Like Thomas Edison, Gregg A. VanDusseldorp Sr. got his start in a small incubator of big ideas.
And like the great innovator who inspired him, his office had a little workshop to tinker with breakthrough devices.
He launched his dream back in 1995, a seasoned tool and die maker who recalled “me and the coffee pot” operating in an office the size of a bathroom.
Today, Omnitech Systems, Inc. has about 55 employees working in a large building near his original office making medical devices. Company sales of $4 million are expected to increase by upward of 50 percent this year.
Recalling those early days, Gregg said, “It took enormous faith, which for me included faith in my creator, as well as imagination and perseverance.” Add his creativity that produced eight patents, accounting for at least 60 percent of the sales of the company.
The company makes accessories, so small they can fit in the palm of your hand, used by surgeons in urology and gynecology. In fact, Omnitech has a national reputation of being the “go to” company that can solve the most difficult problems. These products go to big customers that sell them to hospitals.
In an industry that has embraced lasers, Gregg and his team have pioneered new applications using existing technology called electro-surgery. Their hallmark is “concept to market ready” with quality products.
Gregg attributes success of the company to innovation. “Small companies have to be innovative or we go out of business.” But also he also credits employees, largely a female workforce, who developed the skills to make these intricate products.
Shortly after the company was founded, Gregg developed a relationship with the Spring Valley Shelter. “When I learned there were homeless people in Porter County, I was astonished.” He agreed to hire workers, and while many left, some stayed. These include some of the company’s most successful employees. They have helped establish a legacy that is part of the “family culture” of the company.
When Gregg was inducted this past fall by The Society of Innovators, he told the story of a major recall that nearly dealt a crippling blow. “The recall was caused not by our failure, but a misunderstanding by the purchaser of FDA requirements.”
On the day he was to announce the layoff of workers, the employees came to his office. “They told me not to let this company die and they thought they could go a month without compensation.” He added, “It floored me!”
No wonder that Gregg describes his employees as the “lifeblood of the company.” Omnitech provides full health insurance and, since many are single moms, helps pay for day care. His vision? “I want to be known as a model company across the United States.”
The Society of Innovators is proud that this innovator and visionary is the Gerald I. Lamkin Fellow for Innovation and Service for 2012-2013.