Built Oregon -Oregon's Entrepreneurial Digital Magazine

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Creating a community around feed and pet supplies

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Dani Wright was on the path to become a veterinarian. But with two boys in school and college tuition looming, she knew that those plans had to be put on hold.

However, when one door closes, another one opens.

dani2Dani was born and raised in Springfield, Oregon. Her parents still live in the area and it’s where she went to school. It’s where she has raised her kids, and been involved as a Boy Scouts and 4H leader. In other words, Springfield is home, and that’s where she saw an opportunity to create a business in the community she loves.

“ I started my retail experience as a tire salesman at Montgomery Ward, where I was saving money for veterinary school. But then I got married and life changed a bit.” She adds, “ I then worked at Safeway as a floral designer before moving on to the local feed store.”

It’s at the feed store where she saw an opportunity to combine her community roots and retail experience with her interest in animals.

“ I was experienced in the the feed and pet industry and always wanted to be a veterinarian. However, the Feed and Pet store I had been working at for 14 years, and had planned on buying, was not going to be for sale. I had met a potential silent partner with matching funds that believed in me, and McKenzie Feed was born.”

Opportunity knocks

After working in the local feed industry for 14 years, Dani had some insights into the opportunity of opening her own feed store around Springfield.

“ Of two area feed stores, one had sold and one had closed due to family and management issues, respectively. I was able to locate approximately halfway between each of those locations.” So with a desired location in mind and the local need for a new feed and pet store evident, Dani started the process of building what would become McKenzie Feed.

“ I went to the downtown center and chamber and met with an SBDC counselor about the practical aspects of opening a feed store.”

While her industry knowledge and work ethic would have given her the drive to open and succeed, the SBDC provided invaluable help in navigating all of the intricacies – from financing to marketing.

“ The SBDC is a great and continual help. Gary Smith provides insights and practical knowledge for balancing your business, socially networking, marketing and economics.” Dani adds, “ I had tried to buy 10 different locations and with each foray into a new location I worked with everyone from local and city government to finance people. The SBDC provided the resources that allowed me to navigate the various balance sheets, business plans and P&L statements needed to keep the process moving forwards – it was basically spreadsheets galore.”

With all of the paperwork done, and financing provided by Continental Bank and the SBA, Dani dialed in on the location and bought the old Grays Garden Center at 4441 Main St in 2004, and McKenzie Feed and Saddlery was born.storefront2

But as any entrepreneur knows, how things ultimately work out is never as you planned.

“ Funny story – I had rented a smaller space and was in the process of opening when a much bigger space one block away opened up, so I moved before I opened and then ten years later I bought and moved back a block and a half. Crazy. Location, location ,location.”

In 2009 they changed the name to McKenzie Feed and Pet Supplies, which was based largely on the economic downturn that occurred in 2008/09. As a commodity store, Dani was able to see the downturn coming about 6 months ahead of when it hit the area hard. The slight change in the name and focus allowed them to lower the risk around horses and livestock, which people tend to get out of in rough economic times, and increase dog and cat products as those owners tend to have discretionary money for their pets.

A focus on customer service

Given the choices around where the consumer can purchase their pet food, McKenzie Feed has found not only a niche that needed filling in the area, but a customer centered philosophy that has allowed them to retain and grow their business.

‘We can help’ is not only a motto, but the way each and every employee engages customers and the community.

“Customer service and caring is what keeps our people buying with us. Every customer is greeted and all food is carried out. Our computer system keeps track of your purchases and we’ve even had customers call from their vet to find out what food they should feed their pet.” she adds “ We get thanks from people who have tried all kinds of treatments to treat symptoms pets have, like itching, smelling, and scratching.We can solve many issues with simple nutrition.”

The McKenzie Feed team, which has grown from 3 to 11, know that what they sell in their store directly affects the well being of the animals they care so much about. Therefore, there is a constant focus to only stock the best supplies for their customer’s pets.

11707_1009025795781769_9182961654834213890_n“With so many recalls on pet foods in recent years, we are proud to say none of our food has ever been recalled. We make educated choices and will not carry anything that I will not personally feed and guarantee.”

Part of this focus centers around personally knowing the suppliers of their products.

“ I have very good relationships with all my vendors.The vendors established great credit terms with me as I was ramping up business, but more importantly, provide great products. The feed company CHS is in Harrisburg, Oregon and Valley Feed is in McMinnville, Oregon. We also sell our customers local eggs, fresh goat milk, honey, vinegar and local bones from Knee Deep Cattle Co., and Hawley Ranch. Our number one Oregon product is Mink Sheen Shampoo from Salem, OR. It’s an amazing shampoo for dogs, cats, and horses.”

In recent years there has been an uptick and interest in raising small livestock like chickens and dairy goats, and while the interest has been good for business, Dani and her staff also realize that educating and answering all of their customer’s questions is critical, since many of these folks are first-time livestock owners.

“ Chickens are very mainstream now, along with a few dairy goats. We offer advice on natural feeding and organic offerings. In addition to the one on one advice, McKenzie Feed also has a series of educational classes for dogs, chickens, flea and worm prevention, feed, and feeding.” Dani adds, “ We also have vendors who give samples and pet food education classes around raw, freeze-dried and specialty food use.”11900091_1082837715067243_1829485255193033665_o

The passion around helping the people and animals they serve emanates from their location, and much of this can be traced back to Dani and her reasons for doing what she does on a daily basis.

“ I live my love. I have my own dogs, a horse, chickens, cows and cats. I want to make every person’s dream of owning their own pet as good as possible through offering affordable practical help and sharing of knowledge. With God and SBDC ‘s help I run my business with good practices , a healthy bottom line and time for me. My business does not run me. “

For more information, visit www.mckenziefeed.com or like them on facebook.

For more information on the SBDC, visit www.bizcenter.org.

FCC gets lean to compete on global stage

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Though a prominent player in the fast-food industry, FCC Commercial Furniture in Roseburg, Oregon, is anything but quick and disposable. The company enjoy decades-long relationships turning blank spaces into restaurants for industry leaders like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Burger King. Before a burger or taco is served, FCC has transformed the space into its signature and efficient look.

“We provide the entire design package, from concept to idea, all the way through manufacturing and install,” said Preston O’Hara, FCC general manager. “It’s a turnkey operation.”

For nearly fifty years, FCC has provided the ever-changing look of notable operations, like southern California-based In-N-Out Burgers. O’Hara estimates the company does close to twenty percent of all new Burger Kings and 15 percent of all new McDonald’s.

“We take that building shell and we fill it with products, a lot of which is custom designed,” O’Hara said. “We manufacture everything here.”

FCC began in Oxnard, California. Founded by Robert Crowe, FCC continues to be a family-owned business with sons Scott, Mick and Gary Crowe. The Crowes moved FCC to rural Roseburg in 1993, largely for the quality of life. The business continued to thrive.

Gary Crowe is currently the CEO and Scott is head of research and development.

DSC_0499-a1On site the company has an upholstery shop, a fiberglass shop, a metal shop, and others all under one roof covering 150,000 square feet of operations.

“We have a lot of cool machinery,” O’Hara said.

When O’Hara mentions “turnkey” he means it, stressing every detail is made right there in Roseburg.

“Right down to the garbage can with the ‘thank you’ door and the trey catch… it’s all built here,” he said.

Despite the similarity of say a McDonald’s in Hartford and a McDonald’s in Honolulu, each store has its unique needs and design. FCC caters to franchise owners with urgent needs of budgets, timelines and stresses.

“It’s an interesting business to be in with a constant state of change in design,” O’Hara said.

Diversification and competition

Despite a bucolic lifestyle in southern Oregon, global economic pressures and manufacturing competition demand vigilance, O’Hara says.

“Being in this industry there’s a lot of pressure to buy things in China and outside of the U.S. We fight to stay competitive despite the price pressures we have seen.”

The company currently has 115 employees that includes a large design department of college educated professionals, recruited from around the nation.

“Expectations are also high. It’s not a company where you can go through the motions,” he says.1795520_10152360075928515_2487356907202713326_n

Despite its longstanding relationships with global corporations, FCC had to weather and evolve during The Great Recession. It was not immune to cataclysmic changes in the economy.

After “record years” in 2007 and 2008, “everything changed,” O’Hara said. “We saw a huge decline over 2009 and 2010. Access to investment dollars for our customers went away despite their excellent credit. That was certainly something we didn’t expect to see, because this is an industry that is fairly resilient to downturns in the economy. That wasn’t the case this time around.”

Though the business has rebounded in recent years, it remains highly volatile. After another record year in 2012, O’Hara said the company has seen revenue slide over the past three.

“But we’re looking towards a recovery in the year ahead and next year,” he says.

The volatility of the market has helped the second-generation family-owned business retain its competitive edge.

fcc6“Diversity makes you stronger and gives you perspective,” says O’Hara, who was promoted to general manager after rising through FCC’s human resources department. “If you survived through ‘The Recession’ you gained perspective that you need to plan a whole lot better and strive that you stay away from that spot again. For us, we’ve been resilient, we’ve been around for a while, but we’re even more resolved toward diversifying.”

Diversification includes expanding into retail markets outside of the fast-food industry. The company is close to finalizing a large contract with a major retail vendor that will significantly help 2015’s revenue. O’Hara said the company has begun to court and provides retail fixtures and displays for the likes of Nike, North Face and Columbia.

And a silver lining of the recession has been the slow shift of manufacturing back to the United States.

“I wouldn’t say that the price pressure ever goes away,” O’Hara says, “but people are frustrated by Chinese-made products. There are reasons for that. We won’t deviate from producing quality products and providing outstanding quality service. That’s what we are founded on. At the same time we have to drive down our prices.”

Concentrating on culture

Price pressure, diversification, competition. All common phrases in the business economy, but another go-to-point of emphasis sets FCC apart in O’Hara’s mind: culture.

“The thing you will hear us talk about more often than not has to do with our culture and our people. It’s something we hold near and dear. It’s special. It’s amazing how much you can get from people when you promote excellence. We don’t tolerate negativity. We believe in having fun at work. It’s one of our core values.”pics (11)

If you can have fun during a recession while facing stiff competition from Chinese manufactures, that’s saying something, but O’Hara says despite the challenges, the company’s optimism and workplace environment has remained the gold standard of how it operates.

“Most companies have to have the basic benefits, wages, retirement, but what separates you from others is your culture. We have flexible work schedules, free gym memberships, we have a lot of company parties and barbecues. We stock free ice cream and soda all year long.”

Owners are hands-on and approachable. The management team works together and set a tone of allowing employees to be creative. An entrepreneurial culture is encouraged.

“So even though it’s a manufacturing facility we don’t micromanage,” O’Hara says. “Be unique and do it different. That’s what we’ve tried to do. Create things that separate you from others. It’s a relationship. If you know you are valued and appreciated as a person, you generally give a hell of a lot more.”

Getting lean

Change is inevitable, O’Hara says, despite the company approaching its 50th anniversary in business. Change is disruptive, which can be both positive and negative. O’Hara understands that, but insists that FCC will remain on the cutting edge.

pics (29)To that end, FCC has invested heavily in shifting its processes to Lean Manufacturing, a new trend that changes the ‘batch and queue” mass production process that has dominated for decades, in favor of product-aligned “one-piece flow” pull production, according to the Environmental Protection Agency website.

“This shift requires highly controlled processes operated in a well maintained, ordered, and clean environment that incorporates principles of employee-involved, system-wide, continual improvement,” the EPA writes.

O’Hara says the shift is a significant investment in both machinery and employee training, but one that will help the company be more efficient, greener, and more cost-effective.

“Any time you implement change it is not easy,” he says, “and it comes at a little bit of a disruption at first. But at the same time it will be productive at the end. Any time you empower your workforce to make things better it’s positive.”

The bottom line for both FCC and for its customers is that they will benefit, he insists, by the company’s relentless pursuit of reducing cost.

“That’s how you deal with the price pressure, because it’s always going to be there,” he says. “You meet it head on through efficiency, engineering, and creativity.”

In short, you never stop changing. FCC will continue to evolve in order to compete, O’Hara says, while reaching outside of its core business model to diversify revenue.

“This place needs to look different. It better look a heck of a lot different in ten years,” he says. “If you aren’t changing and growing you’re probably not going to be around.”

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For more information, please visit www.fccfurn.com, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter