Cornelius | Robert Ray | www.csimetrology.com
The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says “what do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE CALIBRATION SOLUTIONS?
This is a Calibration and Testing Laboratory. Every day you touch something that has been calibrated—thermometers, pills that have had their medicine weighed or counted, the torque on a bolt in your car, etc. The equipment used to check those measurements must be tested to ensure that they are giving accurate readings. Calibration Solutions calibrates the equipment that is used for testing by comparing it to a known standard. Here’s a very simple example: someone sends us a scale. We have a weight that we know for a fact is exactly one lb. So, we put our one lb weight on the scale and make sure that it is reading exactly one lb. If not, we document the reading and make adjustments to bring the equipment back in to manufacturers tolerances. The equipment is generally much more complicated and we are looking for accuracy way to the right of the decimal place, and we do this for electrical, temperature, pressure, mechanical, dimensional, force, light, acceleration, and vibration.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO CALIBRATION?
In 1983, I joined the Air Force and worked for Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory (PMEL) for four years. When I got out, there weren’t a lot of jobs in the industry, so I pursued another interest. Around 2000, I knew I wanted to start my own business, so it made sense to fall back on a trade I knew.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE
My biggest challenge has been growth rates – physical size, adding employees and financial growth. Our space has been much too small for too long but banks didn’t want anything to do with us. The SBTDC helped us find this whole other world of help available with small business loans.
HOW HAS THE SBTDC’S BUSINESS COUNSELING MADE A DIFFERENCE IN THE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS?
The SBTDC is like having this extra support staff. A lot of times when I’ve had an idea, I call just to talk it out with someone who is not an employee or my spouse. They listen objectively and have valuable feedback.
My counselor matched me with a team of MBA students who researched options to expand. They narrowed it down to two concise choices – expand here or stay the same size and open another facility in Raleigh. I ended up going with a third option, which was selling the company, but their research was valuable.
I also took advantage of the SBTDC’s Strategy and Growth Services Program in a day-long, one-on-one, customized workshop. At the end, we knew what we stood for and had a mission statement which we evolved into a marketing and website strategy.
The thing about the SBTDC is that I’m never actively looking for these opportunities, but my counselor comes to me and says “What do you need now?” and offers these students, or interns, or a workshop, or whatever will help us at that moment.
HOW MUCH GROWTH HAS YOUR BUSINESS EXPERIENCED OVER THE YEARS
We’ve seen a 20% increase in sales and the addition of seven employees. The biggest benchmark, however, was getting to a point where Calibration Solutions was big enough and attractive enough to buy. I sold the company in September 2014 and my biggest regret is not reaching out to the SBTDC during that time. I was working with a legal, taxes and finance team all while trying to run a business and not let on what was happening. I did call my counselor the day after it happened. She knew before most of my friends and family.
WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED?
Every day is new and unique and that fascinates me. We’re constantly getting in new equipment and learning about a completely new industry or process. Even with something like a resistance measure that we test 20 times a day, there is satisfaction knowing that we’re enabling their goals.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE GIVEN YOURSELF WHEN JUST STARTING OUT?
Join industry associations. They’re essential for networking, knowing what is going on in the industry, and it is also how we met the company that eventually bought Calibration Solutions. My other advice is not to give up. Continue to pursue your goals and the good days will outweigh the bad.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE?
Right now I’m happy with our position with Trescal. They bought us because they like what we’re doing and so we’re just continuing to operate as before.
This story was originally published in the SBTDC 2014-2015 Annual Report. Click Here to view the report.
More Success Stories
Our annual revenue has grown a minimum of 10%. In the last year we have placed 35 to 40 employees with federal contracts that we received with the help of the SBTDC and we placed approximately 2000 employees throughout the Southeast. We have a total of three federal contracts, one of which is expanding and those probably generate three-quarters of a million annually.
You don’t know what you don’t know. As a small company, it’s easy to grow organically and never step back and question how you’re doing. Are you doing the best you can? Do you know where your weaknesses are? What are you doing about them? That’s one area where the SBTDC has really helped us…What a great service. Honestly, we likely would have lost a lot of revenue and a lot of momentum had we not started really evaluating where we are.