Softronics LTD President Robert Sternowski retired in 2003. Sort of.
“When I retired from Rockwell (Collins) I just drove over to my other office,” recalled Sternowski, who worked for the Cedar Rapids-based avionics company for 34 years. “I was tired of the big company bureaucracy, but I wasn’t tired of electronics. I still had resistors in my blood.
“I incorporated Softronics in 1984,” he said. “I was doing a bit of consulting in some unrelated fields on a non-conflict-of-interest basis while at Rockwell, so I did a little consulting here and there when the opportunity arose, and when I was ready to retire from Rockwell I just geared my company up.”
The company, which employed three in the beginning, today employs 27 and is now a multimillion-dollar business that has tripled in the last five years.
One of their earlier contracts was for NASA — “It was a transmitter for NASA to go to Venus,” Sternowski explained.
Softronics engineers and lab personnel design electronic products and systems specializing in radios.
“We design custom solutions for whatever our customer wants,” he explained. “We do very unique solutions.
“We’ll come up with some out-of-the-box, off-the-wall solutions that nobody else will, that are generally cheaper and better than what they’ve got,” he noted. “We like doing radios because most of my people are ex-Rockwell or ham radio operators.”
Softronics staff is experience rich.
“We have an accumulative of over 1,000 staff years of experience,” Sternowski noted, “so when companies don’t want to buy a whole new system, we can make something that will slide right in, and it’s new and it’s cost-effective for them.”
The company also takes on projects such as vending machine controllers and cellular station controllers. But it does not make products that sit on a shelf waiting to be sold.
“We do custom designs, and our business motto is to design them, to be innovative and agile designers, but then to outsource our manufacturing,” Sternowski said. “We have no desire to have our own factory.”