2010: A Letter From The President

It’s 9am and I’m on the first leg of a twenty six hour flight to Singapore. I received an email from Delta just three days ago, telling me that because of my Medallion status, I’ve been upgraded to first class. You can imagine the feelings of gratitude that immediately flooded through me – and left just as quickly when I opened the email to find it was only for the first 1:46 segment from Salt Lake City to Portland. The remaining 24 hours I am still in coach.

But as I write this article, I am for now in the first class cabin, and I think to myself that I’m lucky to have been upgraded, because at least there’s more leg room, coffee and breakfast coming.

As we all know, luck is a fickle thing. Hycomp has been blessed with an abundance of it. We are lucky to have a product that has a solid niche. We are lucky to have landed multiple major accounts. We are lucky to have a dedicated core group of managers that lead an equally dedicated family of employees. Perhaps most of all, we are lucky to have experienced a 35% growth this year in a poor economy.

Yet is it really luck? I have flown around the world this year, and am going halfway around now. I’ve earned enough Skymiles to qualify for the free upgrade to first class – even if it is for just under two out of twenty six hours.

Our product line has been developed and defined over 40 years, and we have reacted quickly to market changes that forced us to redefine our product twice in the last 15 years. Major accounts have found us by talking to existing happy customers, via our marketing campaigns, and through our dealers. And those managers I am so proud of? Two of them came to us as mid grade employees and have worked their way up through dedication and perseverance. So it made me wonder – how much is luck, and how much can be attributed to hard work, foresight and good decision making?

Looking back over 2010, I know our growth was not truly luck. Hard work, foresight and good decision making? Absolutely. But there is another very significant reason: sticking with our core value of building trust with our customers. One particular sale early in my career impressed upon me the amount of trust a user places in their compressors. An air conditioner manufacturer purchased an oil-free air booster system to run the coil testing for the entire production line at one plant. If they failed, production would continue to run for no more than a day before nearly a million square feet of manufacturing would come to a halt. In the end, we built more than a duplex air booster system. A decade later, the two original units are still operating that plant. We built trust.

Similar successes over the years stick with me. An aircraft engine manufacturer that has Hycomp compressors in four different facilities because of the reliability of the first installation. A laser cutting specialist that places our compressors with every nitrogen generation system they sell because of personal experience with our product. A company with whom we developed a compressor line that allowed them to build the first reclaim breathing gas system for divers nearly 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the ocean.

Each of these successes came because we stuck to that core value of building trust. Trust that our compressors would perform. Trust that our compressors would last. Trust that we would stand behind our product. Trust that we would do what we said.

This year I am sorry to say that we drifted some from this core value. We focused on dealing with expansive growth while limiting our cash-flow to ensure a strong position in a weak economy. Some customers were affected by this in a negative way: we missed delivery deadlines; we placed compressors that did not fully meet expectations; we failed to do what we said we would. In short, we became like other compressor manufacturers. We failed to build trust.

Luckily for me, Bill Scales pulled me aside at a trade show and told me point blank that we were not living up to what we said we would do. Luckily, I listened. Actually, when Bill pulls you aside, it’s just a good decision to listen. It’s hard work and dedication that gets you back on track. And it’s foresight that keeps you there. We had a trying summer as we re-examined where we were and struggled to right ourselves, but I’m proud to say we have been successful.

I take full responsibility for any failure to build trust. But I cannot take full responsibility for returning us to our core values. I credit the willingness to change, the hard work and the dedication of our employees and their families, and the faith of our dealers.

In the end, I urge you to stick with your core values. If you don’t know exactly what those are, figure them out. Business and personal, they should be the same. Here at Hycomp, we will continue producing a reliable product, we will stand behind that product, we will encourage open and honest communication, and we will fulfill our promises to you. If at any time you feel we are not following through on this, please take an example from Bill and pull me aside and tell me so.

Thank you for a wonderful year, a good learning experience, and most especially for allowing us to do what we do best. Trust… it’s what we build.

Robert James
President, Hycomp Inc.