This is a guest blog post by Pete Mastores, President, Volk Optical
In May, the Department of Commerce hosted the 52nd Annual President’s “E” Awards honoring U.S. companies for their contributions to increasing our nation’s exports. The awards are broken into two designations: “E” Award for Exports for first time winners and “E” Star Award for Exports for previous recipients who continue to demonstrate significant contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports.
Having received a first time “E” Award for Exports in 2011, Volk Optical was recognized this year with an “E” Star Award for Exports for the continued success of our exports program. One of only 4 product manufacturing exporters awarded this distinction, Volk has seen steady growth in export sales since its first “E” Award.
Our company manufactures ophthalmic lenses, portable diagnostic imaging products, and surgical ophthalmic viewing systems and lenses that are used to diagnose and treat conditions of the eye. Eye doctors globally use Volk’s products provide the best possible eye care, thus improving vision.
It’s gratifying to have our export strategy recognized with a second President’s “E” Award and Star distinction. Our focus, strategy, and personnel additions have allowed our export business to grow consistently for 8 years. Volk takes the proven approach of focusing on a single region for a one year period, establishing distributors, attending regional tradeshows, and securing the necessary regulatory product registrations and approvals. We concentrate our efforts on entrenching our core product line of ophthalmic diagnostic, laser treatment, and surgical lenses, after which that region is expected to grow organically. After the initial year, Volk turns its eye to growing demand for our more technical and capital-intensive products such as eye imaging cameras and surgical systems. These products require more education and effort to sell, so training of our worldwide distributors was critical. They take time and effort to sell, so the commercial approach requires established, trained, savvy boots on the ground.
We applied this approach first in Europe, then South America, India, China and the Middle East. Volk’s commercial expansion was supported by our parent company, Halma plc, which set up office hubs in developing markets. Having a regional base of operations helped us establish our international sales force.
Additionally, Volk has been assisted along the way by the efforts of the International Trade Administration (ITA) and U.S. free trade agreements. Some of the benefits from a U.S. Free Trade agreement is in lowering our costs of procurement of raw materials, components, etc., as well as in expanded global sales opportunities, allowing us to provide affordable optical medical devices.
Free trade agreements have helped Volk a lot and will continue to do so. We still manage everything out of Mentor, Ohio– the design, the manufacturing, the sales and marketing. The free trade agreements have allowed us to save significant time and money in going to market in foreign countries. We’ve kept and created jobs here in the U.S., as well as internationally, by putting people in the field to support our export efforts.
Volk has also benefited from the services of the U.S. Commerce Department which has been instrumental in assisting us with Gold Key programs to identify distribution channels around the world.
Volk expects export growth to continue as more and more developing countries’ eye doctors are able to afford Volk’s high quality, high performance lenses and electronic diagnostic imaging devices to provide the best eye care to their patients.
Winning the U.S. President’s E Award in 2011 certainly excited and challenged us to continue to grow our international export business for the past 4 years in order to win this prestigious E Star Award. We’re eager to see what the next several years hold for Volk Optical.