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A firm's red ink trail to 'excellence'

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Frank Sularz is out to prove that small is beautiful, even for a conglomerate.

His goal is to put together a string of small companies, each filling a particular market niche at a certain level of ''excellence in dynamic technologies.''

This slogan lent itself, in abbreviated form, to his firm's name, Exidyne Inc.

Until recently, Exidyne, or rather, its operating subsidiaries, have been basically in the water business. Exidyne Fluid Technologies Inc. builds purification systems for industries such as semiconductor manufacturers. Exidyne Instrumentation Technologies Inc. produces monitoring instruments used in such industries as water and waste-water treatment.

But two recent acquisitions, one still in process, are moving this Colorado Springs-based firm clearly on course to its founder's original goal of a diversified technology-oriented company.

The new subsidiaries are Exidyne Data Technologies Inc., which will produce portable data entry devices, used by such people as utility meter readers; and Exidyne Bio-Medical Technologies Inc., which will sell a patented surgical product.

It has been this goal of diversification and long-term growth that has kept Exidyne in the red, with operating losses both years since the firm went public in May 1980, despite average compounded growth of 115 percent annually over the past five years. But company officials are hopeful that given a backlog of orders to be shipped this year, they will realize a small profit this year.

Mr. Sularz, an engineer with considerable experience in marketing, was the general manager of a Becton Dickinson division in Albuquerque, N.M., when he began to think hard about the kinds of opportunities that would be available to small companies serving specialized markets.

He knew he wanted a technology-oriented company, but his background didn't tie him to any one kind of technology.

''I left the general management ranks and had to go back to the basics, the basics being finding a specific opportunity to follow, and one of the specific opportunities at that time, the early '70s, was the environmental market - water pollution control,'' he says.

He soon found a company producing an instrument used in water pollution control research. When he and his associates acquired this company, they were able to provide a ''marketing and strategic planning orientation'' and contribute to a slight redesign of the device, which made it more acceptable to a broad range of customers.

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