Bob Zatarain’s journey started in Fort Worth, TX, when he was hired by Alcon Pharmaceuticals to be a surgical sales rep. He quickly rose to the position of Sales Manager, followed by management positions in training and marketing. After eight years with Alcon, he was asked by the VP of Latin America and the CEO to move to Argentina to “remodel and re-culture” their business in South America. He accepted the position and, five years later, returned to Texas after completing his objectives. Zatarain was again promoted to Global Director on the pharmaceutical side, where he oversaw the launch of two key products in Latin America, and then to Global Director on the surgical side, where he helped launch the Constellation Unit.
After a long and illustrious career with Alcon Pharmaceuticals, Bob Zatarain finally succumbed to retirement. However, after six months of golf, tennis and relaxation, he got bored. Through mutual contacts, Zatarain was approached by OCULUS Optikgeräte GmbH, parent company to OCULUS Surgical, in 2013 to “talk”.
“I hopped on a flight to Germany,” Zatarain said. “After coffee and some negotiations with the fourth generation owners, we came to an agreement that I would consult part-time for OCULUS Surgical.”
New Leadership Fuels Growth
After six years, OCULUS Surgical experienced a change at the top and, in December 2017, Bob Zatarain was appointed CEO. Zatarain has since hired an individual to eventually take his spot but, for now, remains as committed as ever to delivering the best-in-class technology in the ophthalmic industry.
“Our roots date back to a fourth generation private company started in a small village in Wetzlar, Germany,” Zatarain said. “A family of entrepreneurs and engineers came up with new technology around diagnostic ophthalmology. They developed the Pentacam, which is now the number one eye diagnostic instrument in the world. From there, they expanded into the biggest disease state in the eye – dry eye. They developed additional technology, called Keratograph, that’s designed to measure tear break-up time. They also developed new technology to allow retina surgeons to see a better image of the eye. That technology is called BIOM and is now the number one product in the industry.”
OCULUS Surgical has grown significantly since it was founded in April 2012. They’ve established a substantial footprint throughout the Americas as they continue to provide the ophthalmic surgical market with advancements in wide angle viewing, as well as new, innovative tools for today’s ophthalmic surgeon.
Because OCULUS operates in a very niche market, they only have one true competitor; ZEISS. ZEISS produces a non-contact viewing system and lenses. Other companies where competition exists on a less significant level include Alcon, Leica, B&L, Topcon and DORC.
Regardless of competition, OCULUS’ marketing strategy is robust and focused on future growth. “Our strategy for growth has been investing in the future,” Zatarain said. “For the past seven years, we have invested over $22 million with the establishment of a corporate presence in Florida, acquisition of insight instruments in 2017 and the development of a profitable organization in the United States. We continue this commitment by investing $11 Million in new manufacturing facilities in Port Saint Lucie and the development of next generation products being developed in Florida. Our efforts will lead to increased revenues and headcount in Florida by 50 employees.”
OCULUS Surgical currently has 47 full time employees, including those in sales, marketing, manufacturing, logistics, R&D and back office positions. According to Zatarain, employees are much more than just employees – they’re stakeholders and that’s something OCULUS is proud of.
“For all of our employees, it’s not just a job,” he said. “Whether you’re in the back office, logistics or you’re running the robots, your impact is just as important as anyone else. That’s because we’re all seen as stakeholders. We pride ourselves on providing a great work environment for our team. I’m also supported by a strong management team that has extensive experience in working with leading ophthalmic specialists around the world. Additionally, we have built an experienced U.S. sales force whose focus is providing excellent customer support. Our highly trained distributor network ensures customers sales and service expectations are fulfilled in each individual market. Everyone has bought into the vision and we’re all excited about the future of this company.”
When it comes to philanthropic activities, OCULUS has, for the last three years, supported Dr. Dan Alter on multiple trips to Haiti to provide basic and complex vision care to a demographic with the highest prevalence of blindness in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, over the last year, they have supported Dr. Fred Lambrou on multiple trips to Grenada, providing equipment so that he can perform very difficult and complicated vitrectomies on high risk patients. They’ve also supported doctors with Canvasback Missions, Inc. in their work on Marshall Islands, as well as ChOSEN Eye Mission in Nicaragua, and Christian Hospital Sahiwal in Pakistan.
What it Means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
“It’s an honor and it’s humbling,” Zatarain said. “Our mother ship company, being 125 years old, has withstood the test of time. We plan to continue that legacy on the Treasure Coast. We’re proud to be here and we’re also proud to stand arm to arm with the other honorees that have done an incredible job.”
Looking ahead, OCULUS Surgical is in the process of building a world-class manufacturing facility in the Tradition area of St. Lucie County. The goal is to employ sophisticated German robots to build a product that previously was only built in Germany. The building will occupy 55,000 sqft and will help the company be more efficient with their cost of goods and will provide an economic boost for the local economy.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders
“I believe a good leader shows interest in the entire team no matter what their role is so that they grow beyond their dreams and treat others in a way that makes them feel important all the time not just when they are called upon,” Zatarain said. “Lastly, if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.”