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Teacher Turned Salesman Turns Techie with a Little Help from SBA
American author Napoleon Hill once said that patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. Perhaps no other words have rung as true for businessperson Michael González.
Born in New Jersey to Puerto Rican parents, González arrived in Puerto Rico at the age of six, when his father was transferred to the island. As any other child, González was involved in many after-school activities, and expressed great interest in music and theater.
Ready for college in the early ‘70s, González chose the Carroll College at Waukesha, Wis. to pursue studies in Education, and after obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he went on to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he obtained his master’s degree in Cultural Foundations of Education. In 1979, he married his wife Dolores, who’s originally from Mexico, and a year later they moved to Puerto Rico, where González began teaching at a top-notch private school in San Juan.
In the meantime, his father was an independent representative of a stateside company called that was engaged in the distribution of medical equipment. In 1982, the elder González recruited his son to sell the products he represented. In 1988, however, the company realized it was encountering too many difficulties collecting bills from hospitals, and decided to leave the island, but not before offering González’ father the option of manufacturing their products locally. They entered a contract under which the company provided the production know-how, in exchange for annual royalties to the Gonzálezes.
But after the González family was all set with a loan approval and a commercial building in Vega Baja made available by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO), the company decided not to go forward with their deal.
“We sued them, but the ruling was for an amount of money that was not enough for us to go forward with the business,” González says. “We probably should have left it at that, but all of us –my father, my brothers and I—decided we could take a stab at the manufacturing business without any help.”
Over the next five years the business suffered continuous losses, and the family closed and turned over the plant.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” González assures. “We received a doctorate in life. We were able to run the first manufacturing plant of surgical kits in Puerto Rico, employ over 40 people at one given time, and produce a high quality product.”
In 1994, his business experiences –the good and the bad— led González to establish Modern Tech Associates, engaged in the sale of remanufactured hospital equipment, such as X-ray machines and beds. In 2002, González hired his first employee and three years later he hired another salesperson. In 2009, the same year González hired his first secretary, Modern Tech Associates began catering to neighborhood pharmacies, selling automation equipment such as robotic pill dispensers and a more compact version of a robot they call “intelligent cabinet”. This business move led González to hire a technician in 2010 to service and repair equipment.
By the time Modern Tech Associates reached its 10th anniversary, another business opportunity had come up, and which would define Gonzalez’ future success as an entrepreneur.
While visiting a client one day, González was asked if he could provide service to TV rentals, since their biomedical division had closed, and it was usually those technicians who serviced the equipment. González was not very familiar with the TV market, but thought he would give it a try.
“It was a very innovative system, controlled by a company that does not provide service locally,” says González. “I traveled to the U.S., where the company trained me and offered that I represent the product in Puerto Rico.”
What made the system so innovative? It was controlled centrally by a computer and could be activated or de-activated at any given time, with no need for the patient to wait for the TV rental staff to make its rounds. The interactive communication system also has other capabilities besides TV programming, games and on-demand movies that are offered at no extra cost to the hospital.
The system enables prescribed patient education and real-time communication between patient and the healthcare team. A barcode scanner provides an extra measure of assurance that clinicians are giving the proper medication to the patient, and doctors can access and update electronic medical records at the bedside. The system also provides educational programming for hospital personnel, and for patients, as required by the Joint Commission and the Health Department. Upon his return to the island, González approached Auxilio Mutuo Hospital in San Juan and made his sales pitch.
“They told me they were involved in many projects at the time, but asked me to submit a proposal,” the businessman says.
And so González did. In 2002, with seven part-time employees, a full-time technician and his son Gabriel as supervisor, González founded Modern Techealth Alliance Corp.
The system would cost over $700,000, since it required having a small computer installed in each hospital room. González visited several banks looking for financing, but was turned down, until someone recommended he visit the Puerto Rico Small Business and Technology Development Center. Administered by the Inter American University under a cooperative agreement with the SBA, the PR SBTDC provides individual counseling, training and technical assistance to existing and potential entrepreneurs.
“At first the business counselor looked at us a little strange, but then she became interested in the project,” González recalls. “She visited our office and helped us put together a solid package. I owe a great part of this achievement to her.”
Soon after, Banco Santander de Puerto Rico awarded González with a $584,500 loan under the SBA’s 7(a) loan guaranty program, which provides long-term financing to acquire equipment and machinery, inventory, fixtures and accessories, renovations, purchase land, build new buildings, purchase existing businesses, and for the repayment of debts. The SBA can guarantee up to 85 percent on loans up to $150,000 and up to 75 percent on loans higher than $150,000 up to $5 million.
Auxilio Mutuo ultimately gave González the contract, which included the installation, operation and daily collection of TV rentals. Modern Techealth Alliance was in business, providing its initial service to Auxilio Mutuo on November 1, 2003 and with very good results, according to González.
Another opportunity for Modern Techealth arrived in 2006, when González obtained a contract with Doctors’ Center Hospital in Manatí. Once again, he approached Banco Santander, who approved another loan under SBA’s 7(a) program, this time in the amount of $475,000. This contract allowed González to hire five additional employees.
Eight years after its founding, Modern Techealth generates almost $1 million in annual revenues and employs 12 people, including González’ sons Joaquín, Gabriel and Juandiego.
“My wife Dolores and I are still married and have six children, and I consider raising and supporting my family with love and happiness to be my greatest success,” González says.
Modern Techealth provides technical support and service eight hours a day, five days a week, as well as support calls on weekends. González continues to run both his companies with the following philosophy.
“One piece of advice I always have for my children is to never give up,” González says. “If one door closes, try to enter another way, even if it’s through a window. There is no formula for success, but there is one important ingredient – persistence.”
For more information on SBA programs and services, please visit www.sba.gov/pr.