How I ‘Pivoted’ My Medical Equipment Exporting Business
By Mark Aying

One of the hot new buzzwords in the tech-startup world these days is “pivot.” Businesses launch with one business plan, product or idea, then pivot, or change direction, as the market does.

A recent high profile example is Instagram, which started life as Burbn, a virtual location “check-in” with smartphones, but quickly “pivoted” or evolved into the wildly popular photo-sharing tool. Facebook recently bought the revamped company for $1 billion.

Silicon Valley startups aren’t the only businesses that benefit by “pivoting.”

Let me tell you how my company, Asian Medical, met the challenges of the evolving Asia-Pacific business world.

First, the back story:

In 1996, President Clinton lifted a 20-year embargo that prohibited the sale of all American-made products of any kind.. The Vietnamese were thirsty for anything made in America. I started Asian Medical in Vietnam after traveling to Vietnam, touring the hospitals and seeing the demand with my own eyes.

I moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, (formerly Saigon) working as a medical equipment distributor. I purchased the equipment from a company in California, marked it up, and shipped it to Vietnam and the Vietnam customer would pay me. I was the distributor: I took the payment and shipment risk.

It was a great business model for about 6 years. Then the landscape shifted.

Local Vietnamese businesspeople became more sophisticated, and they started doing what I was doing. Until then, they couldn’t get visas to visit the US medical equipment factories or go to trade shows in Germany. Phone calls from Vietnam to the U.S. were expensive and difficult.

But when visa restrictions lifted and Internet phone calls got cheaper, all of a sudden I wasn’t so special just because I was selling American medical equipment. The local Vietnamese could do the same thing I was doing.

That’s when I pivoted.

I decided to take my skills of being a very good medical equipment distributor and offer my services to US medical manufacturers to find people like me in other countries. Today my business is to act as a manufacturer’s rep for your company. I help find, manage and motivate medical equipment dealer distributors in the 27 companies in Asia.

Who better to find you a dealer in Singapore and Thailand than someone like me who was a dealer distributor for 6 years in Vietnam? I can meet a dealer in Thailand and in 15 minutes determine if he’s for real or not because I was him.

Pivoting allowed me to expand my reach globally, helping medical equipment manufacturers sell their products in 27 Asia-Pacific and 29 Middle East countries.