GRAND RAPIDS — When Todd Maines took over his family’s wire-harness business in 2012, he entered the company after years of not being involved in the day-to-day operations.
Maines had worked at TACK Electronics, Inc. during high school in the late 1990s, when the fledgling business was still operating out of his parents’ two-stall garage, but he had spent nearly a decade working as an auditor in Chicago.
“I wasn’t involved at all, and my parents were getting to the point where the business was growing too much, health concerns, and multiple factors,” Maines said. “Basically, they were ready to move on, but they didn’t really have an exit strategy.”
Although the learning curve would prove steep, Maines opted to take over the business, which manufactures wire harnesses for a variety of industries.
“It was a lot of trial by fire,” he said. “It was just trying to figure out different aspects of the business and how it ran.”
Specifically, learning the manufacturing and engineering processes turned out to be some of the most challenging aspects of the job, Maines said.
Maines also turned to the Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring (JEM) program to hone his skills as a manager and business owner, and help expand the company. The Grand Rapids-based JEM program was founded in 2011 to help owners of established businesses grow their organizations through one-on-one mentoring with experienced executives. The program typically lasts three years.
For his part, Maines was paired with David Huhn, a banking executive who led NBD Commerce Bank as president and CEO and helped the company through its merger with Bank One.
Huhn helped guide Maines in developing experienced middle managers — an element that Huhn believes is key for a family business transition similar to TACK Electronics.
“In a lot of companies, the parents develop this in the garage, and what you don’t have developed is middle management helping out with the day-to-day,” JEM’s Huhn said. “He all of a sudden had to replace his parents and didn’t have the experience, so he had to develop a middle management team. You can’t do everything yourself. That’s one of the things we got into.”
Maines fully purchased TACK Electronics in 2015, and with the help of the JEM program has turned his focus more from learning the business to building the organization.
At this stage, TACK Electronics is primarily focusing on its sales and marketing efforts, which includes a new website, Maines said.
The company also plans to diversify its customer base into new industries, while increasing its customers in the current sectors it serves.
Currently, TACK Electronics’ largest customer is a manufacturer of slot machines. The company also serves customers in the medical device, automotive and appliance markets.
TACK recently received its ISO 9001 certification, which Maines hopes will help drive further business for the wire harness maker.
“We’re in a couple different industries and we’re ready to grow,” Maines said. “We’re going to be updating our website soon and just continuing to network and get our name out there.”
The North American wire harness assembly market represents a nearly $34 billion industry and is expected to grow 5.8 percent over the next five years, according to a report from Bishop & Associates Inc., a Saint Charles, Ill.-based market research firm.
For now, TACK Electronics plans to remain a contract manufacturer and not make its own wire harnesses. However, Maines notes that next step may not be out of the question in the future.
“If the opportunity presents itself, and I have the right resources, I’d definitely pursue that, but right now we’re really partnering with companies that are doing the design and we’re doing the assembly part for them,” he said.
TACK Electronics currently employs approximately 40 workers and generates annual sales of $4 million. Maines expects the company’s annual sales to increase 15 percent this year and another 15 percent next year.
“There’s a lot of potential to grow, it’s just trying to find those opportunities,” he said. “The hard part is that we don’t want to take on more than what we can handle so it’s been kind of a balancing act to make sure that we have our processes and our operations under control. Then we can get more sales.”
Made in Michigan: After his parents made a decision to exit TACK Electronics, which they started in 1996, Todd Maines took over the reigns with scant experience in managing a company. With the assistance of mentors, including the Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring program, he’s quickly learned the ropes of the business and is now positioning the organization for future growth. TACK Electronics currently generates $4 million in annual sales and Maines hopes that figure will grow 15 percent annually for the next two years.