Like a lot of small, family-owned companies, Minnesota custom injection molder JD Products Inc. is dealing with generational succession issues. It's navigating the waters from its second generation family ownership to potentially, its third.
The Denney family, which owns the Vadnais Heights, Minn., company, prides itself both on tight family connections, the kind that let everyone speak bluntly, and on making decisions that put good business first, ahead of family.
The family members say they enjoy working together, but concede the family dynamic is sometimes contentious.
The second-generation owners, brothers James Jr. and John R., have spent almost 40 years in the company, assuming ownership in 1999 from their father James Sr., who started JD Products in 1974.
The third generation, brothers William and John J., are both in their early 30s, working full time in the company. They want a chance at ownership one day.
“It's definitely what John and I want, but we have to prove ourselves to the current ownership,” said William Denney.
In a group interview with all four Denneys, James Jr., the production manager (and uncle to William and John J.), echoes that thought.
He said his father James Sr. stepped back gradually over several years, as his sons took on more responsibility: “We need to see that out of Bill and Johnny.”
Beyond generational change, the company also faces changing market conditions.
The small firm, with 47 employees, 17 injection molding machines and $7.2 million in annual sales, has never had a marketing department. That has served the company well up to now.
“We've kind of grown by word of mouth and current customer base,” said John R., the president. “The younger generation, they kind of want to light the world on fire.”
So the company is now trying to be more active in market development. John J., who is 30, joined the company after working as a lawyer, and is focused on developing new business.
His goal is getting company sales to $14 million by 2021.
The new focus on marketing, the company said in comments to Plastics News, is partly a reaction to the more globalized marketplace: “The outsourcing of high volume plastic manufacturing has become a strain for companies operating in the States.”