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posted: 9/30/2013 5:23 AM

Precision Instruments in Des Plaines started in 1938 and still going strong

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  • Ken Larson, picture on the on wall, founded Precision Instruments in Des Plaines. His family now runs the business. John Larson Sr. (sitting left) is the second generation while John Larson Jr. is starting the third generation. Matthew Larson and Andrew Larson, standing, assist in the operation as well.

      Ken Larson, picture on the on wall, founded Precision Instruments in Des Plaines. His family now runs the business. John Larson Sr. (sitting left) is the second generation while John Larson Jr. is starting the third generation. Matthew Larson and Andrew Larson, standing, assist in the operation as well.
    Photo Courtesy of Precision Instruments Inc.

 

An interview with John Larson, president; Andrew Larson, vice president; and Matthew Larson, engineering director at Precision Instruments Inc. in Des Plaines.

Q: Describe your business. What do you do?

A: (Matt) We manufacture torque wrenches and torque testing equipment from start to finish. By that I mean raw steel comes in and finished products go out. We do all of our own fabricating, machining, polishing, plating, and assembly. Certain fasteners (i.e. screws, bolts, etc.) need to be tightened just right and our products allow that to happen accurately and precisely. The oldest brother, John, is the president. The middle brother, Andrew, is the vice president responsible for sales and marketing. The youngest brother, Matthew, is responsible for product and process engineering.

Q: What made you start your business?

A: (Matt) Our grandfather started the business in 1938. He was a mechanic and saw a need for a reliable method of tightening nuts, bolts, and other fasteners. He responded by inventing the first dial type torque wrench and began producing them in a small rented section of a Des Plaines industrial building. We now own the entire building and expanded into a second building erected in the 1980s right next door. Our father took over operations in the late 70s and my brothers and I took over operations in the mid 2000s.

Q: What has been the most difficult obstacle in running or a small business?

A: (Matt) The most difficult obstacle in running our small business is probably time/resource management. Since we are a small business and the variety of processes we perform is so large it requires a lot of multi-tasking of key resources, which can slaughter productivity if not managed carefully. It also makes growing difficult because choosing the right process to invest in is not always as obvious as it might be in a shop that only performs one or two processes.

Q: What do you enjoy most about operating your business?

A: (Andrew) If you have a good sense of direction and have passion for what you do, it's an experience everyone should have. Setting goals is very important, but not so much how you're going to get there and that's were it gets fun. You will end up going down paths you never could have imaged while understanding and learning a lot along the way. Keep your options flexible, just don't loose sight of your goal.

Q: Is this what you pictured yourself doing when you were young? When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A: (Andrew) Our parents took us to Florida for vacation when we were kids, also we went to the zoo a lot. Both Florida and the zoo had dolphin shows and I can remember how badly I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. The relationship between a trainer and the dolphin was something special and that's what I wanted to be when I grew up. In fact I have a report I wrote in second grade all about this. A little bit later in life I wanted to be a truck driver or video game developer too. I always did well as a salesmen, top seller, whether it was selling Christmas wreaths for Cub Scouts or candy bars for a field trip.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: (John) Honestly, not much. I have concerns just like anyone, but I've worked really hard to keep a balance so I can sleep. As far as concerns, there are always the challenges of making sure our customers are happy, finding and managing good talent, and adjusting to new regulations and taxes.

Q: If you could give one tip to a rookie business owner, what would it be?

A: (John) I always say "If it were easy, then everyone would do it." Business is hard work, but put the customer first, keep your head down, and work when times get tough; don't be surprised by adversity and don't give up.

• Every Monday we feature a small, suburban business. We want to hear about yours. Contact Kim Mikus at kmikus@dailyherald.com.

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