Tuesday 16 July 2019

Health is wealth for medtech team

Sean Gallagher with John Lyng of MDI Medical. Photo: Damien Eagers
Sean Gallagher with John Lyng of MDI Medical. Photo: Damien Eagers
Sean Gallagher

Sean Gallagher

Set up in 1988 and now owned by John Lyng and Sean Kiernan, MDI Medical is a leading distributor of diagnostic medical equipment. Headquartered in Kells Business Park in Co Meath, and with offices in Belfast, west Lancashire in England, and in New York, the company employs 32 staff and has an annual turnover of €11m.

"We distribute patient-monitoring and general diagnostic devices to the healthcare services, including everything from ultrasound imaging and blood pressure monitoring equipment to the special display screens that surgeons use when performing operations on patients," explains John.

"We not only supply the equipment, but we also install and service it, as well as providing training to clinical staff on how to use it," he adds.

The company's key customers include doctors and clinicians in public and private hospitals, GP practices, primary care centres and physiotherapy service providers across Ireland, the UK and the US. Among the well-known brands with which they have distribution agreements are GE Healthcare, Welch Allyn, ACL, and Hunteligh.

Founded by local Kells man John Griffin, the business was bought over by John Lyng in 2016 who has grown it dramatically since then.

Originally from Cavan town, John completed a degree in telecommunications engineering in DCU before heading to work in the US where he got a job in a medical equipment company in New York that was owned by a family relation.

Having cut his teeth in the industry, he returned to Ireland in 2003 where he was fortunate to get a job as a field service engineer with a company similar to the one he had worked with in the US. Ambitious to progress within the sector, he and a business partner set up their own business, Ergo Viewing ROI, in 2008, supplying medical equipment to hospitals for use in operating theatres.

"Based on my previous experience and the continued growth of IT within the medical sector, we could see the need for specialist hardware to allow doctors and nurses view all these new digital software packages at the patient's bedside or in the operating room. These packages don't work on regular computer screens, so we set about finding solutions or designing solutions to bridge this gap," says John.

"The early days of the new business involved 12- to 16-hour days driving around the country, picking up small jobs to get our foot in the door.

"It was tough going and I relied on some good contacts I had who gave me a chance to prove myself. In Ireland though, because of the size of the market, you can often find yourself in a real chicken-and-egg scenario.

"You need staff and product but you can't attract these until you're at a certain level, and to do that you need to capture a lot of the business."

Having grown sales to over €1m by 2016, John decided to buy out his business partner. However, now working 80 to 100 hours a week, he found himself at a new crossroads.

"I realised that to achieve significant growth, I was going to have to do so by acquisition rather than organically. I also knew that I needed distribution agreements with major manufacturers of healthcare systems if I was to achieve any significant level of scale. I began identifying a number of companies with potential to bring us to the next level. That's when I made an approach to MDI Medical," explains John.

Buying MDI that year was certainly a courageous move because while his company had revenues of around €1m at the time, MDI was much larger, with annual sales of around €5.6m.

"It was definitely a big jump," admits John. "But having secured outside investment to make it happen, we have since almost doubled the company's turnover.

"Our USP is without doubt our service and MDI is recognised nationally for the level of after-sales service we provide. Constantly coming up against competitors from outside Ireland who offer more price-driven products, we continue to differentiate ourselves from others by providing same-day or next-day install and break/fix solutions, which is something most customers value. We also have a great team of experienced and expert staff which is crucial when acting for large suppliers and international brands.

"We need to be able to provide a better service than they could if they were to go direct to the market themselves. Having quality clinical and engineering staff as well as highly-trained customer service staff is vital in ensuring customers get the level of service they demand. While we may lose some business, we invariably get it back or sell again to the same customer, based on our quality and service levels," he adds.

"In Ireland, regardless of the tendering process, we are still a relationship-based country and I think this is the main reason MDI has been so successful. For example, during the downturn - when sales were slower than expected and our clinical staff had no new work to do - they still visited existing customers to provide additional training. It's important never to lose that customer-facing approach," he goes on.

John loves what he does. In particular, he loves the diversity of the business, that no two days are the same and that he is continuing to learn. Above all though, he loves that his business is helping doctors and clinicians achieve better diagnoses and, as a result, better outcomes for patients.

With support from Enterprise Ireland, the company has recently expanded into the UK and US.

"The product mix we have is unique and the feedback we get in other countries is the fuel I need to expand," says John. "With 60 million people on our doorstep, and based on strategic partnerships and hard work, I think we can double the company size in the next 18 to 24 months," he adds.


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