As Laser Lines’ 40th year in business draws to a close, we’re turning the blog over to our founder, Ted Paine, who ran the company from 1975 until 2005.
Back in 1975, Laser Lines consisted of three members of staff – me, my wife and our dog. I had a background in Physics and had been fortunate to secure a job with BOC after university where, even though it was very early days for laser technology, we were using lasers for welding, giving me my first real, practical experience of the potential of lasers in industry.
When we set up the Laser Lines business, we were initially chosen to represent 12 different US laser manufacturers, not just as agents but as fully fledged distributors, with a service and maintenance remit too. We were one of only about six different distributors in the UK at the time and we were the only distributor to concentrate on purely selling lasers.
The business went from strength-to-strength and we expanded gradually by taking on more suppliers from the EU and APAC regions. As we expanded, so the range of products on offer evolved too. We sold lasers. We then started to sell the electronics to go with these lasers and this, in turn, led us to sell electronics to complement other technologies.
This gradual expansion eventually led to the establishment of the fibre optics and communications group part of the business which we sold to one of our own French suppliers in 2000.
People often ask me about the landmark moments in Laser Lines’ development as a business and I always struggle to answer the question! Getting large orders was obviously always something to celebrate but being involved in industry firsts was always a proud moment for all of us.
For example, we were responsible for installing the first digital radiography systems in the UK and we were responsible for supplying the largest lasers in existence in the UK at that particular moment in time.
We’ve supplied some really interesting and high profile customers over the years, a great deal of whom we’re unable to discuss publicly due to the nature of the work they carry out, but the variety of customers we’ve had has never failed to amaze me. Back in 1975 I would never have imagined that lasers would become so commonplace across so many industries and with so many practical applications.
Another question I hear on a regular basis is about any advice I would give to someone running a business. For me, the key to the success and longevity of Laser Lines is a combination of two things: people and product.
We always managed to take on excellent people, people who were technically skilled but business-minded at the same time, as well as incredibly loyal. When I sold the business via an MBO in 2005, it was to a board of managers who’d been with the company for between 15 and 20 years, most of whom are still there now.
We’ve always made sure we provide the best products on the market, keeping ahead of the technological curve and adding real value to our customers’ businesses. What has and always will set Laser Lines apart from the competition is its people and its products, something to which the customers will testify.
I’m extremely proud of the company Laser Lines has become and its ability to adapt, expand and innovate – here’s to the next 40 years!
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