Maximizing Growth in the ‘80s

Jim Brooks stopped by the Maximum Instruments office one day in the mid-‘70s to purchase an instrument. Company founder Gordon White showed him the full line of instruments, and one thing led to another: Jim signed on to run factory operations, with Ralph Bouzan, the production manager, reporting to him. Gordon was beginning to work less than full time at this point, and his son Ken was running the company, focusing mostly on sales, marketing and management.

Mary (Assistant) & Grace (Office Manager)

Jim got to know the product and saw possibilities for growth. The company needed a fresh infusion of cash to develop its production line. In 1979, Jim bought Maximum from Ken and took the helm.

To grow the company, Jim encouraged development of an expanded number of models, including new instruments with digital readouts. To increase sales, he invested in marketing, producing a more upscale catalog that emphasized aesthetics as much as technical values. And on the production line, which he knew already, his focus was on increased efficiency.

When Paul Hutchinson joined the company in 1980, first as an electronic technician and then as chief engineer, there were seven employees working on production and five in the office. Gordon remained a consultant until his death in 1991.

In the early 1980s during the holiday season, Paul says, “October through December was hell due to production bottlenecks. By 1984, we had tamed that,” he adds, describing how Jim analyzed sales to the point he could predict what was needed so they could pre-build enough components to smooth out production.

Maximum Crew

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, a growing number of dealers stocked Maximum products in a wide range of retail businesses. While long-time outlets such as Robert E. White, Inc., and Imtra Corporation continued stocking, distributing, and selling instruments, there were dealers from high-end furniture and jewelry stores such as Tilden-Thurber in Providence, Rhode Island, and Astwood-Dickinson in Bermuda. On the West Coast, one of Maximum’s major distributors was the inflatable boat and engine company, Avon Seagull Marine. Maximum even expanded its sales to Europe, with a dealer in Belgium.

Jim Brooks owned and ran Maximum Instruments from 1979 until 1986, a solid period of growth for its original product line of household weather instruments.  According to Paul, who in 2018 serves not only as chief engineer but also as chief historian, total revenues doubled, with sales of $1 million annually. Yet markets were already shifting, with increased competition from imported instruments, and Jim was ready for other challenges. Once again, Maximum was put up for sale.


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