Only four months into his executive position as the CEO at Exactech, an unprecedented global pandemic–and the economic crisis to follow–temporarily delayed surgeries causing sales to plummet by 93 percent during the worst week.
An Orthopedic Surgeon, a Biomedical Engineer and a Culture Advocate
Walk into a Bar…
Whether from a surgical joint replacement or going to a Gator basketball game, people from greater Gainesville know the name Exactech. The rich history of this homegrown company is the brainchild of orthopedic surgeon Bill Petty, MD, biomedical engineer Gary Miller, PhD, and organizational culture advocate Betty Petty, MA. Since its inception in 1985, the company has grown worldwide and continues to lead the industry in surgical technology and innovative implants. Whether suffering from injuries or arthritis, Exactech is passionate about remobilizing their patients.
“It’s what I love about our business, we really help people get back to what they love to do,” says Johnson. “Help mobilize people. It’s really a gratifying aspect of working at Exactech. Helping grandmothers lift up their grandchildren. Helping grandparents walk to the baseball field to watch grandkids play baseball.”
Their innovative designs and technological advancements have significantly changed the joint replacement and surgical landscape. Additionally, Exactech employs more than 500 employees at its Gainesville headquarters and partners with local organizations to give back to the community.
In January of 2020, they named Extremities Senior Vice President, Darin Johnson, the new chief executive officer of Exactech. For 18 years, Johnson led the Extremities Business Unit and significantly grew the Equinoxe® Platform Shoulder System. He created and led global teams of orthopedic surgeons, product managers and engineers as well.
In his first quarter as CEO, the Covid-19 crisis stormed through the world and created unprecedented challenges and major profit losses for businesses all over–Exactech was no exception. But Johnson saw this challenge as an opportunity. Through the fiery wreckage that was 2020, he implemented his business continuity plan, SCARS—the Surving Covid And Recovering Stronger initiative. With nationwide shutdowns and employees moving their work to home, Exactech continued to build instruments and implants and move forward with their highest priority product development initiatives and technical IQ training. To Exactech’s patients, their surgeries were all but elective and Exactech planned to hit the ground running once surgeries reopened.
The company rallied behind this SCARS concept and decided they weren’t going to just survive 2020—they were going to rise from its smoky ashes and be better, recover stronger. In the joint replacement industry, scars are trophies, marks of accomplishment, not only for the patient but for all the hands at Exactech.
“For us a scar is the bow that goes on top of every joint replacement” says Johnson. “Every knee that’s ever been implanted has a scar on top of it. And a scar is a privilege. If a story ends with a traumatic event, you never earn the scar. The scar says you survived, you recovered.”
Reflecting on this meaningful metaphor, Johnson leads his team away from the Covid trauma and through its rehabilitation. Moving into 2021, Exactech looks to create “more team, more tempo, and more intensity” in order to reach and help more people.
With his wife and high school sweetheart, this Florida native moved to Gainesville to be closer to their parents. His mother, a kindergarten teacher, and his father, the Senior Pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church, have always encouraged him to be his best self and to follow his passions.
A former investment banker, Johnson made his major career jump into the joint replacement industry in 2002. While he describes his time in investment banking as a robust learning experience in business, he claims “I am at my best when there is a really healthy balance between God and Capitalism. And I feel like when I come to work at Exactech, those two things are in a really wonderful balance.”
For Johnson, CEO was career plan C. Growing up, he had always wanted to be a professional baseball player or a singer/songwriter. “But—” he jokes, “God forgot to bless me with the singing ability.” Luckily, he learned that at an early age—5th grade choir tryouts to be exact—and hit the books harder, later attending both Brown and Oxford Universities.
After high school graduation, Johnson worked a number of odd but really cool jobs. At 18 years old, he took off alone for the icy shores of Alaska where he would spend his summer working 16-hour days on a salmon boat. He claims this job made the transition into college much easier. The following summer he worked at a cattle ranch in Colorado where he even tried bull riding.
Johnson’s vast experiences and innate passion for helping people have not only taken him to this moment but foreshadow great things on the horizon. Exactech’s innovative products and cutting-edge technologies will continue to pioneer across the surgical landscape but it is their passionate leadership and their patient driven culture that will bring them out of the Covid rubble and build them stronger.
Article written by Laura Parrinello