Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with James Lucas, Chairman and CEO of Epic Medical Concepts & Innovations, located in Olathe, KS, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

EMCI was started in 2009 to develop medical-device technologies. We work as a transition company between new technologies (often from universities) and global medical-device manufacturers and distributors. We do design, engineering, development, IP protection, prototyping, testing, clinical trials, regulatory certifications, and layout of manufacturing processes and required components.

When the product is ready for commercialization, we either license the device or sell it to one of the large players in the market that has economies of scale in manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and sales. Our most cutting-edge device is called the "Galileo."

Tell us about yourself

I have multiple degrees in engineering, including a Ph.D., and am a licensed professional engineer in several states. After a corporate career, I worked as a leadership and organizational design consultant for over 200 companies and institutions, including two medical-device companies, where I actually served as CEO for my clients.

When I looked for the "next thing" after consulting, I thought of starting up a medical-device company that would bring some key technologies to a "market-ready" state (I learned that 95% of all technologies developed by university researchers were sitting on the shelf, including the groundbreaking "Galileo"). Large companies used to do their own R&D and development, but they were pretty bad at it, and found that buying the developed device from a smaller, leaner, more-nimble company was a better use of their money. The door in EMCI's field is wide open for new entries - all you need is relevant knowledge, reasonable amounts of financing (much, much less than for pharmaceuticals), and a chunk of courage.

My leadership consulting company, Luman Consultants International, gave me an extremely broad perspective on businesses of all sizes, so do take advantage of every opportunity to broaden your knowledge, even if you're still in your "working for others" stage of life.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Seeing our work used by researchers all over the globe, with the potential to know that research bloom into devices to enhance the health and lives of millions of people. For example, the Galileo is now in clinical trials for stroke therapy, in which we can sit a stroke victim in a chair for a number of sessions where a prescribed sequence of short (6-12 millisecond) air bursts caress their cheeks and we can program some of those lost functions to an undamaged part of the brain.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

One of the ongoing challenges is how to best spend limited resources. We started out with the standard offices and related aspects but have since stripped out anything that wasn't directly adding or creating value. In our case, this means largely operating virtually, and instead of hiring inexperienced professionals in engineering and other fields and spending a lot of time training them, we now find the best subject matter experts we can, pay them a higher rate per hour, and get superb output at an overall lower cost. Motto? Treat every dollar you have as though it's the last one. You don't want to run out of money at the 98% mark.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Put your trust primarily in performance and outcomes rather than people or systems.
  2. Make sure that you or someone on your startup team knows how to manage lean, agile, and relentlessly focused, and that you or someone knows enough about the product/market to either lead the technical effort or to discover and invite on board those who do.
  3. Look at every challenge, major or minor, as an opportunity to make improvements, even if that challenge looks like a disaster at the moment. Your choice may often be either get better or get killed.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Be grateful to everyone along the way who helps you even a tiny bit. For a lot of people, genuine appreciation is a beautiful bonus on top of their compensation, and it encourages them to commit and do more. This is so important that I wrote a book on it, "Gratitude: The Startling Impact of Giving and Receiving Appreciation." It will make a difference for you, professionally and personally.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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