A Smarter Way to Get a Lift
Lobo Systems's easy-to-raise platforms let companies focus on the real job.
(Business 2.0) – British construction worker David Seale is good with his hands, but in his 20 years of toiling on municipal building sites, he always struggled with the clunky scaffolding he needed to do his job. Seale began tinkering and in 1996 introduced Lobo Systems (the name is an odd play on "load-bearing"), sets of expandable steel rods and planks that are knitted together with U-shaped clamps, requiring no tools. One set forms a platform that weighs just 19 pounds and can be adjusted to accommodate almost any size.
Priced at $500, Seale's gear sold, just not well enough to keep Lobo Systems afloat. In 1998 he handed the reins to financier Robert Bokros, now age 46, who immediately brought the girders to the United States, where Lobo's fortunes changed. "The first thing I did was triple the price," Bokros says. "People thought that because it was cheap, it wasn't a quality product."
With no advertising budget or staff, Bokros spent six years doing a solo hustle at U.S. trade shows. A break came in 2000, when he introduced Lobo Systems to NASA officials seeking better rocket ladders. "They bought it then and there with a credit card!" exclaims Bokros, who is still thrilled. Referrals began rolling in, and Lobo now counts Anheuser-Busch, Boeing, Heinz, and Kellogg among its clients. Most buy multiple $5,000 and $10,000 sets, which they use when building, repairing, and cleaning their heavy machinery. Such deals will help Lobo generate $1 million in revenue in 2005.
Bokros is going abroad again for growth, this time to Dubai to serve a "major" conglomerate he refuses to name. Next he'll hunt home improvers, distributing cheaper versions of Lobo Systems through, say, Home Depot. With luck, Bokros predicts sales of $5 million by 2007. -- GEORGIA FLIGHT