When and why did you start your business?
I started Orbital Research in December 1990 for the simple reason that I was fired from my job. I figured "I can do this." So I did! Many entrepreneurs start their own companies because they were either fired or laid off. I started out with just me and my waste basket and now have 80 employees.
Did you consider yourself an entrepreneur before that?
No. I'd been working for other people, and in business, people are either "hunters" or "cookers." Hunters land business, and cookers do the work. I knew I could land business.
Where did you find your first employee?
My first employee was a Ph.D. student in systems engineering at Case Western Reserve University.
What state or local resources did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The Enterprise Development Incubator at Case Western Reserve gave me a place to maintain my office for a long time, which was tremendously helpful. They also provided business advice and guidance, as well as a soft shoulder to cry on. Eventually we got some grants from the state through the Ohio Department of Development.
What's the most difficult thing about running your own business?
The most important thing is finding and retaining good people. The second challenge is maintaining continued financial revenue to meet payroll.
What's the best thing about running your own business?
It's definitely being able to control your own destiny to a good extent. Others have input, but running your own show is the most freedom you can have in terms of working.
What has contributed most to your growth?
My education has been the biggest factor in my growth. In addition to having an engineering degree, I have an MBA and a law degree. Another contribution was my previous employers, where I gained experience and had the opportunity to learn on somebody else's nickel.
What companies or founders do you admire and why?
Locally, I admire both Mal Mixon of Invacare and Bill Sanford of STERIS. They're both fantastic entrepreneurs and leaders who grew their companies into major corporations