OrthoWorx’ Sheryl Conley: From Small Town Girl to Global Executive to Angel Investor
Editor’s Note: VisionTech Partners is a co-sponsor of The Innovation Showcase on July 9 at the Dallara IndyCar Factory in Speedway. We are pleased to profile a member of VisionTech Angels.
Growing up in Warsaw, Indiana, town of some 13,600 residents, Sheryl Conley never imagined she would be group president and chief marketing officer of one of the world’s most successful orthopedic medical device companies, Zimmer Holdings, let alone responsible for more than $3 billion of the company’s $3.9 billion in global consolidated sales.
“I was amazed; my family and friends were amazed,” admitted Sheryl, who left Zimmer in 2008 and is now president and CEO of OrthoWorx, a nonprofit, community-based initiative that seeks to maintain Warsaw’s position as the Orthopedic Capital of the World. “It was a wonderful opportunity to work with a global company and with talented people all over the world while living in my hometown.”
A 25-year veteran of the medical orthopedic device industry, Sheryl formed S.L. Conley Consulting in 2011, advising clients on strategic, business, and new technology assessments and projects. Looking for new opportunities to put her extensive experience in brand management, marketing, sales, product development, operations, organizational design, and talent management, she accepted an invitation from former Zimmer colleague, Terry Schlotterback, to attend a meeting of VisionTech Angels in Warsaw.
“I was attracted by the entertainment value as many of my former colleagues in the orthopedics space, people I respect and enjoy, were members,” she said with a smile. “But it was also fun to return to my former life of evaluating businesses. Startup companies are very different from established corporations so I have learned a lot. In addition, one of our initiatives at OrthoWorx is to help expand the innovation ecosystem of the region by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship, and angel investing can play a key role in building the environment.”
Since becoming a member of VisionTech Angels in 2010, Sheryl said that VisionTech Angels have become very adept at identifying promising startup companies and performing effective due diligence, helping angel investors making informed decisions when participating in a deal. “It’s great to see our angel group expanding across Indiana and have Don Scifres and Tony Petrucciani join Oscar Moralez as the group’s leaders.”
A personal goal of Sheryl’s is to attract more women to angel investing. She cites the fact that businesses led by women or that have women serving on their boards often have better outcomes and success than all-male companies.
“While it boils down to being primarily about the dollars and the start-up’s leadership team, women come with their own set of experiences and look at things differently than men. If we have more women at the angel-investing table looking at deals, women with experience in business, science, law and technology, we’ll attract more female investors and entrepreneurs. This will add to the conversation, enhance due diligence and ultimately lead to good decision,” she said.
Sheryl has personally recruited two women to the ranks of VisionTech Angels’ Warsaw chapter, and would like to see more. However, the business and family responsibilities of female executives can preclude them from building networks that are so valuable to angel investors. This is one reason why the successful executive and angel investor is encouraging women to attend The Innovation Showcase, sponsored in part by VisionTech Partners, July 8 and 9 at Dallara Indycar Factory in Speedway.
“It’s a great place to learn, see to start-ups and their ideas, and above all, to network.”