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Happy Anniversary Distek, Reflecting on my Family’s 40 Years of Success

At Distek, we are fortunate to be celebrating our 40th anniversary this year. It is an impressive accomplishment — a milestone worth celebrating. Distek was founded by my father, Gerry Brinker, who was joined by my mother, Pearl shortly after the Company’s inception. Over the past 40 years they partnered with one another, their customers, and their employees to grow Distek into a leading global manufacturer of pharmaceutical laboratory testing instruments, accessories and validation services.

Our start paints a very different story than that of startups today. Our history does not include terms such as “angel investors”, “seed round” or “series A, B, C funding”. My parents’ goal was never to quickly build a company in order to sell it off to reap the tremendous financial rewards like so many of today’s startups. Their goal was to build a sustainable business by developing outstanding products that satisfy our customers’ needs and stand apart from the competition.

In accomplishing this goal, Distek has become their legacy, and also the legacy for everyone involved with Distek. Each employee, each customer, has had a role in our success — and for that you should feel very proud: proud that the products we make have been desired for 40 years; proud that the work we do provides for our families; proud that Distek is a family business that has been successfully passed down to a second generation. I know I feel privileged to be the President of Distek.

Of course, we do share some similarities to startups of yesterday, companies like Disney, Apple, Google & Amazon. Distek is a real life garage startup success story. My father was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1940 and received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from McGill University in 1962. He started Brinker Instruments in 1972, and with the support and encouragement of his wife, Pearl, saw early success, so much so, that together they created Distek, which they incorporated on June 22, 1976. I was born almost exactly two years earlier (June 23) and thus have literally grown up with Distek.

Back in 1976, my parents ran the company entirely out of their house, all while raising two children under four years old. Talk about risks! I am glad I was only two at the time, for I might not have been as comfortable with their decision as they were.

In 1980, my mother, Pearl became more involved in the company doing everything from assembly assistance to building our amazing staff. I cannot say enough about her talent for hiring the right people, because without the right staff, Distek would not have been able to succeed in quite the same way. Of course, in the true spirit of being a family business, it wasn’t long before I was enlisted to provide assistance as well.

I have always enjoyed working with my hands and had a certain mechanical aptitude, so assembly work was fitting. I recall spending hours at our kitchen table cutting foam tape for vessel covers and creating flared fittings for tubing sets. Eventually, we moved into an office space, which to me meant summer work assembling instruments. What a life lesson for a young impressionable kid, not only in the work itself but also hearing the child inappropriate stories from our two assemblers!

Distek continued to grow, expanding office space and adding employees. We built a reputation in the pharmaceutical marketplace for innovation and quality. I went off to college to earn my degree in mechanical engineering and pursue other interests post college. Given my background, my parents always thought I would be back working at Distek; however, to their credit they insisted I gain some practical engineering experience before joining the company. In 2001, after gaining that experience, I moved back to New Jersey to join Distek as a project engineer.

I feel extremely lucky to work with my parents every day. Well, I feel that way most of the time. I am also privileged to work with an amazing staff who truly help make our Company great. We have built a recognizable brand, own many patents, and have developed numerous instruments that streamline our customers’ work. We have grown into a global company with sales in over 70 countries. We have greatly expanded from dissolution instruments to Validation services and now analytical instruments. However, none of this would have happened without our dedicated and loyal employees who do tremendous work each and every day.

Someone recently asked me how I like handling the responsibilities of running a company. I responded fairly quickly – and likely in the same vein most owners do – by saying it is a big responsibility, but something I enjoy. While an accurate response, the question has since made me think a bit deeper.

When I think about running Distek, I don’t only think about the work, or our customers. More often than not, I think about our employees, as the ability to provide for them is one of Distek’s top priorities, and one of the most satisfying aspects of my job.

As Distek continues to expand and add staff, we support more and more families, which is something I find very rewarding. So while we may often remind our employees that they must be customer focused, we, as owners, know we must also be employee focused, as it is our employees who have helped make Distek a success, and will continue to propel us forward in the decades to come.

Looking back over the past 40 years, I would be remiss not to write about our customers. We have a fantastically loyal customer base, some who have known my father since the Company’s inception. We rely on our customers to provide feedback on our products as well as new ideas. Being so customer focused has also been a critical component of our success.

When faced with milestones, one tends not only to look back, but also to look forward. So naturally, as Distek embarks on its fifth decade in business, I am able to reflect on the fact that what was done in the past may not work in the future, which is why, in 2016, we are making great strides in enhancing our product portfolio by expanding into biotechnology. This venture comes with big risks, as well as having the potential for big rewards. I am not sure that I would say the risk is as high as starting a company out of one’s garage, but I recognize that it is a risk, one that is worth taking. We believe this new venture will pay off and sustain Distek. I look forward to the next 40 years!

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