Winnipeg company, Herd, has become leader in bumper manufacturing
Continues to build a solid reputation
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/07/2015 (2828 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Herd North America has more than 100 different sizes of heavy steel brackets that will mount its moose-guard bumpers to just about any large truck on the road.
But back in the early days of the 12-year-old company, founder Marc Daudet once drove all the way to Thunder Bay to measure out the specs for just one sale.
Now all the truck manufacturers, such as Peterbilt, Freightliner and Kenworth, send their front-end bumper and grille specs directly to Herd.
The Winnipeg company has become the North American leader in the new and growing niche market of heavy duty bumper and grille guards.
It has six full-time salespeople covering North America and about 110 people working at a 10-acre site on Springfield Road with more than 70,000 square feet of production space.
It’s an impressive growth arc but one that might soon pale compared to what the company has in store over the next five years.
With only about two per cent of the trucks on the road now sporting so-called moose guards or cow-catchers, there’s plenty of room to grow.
This year, Herd’s sales will grow by about 40 per cent.
Company projections are to quadruple 2014’s sales by 2020. (The company does not disclose results, but industry sources estimate sales were about $15 million in 2014.)
As strong as the growth has been a couple of years ago, the company undertook an internal review and decided to take a dramatic new course.
“We realized if we want to keep growing, we need to make fundamental changes,” Daudet said. “We made a decision to transform the company.”
Daudet, in his late 40s, included his own role in the self-examination and figured there was expertise needed he did not have.
In the last two years, he brought on Richard Doyle, an experienced consumer goods and operations guy as president and John Tukanen, a former general manager of another Winnipeg manufacturer, as vice-president of operations and finance.
“What we are in the process of doing is developing the finest sales and marketing team in the ground transportation industry and I’m not just talking about our little niche of bumpers,” he said.
In the late ’90s, Daudet, an enterprising jack of all trades, realized he wanted to do something that was fulfilling.
He travelled to Australia — where these new bumper products were first introduced to the market — and developed a relationship with one of the manufacturers. (That’s where the company name came from.)
Truckers Down Under had to deal with kangaroos roaming onto the highway.
In the rugged logging and oil and gas business in Western Canada, a collision with a deer or moose can cost thousands of dollars in repairs and even more than that in lost revenue with the truck in the service centre.
Tyler Lott, parts manager of Warner Truck Centers in Salt Lake City, Utah, said, “I grew up around the truck business, and we used to make fun of guys with those big moose catchers like they suffered from short man syndrome. But now they say it is a smart investment.”
Styles have changed, and so have the economic realities of the trucking business, including much more expensive repair costs.
Lott said the $3,500 price tag easily pays for itself after one accident.
“The biggest thing is the time down,” he said. “It can cost $750 to $1,250 per day in lost revenue if you are stuck in the shop.”
Lott said Herd is the preferred front-end protection accessory at Warner, and that’s at least partially because of the company’s commitment to nurturing its dealer relationships.
‘We realized if we want to keep growing, we need to make fundamental changes. We made a decision to transform the company’ — Herd North America founder Marc Daudet
When Daudet started the business, the decision was made to market its bumpers exclusively through the original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) dealership networks, with the exception of a growing penetration into the fleet market.
The OEMs have embraced the product type, and truckers — and fleet manager — understand the investment. And Herd has done a good job maintaining excellent dealer relations.
It was also a premium product from the start. Herd is still not the cheapest on the market, but a new Chinese subsidiary will diversify the supply chain and allow the company to bring costs down.
“Someday, it will be big enough that we’ll see Frank Stronach’s company making these parts,” said Doyle, in reference to the Canadian auto-parts mogul.
“Right now, there’s not lots of big people in the market — only because it is not that big of a market.”
But it is definitely getting bigger.
Dale Harlton of First Truck Centres, a Freightliner dealer with four locations in Alberta and Vancouver, said about 80 per cent of the trucks that leave its Edmonton location now have some kind of enhanced front-end protection.
“For us, Herd is the biggest one,” Harlton said. “It’s our bumper of choice. We’ll put whatever bumper they want on… but more that 90 per cent of our stock is Herd.”
When Daudet started the company in 2003, there two other companies launched at the same time. Surprisingly, one of Herd’s competitors, Ali Arc Industries, is also a Winnipeg company.
Herd has emerged as the leader of the pack for all sorts of reasons. Kevin Lusk, an official with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Manitoba division knows Daudet through the CME’s executive council, a peer support group for industry leaders.
He believes Herd’s success has a lot to do with Daudet’s vision.
“In Winnipeg, success for many people in the manufacturing industry basically means being able to move from River Heights to Tuxedo, buy a cottage in the Whiteshell and you send kids to private school,” said Lusk. “Then there are guys like Gerry Price (founder of Price Industries) who says ‘Is that all there is?’ and goes out and builds an empire. In my opinion, Marc is very much following in the Gerry Price mould.”
What he’s talking about is the development of a business that is sustainable for the long term.
Just as he wanted to do something with his life that was fulfilling, Daudet wants to create a workplace experience that will do the same thing for his staff.
“We have a very ambitious sales target over the next five years that are very significant,” Daudet said. “But we are trying to pair that up with having a company that people want to work at, a company that is recognized as an employer of choice where the culture is world-class.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.