The garage. It’s the perfect place to get the new car out of the elements, to set up some workout gear, to craft the ultimate man cave. It’s the best spot to store a little junk, to keep an extra freezer. It’s the most sensible location for all these things, except if you’re Jim and Cynthia Rancourt. If you’re Jim and Cynthia, the garage is naturally ground zero for the beginning of a 30-year legacy, built one polymer at a time.
“PSI started with one scientist, Jim Rancourt, out of our garage,” recalls Cynthia, Jim’s wife and CEO of Polymer Solutions, Inc. “Jim was finishing his PhD at Virginia Tech, and we had two babies at home. It was a crazy, almost impossible start.”
But it was a start, nonetheless. It was a start born out of Jim’s business sense, wisdom, practicality and the undying belief that great science can change the world. For the new mom and dad, this idea to help people answer material challenges through chemical analysis and physical testing was never meant to be a side project in a makeshift garage workshop. This was their future.
“I don’t think we ever questioned whether PSI would last or not. I think anything other than success has not been an option,” Cynthia says.
By just about any business standard, a 30-year history would be considered a success. So, what’s the secret? Keep it moving.
“Continuous improvement is definitely one of my big themes,” says Cynthia, who took over the CEO spot in 2015. “’No’ is not an option. The question is always, ‘How will we make the changes?’”
This “always forward” mentality is a business philosophy, and also a physical reality for our company. The Rancourt’s garage served as a great womb of sorts, but with a few stops along the way, PSI wasted no time growing up into full adulthood. We now crank out several thousand material science projects a year inside a 20,000-square foot, state of the art facility in Christiansburg.
It’s a view only their imaginations could see 30 years ago. Now, their view through the microscope is solving problems for medical companies, engineering groups, law firms and other industries across the globe. All this from a united team, a revolutionary vision and a garage with just enough room to dream.
“I think a big part of the success of the company is the people you surround yourself with to accomplish the work! A culture of team, collaboration that has the boundaries of expectations and accountability can accomplish a lot together,” Cynthia advises. “We take care of today’s challenges today, so that we are ready to take care of tomorrow’s challenges tomorrow.”