David Jensen is past President at Acumed LLC . He has been a PCC SBDC business advisor and has also been a client of the PCC SBDC.
David, can you tell us about yourself and why you’re here?
I was introduced to the Small Business Development Center as a client and got some advising for myself about 2 years ago. I was introduced to Tammy and since have done a little bit of advising for the SBDC for the last 2 years. I've spent the majority of my career at two different medical device companies in Portland: One was Acumed - an orthopedic implant company where we designed, manufactured, and marketed the product. The current company I work for is SAM Medical Products, which produces emergency medical products. Both are global companies and it's been a good ride.
Tell us about how, maybe perhaps, Acumed began this journey of exporting, was it born as an export bound company and what countries are you in today?
We did not start out as a global company, but fortunately for us, medical devices are global. When you go to a U.S. trade show for a medical device you have people from all over the world there.
When you’re talking about medical devices, population is a good indicator of how big the markets are in different countries. We determined that it was actually more profitable to sell internationally because we did not have to put as much marketing effort into that country. We may or may not have spoken the language, we didn't do their collateral, or their marketing collateral, and they had to do it themselves in their own language.
So profitability, resources upfront, and non-U.S. costumers create a different kind of cash flow for us. The cash was fast compared to the U.S. cash. In the U.S., at least in medical devices, the hospital pays you whenever they get around to paying you. Internationally, or outside the U.S. you sell to distributors, you give them terms, and they pay their bill or they don't pay their bill.
Did your company have an export plan right away? Was it important to have that out there before you went global?
The way we started selling internationally is at these U.S. trade shows. Not only would there be doctors from other countries there, there would be distributors. And they'd come up to your booth and they would want to sell your product. And they'd ask "How do I sell your product?" And they'd give us a card and then that would establish a relationship and we’d said "Ok, you can sell our product, where do you want to start? How?" It had very little planning involved, and it was hit or miss.
But you know, try to be strategic about it and ask; why would you start here? Or why would you start in a particular area?
What would you say is one of the biggest challenges that you did not expect for your business, and how did you overcome it?
We did face some product challenges. Our real challenge was dealing with regulations. Every country has a different type of FDA and you just don't submit a piece of paper with our FDA clearance - which a lot of times is called the 510(k) - it's a long process. Canada's really hard, Brazil's tough and as the regulatory environment has changed in the last 10 years the other countries have become very keenly aware of that, they want the product to be registered properly in that country. Which is a whole- huge part of the due diligence that we would go through when we were going to go in a new country because we wanted to do it right, we didn't want to do it wrong
Some of the U.S. laws follow you into the country that you're going to sell in. The Federal Corrupt Practices Act follows you wherever you go. There, we have all of our sales and marketing people take quizzes and tests about FCPA because there are certain things you can't do.