Lessons from Mobius Photonics: Three ways small companies can get ahead

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innovation, collaboration and foresight help businesses win

It’s easy to make the assumption that a successful business requires robust infrastructure, surplus funds and a large amount of manpower. While that may be true in some cases, size and money are becoming less important than the ability to innovate, collaborate and see the big picture—especially for companies with products on the cutting edge.

Meet Mobius Photonics. Founded in 2005, Mobius has fewer than 20 employees. Mobius has been developing fiber-based laser technologies for years, and in early 2011, the company developed a new prototype laser system for the scientific research field—the “Rainbow” Laser System. Rainbow’s unique design employs a novel way of using optical fiber to generate key visible wavelengths for super-resolution microscopy applications. Mobius developed its prototype Rainbow system to help scientific researchers image biological samples quickly, with ultra-high resolution and using florescent markers of choice.

The Rainbow Laser System is a huge accomplishment for such a small company. Mobius’ ability to develop new technologies with limited resources and manpower is a testament to its distinctive company culture and strategy, and other would-be innovators can learn a lot from the way Mobius has maximized collaboration, innovation and foresight to overcome the usual obstacles and develop a pioneering prototype in addition to its other products.

Eliminating the engineering ‘he-said, she-said’

Orchestrating a successful engineering-to-manufacturing hand-off can be a challenge at even the highest functioning organizations. For Mobius, the best way to deal with the engineering hand-off was to eliminate it altogether. For example, instead of passing the company’s G1R3 laser system for materials processing applications from engineering to manufacturing, engineers followed the design all the way through the development process—and this kept them engaged in both the design and production of the product. Having a tightly integrated team has saved Mobius both time and money and minimized miscommunication throughout the production process.

Innovation as a daily routine

For small businesses, resources are often limited.  And when saving money is a top priority, developing innovative solutions to expensive problems can improve the bottom line when funds are tight.

For Mobius, this means leveraging in-house talent to creatively solve problems. When the company needed to purchase a laser safety barrier but the cost seemed too high, Mobius decided to utilize in-house engineers to design a safer and more flexible barrier system at a fraction of the cost.

Keeping an open mind to innovative ideas is not just a good management practice, it will also help a small business stay competitive and boost company morale.

When planning for today, think about tomorrow

Excel might be cheap, but it could not sustain our growing business forever…

Red Byer

VP of Operations

Mobius Photonics

Maintaining a competitive edge today and planning for future growth are not mutually exclusive. The market is moving faster than ever before and small operations must keep one eye on current performance while scanning the horizon with the other.

Mobius is a big-picture kind of company, and when looking at its future growth projections, leadership decided to integrate ERP and PLM systems early in the production process. Originally, Mobius relied on QuickBooks to manage its basic accounting needs, but soon realized it simply would not scale to meet the company’s needs. The system was beginning to threaten growth—a definite concern.

“Excel might be cheap, but it couldn’t sustain our growing business forever, so we made the investment to implement Arena PLM from the start” explained Red Byer, co-founder and vice president of operations at Mobius Photonics.  “As for ERP, we could have waited until we were bigger and our back was against the wall, but at that point it becomes a huge headache—not to mention a waste of time and money—to migrate to a new business, accounting and product lifecycle management system.”

Future-minded actions like the early implementation of scaling tools can make all the difference in how small organizations grow, and while businesses can plan for today’s needs, tomorrow’s needs should be taken into account as well.

Do you have tips for success you’d like to share?

It’s too easy to forget that innovation and hard work were not always enough to turn world changing ideas into reality. At Arena, we celebrate innovators and entrepreneurs, and love sharing the success stories of up-and-coming small businesses. If you have a story you’d like to share, post to the comments below, and you could be featured on our Arena blog!

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About the Author

Alyssa Sittig
Alyssa played an instrumental role in the development of the Arena Blog and social media channels from 2011 to 2012. Joining the team with a background in public policy, Alyssa ... Read More 

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