Health Enterprises, Inc.:
Staying Healthy in a Competitive World
Adapting a product line to meet the needs of a single overseas buyer – without the guarantee of making a sale – is risky. But to Glenn Leman, “that’s entrepreneurship”.
Mr. Leman is president of Health Enterprises, Inc, a Massachusetts based manufacturer of niche health care products, which include Medication Organizers, Pill Splitters, Finger Splints, Lice Combs, and Medical Identification Jewelry. The Health Enterprises CE Approved product line has worldwide distribution in over 40 countries. In fact, their Acu-Life® brand is a leading brand in Ireland, Israel, Venezuela, Australia and Cypress.
Since taking over the company from his father 5 years ago, Mr. Leman sees his job as transforming the company by developing products that “revolutionize their category”.
The Early Days
Mr. Leman’s father, Arthur Leman, founded Health Enterprises out of his home in 1973. Arthur, along with his wife Jane, manufactured medical identification jewelry in their basement by night and sold their products door-to-door to independent pharmacies by day. Using the personal contact he made with storeowners each day, Arthur noted what each pharmacy needed, so when he returned for follow up visits, he was able to offer them the products they wanted. The approach worked. Health Enterprises quickly grew and began supplying larger drugstore chains throughout the country.
Health Enterprises Takes on the World
By the late 1980’s Health Enterprises made their first export sale to Canada, sparking increased interest in expanding internationally. It was around that time that Health Enterprises tapped the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Boston to help them build a global network of distributors.
The Boston U.S. Export Assistance Center is part of the U.S. Commercial Service, a Commerce Department agency that helps small and medium-sized U.S. businesses sell their products and services globally.
Using an early version of the Gold Key Service program, the U.S. Commercial Service matched Health Enterprises with a distributor in Mexico. They later used additional services such as catalog shows, international partner searches, and the trade lead database, helping expand their distribution network throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
In 2004, Health Enterprises brought on Brooke Fishback to lead their international sales expansion. Mr. Fishback quickly recognized the value of working with the U.S. Commercial Service and ramped up efforts to increase export sales. In particular, he used Commercial News USA to advertise Health Enterprises’ products worldwide. With a circulation of nearly 100,000 subscribers located in more than 145 countries, Commercial News USA helped Health Enterprises sign on several new distributors.
In just a few short years, exports have climbed to 15% of total sales under Mr. Fishback. Much like Arthur Leman’s efforts to grow sales through personal contact, a key part of Health Enterprises’ international success is to work closely with in-country distributors to better understand their needs. This understanding combined with the knowledge of what works in other markets allows Health Enterprises to customize their assortment for each country. Mr. Fishback commented on their distributor relationships saying, “our understanding of and commitment to each market helps us develop strong, growing and mutually beneficial partnerships”.
“Leapfrogging” the Market
With both domestic and international competition increasing, Health Enterprises’ remains focused on developing new and innovative consumer preferred products. In June of 2006, the company launched several new products that typify this approach.
One such product, the Audio-Kit™ Hearing Aid Cleaner, is the only product designed for easy, effective daily hearing aid cleaning. The Audio-Kit™ works with all hearing aids and features five cleaning tools built into an easy to use, ergonomic handle for people of all ages.
The innovative product design is matched by the company’s unique channel strategy. By selling this product through retail establishments, they are providing consumers with convenient access to all accessories - not just batteries - that are needed for hearing aid maintenance.
In addition, Health Enterprises is launching a new line of 3600 Therapy Braces™. These unique Braces provide consumers with targeted easy to apply warm or cool therapy, while also providing the support and protection of a brace.
Brendan Leonard, Health Enterprises’ Senior Sales and Marketing Director, explained their approach saying, “In looking at market trends we ask, ‘What needs exist?’ ‘What can be done to better meet those needs?’ “
Mr. Leonard sees their chief advantages as flexibility and speed to market helping the company “leapfrog the market” by developing innovative consumer preferred products.
Where Will You Be In Five Years?
Maintaining strong growth can be challenging, but Mr. Leman is optimistic about the future. His philosophy is clear – it’s all about, “where you want to be in five years, staying focused on that goal and making the needed investments to ensure success.”
The U.S. Commercial Service is a U.S. Commerce Department agency that helps small and midsize U.S. businesses sell their products and services globally. The Boston U.S. Export Assistance Center is part of the agency’s worldwide network, which includes 108 U.S. Export Assistance Centers throughout the United States and more than 150 international offices in 87 countries. To learn more, contact your local U.S. Export Assistance Center or call 1-800-USA-TRAD(e).