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University of Maryland honors five exporting businesses for resilience during COVID-19

Robin Weiner

Robin Weiner

The University of Maryland’s Center for Global Business honored five Maryland-based exporters for their resilience during the pandemic on Thursday. The center’s inaugural Maryland Business Adapts event sought to recognize small- and medium-sized businesses in the state that had taken innovative approaches to continue their global operations even amidst worldwide economic turmoil.

The five businesses recognized were:

  • Miltec UV, a manufacturer of UV technologies based in Stevensville;
  • United Source One, an exporter of prime beef and other food products based in Belcamp;
  • RIFE International, an energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable construction solutions provider based in Rockville;
  • Get Real Health, a provider of digital health solutions based in Rockville;
  • Rovner Products, a designer, inventor and manufacturer of woodwind instrument accessories based in Timonium.

“While each company’s pivots were assessed on their own merits against an award rubric, we were quite pleased that the five companies ultimately chosen were diverse in ownership, business model, industry and adaptive strategies,” said Rebecca Bellinger, the executive director for the Center for Global Business, via email.

One of the honorees, Get Real Health, provides a digital patient engagement platform to health care providers, employee wellness programs, health care payers and national health systems. So, at the start of the pandemic, the company had to pivot at a breakneck pace to accommodate the telehealth needs of its clients.

Its 25-person team was working as many as 17 hours each day to perfect its telehealth technologies as well as to help some of its clients — two Canadian provinces — with technology that would communicate COVID-19 test results to residents.

Weeks and weeks of long hours would take their toll on even the most dedicated employees, but Robin Wiener, president and founding partner of Get Real Health, which was acquired in 2019 by CPSI in Mobile, Ala., attributes her employees’ work ethic to the company’s long-standing culture of care and compassion.

“They are passionate about keeping people healthy,” she said. “I work with a lot of people who really care about people, we have a culture that really drives that. When people are hurting, these guys want to do something.”

Wiener said she also cares deeply about her staff’s work-life balance, offering employees flexible paid time off and actively discouraging them from working longer-than-necessary hours. Because her team knows that she truly cares about their health and doesn’t want them to burn out, they recognized that she wouldn’t have let them to work such intense hours at the beginning of the pandemic if they weren’t doing such vital work, she said.

On the flip side, the pandemic certainly didn’t increase demand for United Source One, which ships beef and other food products, largely to high-end restaurants and hotels throughout the world. Even to this day, many of US1’s clients haven’t reopened their business.

It’s what US1’s president, CEO and founder Michael Imgarten calls the ninth “near-death experience” — major obstacles that could’ve spelled the company’s end — US1 has endured. And, like the others, it’s one he never could have predicted; who could have possibly anticipated nearly every restaurant in the world shutting down at the exact same time?

To Imgarten, the key to surviving unpredictable “near-death experiences” is a culture of adaptability and flexibility — and a team that isn’t afraid to be afraid.

“I tell my staff this all the time: There are only two motivators, fear and love. You’ve got to love the business and you’ve got to be afraid that if you don’t get your butt out of bed in the morning, it’s going to go away,” he said. “Survivability and success (rely on) those two things.”

All five companies were honored at the Maryland Business Adapts event on Thursday, which featured U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Secretary of Commerce Kelly Schulz, Robert H. Smith School of Business Dean Prabhudev Konana and Anthony Roche, vice president of human relations for McCormick & Company, as speakers. The awardees also led roundtable discussions about the strategies they have employed to survive the pandemic.

 


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