Bertil Allard: Orthotics Visionary

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By Jodi Mills
Bertil Allard (right) and his son Peter, the company owners.
Bertil Allard (right) and his son Peter, the company owners.

Sweden has nearly 10 million inhabitants and touts itself as a country of endless possibilities. Bertil Allard, president and CEO of CAMP Scandinavia, headquartered in Helsingborg, Sweden, similarly feels there are endless possibilities for this international company.

The vision is keen--to be an innovative family-owned company that is recognized worldwide by its orthotics products. With healthy doses of creativity, ingenuity, and knowledge, CAMP Scandinavia has become a worldwide leader in the O&P industry.

Career Detour Leads to Orthotics

Bertil was born in Sweden in 1942 and grew up south of Stockholm. Eventually the city drew him in, and he spent nearly 20 years living in Stockholm. His first job after graduation from the Stockholm School of Economics was with a large retail organization. Public relations, market research, and marketing were his areas of expertise.

That path detoured in 1975 when he happened upon the O&P industry. He will tell you this was "more by accident than planning." LIC, at that time was by far the biggest company in medical technology, manufacturing products such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, and orthopedic implants. As divisional manager for its O&P facilities, Bertil got his first taste of what the O&P field had to offer. He was instrumental in establishing LIC's business outside Sweden, signing big contracts in the Middle East that included service, education, products, and facilities.

1982 brought a change. CAMP in the United Kingdom, then owned by Camp International, offered Bertil the position of assistant to the managing director. The company's goal was to acquire CAMP Scandinavia. This was accomplished in 1983. CAMP International, which was acquired by Bissell in the late 1980s and then again in 1996, offered Bertil, through a management buyout, the opportunity to delve into the international business of O&P. From 1994-1996, he retained the position of president of CAMP International.

Camp Scandinavia: Family-Owned Again

During these years of his association with The CAMP Group, Bertil realized his desire to have CAMP Scandinavia become a Swedish family-owned business once again. In 1996, this dream became reality when he acquired CAMP Scandinavia from Bissell. Today Camp International in the US, now called Camp Healthcare, and Camp UK are owned by the Irish company Trulife.

CAMP Scandinavia was established in 1954 in Sweden. The company is very proud to be a Swedish family-owned business after two US owners. The long-term goal is to remain as such. Bertil's son Peter, vice president and COO, has had an active role within the company for over eight years and is poised to take over direction of the company fully within the next few years. Peter runs the Scandinavian operation, while Bertil handles Export and Research & Develo-pment, all the while trying not to step on each other's toes! Good communication on a regular basis is imperative. Their success is apparent. When asked, Bertil says, "Working with Peter is great!"

It appears that there will be plenty to keep the family busy for many years. Selling products under the CAMP name in Nordic countries is a major part of the company's business. It also is a distributor for companies such as Boston Brace, Becker, Endolite, and Trulife, to name a few. Bertil will tell you that the CAMP Group is an important partner as well. The CAMP Group's reach extends to many parts of the world, including CAMP Healthcare in the US; Prim, based in Spain; Basko in Holland; and Tielle in Italy.

CAMP Scandinavia has established itself as an aggressive export company selling its products in over 50 countries. In addition, it manufactures and distributes X-lite casting and splinting material.

Keys to Success

How is all this accomplished and with such a positive attitude?

Creativity and entrepreneurship rank high on Bertil's priority list. When asked why remaining a family company is so important, he replied, "It gives us flexibility, freedom, and a lot of challenges!" Bertil's and Peter's knowledge and understanding of O&P from an international perspective provide the company with a great advantage. Their ability to look three to five years into the future--instead of just what the next quarter will bring--enables them to excel in their niche. Bertil comments, "I have been in larger organizations with a more diversified spectrum of products. Even though the people were fine, I could never have done what I have done [at CAMP Scandinavia] in that type of structure."

Unique Products

CAMP Scandinavia has developed a series of unique, patented products. ToeOFF® was the first. It enables patients with dropfoot to walk easier, better, and farther, according to the company. Prim and Camp Scandinavia jointly own S.W.A.S.H.", the standing, walking, and sitting hip orthosis that assists those with cerebral palsy and neuromuscular disorders. It has been made available around the world, due to the vision, commitment, and perseverance of Bertil. Other products include WISS+"; Ypsilon"; C.H.E.C.K."; Kid-Dee-Lite"; and OAK". The company notes proudly that its commitment to providing the best products and outstanding technical support results in a satisfied user gaining a better quality of life.

50th Anniversary

Peter greets guests at a welcome dinner for international visitors. This was a traditional Swedish "Mid-summer" dinner.
Peter greets guests at a welcome dinner for international visitors. This was a traditional Swedish "Mid-summer" dinner.

The recent 50th anniversary celebration of CAMP Scandinavia was an outstanding success, Bertil says. In keeping with The CAMP Group's desire to provide its expertise in orthopedic technology through workshops and seminars, guests were treated to a product review and an excellent seminar on the future of O&P. This included two medical professors discussing how changes in surgical techniques and in patient demographics due to an aging population will impact O&P for both adult and child patients. Two experts gave their views on materials for O&P in the future and mechatronics, a developing field that involves the synergistic use of precision engineering, control theory, computer science, and sensor and actuator technology to design improved products and processes.

A 50th anniversary celebration is worthy of a big night out. The "South American Evening in Food and Music" provided a beautiful and relaxed evening, with music arranged by Bertil's son Johan. A 130-page book covering the company's history, written by Bertil Winberg, founder and first owner of Camp Scan-dinavia, and Bertil Allard, was presented. Bertil Winberg, who is 90 years old and still going strong, participated in the anniversary celebration.

Family: A Vital Part of Life

The Merriam Webster Online dictionary defines "devotion" as "the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal (as to an idea or person)." This definition portrays Bertil Allard quite well. He married his wife Anne in1965, and they now enjoy the time they spend with their grandchildren, Sebestian, 12 (Johan's son), and Leo, 5 (Peter's son). Anne is a retired teacher and enjoys reading good literature, as does Bertil. Her garden is another endeavor that she finds delightful. Their older son Johan's life course has taken him into the world of music. Peter, as mentioned previously, is working alongside his father at CAMP Scandinavia.

In spite of the heavy responsibilities attached to running a company such as CAMP Scandinavia, Bertil finds time to enjoy recreation. Biking, running, inline skating, and tennis are all activities that help him unwind. Music is something Bertil finds pleasure in, classical being his favorite. Traveling with Anne, his sons, and their families is another way he finds refreshment.

Viewing the Future of O&P

With the celebration of the 50th anniversary over, Bertil looks forward to the future of O&P. He sees many challenges and changes in a more international world. Diabetes and osteoporosis are diseases that are unfortunately gaining momentum, and the field of O&P will work to meet the need, he believes. Old areas will lose importance and the new will come. His advice to all those in the field is clear. "Have devotion for what you are doing to improve people's lives." This will distinguish your company and services from the ordinary, he points out. Bertil also urges, "Have a clear idea of what separates you from the competition." Bertil Allard and CAMP Scandinavia have a clear idea of where they are headed as they forge a path in the international arena of O&P.