Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Dan Button, CEO of nanotechnology lighting-fixtures maker QD Vision, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
We feel that we’ve come up with a niche product for a growing market. Because regular light bulbs waste about 80% of the energy they use, more people are turning to energy-efficient bulbs – light emitting diodes, compact fluorescent lamps and halogen lights. The downside to most of these devices is that they tend to give off a harsher light than conventional bulbs. At QD Vision, we’ve used nanotechnology to develop lenses that absorb the cooler colors emitted by energy-efficient bulbs and allow the warmer tones to shine through. Today, QD Vision’s lenses are used only by retail businesses like department stores, as the price per lamp is still high. However, as the U.S. follows the U.K.’s move to eliminate incandescent bulbs, we believe the market for our products will broaden.
What’s the best part about running your own business?
I enjoy being close enough to the rest of company to be able to see they’re emotionally involved. I spent the first half of my career working at Fortune 500 companies, but only a small percentage of the people I worked with had passion. Today, that’s not the case. My employees and I are all excited about building this company, and at this level, I can see it.
What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
Staying focused on a specific application of a broad technology. There are so many ways nanotechnology may be used – medicine, memory devices, solar energy – so it was hard to pick one arena and stick with it.
Name: Dan Button
Business: QD Vision, a nanotechnology lighting-fixture maker.
Location: Watertown, Mass.
Year founded: 2004
Number of employees: 48
Web address: qdvision.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
When I came on board at the company, I had to trim our costs extensively. The technology wasn’t yet marketable, and we were rapidly running out of money. I had to make some pretty drastic cuts, which included laying off workers. While it was a difficult time for everyone, we managed to stay in business.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Holding on to potential customers too long. Early on, when we were trying to figure out our target audience, we were in talks with a telecommunications company about using our technology. We spent valuable time and resources building out applications for companies that didn’t end up becoming customers.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Be smart with your resources, and look for ways to use the same product or application in multiple arenas to get the most out of it.
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