Time to retool

New owner Doug Kjellin stands outside his newly acquired corporate plant near Durham. ?I traded in a mountain of frustration for a mountain of responsibility,? Kjellin said about his career change. ?But it?s been a good trade.?Doug Kjellin, 49, former city administrator in Marion, recently went from being a public servant to owner of an implement trailer manufacturing company in the private sector.

?I traded in a mountain of frustration for a mountain of responsibility,? Kjellin said about his career change.

?But it?s been a good trade.?

As the new owner of Donahue Corp. in Durham, he said he plans to put more emphasis on the marketing-side of the business.

First, the company is offering a $500 rebate on any new trailer orders through the end of the year.

?It would be a way of letting implement dealers and others know how much we have appreciated them while the company gets back out in the field,? Kjellin said.

Some of Donahue?s specialities include implement carriers, swather carriers and one of its more popular products, the expandable flatbed trailer, he said.

What makes the expandable flatbed trailer well-liked, Kjellin said, is its versatility.

One example, citing one of many applications, was hauling round bales.

?There are two bales on the bottom (of a standard trailer), and about half of them are falling off the sides. If it weren?t for that bale on top holding them, they would all just fall off,? he said.

In that same scenario, Kjellin said, the expandable trailer is wide enough that the bales are completely supported?expanding out to 12-feet wide? allowing the bales to remain stable.

?(The trailer) could also be used for hauling wide swathers, tractors with duals, or other heavy equipment by expanding the trailer out so it is fully supported,? he said.

Another feature of the trailer is that it can haul as much grain as a two-ton truck, but without the chassis, taxes, tags or upkeep.

?It will keep costs low by having a couple (of these trailers) and a good one ton dually (truck) without having to buy or keep a grain truck sitting 11 months out of 12 months and keeping maintenance on,? he said.

?But, comparing our stock trailers to anybody else in the market, I still believe they are definitely the best designed and best value for a stock trailer anyone can find.?

The pricing is good for now, he said, adding that he needs to help the company?s dealer network.

?Probably about 75 to 80 percent of our business is out-of-state. We do have some in Marion County and other parts of Kansas, but not necessarily a dealer because we are already here,? he said.

Previous owners

Donahue Corp., was founded by Jim Donahue in 1962, but he died a couple of years ago, Kjellin said.

Following his death, the company continued to operate with long-time employees Ray Remmers in purchasing/general manager, Mike Stika, sales manager, and Holly Bethe, office manager.

Kjellin said he heard the company was for sale after visiting with one of the accounting firms in McPherson.

?We have a business in your own backyard that you might be interested in,? Kjellin said he was told by the accountant.

Before moving any further, though, he said he had to make sure his wife was in agreement.

?I told (wife) Amy that Donahue is available and that it?s a great opportunity. I was thinking about buying it,? he said.

?Her response was, ?do it.??

Kjellin said he feels this opportunity is in his ?wheelhouse.?

Experience

Prior to accepting the job as city administrator, Kjellin said he worked for a developer for Tractor Supply stores.

?I would actually be the prime real estate developer for Tractor Supply in the upper midwest,? he said.

If the company wanted to build in a certain town, it was Kjellin?s job to go there and find the ground.

If accepted by the real estate committee, he said, he would be in charge of helping build, establish it and put leases in place.

Kjellin also founded Integrity Refuelers in McPherson which was in the business of fueling airplanes using aviation refueling trucks.

?It was my first entrepreneurial venture in 1999,? he said. ?I actually had good luck and in the second year I was turning a profit.

?Then on Sept. 11, 2001, the (World Trade Center) towers were hit and the FFA shut down airports and all the training.?

According to Kjellin, it wasn?t good to be in the aviation business at that time.

?I had a lot of sales cancel on me the first week after (the attack),? he said. ?I held on and did other contract work and was able to get out of (the business).?

For Kjellin, working outside the public eye is fun and enjoyable.

Company plans

Although Kjellin wants to be visible in the facility, he also said the employees know what they are doing.

?They have been doing this for a long time and they do a good job,? he said.

His primary focus right now is in financial analysis and analysis of dealer networks, the margins, the shop rate, pricing structure, scheduling the building for inventory purposes and then marketing.

?I haven?t officially started marketing yet, but I plan to initiate it by seeing dealers each week, and then going out on the road to meet them,? he said.

Kjellin said he would also like to have a spring open house to let everyone know more about the business, while at the same time, run some specials on utility trailers.

Before production on any trailer begins, Kjellin explained that it is first field tested in actual conditions.

?We live on the farm and we have good friends who are farmers and ranchers.

?If we want to try a prototype, we can field test it in real-world farming conditions before unleashing it on the market,? he said.

Kjellin and wife Amy have three children: Erik, in his last year at Manhattan Area Technical College, Andrew, majoring in education at Kansas State University, and Adam, a sophomore at Marion High School.

Kjellin said even though his new position can be stressful, he compared it to solving a puzzle.

?I love manufacturing,? he said. ?I?m not even 50 yet, and I know I?ve got one more thing in me and it?s not city adminstration.

?Taking a truckload of steel that comes in sheets and bars and goes out as a painted stock trailer (is satisfying),? Kjellin said.

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