People - November 2005

Sonic was the tonic for this fixer-upper
By Kathy Brown

After Hurricane Hugo blew into South Carolina in 1989, Scott Ray hitched a trailer to his truck and left Chapel Hill for Myrtle Beach. He loaded up damaged, stackable washers and dryers junked by contractors renovating waterlogged apartments. Ray, who “grew up driving nails” in Boone the son of a builder, took them back to Chapel Hill, fixed them and sold them to his fellow UNC students. It was a nice sideline to his profitable business of building lofts in dorm rooms.

He got a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering from Carolina in 1990 and moved to Charlotte to sell ultrasound machines for GE Medical Systems. In 1995, he became general manager of Imaging Associates, a Charlotte vendor of used ultrasound equipment. But his entrepreneurial streak and knack for fixing things kicked in again: He saw an opportunity to remake the secondhand market by offering maintenance and service contracts, warranties, system upgrades, leasing and trade-ins. He spent evenings at his kitchen table developing a business plan with brother-in-law Ryan Dienst.

Ray started Charlotte-based Global Medical Imaging in April 2002 with $25,000. Dienst, who has an MBA from Carolina, was then part-owner of a Charlotte builder. He joined GMI full time the following January and is, like Ray, a managing partner. GMI began by selling reconditioned medical ultrasound machines, mostly to doctors in private practice, clinics and hospitals for 20% to 50% less than comparable new equipment, which can range from $20,000 to $200,000.

Profitable from the start, GMI has 30 employees working out of 16,000 square feet of office space. Revenue has doubled every year. GMI had sales of $8 million in 2004 and expects $15 million this year. What drives the growth is the breadth of its offerings. And it’s no longer just a recycler: In October 2003, GMI signed a distribution agreement with Tokyo-based Toshiba to sell its ultrasound products.

Though Ray, 37, started GMI, ownership is split 50-50. Ray says he’s the sales-and-relationship guy; Dienst, the spreadsheet-and-flowchart fellow. Quips Ray: “I’m the horse, and Ryan guides and whips me and tells me where to go.”