As Robert A. Simpson settles into his new position as chief operating officer of Annapolis-based Forensic Technologies International, he says he is determined to search out the best in services and supplies for the rapidly growing litigation support firm.
"There are a great many resources that are untapped, not only in the minority community but also among female-owned businesses," said Mr. Simpson, a former materials manager for Potomac Electric Power Co. who developed PEPCO's successful minority business development department.
"If you're not sensitive to where the resources exist and where the quality exists, you simply limit the growth your corporation can attain," he added.
Mr. Simpson, who joined FTI in September, will be responsible for the overall business management of the firm's Annapolis and San Francisco offices.
While FTI, which produces computer animation, laser disc storage and retrieval systems and other graphic media to organize information for lawyers, may seem light-years removed from a utility, Mr. Simpson says his broad experience at PEPCO will stand him in good stead in his new post.
A native of Phoenixville, Pa. -- which he describes as "a town just outside Valley Forge" -- Mr. Simpson graduated from Villanova University in 1962 with a degree in electrical engineering and went to work for PEPCO that same year.
From 1969 to 1971 he developed a management reporting system and a construction management reporting system for PEPCO. Over the next several years he developed and then administered a department based on a construction management system he designed.
In 1980 PEPCO promoted Mr. Simpson to manager of the materials group, in charge of "everything that involved materials, from purchase right through storing and delivery."
When the utility decided in the mid-1980s to place more emphasis on minority business development, Mr. Simpson and auditor Norman Carter put together what Mr. Simpson characterized as "a very aggressive program."
The two determined "to give suppliers a chance to compete in an arena where they hadn't had that opportunity before," Mr. Simpson said. "To do that, we had to be creative. It meant, for example, talking to good suppliers and asking them if they could branch off into another area of business."
The effort paid off: In 1987, when the program was new, PEPCO's purchases from minority businesses skyrocketed 85 percent, he said.
Now Mr. Simpson will put his experience to use managing a company that is so much in demand that its officers predict it will grow more than 30 percent in the next few years. FTI also plans to open a third office in Chicago and is seeking acquisitions among legal support service firms, he said.
Even in a sluggish economy, FTI's outlook is positive because "litigation goes on to a certain degree regardless of the state of the economy," Mr. Simpson said. "FTI is positioned as one of the top litigation support firms in the country, if not the world, and we believe we can take advantage of that situation despite a slowdown."