its equipment. And this expertise supports a who's who list of clients. I'm looking at your website, Moderna, Pfizer, Gingko Bioworks, Sanofi, and the list goes on and on.

    Can you tell us more about the business and its mission? 

    Yes, of course. Thank you, Greg. 

    So, where we're definitely very proud of the clients we support and you're right, if an instrument goes down, then absolutely the science stops, the innovation stops, and we're really proud that we're able to step in and support our customers.

    Just in the past year, really, we expanded our offerings to include lab supplies, as well. So, pipette tips, serological, pipettes, Erlenmeyer flasks, a lot of the smaller laboratory equipment that is so important.

    Just in the past year, really, we expanded our offerings to include lab supplies, as well. So, pipette tips, serological, pipettes, Erlenmeyer flasks, a lot of the smaller laboratory equipment that is so important.

     

    And so you said you took that decision...was it earlier in 2020? Where was it in relation to the pandemic?

    Of course. March 2020 came around, we had a really small team at the time - I want to say less than 10 people. And obviously, no equipment repair was needed because nobody was going into their laboratories. There's no need for emergency repairs because no one was using the equipment.

    So the team here, at the time, did incredible work. They pretty much pivoted within days and started importing PPE. So, nitrile gloves, face masks, anything like that. And that was our core focus for, I would say, the spring and a little bit of the summer of last year.

    And it ended up being very successful for us and allowed us to really expand into the laboratory supplies line. And pretty much took our five-year vision for the company and condensed it down into about a year. 

    And now we can be a full-on partner for all of our clients. 

     

    That was actually on my mind.

    As a go-to-market strategy, I imagine that your easiest customers is the customers you have, but how has that played out for you? 

    So, definitely working with our current customer base, but I will say a lot of those customers that we have been working with service were more in (the) Boston Metro area, and then further down the east coast as well. But the lab supplies lines really opened a lot of doors for us nationally. So we're able to support biotech, pharma, healthcare, and research across the country.

    So it really opened a lot more doors and a lot more that we can support. 

     

    Now, I just want to get back to the actual commodities that you're selling; you listed some of those products in your earlier answer. Have you seen a particular interest in any one type of product?

    Definitely, and that's a great question because the supply chain market is just insane right now.

    So, it feels like the current need in the market changes on a month-to-month basis. I would say maybe two months ago, we could not have enough pipette tips. Now we're seeing that with serological pipettes. I think deep well plates are becoming more and more of a need. 

    So, I think that the worldwide supply chain market is so unsteady right now that we've been really lucky that we've been able to create these great partnerships to continue to provide for our customers and keep up with the demand, whatever that demand might be “of the month.”

    ...the worldwide supply chain market is so unsteady right now that we've been really lucky that we've been able to create these great partnerships to continue to provide for our customers and keep up with the demand, whatever that demand might be “of the month.”

     

    So, you're selling direct, through your website. Do you have any other routes to market to make sure that you're meeting customers where they are? 

    Of course. So we have a couple exciting launches in the works and that have already launched, and coming down the pipeline.

    One is our Marathon Pacer program. That allows us to have a complete vendor-managed inventory system for our clients. So, we set up a warehouse for our customers, essentially in a supply closet. And they can scan out products as they need it. And that really allows customers to know exactly what is being used, at what rate, what teams are using, which products and gives them peace of mind that we are having total control over their products.

    And we'll make sure that they have what they need, and when they need it. 

     

    You're warehousing products on behalf of customers? 

    Correct, right in their lobbies. 

    So, they never have to worry if the product will be ready for them. They don't have to worry about shipping times. If they run out of something, it is right downstairs. They can go check it out and continue on with their research and their science.

     

    Being, nimble is the name of the game. We’ve all had to really adapt, haven’t we?. 

    Absolutely. 

    Something else exciting we have, and this is going to be coming in the next couple of months - so keep an eye on our website. We're launching the Marathon Bolt program for the customers that might not be able to plan as far ahead as the Pacer customers, but essentially it provides a three-hour delivery time. If you order, we're going to make sure we get it to you within three hours.

    It’s just another way for our customers to have that peace of mind that their science and their research can continue on and something like a stockout of pipette tips is not going to stop their important research. 

    It’s just another way for our customers to have that peace of mind that their science and their research can continue on and something like a stockout of pipette tips is not going to stop their important research. 

     

    So, it's almost like a consumer-type program. Not to compare you with the delivery of a pizza, but it does strike that kind of tone with me that you’re indemnifying the customer by taking on that responsibility yourself.

    Absolutely. We don't want the customers worried about the supplies they need. We want them to know that Marathon will go the distance to get them the products that they need. 


    That's fascinating. It's really great to hear how innovative a company that's providing services can be.

    I mean, we could have spent the last five or so minutes talking about how you guys recalibrate pieces of complex lab equipment but I must admit, with my background, I would have been lost in that conversation pretty quickly.

    And speaking of that, it occurred to me that you and I have some similarities in the work that we do. I was hoping you'd share a little bit about the pivot you made from a PR career in a different industry to one where you're now running marketing for Marathon. And while you're answering that, I'd be curious to know what role the mission of the company and the industry played in to where you are now?

    I had been in hospitality marketing for the past five years and as the hospitality industry was really hit hard, I found myself unemployed and at a point where I need to figure out my next step.

    It was really important to me to find a company and an industry that I truly believed in and I thought was definitely making a difference. You can't put enough of a spotlight on biotech and life sciences in the past year, especially Moderna, Pfizer, all of the big names that are really changing the world with their science.

    I was so impressed by Marathon because we are not the company doing the innovation but we are there every step of the way to make sure that these very important clients have the support that they need to really truly change the world. Whether it be a vaccine, breakthrough therapies, anything like that.

    It's so special for me to work in an industry that there's a small part that I get to help with. 

     

    Yeah, I really relate to what you're saying but respectfully, I would take issue with the notion that innovation is only coming from the scientists inside the lab. I mean we are all very impressed and grateful by the breakthroughs that scientists have had, especially in the midst of the COVID pandemic.

    But I'm a strong believer that innovation is clearly taking place across the supply chain through companies like both of ours - I guess you'd say the infrastructure of life science that's here to ensure that scientists can be their best.

    Colleen, let me just wrap up and thank you for taking time to tell us more about Marathon LS and about yourself. And let me just say also that we were very pleased to be in partnership with you and wish you and your colleagues much success in the year to come.

    Thank you so much, Greg. It’s been a pleasure. 

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