Sometimes, you get into an industry by accident. This is how it happened for Bruce Block. Since its inception in 1997, Block Imaging
- making quality medical imaging equipment, parts, and services available to people around the world - has grown from a one man shop to an internationally known company. "It's been quite a ride," says Bruce.
Every time Bruce Block moved the company into a bigger space, he wondered how he was going to fill it. And every time they moved, growing from just a few employees to 20 to 40 to more than 100, it didn't take them long to outgrow each space. Today, Block Imaging International and Block Imaging Parts and Service occupy 120,000 square feet in Holt, and they have made use of every inch of the space.
After 19 years in the coffee business, Bruce definitely had a few "What am I doing?" moments when he switched industries as a favor to a friend. When the friend's medical imaging equipment company went under, Bruce had to decide what to do. He chose to continue in the industry and make a go of it. He began brokering medical imaging equipment out of his home, never touching it, simply buying and selling.
The business had its ups and downs even as it grew out of the home. When Bruce started in 1997, the refurbished medical equipment industry was not well regarded and the thought of selling refurbished equipment in America was unthinkable. Despite this view, Block Imaging continued to grow by selling to other countries, eventually opening an office in Japan and another in Germany.
Five years ago, after they began doing installation in addition to just buying and selling, they decided to start Block Imaging Parts and Service. Jason Crawford, who at one point was the Vice President of Business Development, took the reins and became President of the new, separate entity.
Block Imaging is very much a family business with all four of the Block Boys working within the company. In 2011 Bruce stepped aside as President of Block Imaging International, as one of his sons, Josh Block, stepped in. Today, Block Imaging International handles the buying and selling of pre-owned medical imaging equipment while Block Imaging Parts and Service handles the parts to support that equipment.
While many companies focus on either buying and selling or refurbishing, Block Imaging covers it all. They will take the equipment, refurbish it and bring it back to factory standards, giving the machines new life. Attitudes have changed drastically in recent years and refurbished equipment is now welcome in America and manufacturers are no longer dominating the landscape.
As for the change in the industry's attitude towards refurbished equipment, Bruce likes to think the company had a part in that. The market wasn't full of integrity but "we came out saying 'it's not about the money, it's about the people and providing for their needs.'" He adds, "We spent money to pay for our mistakes which a lot of people aren't willing to do." But, the company's mantra is "People Matter" and Bruce says, "It's not just a saying. My son [Josh] has taken it to another level."
Block Imaging is very much a family business. With Josh taking over the reins as president, there's also Jeremy Block as Senior Vice President- Dealer Solutions, Jason Block as Product Manager in the Women's Health division, and Jon Block as Logistics Project Coordinator.
"It works well," says Jeremy, "Every job we have fits us. I wouldn't want Josh's job and he wouldn't want mine. We are uniquely gifted and there is no jealously." "Except in maybe looks," jokes Josh.
The brothers all share Bruce's drive to take care of his employees and know that working well together is the best way to do that. "The speed of the leaders is the speed of the team," says Bruce, "So, if there were issues at the top, there would be issues among the team."
Since he started as President of Block Imaging International, 90 percent of Josh's time has been spent focusing on building a company that cares for its team, its customers, the patients (that use the machines) and the community. "We strive to invest in people no matter where they are in the organization" Josh says.
This is evident when you look closer at some of the employee stories and how they moved up within in the company. Their IT Manager and Head of Marketing were both in entry level positions when they expressed an interest in other areas. Bruce told them to write a job description, got them the training they needed and moved them up to the positions they were passionate about.
"When I was first starting to hire people, friends in many cases," says Bruce, "I had a vision of their family on my porch, hungry and thought 'wow, that's a huge responsibility.'"
Their passion for people doesn't stop though when the clock strikes five. While Jeremy Block has six children, Bruce says there is never a day when he doesn’t have a guest at his table. The brothers socialize with a huge share of the employees and their families. Bruce says, "When these guys go home, they don't leave this culture behind."
Today, many would say Block Imaging is the global market leader when it comes to medical imaging equipment, and no one does more than they do. So far, Block Imaging has flown under the radar. "We're not a GM or a Dart," says Bruce humbly, "But we are a global leader in an industry that has come of age. We import and export in 64 countries and we are right here, providing the world with affordable equipment that saves lives."
Their focus on people isn't the only thing that sets Block Imaging apart from others in the industry. While many companies choose to work with one particular manufacturer, Block deals with them all; GE, Siemens, Philips and more. "It's a big deal for an independent to attract that kind of business," says Bruce. `
They also stand out when it comes to the services they offer; from repairing ex-ray tubes and circuit boards from the equipment, to staging machines used simply for parts testing, the company does a little bit of everything. They've also been "blogging their hearts out," says Bruce, for three years, turning to inbound content marketing to help them connect with their customers.
The growth and reach of the company can be attributed to the many talents and far reach of the company but also to the attitudes of its leaders. "Once you formulate a business strategy," says Bruce, "and understand how important people are, it really doesn't matter what you're doing."
Allison Monroe is a frequent contributor to Capital Gains.
Photos © Dave Trumpie
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.