Printer Friendly

A technical success: scientific, technical writing fuel 32-employee North Little Rock firm.

Women in suits are discussing business. It's lunchtime in downtown Little Rock.

Management and financial strategies learned at morning workshops are the meat of the conversations.

There are only a handful of businessmen in the Excelsior Hotel conference room.

The luncheon is part of Success '91, a daylong event sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners.

Mary Jane Rebick, president of NAWBO's Arkansas chapter, steps to the microphone.

The discourse fades, and there is the scattered clinking of silverware.

Arkansas businesswomen are about to begin an important tradition.

"We're pleased to present our first Arkansas Woman Business Owner of the Year Award to Judith McDowall," Rebick announces.

"We're all very proud of Judy," she adds as she signals McDowall to the podium. "She has really found a niche market."

That niche market is scientific and technical writing.

McDowall's 6-year-old company, Biotechnical Services Inc. of North Little Rock, provides services to more than 40 government and commercial clients in the United States and Canada.

By the end of the year, BSI's annual revenues should top $1 million.

McDowall, 51, is proud of her accomplishments. She's also modest. She accepts the award with a "thank you," giving credit to her husband, Doug, and her 32 employees for making it happen.

"The Facilitator"

Three days later, McDowall is back at her place of business on North Little Rock's West Commercial Drive.

It is Veterans Day. Her employees have the day off.

But McDowall, dressed in casual attire, is at the office installing a new software system.

"If your business is really going to succeed, you have to put it first or very close to first," McDowall says. "I want a business that is sustainable without me, not something that centers around me. I'm getting close to that point, but we still have work to do."

The operative word is "we."

McDowall's employees say BSI centers around teamwork.

The majority of projects require group efforts.

"It's very much a team effort around here, not a one-woman operation," says Patricia Parmley, a BSI employee since 1988. "I am challenged with every project."

"I try to utilize people's strengths," McDowall says.

Each project is unique. Flexibility is a must.

McDowall says she tries to be a "facilitator," one who creates a proper work environment.

"I hope I elicit the very best," McDowall says.

Her employees say McDowall expects as much from herself as she does from them.

McDowall holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Tufts University at Medford, Mass., and a master's degree in biochemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology at Cambridge.

The 5,750-SF office near McCain Mall is BSI's third location.

Shelves of data and reference materials line the walls.

A computer terminal dominates each desk.

Organization emanates from every inch of the suite.

"I made a conscious decision to stress the importance of keeping extensive records, to be computerized from the outset, to make quality control a major part of the writing process," McDowall says of her business philosophy.

One would never guess this deliberate businesswoman once had no career focus.

"I was kind of a drifter," she says. "That comes from being too good at class work."

A 12-year career as a toxicological research writer for American Cyanamid Co. in New York paved the way for BSI.

When McDowall moved to Arkansas to get married in 1985, she continued doing work for her former employer from a home-based office.

From that one-woman, one-client beginning, BSI was built.

For Peers Only

Scientific and technical writing is a growing field, according to McDowall.

An increasing number of reports are required by regulatory agencies. Companies are finding that using a firm that specializes in information services is cheaper than paying full-time technical writers.

BSI's clients range from law firms to pharmaceutical companies. But more than half of BSI's projects involve applications to the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval to market products.

"A lot of what we write is not for the layperson," McDowall says. "It's for peers."

Every project has its own function and its own audience.

However, McDowall believes technical writing should not be "overburdened with jargon."

Objectivity, clarity and organization are paramount.

People expect technical writers to use poor grammar, according to McDowall.

"You can pick up journals anywhere and read bad technical writing," she says. "But the rules of grammar still apply here.

"We don't separate subject-matter expertise and writing capability. That gives us a distinct advantage."

McDowall was selected as the state's first Woman Business Owner of the Year because she is considered a role model for others.

Scientific fields have been dominated by males.

"Male-dominated situations are not intimidating to me," McDowall says. "They're normal. I don't analyze on the basis of gender."

Consequently, she doesn't find much significance in the fact that her company has three times as many women as men.

"Studies show more women are entering the technical writing field, which means we're about average," she says.


Maybe in that respect, but no other.

The growth of BSI, the only company of its kind in Arkansas, has been steady and carefully planned.

"We chose not to fly by the seat of our pants," McDowall says.

An important element in that planned growth has been the aggressive pursuit of clients. BSI has been awarded several long-term accounts.

What does McDowall think of her company's success?

Leaning back in her chair, her head tilted to one side, she contemplates the question.

After a moment, she responds in a characteristically clear and deliberate manner.

"Once you've done something, that's history," she says. "It's the future that counts."
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Biotechnical Services Inc.
Author:Harper, Kim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Nov 25, 1991
Previous Article:Through the Brambles patch: Bell moves out as Brambles moves in on unstable Ensco.
Next Article:The surprise environmental strike: Arkansas Wildlife Federation uses costly citizens' lawsuits to get industry's attention.

Related Articles
A few more minutes with fame.
Lisa Haas: woman entrepreneur & environmental consultant.
Workers in the hood: $1.5 million program seeks to stem decay in urban neighborhoods.
Biotechnology careers: making other living things work for you.
Alexander Communications and Scientific American make first joint acquisition.
Safe Foods Corp. Opening Local Lab.
Evaluating tax education: a survey of new hires.
Manual labour of love: art of communicating technical information.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters