In this interview with Dr. Sara Paisner, MBA, President at Synoptic Products, you'll learn about Sara's background, what led her to become a small business owner, her passion for the Electrolysis Industry, and some words of advice.
What brought you to where you are in your career today?
Today, it is no longer realistic to think of your career as a single track. Most adults experience multiple careers during their life, and my background is no exception. As a young person, my passion for chemistry led me to pursue a PhD in Chemistry with the intention of becoming a university professor. Later I worked in Research and Development, sales and marketing in various industries. I also made forays into creating a small business start up. WIth each career stop along the way, I always found a way to meet and work with my customers. When I made materials for the electronic industry, I met with the engineers who used them in their microchips. While developing sales analysis tools for the CEO of a clinical research organization (CRO), I spoke with the CEO about the dashboards I created. Every job, I always found my customers so that I could understand how my work affected the product they received.
What factors led you to make the move from working with someone else to working for yourself?
In 2017 after 30 years running the business he started, my father shared he was ready to retire and planned on selling his business, Synoptic Products. At that time, I was working as a sales analyst at a clinical research organization (CRO, Worldwide Clinical Trials), developing sales dashboards for the executive team. While I enjoyed what I was doing, I realized buying out my father was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Upon purchasing the company, I went from an employee with one specific role to a business owner with the responsibility for a wide-ranging array of business areas. Or to put it differently, an owner with the ability to make my own schedule and interact directly with my end users.
How has it affected your life to shift from being an employee to an employer?
Flexibility is the word that comes to mind. I have the flexibility to make my own hours, the flexibility to attend my children's games and performances. Having more flexibility with my schedule means I get to define when I work, and even the choice to work 60 hours per week. Flexibility can be good or bad, and periodically I work on nights and weekends to meet deadlines. For me, this tradeoff works.
All small business owners make tradeoffs. Some tradeoffs that small business owners make are about time, some are about financial choices. Since at the end of the day, I am responsible for all of the decisions that are made, both the successes and the failures of the business land squarely at my doorstep. If there’s an area of the business that I don’t know enough about, I need to teach myself. Right now, my responsibilities range from day-to-day operations to long-term strategic planning: accounting and bookkeeping, assessing software and hardware needs for the business, hiring and training all employees, marketing and advertising decisions, and looking for opportunities to help the business grow.
What are the challenges that you face as a small business owner?
Being a small business owner means that you are responsible for your own bottom line. No one else is going to take care of your business but you. At its heart, Synoptic Products is a customer-focused organization, and our underlying goal is to build and maintain strong relationships with all our clients.
Almost every day, there are new situations that have to be evaluated and managed. Dealing with cross-border transactions both when receiving or shipping outside the US is especially challenging. In addition, questions from customers, inconsistent service from suppliers, exploration of new product ideas, and social media and marketing communication need constant attention. I am always keeping an eye on cash flow. Our inventory is expensive, so keeping too much in stock means that I may not be able to pay bills in a timely manner; on the flip side, not having enough inventory might mean losing a sale from a customer who needs our product.
I also feel a heavy responsibility for my employees. I ask my employees to bring their A-game to work, and in exchange, I make a commitment to them that their time will be well compensated. Having competent, trustworthy employees allows me to balance the planning and strategic work that will help the business grow with having time and energy for my family.
What are your observations about working in the Electrolysis Industry?
Before buying Synoptic Products, I worked exclusively in male-dominated industries. By contrast, the electrolysis industry is female-dominated. I find it refreshing and empowering to be surrounded by vibrant woman-owned businesses. This is the first time in my professional career that I never find myself to be the only woman in the room.
I believe that I can have deeper conversations with our clients and the electrologists who are the end users of our products because I am a woman, and have a deeper understanding of the issues they face. And these interactions with electrologists have inspired me to be even more passionate about our industry. We offer educational information to students and newly graduated electrologists, support to professional organizations like the American Electrology Association (AEA), and at every opportunity, I give talks at continuing education seminars offered by professional organizations. During the pandemic, I developed two presentations, “The Chemistry of Electrolysis”, and “The Chemistry of Hormones” which have been shared with electrologists across the US during virtual continuing education seminars.
Any final words of wisdom?
When I have to make a difficult decision, I look to two guiding principles. (1) Build your business on a foundation of creating mutually beneficial relationships and providing excellent service. (2) Keep your own strong moral values at the center of your actions. If my decision follows these principles, I am confident that Synoptic Products will continue to grow in a way that benefits my customers and employees as well as providing for my family.