1-man shop icon of Small Business Week

By Abigail Klingbell
Poughkeepsie Journal

Inside a small, one-man shop on South Avenue in the City of Poughkeepsie, John Satterfield develops ideas for new engine components, designs the equipment, builds it, tests it and sells it.

Dutchess Automotive Machine Shop Inc. is what one might call the ultimate small business - with just one employee doing a variety of different tasks.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, small businesses - companies with 100 employees or fewer - represent more than 99 percent of all employers. Small businesses employ more than 53 percent of the private work force. And the role of small business technological advancements is growing.

Reversal over the decade

"More scientists and engineers work for small business rather than large business. This is a reversal over the last 10 years. Small business provides 55 percent of all new innovations," said Giovanni Coratolo, director of small business policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

By presidential proclamation, Sunday May 21 through Saturday May 27 is National Small Business Week, intended to draw attention to their role in the national economy

Dutchess Automotive Machine Shop, also called dAMBEST, is involved in several lines of business. Satterfield does research in combustion engineering. He looks for ways to make the fuel-burning process more efficient. He has about eight patents pending.

John Satterfield is the designer, builder, tester and seller of components at dAMBEST, where he is also the boss.

"It’s very timely right now between fuel price and exhaust emissions," he said.

Satterfield also develops parts for racing teams, including NASCAR teams. And he takes on specialized work, like a current project to lix a cracked BMW combus- tion chamber. Those special- ized projects provide funding for the research, which he usually does in conjunction with other companies.

"My hopes are - even in this small building - we will be the leader," Satterfield said.

Self-taught, Satterfield has no formal education in thermodynamics, physics or the other sciences he incorporates into his daily work. Since he went into business 31 years ago, he has sought advice from many sources, including the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

SCORE offers free advice to small businesses. Satterfield estimates he has consulted SCORE a couple dozen times.

Bob Willets, the chairman of SCORE’s local chapter, said SCORE helped Satterfield develop marketing strategies.

"I really feel his invention has tremendous potential," Willets said.

Satterfield said the lessons he has learned could fill a book. At one point he had eight employees. He said he could probably keep 50 people busy in the shop, filled with tools, workbenches, computers, test areas and engines.

But more employees meant more management responsibilities and less time for his own research.


Small Business Aids

For information about SCORE, call Poughkeepsie Area Chamber of Commerce at 454-1700, Greater Southern Dutchess Chamber of Commerce at 897-2067 or visit SCORE’s Web site, www.score.org. For information, call (800) 827-5722 or visit the SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov. For the SBA’s Manhattan office, call (212) 264-4354.