July 20, 2015
Shop Talk

Q&A with Michael Detarando, President and CEO, Incom Inc.

PHOTO/MATT VOLPINI
PHOTO/MATT VOLPINI

Michael Detarando, President and CEO, Incom Inc.,

RESIDENCE: Sturbridge
EDUCATION: St. John's High School, Shrewsbury; attended University of Miami (Fla.)

VIEW: Michael Detarando, President and CEO, Incom Inc., Charlton

Nearly 40 years ago, Anthony Detarando and his family took over a five-year-old company that was in the middle of a financial overhaul. Today, that company, Incom, has risen to become a force in fused fiber optics. Its products help improve the look and function of digital displays, from industries that include the military (think night vision), health care and automotive. Incom is now in the hands of Detarando's son, Michael.

There has been a lot of talk in Massachusetts about churning out the expertise to sustain the advanced manufacturing industry, and you've been on the forefront of that. From where you sit, what's the most critical need?

The most critical need is a workforce that can be much more dynamic than we've had to be in the past. The markets where we can compete have changed from traditional manufacturing products to a much more innovative, quick-moving, technology-based value proposition. So we need a workforce that can be very versatile and flexible and agile when needed.

You're big on innovation. Do you find that to be a better draw today for prospective employees?

Much. Today's employees tend to be much more involved and pay closer attention to the work they do, more so than just the task they perform. And the type of business that they're working for and the technology that we're producing is certainly intriguing enough to be that intangible draw that we traditionally might not have had in the past.

An industry website last year addressed how polymer-fused fiber optics made by Incom may be a game changer for the industry. Could you explain?

Our technology has been around for 45 years, and it always strikes a chord with anybody who has tried to use it, especially in the display field. For years, people have said, "This is fascinating stuff. I have to find a solution for this." But the cost of the traditional fiber-optic technology was prohibitive to be able to penetrate the display market. Polymer has launched us into opportunities by making what is equivalently the same product we've been displaying for 40 years, but doing it at a fraction of the cost, a fraction of the weight. Now, it makes it more affordable.

Years ago, your father was quoted as saying: “Our ability to stay diversified is what singlehandedly allowed us to stay alive.” For Incom, is it easier to diversify, to find new markets?

I wouldn't say it's easy. One of the things that makes Incom positioned well for that is our private ownership and the ability to kind of move on a hunch and move on leads that we get as opposed to necessarily having to do a market (analysis) that … slows us down (or) might talk us out of industries that we have a good feeling about. In some ways, a lack of (a) disciplined approach toward deciding what technologies we're going to get into allows us to be diversified without having to justify it to a finance person or somebody who might say, "Where's the two-year ROI on this?"

How does Incom go about the process of finding the next new market to enter?

We do a lot of work at trade shows, a lot of research. But we tend to focus in areas where we believe we can add value. So we look for where emerging technologies are.

What's the biggest lesson you learned from your father?

People are your entire organization. It takes quality people around you to be able to run a successful business. And the most successful people in the world have been the ones who surround themselves with people (who are) much smarter than they are and are never intimidated by the people around them.

What are the key things you look for in a prospective employee?

It's the hardest thing to answer, but it's the intangible nature of somebody who's curious, and hungry to be successful. It is really, really difficult to, in an interview process, know (if) this (is) somebody who is going to show up every day, but show up with a desire to accomplish something both for the company and for themselves, to be part of something greater than just a paycheck.

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