Happy times at Kendon after being Chromed outKendon Global Motorsports Group Tucker Rocky Custom Chrome
FRANK ESPOSITO IS RELAXED and having fun as president of Kendon Industries, a small California manufacturer that produces a line of machine lifts and unique folding trailers.
Esposito joined the Anaheim company in January after having been dropped by Global Motorsports Group (GMG) last summer once the distributor reorganized after stumbling out of messy bankruptcy proceedings. GMG had been owned by Cerberus Capital Management LP, a cutthroat international investment group, and had struggled with inventory and cash shortages for many years. Esposito's sudden termination came as a surprise to many who thought he would play a leading rule for the Global companies as they limped ahead under new owners.
"I want to recognize the vendors who supported me at Global," Esposito says. "Kendon was at the top of the heap; they carried receivables that were immense, and we about killed them and many other vendors." Despite his pain at Global, Esposito says he has no regrets about the experience. "It was a first-hand look at evil and corruption, and I'm very proud that I was instrumental in getting vendors paid," he says.
ALONG COMES KENDON
One of the first calls Esposito received after this termination was from long-time friends Ken and Tina Kendon, who, somewhat sheepishly, offered him a job in their small, family-owned company. The little trailer business was a long step from the much larger GMG, but the Kendons needed marketing help, and they trusted Esposito, who had taken on the Kendon line when he was a sales rep at Tucker Rocky Distributing at the advice of then-co-worker Bob Kay. Esposito took the Kendon business to Global.
"Kendon is a fit," Esposito says. "It's been around, but it hasn't had the nourishment, the foundation, it needs. I know the people; I know the policies; there's no hidden agenda. I believe it has upside potential."
THE TRAILER BIZ
Tina runs the business side of Kendon, and Ken, an auto design and development engineer by training with experience specializing in chassis design and auto drag racing, provides the creative spark. Ken built his first product by accident, at the urging of a friend who couldn't find a place to store his motorcycle trailer. Kendon designed a unique folding unit. Others wanted their own trailers, and Kendon Industries was born.
Today, Kendon holds several patents on his products, essentially 10 trailers and four lifts. The meat and potatoes of the business are in four trailers — a single rail, a double rail, a combo and a utility model. They sell primarily through Tucker Rocky for about $2K, although Custom Chrome also carries the line.
Kendon is housed in a small 20,000 sq. ft. office/warehouse/manufacturing facility run by 20 people. "It's essentially a giant pipe," says Esposito. "Metal comes in one end and trailers come out the other end." Esposito is tight-lipped about production counts and annual revenues for the closely held company.
Esposito plans to market the production-oriented company by adding distribution points and showing dealers that trailers can be a profitable add-on business. "We do everything to develop innovative products, but we're not conditioned to sell it," he says. "There are a lot of dealers who think trailers don't sell or that they don't suit them. Our job is to convince them and educate them.
"Every time a guy rolls into your dealership with a trailer he didn't buy from you, you may as well open your cash drawer and give him $500," he adds. "An incredible number of dealers can add incremental business."
So, how does it feel being at a small manufacturing business after running wholesale distribution for so many years? Esposito says he has no regrets. "This is so focused, and I can make decisions — right now. It's fun again."
Joe Delmont can be reached at email@example.com or 952-893-6876.