• Hugh McPherson

Harry Saltzberg 1920 - 2017

Harry & Marilyn Saltzberg

Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and think about the many people who have come into your life and the impact they have made on you as a person.

This week I stopped to think about a person who helped launch The Media Store without knowing. His name is Harry Saltzberg and he was my ex-wife's father.

Harry passed away this week after nearly one century of life.

He passed away peacefully Monday night, which was a far contrast from his 80 plus years, as a business visionary, leader and disruptor of an entire industry. His forward thinking led him to business ideas years ahead of their time, including many failed endeavors. These ideas served to build his resolve and knowledge of how to succeed when he hit on the right idea.

Harry did not take on things lightly, he attacked from all angles with the kind effort General George S. Patton would call; "a good plan violently executed today, rather than the perfect plan executed next week!" His efforts against his competitors were even more fierce, not unlike the 10 plagues that G-d sent the Egyptians as taught in the Torah.

Harry started as an accountant but inside him raged the soul of an entrepreneur with a daring heart, a lion's courage and the persistence of a Woody Hayes Ohio State running attack of the late 60's. Working as an accountant for Pharmacies he noticed problems with he noticed reimbursement checks to pharmacists were minuscule compared to the handwritten claims they submitted via US mail. He also observed stacks of returned, unpaid claims which were riddled with coding and other errors requesting corrections and re-submissions in order for payment to be possible.

Pharmacists who had lost all lost all hope of being reimbursed gladly paid Mr. Saltzberg his asking price to process their prescription claims - fifty cents a piece - but only if and when they were reimbursed. Thus Data Prescriptions was born at his dining room table after late nights of work. Before the advent of the personal computer, he personally delivered reel-to-reel tapes containing all claims to Columbus, Ohio weekly to insure faster processing and payment.

When he entered the business it was full of competitors charging pharmacies for the computers, the software and claims processing. Being a true disruptor Harry offered to give these same pharmacies the computer and software for free, upgrading it at no-charge when needed and cut his price in half....soon his competitors started to disappear. When family pharmacies sold out to large pharmaceutical companies like CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreen's the adaptive Mr. Saltzberg switched changed the name to Health Data Services and focused on claims processing for doctor's private practices.

When the doctor's private practices started to be bought up by hospital groups he switched to processing claims for hospitals. Soon after, his oldest son Marc Saltzberg took the lead and the Cleveland Clinic was signed on as Health Data's largest customer. This led to an explosive growth period and the sale of Health Data Services to McKesson Corporation in 2004. Harry liked to brag that his son Marc took the company to heights he never could have dreamed.

Never the type to sit back and retire, Harry quickly changed gears and tackled a new project. Mr. Saltzberg began working with his daughter Alona and son-in-law Dr. Michael Solomon in Atlanta, Georgia on a new business. Once again the future called Harry and this business, which has become prevalent across the country, is facial cosmetic enhancement. He observed the surge in plastic surgeries in the 1990’s along with the emergence of newer, non-invasive techniques, namely cosmetic fillers.

He wanted to make them accessible and affordable to the general public. By offering services through a walk-in clinic, which was unconventional at the time, and maintaining high standards at competitive prices, his vision was achieved and The Ageless Center was born. The Ageless Center, featured in magazines and on CNN, offered office hours convenient to the patient's busy lifestyle and not the doctor's desires to go home at 5pm. The success of this venture was immediate and lasting!

He loved the booming growth of Atlanta in the 80's & 90's as it reminded him of the boom years of his hometown Cleveland, Ohio in his youth. Most of all Harry loved to disrupt, change and tamper with an industry to get it to perform the way he wanted it to perform. He did not like to fit into a business model. Harry would break the old model and bend things to shape the future vision he saw in his mind's eye.

The things Harry Saltzberg taught me went beyond business and into the way he viewed everyday life, politics and religion. He taught me to be myself, be unique, to stand out and to keep searching for the right idea. Once you find the idea push it with all your might and keep adjusting it until it succeeds! Like his mentor Peter Drucker, Harry Saltzberg worked well into his late 80's, way past most people's retirement and death.

This Thanksgiving Day I give thanks for being able to learn from Harry, his family, his daughter Betsie and all the lessons he taught me about life, family and the Torah. I was lucky to speak with him just before his passing to tell him about last week's successful trip and the use of ideas he taught me over the years. He smiled and simply said, Mazel Tov!

Thank you Harry Saltzberg, rest in peace!


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