BioTek Instruments is headquartered in a modest industrial park in Winooski, where its 250 Vermont employees design and manufacture microplate instrumentation and software. But BioTek isn't just selling to local customers — its products are used in hospitals, universities and research centers all over the world. Peter Weith, vice president of marketing, sales and service, reports that approximately half of the company's revenue comes from clients outside the U.S.
That's not so unusual in the Green Mountain State — in 2012, Vermont companies like BioTek exported $4.1 billion worth of goods to foreign customers.
The 45-year-old, family-owned firm may be producing its goods in Vermont, but it isn't selling them to international customers from its Onion City HQ — it relies on distributors and 13 subsidiaries in places like China, India and Singapore to market its products. The company recently announced the addition of two more offices: in Taipei, Taiwan; and Toyko, Japan. Weith explains that the company chose to add offices because its product line is constantly evolving. "Fundamentally," he says, "our products have grown increasingly complex and require dedicated resources, especially within applications, sales and service."
Weith points out that BioTek is competing against giant international conglomerates in a "very sophisticated global market." Small and mid-size companies like BioTek, he says, need "very dedicated, well-educated individuals" to sell and service products overseas.
To that end, the company recently recruited sales and service staff in its emerging markets, starting with two new general managers long known to the company and familiar with BioTek's product line.
So how does BioTek export its Vermont values to those overseas outposts? By bringing its new staff to the Green Mountain State and giving them maple syrup. Seriously.
BioTek's Japanese and Taiwanese sales staff spent a week in Winooski at the end of June. While they were here, the groups soaked up Vermont culture by going bowling, having a barbecue, taking a Lake Champlain cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen and getting maple syrup from a BioTek employee, who explained the sugaring process.
But the visit to corporate HQ wasn't all fun and games — the teams also sat through training on BioTek's new Cytation3, a "cell imaging multi-mode reader" that can be used in stem cell research and diagnostic tests for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV; the company just shipped its first unit to Duke University.