Madison is very memorable to my wife Miriam and I since both our children, John and Lucy, were born there. When I earned my PhD in 1969 in bioengineering, one possibility was to do research and/or teaching.
However, my first job was in business development at Electronic Associates in New Jersey. This company supplied real-time simulation computer systems similar to those I used for my PhD research in cardiovascular blood pressures and flows—a state-of-the-art computer at that time for all real-time simulations. My advisor, (the late) Electrical Engineering Professor Vincent Rideout, was the driving force to secure NSF funding for this real-time computer lab, the largest such lab at any U.S. university.
With Electronic Associates, I helped develop and expand the company’s simulation business. After five years, I was relocated to our office in Sydney, Australia, to expand our Australian and New Zealand simulation business.
Although I had never lived outside the United States before, Miriam and the kids could not wait to go. After two years in Australia, I relocated to the Philippines as marketing director for Asia, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and India.
After one year, I resigned from Electronic Associates and started a Philippine company, Universal Computer Services, for sales and service of computers and computer-related equipment. My family and I were in the Philippines for 12 years during the Aquino assassination (1983) and the revolution that ousted President Marcos (1986). John and Lucy went through grade school and high school in the International School (IS) of Manila, a K-12 school with 55 nationalities—a great education with awesome international exposures. Miriam was president of the IS Manila board at that time—its first female president.
Our company, Universal Computer Services, at that time had 22 employees and had become the fifth-largest computer company in the Philippines. But in 1989, we moved back to the United States, to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I became international director at Applied Dynamics International, a supplier of state-of-the-art real-time simulation computers.
For the next 18 years, I traveled to Asia (which by now was almost like home) four times a year, two weeks at a time. All of our simulation computer products were designed and manufactured in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and exported to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore, India and Australia.
After 18 years with the company, I resigned, and for the next four years, taught international business in the Eastern Michigan University College of Business in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I used my international export experience to teach practical aspects of international business.
Part of my current work is with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the East Michigan District Export Council to help small and medium businesses begin to export or increase their exports.
Only a very, very low percent of small- and medium-size U.S. businesses export their products. Yet, exports are a great way to increase business and are the main purpose behind President Obama’s National Export Initiative to double exports within five years.
My challenge is to use my 30-plus years of export business experience to change the mindset of most small- and medium-size businesses that regard international export business as mysterious, inherently difficult, filled with corruption, can’t get paid, can’t find overseas customers, etc.
I tell these companies that most large successful companies have 50 to 75 percent of their sales outside the United States. After all, the United States is only 6 percent of the world’s population: Most of our customers are outside the United States!
I am forever grateful for the education and guidance I received from Professor Rideout and the faculty of the (then) electrical engineering department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.