Trekking Fresh Paths One Crawl, One Rung, One Step at a Time
Meet Mike Leach: husband, father, aerospace machinist, Grace graduate, Ironman athlete, heart attack survivor, and COO of his own company. When it comes to trekking fresh paths? An expert.
A 75-yard Crawl
In August of 2014, just a few months after graduating from Grace, Mike would self proclaim that he was in the best shape of his life. He had an intense training regimen for his upcoming Half Ironman, a 70.3-mile triathlon. His years of dedication to swimming, biking, running would culminate at his race, only four days away.
Like any other day, Mike walked out of the front door of Biomet after work. “It was late,” Mike recounted. “At that time everybody had gone home.” Mike made it nearly 75 yards from the door when he was struck with intense, crushing pressure in his chest.
With no one in sight, Mike stumbled and crawled his way back towards the door he came from, grasping for anything that would propel his body forward in the hope of getting help.
Mike made it to the door–suffering a heart attack the full 75 yards to get there.
The last thing he remembers was seeing a figure come down the front stairs and telling them, “I need help! Call 911.” The next thing he knew, he was on his way to Fort Wayne.
“By the grace of God I made it to Fort Wayne and they put a stent in,” said Mike. “After that came a long road of recovery,” he added. He didn’t make his Ironman race that weekend, but after suffering a life-threatening event such as this, Mike explained, “I was just happy to be alive. It was certainly a blessing.”
Needless to say, Mike’s 75-yard journey that day proved to be more important than the 70.3 miles could ever be.
Mike’s heart attack was not the first time he improvised getting from point A to point B.
Climbing The Ladder
Mike began his career as a machinist. He got his foot-in-the-door at several smaller shops in the area which helped him land a job in the aerospace industry at ITT Aerospace in Fort Wayne. While there, he helped make significant contributions to the industry which included working on the radios used in the field and developing a special project for an Aerospace program that still exists today.
From there, Mike transitioned to the orthopaedic industry which marked the start of an 18 year run with Biomet. Mike began as a machinist, then became a machine programmer. After that, he moved up to be a manufacturing engineer and was promoted again to be a design engineer. And finally, after years of hard work, Mike assumed a director role with a team of engineers working for him.
“I had to work extra hard without a degree,” stated Mike. Without scholarship to fall back on, moving up the Biomet ladder came as a direct result of his outstanding work ethic and taking each role in stride. But a day came that Mike decided to go back to school.
“There were a lot of changes, and moving pieces at Biomet around the time of the acquisition of Biomet, and it became clear that for me to maintain the job that I was at, I was going to need to get a degree.” And it didn’t take him long to decide where to go. “I have always been integrated into Grace College, with my kids going to camps and clubs there. Sharing a community with Grace, it has always really intrigued me.”
Mike certainly was not the traditional Grace student. He started taking classes at the age of 44. At the time, he had already completed his associate’s degree, and in May of 2014–only a year later–Mike had his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in hand.
Walking a New Road
Shortly after Mike obtained his degree, he and a friend of his, Mark Schindel, ventured to start their own company with some of his former coworkers at Biomet who wanted to license out their technology and move into the veterinary space. Although everything was aligning for Mike to realize his dream of being a business owner, he expressed that moving on from Biomet wasn’t easy. “After 20 years, it was really hard and it was a big step, but it’s also been really good,” stated Mike.
Owl Manor, Mike’s start-up, is a medical device company dedicated to companion animal joint and soft-tissue preservation. This company has been a perfect blend of things for Mike: combining his passion for animals, his experience in engineering and biologics, his ability to design products with stem cells, platelets, and plasma, and the market’s need for medical devices in the animal space.
As the COO of the company, Mike’s role includes overseeing new product development, innovation, inventory, and software. In this multi-faceted role, his chief responsibility is to keep the company moving forward.
“I am an innovator,” Mike says of himself. “I like to create and design and be able to run my own business. This has always been a dream of mine, but the right opportunities have not come along until now.” And under Mike’s leadership, Owl Manor will be trekking fresh paths in the future. Mike is looking forward to launching new products they’ve been working on and pursuing new ways to grow the company.
Not only is Mike forging new ground in his career, but he is also getting back into running again this year. Although he doesn’t plan on running an Ironman triathlon any time soon, he is trekking a new path forward as he has done many times before — one crawl, one rung, one step at a time.