Our August Client Spotlight is Fikst, a product development and engineering company based out of Woburn, Massachussets. Fikst works with their clients on innovation, engineering, design evaluation, manufacturing and prototyping, allowing for a seamless and professional process. Paul Sabin, CEO, told us about his journey and provided some great insight for other business owners. Check out our interview with him below!
1. What career did you have before starting Fikst? I worked at several design consulting companies and then at a fuel cell technology start-up called Protonex. I’ve also taught product-design and design-for-manufacture courses at several engineering programs.
2. What inspired you to start Fikst? I had long thought I wanted to start a company, and my experience at Protonex solidified that goal. My brother and I had always wanted to work together in a company, and after I left Protonex we got together to make that happen. When we first started out we planned to have a product company, but as we were listing our ideas we got a call to do some consulting. The consulting work was fun and interesting and also allowed us to bootstrap a company rather than have to find investors. After the first job ended we continued to get consulting clients, so we focused our energy on consulting from then on.
3. How long has Fikst been in business? We started in 2006.
4. What does Fikst offer? We provide mechanical engineering consulting to companies developing technologies and new products. Most of our clients are biomedical companies, but we also work on consumer products, industrial automation, and technology development. Basically, we’ll tackle any interesting mechanical challenge that we think we have a good chance of being able to solve.
5. Starting your own business can be daunting. What words of wisdom would you give others who are thinking of doing the same? Build trust with everyone you work with, clients, employees and vendors alike. Clear communication -- about both what is going well and what is not -- is the foundation of a good working relationship. Solid relationships lead to successful projects and meaningful results.
6. What is your favorite part of your day to day? This has changed quite a bit as our company has grown. In the beginning it was learning about, and directly contributing to, new technologies. Now that we’re bigger I don’t do much technology work anymore. My favorite part now is checking in with projects and seeing the work our team is doing, particularly when it’s work that I don’t have the skill set to do myself.
7. How do you balance running a business and family life? This also has been a challenge that‘s changed over time. When we first started, my kids were younger, and I was teaching as well. I gave up teaching because, even though I really enjoyed it, preparing for class was not leaving enough time for the family and business. Since then we set a goal to make Fikst a place where everyone can have a good balance. It’s easy for a consulting company to have a billable hours culture. We work hard to avoid this by staffing projects so people rarely have to work outside normal business hours to meet our clients’ goals.
8. How do you stay motivated and centered as a small-business owner yourself? Starting Fikst with my brother has made this much easier. Having someone you can 100% trust to share the workload, redirect you from bad ideas, and keep things going when you need a break has been invaluable. Another key has been building the strongest team possible and having the best clients possible. It’s no secret that the people you work with everyday make all the difference because you can feed off their motivation and talent.