Find time to do nothing — I have always been active and enjoy being busy. This has been detrimental to my productivity as well because at times I will work with little breaks in a week. As I’ve been married since 2016 and had my first child this year, I have learned to slow things down and find time to rest and be mindless. In turn, my productivity and overall happiness have significantly improved.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arnold Thorstad, co-founder and president of Medivico.
Arnold Thorstad is the co-founder and President of Medivico, a health and medical supply company that aims to ensure everyone has the quality medical equipment they deserve so that healthcare providers around the world can focus on what matters most. With a background in global trade, manufacturing, and quality assurance, Arnold co-founded Medivico at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to build a brand that consumers could recognize and trust. By leveraging his worldwide relationships, Arnold has helped Medivico supply much needed PPE products to the United States.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago where I participated in everything imaginable including baseball, wrestling, soccer, tennis, taekwondo, swimming, golf, piano and cello. All these activities taught me teamwork, they kept me competitive, and in the case of music, it taught me to relax and be creative as well. These traits are certainly transferable to the business world and continue to shape who I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Surround yourself with people you want to be like. You are who your friends are.” In building meaningful relationships, I focus on being around people that give me the same energy and values I strive for.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
“The Power of Now” — Eckhart Tolle. In our businesses, there are many activities in our operations throughout time zones across the world. We also deal with many cultures who do business differently than the “American Way” with top speed and best customer service. These complexities create a good amount of stress and if not handled properly, can lead to detrimental health. I first read “The Power of Now” in 2002, while traveling in Italy as a student and 18 years later, the core message of the book, to focus on what can be controlled in the present, resonates deeply in our businesses.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I have always worked in startup environments that require juggling of responsibilities and quick thinking to push the company forward to compete against the “big guys.” First it was in hospitality out of college in 2004, by working with a restaurant, nightclub, and event company that was creating new concepts in Chicago and Miami. Afterwards, I went into the flavor industry, focused on developing formulations and building supply chains amongst ingredients and packaging for major brands and retailers. This industry taught me how to qualify and negotiate with suppliers around the world, which ultimately allowed me to start my first company in Brazil in 2012. I co-founded an iced tea company, learned Portuguese and traveled around the country to setup manufacturing and distribution. At the same time, I recognized that Brazil was having supply issues with quality coconut water and in parallel, partnered with a gentleman who developed coconut water drying technologies and together we began to supply coconut water into Brazil from India. This was the beginning of our Ingredient company, Invico Worldwide, which produces and trades coconut water, coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut oil, Amazonia fruits, and salmon ingredients.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
In response to the pandemic, my business partners and I founded Medivico, a global PPE supply company. Adding PPE to our company was very straightforward and quite like our food business. The quality procedures necessary to qualify factories and products, the knowledge needed to import/export, and the team we have in place allowed us to transition easily.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Selling PPE was inspired by my mom, who works at a suburban Chicago hospital and was telling me the issues her hospital was having in supplying healthcare workers with N95 respirators. At the same time, my business partner, Roberto Delli, who is Italian, had family that was executing Italian government PPE deals and had already done the due diligence to qualify products. We were able to piggyback off Italian supply, which was the first country in the world outside of China to suffer from the virus.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We are building credibility in the marketplace day by day and executing our mission. In a market that trusts few and in which many institutions have been ripped off, we are shining and setting the company up to be in this business for the years ahead. We know how to deliver top products and at the highest levels of customer service in all that we do.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mother. She is an immigrant from South Korea who came to America with nothing and together with my father, through hard work, gave my sister and I a typical suburban upbringing. Watching her discipline, work ethic, frugality, and high energy with people helped to build my identity in this world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
As we first met buyers, everyone was desperate yet afraid of working with us. The pandemic created an industry with many amateurs who knew little about supply, and scammers who took advantage of hospitals. Our history and credibility in trade allowed us to win the hearts of weary buyers. Our ability to execute has now given us customers that we will continue to serve for a long time ahead.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t trust everyone — I have always trusted people I build relationships with, but I have also jumped blindly into opportunities based on a feeling while meeting someone new and without doing due diligence. It has cost me money, but also taught me to be patient in relationship building.
- You can’t be good at everything — I love learning and trying to execute on what I don’t know. It has also slowed my ability to do what I do best instead of trusting those around me or finding someone who is better equipped to manage a task.
- Find time to do nothing — I have always been active and enjoy being busy. This has been detrimental to my productivity as well because at times I will work with little breaks in a week. As I’ve been married since 2016 and had my first child this year, I have learned to slow things down and find time to rest and be mindless. In turn, my productivity and overall happiness have significantly improved.
- Saying no is okay — I try to make everyone happy and do a lot in order to please. With limited time in a day to achieve, I have learned that sometimes the simple word “No” can help to reduce lost time.
- Don’t stop smiling — With any bad deal, or wasted opportunity, I try to never forget that I’m alive and healthy. Energy flows back and forth between people and spreading good energy is what we all need!
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
With all the politicized news this election year, I always watch/read both sides of the argument (Democratic and Republican favored stations). Opinions can be formed after recognizing the agenda of the stories. We also cannot forget that news is also meant to draw reads, watches and clicks.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Be empathetic. Beyond your loved ones you do not know what is truly happening inside of the person next to you. Strike up random conversations, get to know people deeply, and build more meaningful relationships that do not have agendas like money, fame, power, or status.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why?
Maybe we can tag them and see what happens! Richard Branson — His unorthodox, casual, and fearless leadership style is admiring. His companies have been able to jump into industries with vast competition, disrupt, and succeed. There are very few stories of those with a profound hate of him which is tough to find in highly successful and famous businesspeople.