Off the Clock: Competitive Energy Drives Ray-Pac Founder

Off the Clock: Competitive Energy Drives Ray-Pac Founder

Medical Dealer Magazine | Off the Clock | Competitive Energy Drives Ray-Pac Founder After retiring from Varian in 2012 and pulling the ripcord on the corporate work week, Robert Hibdon found that he could not seem to slow down. To pass the time, he filled his hours with activities that fulfilled his innate drive for challenges and competition. As Ralph Ranson said: “Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest.”

By utilizing his laser-like focus on the racetrack, in the open seas, and at the shooting range, Hibdon soon discovered that the success he had enjoyed in the business world was coming his way in recreational activities.

“Any sport I participate in, I play to win, and I would put a limitless amount of effort into being the best,” Hibdon discloses.

Hibdon’s racing career began with vintage cars, a held over pursuit from his teenage years during which he rebuilt a 1951 Jaguar XK120 that he’d salvaged from a neighborhood garage and still drives to this very day. Decades after this vehicular initiation, Hibdon was speeding around tracks like Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen and Road America.

“The Open-Wheel Formula 3 Series within the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) series was a great hobby,” Hibdon says, “but I could only participate six times a year.”

Racing is as risky as you’d expect, too. After Hibdon wrecked (and subsequently rebuilt) his Lotus 23, he started to feel like it was time to hunt for a physically safer car.

“I had this terrible crash when the Lotus’ suspension broke, and I hit the wall and broke eight ribs,” Hibdon painfully recalls. “I started to want a safer competing experience, and so I got out of vintage racing and into newer, safer cars.”

Eventually, Hibdon shifted his focus from cars to sailboats. Unlike auto racing, which for Hibdon was largely a solo enterprise, sailing is a sport that requires a lot of organization and teamwork.

Medical Dealer Magazine | Off the Clock | Competitive Energy Drives Ray-Pac Founder “When you go racing, you go to win,” he says. “So you have to try hard, which means you have to practice. It’s a lot like work: You organize it, you figure out what you’re doing wrong and you fix it. Then, if you’re lucky and good, you become a winner and everyone wants to beat you.”

“All other hobbies are just me against the world; sailing is an organizational thing,” Hibdon says.

Somewhere along the way, Hibdon also picked up skeet shooting, which he believes involves as much mental fortitude as physical skill. Groups of five shooters hit the range with boxes of 25 shells in increasing smaller denominations, from 12- down to 410-gauge. Miss once and you’re out.

“It gets increasingly harder as you progress through your rounds because each round has less BBs to hit the target,” Hibdon says. “The skeet targets are moving at 50 mph and sometimes coming from both directions. Your hand-eye coordination has to be not only fast, but also on target. You stand up there holding the gun, as soon as you see the flash of movement, you get in front of the ‘bird,’ and you pull the trigger.”

Competitive skeet shooting is subdivided into age brackets, and Hibdon found that he was able to best most of his peers by age 60. Nonetheless, he again ran into a wall. At the end of one tournament, it was a shoot-off for the win, and Hibdon found himself facing his hero, champion shooter Todd Bender. Hibdon missed on the very first shot. This taught Hibdon that concentration and focus are important in all ventures in life.

Medical Dealer Magazine | Off the Clock | Competitive Energy Drives Ray-Pac Founder With that, or perhaps somewhere else along the way, Hibdon discovered that his hobbies had metamorphosed into work a mere three years into retirement. Whether behind the driver’s seat of a sports car, at the helm of a sailing vessel, or quite literally as the guy calling his own shots, Hibdon couldn’t seem to take his foot off the gas.

“I was possessed by being the very best at everything and, I had to win,” he says.

During and after the sale to Varian, Hibdon retained ownership of two of the buildings in which the company operated in North Charleston, South Carolina. In 2014, Varian notified him of its intention to downsize, and told him he could have the smaller of the two buildings back. Hibdon’s response was to ask, “Why don’t you sell me the equipment and I’ll go back into the X-ray tube business?” That was the beginning of Ray-Pac, an X-ray tube remanufacturing firm developed to sell exclusively to X-ray dealers and independent service organizations.

Hibdon has temporarily set aside his race cars and shotguns, yet still sails and races weekly with his crew in the Charleston Harbor. According to Hibdon, sailing as a pursuit is the closest analogy to the workplace for its requirements of team-building and a management skill set. In the process of re-entering the world of business, Hibdon discovered that focusing all of that competitive energy on his commercial life has allowed him to enjoy his hobbies again.

“I found that your personality doesn’t change after you retire. You just focus on something else,” Hibdon says. “I’m happy to be back in the X-ray tube business which is something that I enjoy as much as a hobby.”