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564 S. Main St
Suite 201
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

John Mills

What educational, entrepreneurial or business development programs, if any, have you taken advantage of?
We have participated in Growbiz and we are currently undergoing Sandler sales training.

Who was your first customer and where did you find them?
Our first successful effort in finding a customer was to create and send a newsletter style email describing our company and services to key individuals that I had met during my career. Within 2-3 months we had business with two companies: Woodward Governor Controls and Toyota Technical Development Center in Japan. The motor control project with Woodward Governor Controls lasted a few months. The model-based process work with Toyota Technical Development Center continued on and off for the following seven years.

Where did you find your first employee?
The company was founded as a 50/50 partnership between Raymond Turin and myself. Turin continued to work at GM for almost the first year to keep money coming in. We shared his income. I focused on finding customers and getting the company started. Our first employee, Steve Fowler, was a very talented software developer that had worked for me during my previous employment as a software manager at Motorola. Steve joined in late 2002 and has been with us since.

Have you promoted an intern to employee status, and if so how many times have you done it?
No, we have not employed interns yet. We would like to.

Where have you turned to find capital to grow your company and which institutions have provided it?
We have looked into angel investment. However, we have managed to grow without this support and have not had to give up equity.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
Our experience has been in automotive, so it helps us that we are close to auto OEMs and suppliers. Also Ann Arbor is a hub for new alternative technologies and we are growing new business with them.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business here?
Where to begin? There is a lot to say after the last 10 years of learning from mistakes. Make sure you have a product and/or service that really has a market. Read and absorb the best help books, such as "Crossing the Chasm" and "The Dip." Find and focus on one or two customers. Make sure you under promise and over deliver. Do not spread yourself too thinly. Keep it to one product ideally. Make sure each customer is served well. It's much easier to keep a customer than to find a new one and a happy customer will refer you to others. Manage your financials carefully. Make sure you invoice and that customers pay on time. Know 3-6 months out exactly where the money is coming from. Finally, believe in yourself, have confidence in yourself and what you do.

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