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Wilson Center Newsletter, October 2012
A Small Boat in a Global Sea
Calvin R Hastings, President and CEO of Caldon, Inc
Entrepreneurship Floats My Boat
By: J.B. Potter '11
On Thursday, October 11th, the Wilson Center for Leadership and the Center for Entrepreneurship and Political Economy welcomed Mr. Calvin Hastings to campus. A lifelong friend of Prof. Jim Simms, Mr. Hastings is the President and CEO of Caldon, a successful engineering business. The Pittsburg-based company specializes in ultrasonic technology. Mr. Hastings' talk was entitled "Caldon, A Small Boat in a Global Sea."
As the title of his lecture suggests, Mr. Hastings likened running his business to sailing on the high seas. "The challenge for both entrepreneurs and sailors," he said, "is to survive the storm." As he has learned over the years, the stormy seas of the business world are as unforgiving as they are unpredictable.
After working at Westinghouse for three decades, Mr. Hastings founded Caldon in 1987. The odds were not in his favor. At the time, three-quarters of industrial start-up businesses failed. Accordingly, he invested "all of his savings and sweat" and even worked without a salary for the first two years. As the company grew, so too did the challenges which it had to overcome.
In 1992, orders dried up, and with them, revenue. Despite this seemingly crippling setback, Mr. Hastings trusted his employees, "the crew of the ship," to stay with him and keep the boat afloat. Although he could not pay them for a year, they stuck it out; nearly all of them still proudly work for Caldon.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Hastings emphasized the human element in business. "The people at Caldon are educated, motivated, competent, and loyal," he remarked, "and I count on them to take care of the customer." In his estimation, the most important contributor to the success of his business has been customer intimacy. That's why the company's hallmark is keeping its promises and meeting expectations (e.g., consistently delivering 95% of orders on time).
Over the course of twenty-five years, Caldon has weathered many economic storms. "The voyage has not been easy," Mr. Hastings observed, "but it has been rewarding." Like a sailor seeking a treasure trove, Mr. Hastings has found fortune.
Today, Caldon boasts $25 million in annual revenue, as well as eighteen unique, patented inventions. Its sensors are installed in forty-three countries across the globe and are sold to a diverse range of clients in energy markets as well as the defense industry (e.g., nuclear submarines). The range of Caldon's success has even attracted the attention of larger companies. In fact, Caldon was recently acquired by Cameron International Corporation, a Fortune 500 company that provides oil and gas industries with processing and pressure control systems.
In summing up his experience, Mr. Hastings cited the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain: "Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." If Mr. Hastings is any indication, taking Mark Twain's advice can carry a person to distant shores and newfound opportunities.
Alumni Public Affairs Forum
Matthew Lakin '02
Matt Lakin '02 works for the International Republican Institute which is funded by USAID. Matt serves as the Resident Program Officer in IRI's Jordan office. He is primarily focused on IRI's work with political parties, public opinion research and trainings for candidates for public office. Matt has worked for IRI since 2008 specializing in work with political party development, civic activism, and media programs. Matt has conducted trainings for IRI in Jordan, Egypt, South Korea, East Timor and Cambodia.
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