Getting to know Kit Masters
Kate Diecks, regional sales manager at Kit Masters
Please briefly describe the history of your company.
Kit Masters was founded in 1996, in the garage, by the father and son team of Keith and Darrin Swanson. From then sons Craig (quality control and engineering), Brian (sales manager), and Trent (customer service and marketing) and dozens more highly valued employees have paved our success. In 2003, Kit Masters constructed a 16,000 sq.-ft. state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Perham, Minn., (15,600 sq.-ft. bigger than our original facility). In 2004, with our business model proving successful, we doubled the size of the plant. With continued growth, we again doubled the size of our facility in 2012, and again in 2018.
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
Kit Masters manufactures and/or markets the industry’s highest quality completely remanufactured fan clutches, fan clutch rebuild kits, thermoswitches, solenoid valves, fan blades and belt tensioners for the heavy-duty and medium-duty markets. Kit Masters targets warehouse distributors and dealers in order to reach fleets, repairs shops and owner operators.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
As an aftermarket manufacturer of fan clutch products, we are in a unique position to understand the primary causes of fan clutch failure. In order to remanufacture a fan clutch, we have to tear down the failed fan clutch. For us, this is an opportunity to perform failure analysis. Once you understand those issues, you can engineer solutions through component quality or material choices and/or engineering function improvements
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
Our hope is that our customers perceive us as providing high-quality solutions and a trusted partner that supports and helps grow their businesses. Our goal is to do all this being easy to do business with.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
Our business model is to provide quality solutions to our customers. This is extremely important to us, because our customers trust we are proving the highest quality products that they are selling to their customers who put their trust in them on delivering a quality product. End users look to the distributors and dealers to provide solutions and reward the companies that consistently demonstrate they provide service. Kit Masters focuses on helping our customers provide these solutions to their customers. We accomplish this through consistent education, online resources and industry leading customer service.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know)
We own another company called Swan Machine, which is a high-precision, high-throughput machining company. Owning this company vertically integrates our manufacturing, allowing us to control our own quality, cost and supply chain. This helps us provide the highest quality, lowest cost products to Kit Masters’ customers.
What makes your company a great place to work?
Kit Masters is a family-run business with family values that understands the importance of work/life balance. Whether you are an employee or customer of Kit Masters you are treated as family, which makes you want to work harder, do better and provide the best service possible.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
Kit Masters recruits quality, hardworking, honest employees. It is extremely important to Kit Masters and the growth of our company to constantly recruit these individuals. We find GenNext a valuable organization to get our name out within the industry to help recruit the next generation.
Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Of course, change is constant. As the industry evolves, we need to be on the forefront of recognizing these changes and embracing it as it pertains to our product offerings. We are continually working on growing our product offerings and manufacturing products that last longer and continues to solve the common causes of failure within the OEM product
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
This industry is exciting. If you’re willing to work hard and get involved it can be a rewarding long lasting career.
Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?
Kit Masters joined GenNext, because we believe in their goal to educate, mentor and recruit the next generation in this industry. We want to support that mission and through the Distributor Training Expo we have been able to help educate and develop relationships with the up and coming generation, which allows us to better service our customers.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are? There are not necessarily “moments” that got me to where I am in my career. There are a host of things that lead up to me entering and staying in this industry. For me it was the ability to know when to change, be confident and thoughtful in the decisions made and learning from everything and everyone.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you? I can’t pinpoint one person in this industry that has helped me. I am fortunate that I’ve been able to take something away from everyone I have had the opportunity to be around. Whether it be the president of a company, a mechanic or counter person they have all taught me something that has made me a better manager, employee and asset to my customers.