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2015 FIN – Lindstrom: Metric Intrigue Led to Founding Company

2015 FIN – Lindstrom: Metric Intrigue Led to Founding Company

July 28, 2015 FIN – The start of his career didn’t involve fasteners.  He got interested in fasteners because he was a young American intrigued by the metric system.

After graduating from college with a degree in business and economics, Virgil W. Lindstrom was drafted into the Army.  After six years of military service, Lindstrom found a job with a Minnesota company as a buyer of non-fastener components.

That first job led to an interest in the metric system.  It hadn’t been a topic in most U.S. schools and Lindstrom recalled that “I didn’t know a lot about it.”

His curiosity led him to learn enough that by 1972 he opened Metric’s Inc. with limited metric inventory amounting to $5,000.

“We went forth with hope and intention of finding a market for metric fasteners,”  Lindstrom recalled.

His first customers were MROs plus a few OEMs producing products for export.

Lindstrom went out selling. In those days you “sold wherever you could,” Lindstrom recalled.

Selling was anywhere, but metric sourcing was strictly from Europe.

Soon Lindstrom “saw some indicators” of metric interest in Southern California and North Carolina.  From those points the metric business grew.

In 1983, Virg Lindstrom took sole ownership of the company and it became Lindstrom Metric Inc.

By the 1990s, Lindstrom found it was time to decide between selling to distributors or OEMs.  He steered Lindstrom Metric to being an importer and master distributor supplying distributors.  And that was a decision he still appreciates today.

The following year, Lindstrom was approached by Jerry Hancock about forming Mega Metric in South Carolina near Lindstrom’s 12,000 sq ft facility.  That put Lindstrom in competition with Bossard for the U.S. metric business.  Mega Metric remains a division of Lindstrom.

Lindstrom also expanded sourcing to Pacific Rim nations where there was “an economic advantage for producing quantities,” Lindstrom described the situation.

In 1999, Lindstrom Metric opened a warehouse in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, IL.  Lindstrom Metric outgrew that first facility by 2005.

By 2002, Lindstrom Metric had a strong presence in the Southwest and Southeast and acquired Metric Systems International in New York, with Fred Marchek serving East Coast distributor.

Over decades, other acquisitions included Metric Bolt, Monster Metric, Bossard Metric  –  the North American distribution supply business of the Swiss-based Bossard Group AG  –  and most recently Titan Fasteners.

Along the way, Virg Lindstrom enjoyed an interest beyond fasteners: Developing real estate.  The company is now headquartered in Blaine – in the northern suburbs of Minnesota’s Twin Cities.  It is the fourth building Lindstrom has built in Minnesota.

“I like real estate and construction,” he said. “I understand working with contractors.”

By 2006 Lindstrom Metric had grown to a point where Lindstrom started looking at his own and his company’s futures.  He needed it for estate planning and diversification and began looking for strategic buyers.  He found a local investment company for the first five-year period and for the past four years has partnered with the privately-held Harbour Group.

Founded in 1976, St. Louis-based Harbour Group’s holdings have included 176 manufacturing and distribution companies in 37 industries.

Dealing with investors changes the way of doing business, Lindstrom acknowledged.  “They have a goal of a certain return.”

“When you own your own business, you own your decisions.  You live or die by your decisions,” Lindstrom explained. “When you take on partners, your freedom and independence changes.”

The partnership is more than finances, Lindstrom added. Harbour Group provides management expertise and assist in adding value and increasing revenue.

No matter who owns the company, the key remains sales. “Sales is the engine that drives a business,” Lindstrom declared. And sales start with hiring top salespeople, he said.

Beyond finding a financial partner, Lindstrom began preparing for succession.  In 2013, Lindstrom moved on to the role of chairman emeritus and brought in Mike Wrenn as president to take over day-to-day management.  Wrenn’s 25-year career includes six years as president of Heads & Threads International and a senior position with Brighton-Best International.

Last year, Dick Ripley was named vice president of sales and Rick English and Bernie Longen were promoted to vice president roles. This year, Rob Lucas was added as vice president of business development.

Also new this year is the shortened company name: Lindstrom instead of Lindstrom Metric.

Speaking of the future of Lindstrom, Wrenn indicated acquisitions will continue to fuel growth.

Wrenn also told FIN that providing services with products are part of Lindstrom’s growth plan.

“That special finish, special packaging that are harder to find, the special thread pitch cut to length or kits,” Wrenn cited as examples.  “This company has always found a way to say ‘Yes’ and figure out how to do it.”

They also are planning geographic expansion, such as opening in Dallas last year did.

“International expansion is not out of the question,” Wrenn added.

Today’s 130,000 SKUs will double in five years, Wrenn predicted.

Though Lindstrom’s foundation is metrics, the same business principles apply to “a lot of other products.”

“It is not easy for a distributor to buy in bulk,” Wrenn explained.  But importers and master distributors can.

Though Virg Lindstrom, 72, says “I wish I was 40 again,” he adds that he “would have followed the same path” of starting and growing a business.

Now he is looking forward to a “lesser role” with the company — “a couple days a week and available when called upon.”  That may include dealing with a customer, trade shows or management meetings.

With the walls of his office displaying trophies of his fish and game hobbies, Lindstrom hopes to spend more of his time on his hobbies of fishing, hunting and enjoying his northern Minnesota cabin.

Looking forward he expects the Lindstrom company will change with the times. “For future results you will have to do things differently. That’s where the management team comes in,” Lindstrom said.

Lindstrom LLC has sales and distribution facilities in Illinois, Texas, South Carolina, New York and Georgia and is headquartered at 2950 100th Court NE, Blaine, MN 55449. Tel: 763 780-4200 Web: lindfastgrp.com

Lindstrom, Shieh to Be Honored

Virgil Lindstrom of Lindstrom LLC and Robert Shieh of Brighton-Best International and Ta Chen Group will be inducted in the National Industrial Fastener & Mill Supply Expo’s hall of fame for 2015.
They will be honored at a private party on October 21, 2015, in Las Vegas, in conjunction with the trade show.

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