Job-related injuries are on the rise, and employers are desperate to reduce workers' compensation costs, but Tom Brandon insists it was first his father's disability and later his own that led him to found Work Recovery, in Tucson. It began when an industrial accident cost his father his job. "We ended up going from a good income to public assistance," Brandon recalls, remembering that his father fought the stigma of being labeled disabled throughout his life. After suffering an injury of his own, while playing football, Brandon devoted his professional life to learning more about recovery from work-related accidents. He eventually built a career and a company around it.

Now marketing the Ergos Work Simulator, a computer-driven machine that tests an individual's capacity to work, Brandon's publicly traded company is profitable, with more than $5 million in revenues this year. Work Recovery's $100,000 systems, programmed with 14,000 job descriptions, cut by two-thirds the cost of evaluating injured workers' strength, endurance, and range of motion. Of course, skyrocketing workers' compensation, legal, and health-care costs -- estimated at $60 billion annually -- contribute to the company's healthy sales growth. And the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from using traditional medical exams to screen applicants, can't hurt sales, either.

But Brandon says he owes it all -- including his eye for markets -- to his father. "I really wouldn't be here today if it weren't for him."

-- Anne Murphy