Fred Foster started Electronic Theatre Controls with his brother and two friends in 1975. He was a UW-Madison student with an idea to create a computerized lighting console. It was a brainy group: Two of the team members would go on to be physicists.
Now more than 40 years later, when Disney is creating a new theme park, it calls the privately-held Middleton-based company to do the lighting. ETC is a global leader in the manufacturing of lighting and rigging technology.
The company has about $275 million of annual revenue, more than 1,000 employees in 10 countries and a reputation for 24/7 unmatched technical and customer service 365 days a year.
What's more, Fred and his partners decided in 2016 to form an ESOP, having ETC buy 33% of the company over the next ten years for the benefit of employees.
Here's some advice Fred has for fellow entrepreneurs:
- Find an idea you're passionate about
- Use mentors well
- Serve customers well
- Understand the importance of the people in your company and encourage them to question you