by Desi-Rae Severson, Past-President and Board Member of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council
On Friday, October 11, 2019 – I sat down with the President and CEO of Northeast Laboratory Services, Beau Mears to ask him 10 questions about everything from his personal leadership philosophy, to his background in the laboratory industry, to his passion for improving human health in the indoor environment, to whom his dream dinner guest would be. Born and raised in Portland Maine, Mears has spent the past thirty years in the medical/animal manufacturing and service industry. He’s met two former U.S. Presidents, was raised by a single mom in an abusive household, and is this year’s recipient of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council’s Norman Anderson Leadership Award.
1) Mr. Mears, you’re the President and CEO of Northeast Labs, how long have you been in this position?
I have been involved in the medical / animal manufacturing and service industry for the past thirty years. Before this I was employed at Ventrex Laboratories, in Portland, Maine, from the late 1970s to 1990. In 1990 Ventrex was bought by Hycor Biomedical. Upon their acquisition I was named Director of Operations at Hycor Biomedical, in Irvine, Ca. shortly thereafter; I was promoted to Plant Manager at Meridian Biomedical in Austin, TX, where I manufactured Allergy Treatment sets.
2) Can you tell me a little bit about Northeast Labs (NEL)?
NEL, operating out of Winslow and Westbrook, Maine, specializes in the analysis of: drinking water, radon, and asbestos. We offer analytical testing services for the air quality, food technology, and environmental community. NEL is also an FDA registered manufacturer of microbiological products–primarily petri dishes with custom culture media-manufactured for the Pharmaceutical industry.
3) What motivated you to expand your career in the fields of microbiology and pulmonology?
I saw the industry was an honorable profession. To be able to make products and test samples that ultimately would help people. We test and manufacture yes, but we also help save lives. It gives one a great reason to wake up every morning and go to work and give it your all.
4) What is your connection to allergy and therapeutics?
Working at Ventrex we developed the RAST test; a radioallergosorbent test (RAST) is a blood test using a radioimmunoassay test to detect specific IgE antibodies, to determine the substances a subject is allergic to. This is different from a skin allergy test, which determines allergy by the reaction of a person’s skin to different substances. I saw how effective it was and how much better people felt once it was determined what they were allergic to.
5) As a former MIAQC Board Member – how do your personal values align with the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council’s mission statement: To create healthy, productive, and environmentally sustainable indoor environments through education, communications, and advocacy.
Early on when I learned of the MIAQC I knew we were a perfect match. The similarities in our missions were so comparable. NEL has a great position in the global view of marketing. We are at the leading edge of “environmental security and safety “also; I feel like we are an instrument of “healing the earth” within the environmental activist cause. It is because we provide the means to test and help pinpoint the cause or need for treatment of our soil and water which are basic needs for food and nutrition, and those things that make us healthy such as vaccines, etc. We also help find things that make us sick and alert us to take action, such as mold, asbestos, radon, etc. There is a whole movement even within the government to be more responsible for our impact on the earth and we are here to help much like the MIAQC!
6) Why should we care about good indoor air quality?
Mold, radon, asbestos, lead, etc. are all pollutants that can devastate your health and in some cases exposure can be fatal. I care, because I know first-hand with education and testing, many illnesses and deaths can be prevented. For instance; radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. If it was detected early, systems could be put in place to prevent the level of exposure and prevent such a high rate of mortality.
7) You are an industry leader in your field. As an industry leader, what is your personal leadership vision, or leadership philosophy?
First of all, you need to have empathy. In the old days, there were people called “Boss” who took that title literally. Today, you need to be a coach and help make a difference where you can. There is a big disconnect between leaders and the people they lead. Many managers think they are doing a great job but when you ask the people they lead, it’s quite the opposite. Many employees feel unappreciated and undervalued. Employee engagement is at an all-time low. What seems to be missing link? Empathy.
Many organizations are focused on achieving goals no matter what the cost to employees. If we treat people only as the means to an end, we will never have their loyalty. Treat your people right. Great leaders are concerned about getting the job done as well as the well-being of those under their care. It doesn’t mean being overly attentive or ‘soft’ but demonstrates that you value people. Without empathy, you can’t build a team, inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Leaders that possess this trait always make time for people. A small company like NEL we pass that on.
8) I understand you are the former VP and Board Director at Binax laboratories which is a manufacturer of medical kits. Can you tell me more about Binax?
In 1994 I moved back to Maine and joined Binax Inc., a manufacturer of rapid medical diagnostic test kits as Vice President of Operations. During my time there I also worked as President for Amrad diagnostics in Sydney Australia, until I moved the operation to the United States. Binax manufactured rapid ICT tests (Immunochromatography). Our first goal was canine heartworm and later one for strep throat. The company is now owned by Abbott and manufacturing many rapid tests for respiratory diseases.
9) Just for fun: If you could have dinner with any person living or dead – who would you choose and why?
That one is very easy; my mother.
10) Lastly – Do you have any words of advice for persons looking to make a career in laboratory science, analysis, indoor air quality, microbiology, chemistry, or media manufacturing?
Yes, I do, never settle. The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for. Learn to stand up for yourself. Learn to say no. Don’t be afraid to ask for the salary you deserve. It’s about the skills, experience and value you bring to the table. Know your worth and don’t be afraid to ask for it.