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Columbia Business Monthly

#10 - Integrated Biometrics

Nov 01, 2017 12:17PM ● By Emily Stevenson
#10 Integrated Biometrics
Spartanburg, S.C. 
Stephen Thies, CEO

Integrated Biometrics, LLC creates both government-certified and commercial fingerprint scanners for security. Founded in 2002, the company is headquartered in Spartanburg and has international offices around the globe, the most prominent in Seoul, South Korea. Integrated Biometrics uses a patented LES film for all of its products, which are all lightweight, durable, and affordable, and much smaller than traditional scanners.

What are the keys to your company’s rapid growth? 
The world has a need for high performance mobile identification systems. Our technology is patented, unique, and cost effective, providing better performance at very competitive pricing. A combination of patient investors, motivated team members, good suppliers, growing industry awareness, and distribution, along with filling out our product line, has resulted in our rapid growth.

What do you see as your company’s greatest opportunities in the future? 
Our industry is growing rapidly with a 15 to 20 percent CAGR. This is driven by growth in developing economies as well as innovative applications for biometrics. As a rising tide raises all boats, this dynamic helps, while the benefits of our technology in supporting the mobilization of identity needs in the world provides additional leverage for our growth.

What are your biggest challenges and how do you plan to overcome them?
Developing people, systems, and processes to support the rapid growth. What worked when we had 10 people doesn’t work anymore. While multitasking is still critical, more and more we are adding specialized talent. Hiring right, using our values to identify who fits, allocating resources to working on the processes and systems, and aiming the organization structure at the future will help us overcome the growth challenges. Competitive threats will occur, and we must continuously improve our product offering to stay ahead. 

What advice can you offer someone just starting a business?
Building a successful company is a challenging and rewarding experience. There is no owner’s manual for how to make it happen. Starting and growing a company requires tremendous effort. Your personal life will be challenged. Recognize this from the beginning and don’t move forward unless you are prepared for it.  You have most likely been successful at other things in your life, and have hopefully had a healthy dose of failure in your past. Plan to work long, hard hours, days, weeks and months. Giving up is not an option. Make sure you have something the world needs and a unique value proposition…or wait until you do. 

What is your strategy for innovation?
For Integrated Biometrics, to attract interest, we had to offer something different. Innovation was not the principal driver; survival was, and to some extent still is. When you are all in, innovation occurs; necessity drives the energy and passion to make changes you didn’t know were possible. You only succeed if you don’t quit. 

Who do you consider to be your mentor/mentors in business?
While I have essentially only worked for two organizations over the past 45 years, each boss, peer, and employee has taught me something. In those 45 years, I have worked with a couple dozen bosses and hundreds of peers and thousands of workers. Developing the habit to listen and understand was key to my education. I have been taught by thousands, not by a few. Each lesson, valuable in some way. 

Does your company’s geographic location offer any specific advantages?
South Carolina has a great business climate. I came here to work for a BMW supplier, and did that for eight years. It happened to be the home of the founders of Integrated Biometrics, which is how we ended up here. We are a global company, with sales and operating personnel in eight time zones, even though we only have 40 teammates. Our principal international office is in Seoul, Korea, 14 time zones away. Our business never stops. When we go home for dinner, they are eating breakfast, and vice-versa. This gives us a special ability to respond quickly in our markets. 

How many employees do you have and do you plan to add any in the coming year?
As mentioned, we have about 40 employees; we are growing our top line by 100 percent this year and another 100 percent next year. We will add five to 10 positions in the next 12 -18 months. Some will be in other parts of the world, and some will be in South Carolina.