Century Control Systems functions as a 360 degree source for supplies of process and machine automation systems in Virginia, USA. Their expertise and experience spans to 25-years of engineering excellence and ethical business practices through a course of complicated and demanding situations, backed by a responsive and well-informed customer staff and support. The company also partakes in stock distribution and value added reselling for leading brands in process control technology.
Stephen M. Dean, CEO, at Century Control Systems gives us at eBrandz a glimpse of his life and ideals as an entrepreneur.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Century Control Systems is in business to solve our customer’s instrumentation and control problems. We do this by offering a basket of world class products that are technically sound, application assistance and after sale service. The products costs are inclusive of all aforementioned services are free of charge to the customer.
Additionally, we have the wherewithal to provide turnkey automation and systems solutions.
We pull together the resources necessary to get the job done. We can supply a single measurement or a full blown control system. If your problem calls for an instrument engineer, service technician or computer savvy control systems expert, we have the expertise to meet your needs.
Over the years we have been involved in projects ranging from providing controls systems for the NSAS Langley Steam Generation Plant, to instrumentation installation and commissioning on the “Greenfield” NAC-SAC project at Radford Army Ammunition Plant.
We can engineer, supply install and commission any size project from the smallest sensor to large scale DCS systems.
We are committed to customer service, no matter how small or large and order we strive to give our customer equal and exemplary treatment.
There are not many companies out there that will provide products along with follow-up service, yet have the capability to be an informational and preventative maintenance resource. This is an important leverage as often other companies outsource these services.
Our goal is offer our customers to best products and services at the lowest long term cost.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
I am a 1976 graduate of Virginia Tech (VPI & SU) with a B.S. degree in engineering. Coming from a background of business, my dad owned his own business; I started Century Control Systems because there is a better way of doing business.
The preferable way is looking at the customer’s problem and developing a solution that fits and not attempting to fit the solution to the problem. As a new man on the block, I saw opportunity for a company to become not just a sales company but a “counselor” to our clients.
I nurtured this company and its team of sales professionals to become a “problem solver”, for this reason we quickly developed into the “go to” guy that our clients looked to. Some of my accomplishments include the first domestic sale of Yokogawa’s DCS system in the USA. I developed for DuPont in Waynesboro, VA a multifunction control algorithm that could control a batch reactor automatically from start-up using a single loop controller.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?
I was working for an instrumentation sales company and because of my success with one of the “principals” that we represented, they asked me to go out on my own. Additionally, I saw a better way of doing business and supporting customers. It took about 6 months to arrange the financing and get ready to start-up.
How important have good employees been to your success?
Businesses cannot succeed without good employees, especially small businesses where the employees will many times wear different hats and provide valuable council in everyday business operations.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
1. Know the business you’re anticipating
2. Know your market
3. Know your competition
4. Make a business plan and follow it
5. Be prepared to sacrifice keeping long hours, and low or no pay at first
6. Have financial resources to maintain the business and your family for at least 12-18 months
8. Do not let anyone steer you off track
9. Treat your customers and your employees like family.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1. You need to have people skills
2. You need management skills
3. You need financial skills
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
Until it proves to be in-viable
How many hours do you work a day on average?
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
There have been some good affects and some bad effects. The good obviously is being your own boss and the freedom to make decisions, a good living and other intangible benefits. The bad is of course the long hours and the stress that being in business places on the family
What motivates you?
What motivates me is the possibility of success. Not necessarily monetary success, but success in achieving a specific goal that either I or another party has placed before me. Nothing is more motivating than being successful in what you attempt to accomplish whether it be small or large in scope.
How do you generate new ideas?
I pray a lot, and try to receive input from all types of external sources.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear?
My greatest fear is to make decisions that will affect others in a detrimental way. Whether it be my family, friends or my employees.
What are your ideals?
I have three simple ideals, to have faith in my God, to do justice to my fellow man, and as much as possible to live peaceably with all.
How do you define success?
Success is living a life that will be positively reflected in who and what I leave behind.
What is the best way to achieve long-term success?
Be diligent about what you do and be honest about who you are.
Where did your organization’s funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it? How did you obtain investors for your venture?
One of the things that I did wrong when starting my business was to be under-capitalized. I borrowed 20,000 from my Dad and from that point on we obtained funding from credit cards and prayers.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Provide products and services that they need and treat them like they are the only customer you have.
How did you decide on the location for your business?
We started business in our home, deciding on a location was easy.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Early to bed, early to rise, work real hard and advertise.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
George Washington – under impossible odds he took a rag tag unorganized army and whipped the most powerful military force in the world and he did it by humbly surrendering himself to the will of God.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
What book has inspired you the most?
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being able to solve toughest customer problems and satisfaction at their satisfaction of what we have done.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The need for security, entrepreneurs are not susceptible to fears about being secure.
In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made?
Depending on undependable people or organizations
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
You can’t prevent mistakes you can only mitigate the frequency of occurrences. Damage control is a function of the nature of the mistakes.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Love to watch sports, read and play guitar.
What makes you happy?
My family, specifically my wife and son
Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?