Zsigmond Kovács Founder and Managing Director, Kristóf Kovács Managing Director
Zsigmond Kovács has been the Managing Director of Control-X Medical Kft. since the company was founded in 1992. However, the history of the company goes back further than that. Paradoxically, the Hungarian company was present in the United States before it was present in Hungary. “In the 1980s, I worked for Medicor as a trader and engineer and, after several countries, I moved to the US in 1987 to head Medicor’s subsidiary there. This company operated until 1990, when the parent company closed its foreign subsidiaries one by one.”
In the sudden situation, Kovács took a risk and, although he lacked the financial backing to start up safely, he and his im- mediate colleagues decided to continue the previous activity on their own. Healthcare and the medical equipment market is a particularly risky business in the United States, mainly due to lawsuits and a large number of claims for damages. Looking back, after three decades, the CEO sees that the bold move was worth it.
In the early years, the US company marketed Medicor equipment. The development and production of its own products started at the turn of the millennium by the Hungarian company, Control-X Medical Kft. Initially, the company used to outsource production exclusively to external (mainly Hungarian) companies, but now, especially for complex products, it carries out assembly and automation itself. “Our suppliers provide components based on our designs, such as machined and painted steel columns, which are assembled into finished X-ray components in our plant and then integrated into the system. A complex combination of small and large mechanical, electronic and software units make up the X-ray devices that we sell in around 50 countries”.
It’s a challenge to run a small business in a market where competitors are some of the biggest companies in the world. Siemens, Philips, or General Electric (GE), for example, dominate the market with huge capital, development potential, high quality standards and thousands of employees. They consider it a success that they have found segments in the international arena where they can compete successfully as a small Hungarian company.
Accordingly, there are areas that they have not yet tried to penetrate. “Western Europe’s university clinics or high-tech private hospitals were not a real target, but hospitals, private practices, rural health centres and veterinary surgeries are a good market for Control-X Medical”, added Kristóf Kovács, Managing Director and son of Zsigmond Kovács. Here too, it is very important to establish good references. A healthcare decision-maker can’t make a bad choice when buying a Sie- mens or GE system, but a small company needs to build up a sense of esteem that can be a guarantee of trust in buying the company’s products.
Building a good reputation has been a great success over the past decades. The company’s credentials and image are also positive. A good example of this was a conversation at an exhibition with a Russian customer, who thought Control-X Med- ical was much bigger. “He asked how we could collaborate because they are a small company with only a few employees, ‘just’ 1,200. I suggested we try it anyway.”
In terms of product sophistication, the company has been able to reach levels close to those of the big players in several product groups. Its current success products are robotic X-ray systems, with very significant developments in mechanics, electronics and software. “At the moment, our most successful customer is in South Africa, where we have been successful in some provinces with our equipment in public procurement.” According to Kristóf Kovács, the success lies in Control-X Medical’s ability to combine the professionalism, reliability and quality of a multinational company with the strengths of a family business: people- and customer-focus, flexibility and responsiveness.
A significant and increasingly valuable segment in the company’s life is the manufacture of veterinary X-ray equipment, which was launched in 2002 with products designed for companion animal clinics. Control-X Medical now also sells equipment for testing larger animals, such as horses and camels. These devices differ mainly only in size and physical layout from those used in human medicine. In value terms, X-rays for veterinary use account for around 20% of sales revenue.
Another important advantage in the X-ray equipment market is that such equipment is used in almost identical designs all over the world, meaning that the sales landscape is potentially global. Since the beginning, Control-X Medical has relied on resellers in foreign markets; where it has found a reliable ally, it has been successful. The company’s products are now present in more than fifty countries, including the European Union, the United States, Canada, South America, and several African countries, and has long been a key seller for its resellers in Australia and some Asian countries.
Key colleagues have decades of service with the company and their commitment is a huge asset to the stability and reliability of the company. Serving our customers’ needs is a priority for the company. “With us, when a customer enquires or asks for help, the phone is answered by people, not by an automated switchboard that connects customers based on recorded information.” So, the product comes with a carefully built, hu- man-faced customer relationship and product support system.
A conservative approach to funding also plays a key role in ensuring stability. The company has always tried to rely on its own resources, borrowing and repaying bank loans only for the purchase of business sites. There is now a minor shift in financing policy: the company has embarked on major product development and capacity expansion. To do this, it also uses a bank loan. The products currently under development will be manufactured at a new site in Dunakeszi as part of a greenfield investment.