After twelve years in the family business, Richard Uhlíř has now become the new CEO of Imedex. It is a critical milestone in the company's life cycle, which poses both risk and a huge opportunity for its further development. "What seemed impossible at first eventually materialised within six months. Also thanks to a great cooperation with our banker and the National Development Bank, we managed to find the right way to carry out my repurchase of a 100% business share in the company," outlines the new owner and CEO of Imedex.
Change as a logical outcome of long-term cooperation
The company, based in Hradec Králové, focuses on technological scouting in healthcare. They are looking for interesting cutting-edge healthcare technologies across the globe to try and implement them in the Czech and Slovak markets. After a long successful period when the company was headed by its founder Jaroslav Dufka, they were looking to shift to a new generation in the management. The change was being prepared for a long time, carefully and with the cooperation of everyone involved, while the effort from the beginning was to minimise the potential impact for the customers. Imedex succeeded and they keep doing their business, and the former owner has retained the position of a strategy and development consultant with the company.
Mr. Uhlíř is not related to the founder's family, but as he says, he became part of the corporate family. "When I joined, it was a really small business with one sales representative and one lady in the office. But I really enjoyed this work from day one. You get to meet a lot of interesting people, particularly doctors, specialists, managers, engineers, start-ups and the like. I went through all the positions in the company, so when I became sales director a few years ago and had responsibility for sales and servicing, it was only logical to take the next step, after so many years of gradual progress," Richard Uhlíř explains.
How to repurchase a company
Initially, Imedex worked with several scenarios for its possible further development, including selling it to someone outside of the company. However, soon it turned out that no one really wanted such a thing to happen. Within the company, they started to prepare a scenario of a repurchase by an insider who knows the business inside and out. Someone who would carry on in the same style of management.
"Our main bank and our personal banker from ČSOB, who prepared the introductory meetings, helped me a lot at the beginning," Richard Uhlíř recalls. "We knew very little about the National Development Bank's product, which we eventually took advantage of. It was the bank that advised us to use this product, and the negotiations with the National Development Bank were very constructive," Mr. Uhlíř adds.
Since they made this positive experience with the GEN guarantee product, Imedex are counting with the National Development Bank’s services in the future as well, be it a loan application or a guarantee. There are many options and the product range is wide enough, and the company now knows better how to do it. "Since I prepared all the documents myself, I made mistakes that needed to be corrected over and over again," the new CEO admits. "I mean, the banker and I exchanged maybe a hundred e-mails and kept correcting forms that could have been filled out correctly at first attempt. If I had to deal with this task again, I would definitely leave it to someone more experienced. It was dozens, maybe hundreds of hours of work."
Besides business, Richard Uhlíř now focuses also on other areas of the company’s operation, be it management, finance or human resources. He is still in daily contact with many existing customers, but as owner he is now learning to view the company from a broader perspective. Any change in company management brings about further changes, but in Imedex’s case, there has only been a small reorganization, related to the arrival of new employees and some newly defined competencies. As Mr. Uhlíř confirms, the principal direction of the company remains the same.
What technology scouting is about
A technology scout in healthcare monitors innovations in the field of healthcare tech and seeks innovative solutions, which it then offers to experts. At the beginning, they have to find the right person, the so-called key opinion leader, to whom they will introduce the technology and who will then become its expert advocate. The subsequent process may take several years in some cases, as it involves paperwork, first medical procedures, and later on the adoption of the technology among the commonly available services which may also become covered by insurance companies.
"Selling our systems is just the beginning of our work," Richard Uhlíř explains. "We have a team of professionals who know our products very well. They provide our customers with professional medical and service support throughout the entire lifecycle of the device. Some systems have been serviced by our company since the very beginning, that is, for more than fifteen years! Our goal is to support modern healthcare and increase the quality of patient care. Besides other ways, we are actively looking for new products at trade fairs focused on technological innovations in healthcare," Mr. Uhlíř adds.
There is never enough communication
Imedex is a long-term partner of major medical facilities and is well aware that good communication is essential to succeed in their field. Potential customers may find information about Imedex’s activities on their website, while the company is also active on social media. In addition, Imedex systematically creates conditions for effective communication between its customers.
"During the year, we like to attend congresses and other professional events, where expert companies in the field take part as well. It is an opportunity for us to meet our customers in a different environment and discuss their experiences face to face. We also approach new customers there. Years ago, we founded Imedex Academy, a unique educational platform that connects our clients directly to each other so that they can exchange their experiences and enrich one another. Once every two years, we also organize an event called Motility Academy, where we connect our customers across different fields. It is a nice two-day symposium focused on an exclusive expert programme, but there is also time for informal social activities. We always look forward to meet everyone in person," Richard Uhlíř concludes.
Written by Martina Hošková
Photo credits: Imedex