BY AL SHAMS / AJT //
Among this year’s honorees for the “Bulldog 100” – 100 companies recognized by the Alumni Association of the University of Georgia – was Josh Needle, owner and operator of Norcross-based Needle Solutions.
More than 700 nominees submitted applications for this year’s program. Each nominee was ranked in a number of areas, but the focus is on compound annual growth rates. Other criteria include:
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- Being in business for at least five years
- Having revenues greater than $100,000
- Being owned or managed by a former UGA student
- Being judged on a three-year growth rate
A wide assortment of companies are considered for the honor, including businesses dealing with agriculture, aircraft parts, insurance, robotics, healthcare and industrial products. While most companies are based in Georgia, applications were also received from firms in New Jersey, Florida and Utah.
This year’s award ceremony was held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Pete Correll, a UGA alumni and former chairman of Georgia-Pacific Corp., was the keynote speaker who detailed his thoughts on how the university prepared him for a business career.
More on Needle Solutions
Needle was born in Seattle and, along with his family, moved to Marietta when he was 10. He attended area public schools, including Walton High in East Cobb, and then began studies at UGA in 1995 with the idea of majoring in Journalism.
He quickly realized that the high-tech industry – a sector that was growing quickly in the late 1990s – seemed to be where the future was. Thus, he switched majors to management information systems, graduating in 1999 just as the “dot-com bubble” was imploding.
After working several temporary jobs, Needle landing a fulltime position with medical software company Adam.com as an account manager and sales support associate. Then, in 2002, Needle was introduced to Bob Lehman of Imcorp, a large distributor of hardware and services to corporate users of information technology, which he joined, quickly focusing on wireless system design and solutions.
Over the next six years, Needle designed and oversaw the installation of many complex wireless systems around the country, including:
- A vehicle-storage facility, where he helped a new car-warehousing company figure out a way to select a specific car for a specific dealer. The developed system could, for instance, find the exact white Camry to ship to Augusta without looking over a lot with hundreds and hundreds of cars.
- A chicken/sausage plant, where he installed a wireless data system that tracks, for FDA purposes, the movements of all products in the processing plant. The system allows the processor to validate when specific lots were handled and under what conditions.
Later, in 2008, Needle decided to open his own business. In fact, Lehman agreed to refer customers to the new company.
For the first 18 months, Needle worked from his home. In the early days, being the founder and owner, he had to do virtually everything technical. Meanwhile, his wife, juggling two young children, handled the company’s books.
Today, the company has permanent facilities in Norcross and eight employees and uses the services of a number of subcontractors on a project-by project basis. The company prides itself on being client-focused and works with companies in a wide range of industries, including education, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing and distribution.
He’s kept his core philosophies the same throughout, always careful to implement the following strategies:
- Coaching. Early in his career, Needle began working with a business coach, and he thinks coaching has played a key role in his success.
- Passion. Needle thinks that a person should not be afraid to make mistakes and should follow what they are passionate about.
- Thanks. After completing a project, Needle sends a box of his mom’s cookies to the client. It’s a sweet way to end a deal.
- Empowerment. As a Sunday school teacher, Needle believes in empowering his students with the tools of technology. For example, his class recently had a Skype session with an Israeli military veteran.
- Staying busy. Needle’s life isn’t just about business. He’s married, has three children and enjoys mountain biking and crew rowing.
Al Shams is a Sandy Springs resident, a former CPA and an investment professional with more than 35 years industry experience.