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Eltron's Code of Success: Keep Raising the Bar in Key Areas


Donald Skinner sums up his business philosophy rather concisely.

"Cost leadership, quality leadership and service leadership," said the president and chief executive of Eltron International, a Simi Valley-based manufacturer of bar-code label printers, plastic card printers and accessories. "Without all three of those, it's tough to succeed as a company in today's fast-paced world."

It has been Eltron's ability to hit on those three cylinders, Skinner said, that has enabled the company to achieve steady growth since its founding in 1991.

That growth was acknowledged with Eltron's inclusion in the Southern California Technology Fast 50, a list of the region's fastest-growing technology-related companies, published by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte & Touche LLP.

Eltron, on the list for the second consecutive year, is joined by three other Ventura County operations--Camarillo's ACT Networks, developer and manufacturer of access products for voice, data and integrated network uses; Integrix, a Newbury Park-based manufacturer of workstations and Internet products; and Interlink Electronics, a Camarillo developer and manufacturer of computer pointing devices.

The Fast 50 companies will be honored at a banquet Thursday at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills.

"It gives us recognition, and recognition is nice," Skinner said. "We are never out to win awards. We are out to grow the company and provide the best service we can. What comes from that are awards like the Fast 50."

The Fast 50 tracked five-year revenue growth for businesses in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties. To be eligible, companies were required to have a minimum of $50,000 in revenue at the start of the period.

In 1992, Eltron took in revenue of $1.8 million, compared to $88.5 million in 1996.

"We have grown because of our concentration on products--bringing 35 products to the market in six years," Skinner said. "That's a very fast development process."

Skinner added that by offering bar-code label printers at about half the price of Eltron's nearest competitor, and by offering longer warranties and quicker delivery than the competition, the company essentially created new customers.

"We were so much cheaper and our products were so much smaller," he said. "Our products may be doing the same task at perhaps slower speeds, but my thoughts were if a person could wait a second for a label rather than a nanosecond, they would be happy to pay half the price. It allowed companies to use more of our products than the higher-priced products."

Eltron's story is similar to those of many of the other companies on the Fast 50 list, all of which are involved in some aspect of high-tech manufacturing, research and development or product development.

"Technology is and will be a very significant sector in Southern California," said Garry Dickey, a partner in Deloitte & Touche's California technology practice. "Anything that can be done to provide recognition and foster excitement is good."

This is the third year Deloitte & Touche has published the Fast 50 list, compiled in conjunction with business groups such as the California Manufacturing Technology Center and the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance.

Deloitte & Touche creates similar listings in other regions throughout the country. Southern California fares pretty well in comparison, Dickey said.

"I think the energy level in Southern California is just tremendous," he said. "I don't think that the critical mass of large companies is here yet, but we do have a substantial number of large technology-based companies. The perception is still that there is more in Northern California, but the number of new, young technology businesses in Southern California is growing at a very rapid rate."

Dickey said Ventura County contributes significantly to that growth.

"I believe there is quite a bit of growth occurring in Ventura County that wasn't there a couple of years ago," he said. "If you look at what is going on in Camarillo and the expansion of business [in the county], I think we will continue to see the area as active members of our list."

Eltron's Skinner would like to maintain his company's presence among the Southern California Fast 50, but he realizes that it becomes more and more difficult as a company ages.

"It becomes harder to keep that same percentage of growth," he said. "But we certainly intend to stay aggressive relative to bringing our products to market, addressing our markets and looking at new markets."

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