Written by Frank Li
Jon Stimpson is the owner and president of National Scale Technology, based in Huntsville, Alabama.
Experience has made Jon very philosophical about life. Here is one of his guiding principles: Life is filled with opportunity and adversity. Every one experiences both. The ones who succeed are the ones who best handle the adversities. Some even turn them into opportunities …
Jon was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1951. After university, he worked for an insurance company, because there were no jobs available in his chosen field: engineering. Several years later, one “real” job became available and his career finally began.
It quickly became apparent to him that sales engineering, not just engineering, would be the most lucrative and offered the best advancement opportunities. So he specifically aimed his efforts in that direction. However, 10 years later, he found himself unemployed, with a young family. Major adversity!
An employment agency presented an opportunity in sales engineering for a company that made “string gage” load cells, a key component in electronic scales. Jon was not even conversant enough with them to tell him they were strain gage, not string gage. But he enetually accepted the job anyway, out of the family need.
It turned out to be a very good fit for him, definitely an opportunity from the adversity he was facing at that time. He would probably still be with that company today, but thanks to corporate mergers and downsizing, he was left unemployed again after 10 years there. More adversity!
He did manage to have several job offers, but none aligned well enough with his needs, He decided to take the plunge and start his own company, founding Measurement Specialists in 1990.
Fortunately, he had enough experience and exposure at his previous employer to continue designing and selling load cells and systems. He started as a distributor, using his life savings to buy and stock as many load cells as possible. For two years, he did not pay himself a single cent!
The early success allowed the time necessary to design-in products with new customers, fueling future growth. Also it quickly became apparent to him that there were load cell needs not met by his suppliers. As a result, other manufacturers’ products were added to the product line. One of those added was National Scale and Repair in Huntsville, Alabama.
Being a distributor, even a value-added one, is risky. It was becoming apparent the upstart internet was changing the way everyone did business. To assure future success, Measurement Specialists needed to control at least some of the manufacturing of the products sold. Ironically, Jon’s former employer was available for sale and Measurement Specialists became a potential buyer. However, at that point, his former employer was not profitable enough to justify the cost.
Attention was turned to National Scale. They were a small, profitable manufacturer whose biggest distinction was that they repaired virtually any other manufacturers’ load cells, or made copies of them. An agreement was reached and Measurement Specialists purchased National Scale and Repair.
After overcoming many problems typical with any acquisition within the first few years, Jon replaced the management team and renamed the company “National Scale Technology” (or NST) to reflect the company’s ability to design and build new products. Since then, NST has been hugely successful. For example, NST has been part of the “Return to Flight” program for the U.S. Space Shuttle, and is one of a selected few authorized manufacturers to build load cells for lifting the caps off nuclear reactors. Many customers come to NST to solve seemingly unsolvable force measurement/weighing problems. NST has several patents for its unique work, including the only patented on-board weighing system for railroad cars.
Success from adversities turned into opportunities!
NST currently has about 30 employees. It is one of the few companies still making load cells in the U.S.!
Succession in a closely held company is always a concern of the owner. It is Jon’s intent to pass along his company to his two daughters. Both of them have been with the company for over 15 years. One of them has been managing operations while the other has been managing sales.
All in the family!