Master one technology and get ready to learn the next. In the technology business, your product is always changing. Ron Hamlin knows that better than anyone. When he set out to manufacture X-ray machines that examine biological substances such as viruses and DNA, he had just received his PhD in this technology.
In 1983, Ron recruited his professor and a computer software expert to form Area Detector Systems Corporation (ADSC) from a spare bedroom in his Poway, California home. Within a few years, ADSC was yielding $800,000 in profit. But, the technology evolved and a new technology was on the horizon.
With Badewitz' advice, ADSC began to take off. The company gained several key clients, mainly big government labs in partnership with granting agencies of pharmaceutical companies. The mentoring relationship continues today, four years and 60 sessions later. "Charlie has adopted us...he has really made his mark here." Charles has even referred some of ADSC's key employees. Although the size of the staff has remained small—15 employees—revenues continue to climb. This year's net sales should jump from $3 million to $4 million. ADSC thrives on being small, claiming that what they do is too specific for a big company. "We have benefited by being in the shadows of the larger companies; it has enabled us to make several business mistakes and survive," says Ron.
In the next few years, Ron expects ADSC to enjoy as much as $7 million in sales of the company's latest biotechnology equipment. He'll also have another project to stay busy with: a two-year, $2 million product development grant from the Small Business Innovative Research program of the National Institutes of Health. "This is the largest grant ever issued under that channel," Ron says. "We've already hired four people to work on this project."
On the brink of the new technology in 1995, ADSC turned to SCORE for help.
Hamlin met with SCORE Mentor Charles Badewitz, former president of Teledyne Philbrick Micro Electronics. All the advice and information that Charles gave to Ron continues to pay off. "Charlie always uses his experience as a fighter pilot during World War II when he sees a business in trouble," Ron says. "When he told us, 'You're gonna crash,' I knew it was time for our company to grow up. He helped us with manufacturing and pricing, and helped us make some key hires. Each of those areas continues to be a strength of our business."