Intelligent Product Solutions, a Ronkonkoma-based company that designs and engineers new products for its clients, began in 2008 with three employees and has grown to more than 100. Crain's New York Business named it 21st out of 50 of the fastest-growing companies in the metropolitan area.

President and co-founder Mitch Maiman, 61, said almost 90 percent of his business is from his network of contacts, since many of his former co-workers are now in management positions at other companies.

During a 30-year engineering career, Maiman worked at Norden Systems (now Northrop Grumman), Applied Digital Data Systems (now NCR) and Symbol Technologies (now Motorola). At IPS, his top three clients are PepsiCo, L-3 Communications and Motorola. IPS recently created a headset computer for Motorola and an advanced body imager for L-3, to be used by the Transportation Security Administration.

How do you create a culture where people aren't afraid to present new ideas?

If you're going to have innovation, you have to accept the fact that a lot of ideas are not going to work out. If the technology didn't stretch as far as they thought it would, you have to celebrate those failures as much as you celebrate the victory. If you punish them, you send a very clear message that if you stick your neck out and you fail, you're liable to get your head chopped off.

How do you reward your employees?

I get a bigger bang for the buck when I tell a guy who's been working 60-hour weeks for a couple of months to take his wife and kids out, have dinner wherever you want, and just give me the bill. A thousand-dollar check is forgotten right away, but not the dinner.

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How does the headset computer work?

Imagine if the only way you could interact with an iPhone was by voice; that phone would behave and look and operate in a very, very different way. So we created that device for Motorola. It was released a few weeks ago.

Describe your new body imager?

We made it for L-3, which creates systems and equipment for the TSA. It's very ergonomic, very user-friendly and very cost-effective to manufacture. It fits better in small airports and can be set up in a matter of hours as opposed to days.

Why do you see IPS as a "force multiplier" in the Long Island economy?

Most companies have had reductions in work staff, but as business improves they find that they have more funds that they want to reinvest. We can help create the product that they may be envisioning. Our clients grow their businesses well, and that also has a multiplying effect on the local economy.

How do you work with small firms?

They don't typically have a lot of extra time to devote to envisioning where their company may go next, what products they may be able to create next. Even if they do, it's rare that they'll have the resources in-house . . . to actually create, manufacture and distribute those products. We envision other products for their customers . . . and help them design and engineer those products.

How do you find your experienced tech talent?

I was a vice president at Symbol Technologies and a lot of my management team are ex-Symbol people. More often than not, we've been able to bring in a good bit of really high quality talent by mining our network. That's how we get our senior and really experienced staff. Then we go to career fairs and bring in interns from Stony Brook University, NYIT and St. Joseph's. We train them and pay them $20 an hour. You've really got to invest time in building a pipeline at the high end and the low end.

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Corporate snapshot

NAME: Mitch Maiman, president and co-founder, Intelligent Product Solutions Inc., Ronkonkoma.

WHAT IT DOES: Product development services, including design, engineering and marketing.

EMPLOYEES: 65 full time, 45 part-time.

REVENUE: $13.5 million.