A fast flack to success – management of High Tech Performance Trailers Inc – Brief Article

Katherine J. Paul

Katherine J. Paul is a free-lance writer in Hiram, Ohio.

It’s tough to say what contributed more to the start-up of High Tech Performance Trailers, Inc.-Bruce Hanusosky’s passion for auto racing or his irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit.

There’s little question, however, why the Painesville, Ohio, company-which builds trailers used to transport race cars and their crews-is a thriving enterprise. Hanusosky subscribes to a no-excuses policy on quality and deadlines. And he insists on reinvesting profits and staying out of debt.

“The biggest problem I see with business start-ups is overspending,” says Hanusosky. Once a company sinks up to its neck in debt, stress infiltrates every aspect of operations, he says. In the panic to make ends meet, quality suffers. And then customers move on,

Hanusosky, who describes himself as a born entrepreneur, moved from Kool-Aid stands as a youngster to wheeling and dealing in motorbikes and gocarts. Then, when he took up drag-racing as a teenager, he started doing custom paint jobs. Fellow racers admired his work, and soon he was designing paint schemes for others.

In 1970, at 21, Hanusosky used $5,000 in savings as a down payment on a gas station. Six years later he sold the station at a tidy profit and opened an auto-repair shop.

The auto-repair business went well, but Hanusosky’s love of racing led him to an even more lucrative line of work. In the late ’70s, a friend who worked for a racing team sponsored by BFGoodrich Co. called Hanusosky one day to ask if Hanusosky could repaint the team’s car for the Cleveland Car Show, which was only three days away. The car had taken a beating in the Baja 1000, a rugged off-road race in Mexico, and needed refurbishing.

Hanusosky’s turnaround time and paint job so impressed the director of the racing team that Hanusosky was recruited to travel with the team several times a year as a maintenance contractor. The trips enabled him to network with the racing community, and they also sparked the idea for High Tech Performance Trailers.

Hanusosky looked at the trailers used for transporting cars and crews, he says, and concluded that “this has to be a good business. Racing is lucrative.” Even so, he thought, the trailers were not as nice as they could be.

Hanusosky built his first transport trailer in 1982 and sold it to BFGoodrich for $40,000. Within a year he sold the auto-repair business, and he and his wife, Judith, started making transport trailers.

Today, High Tech Performance Trailers turns out about 30 trailers a year; most are priced at $150,000 to $250,000. In the past five years, annual revenues have grown from about $3 million to $7 million.

The company’s trailer division employs about 55 electricians, machinists, cabinet-makers, and other craftsmen who turn empty trailer bodies, supplied by Kentucky Manufacturing Co. in Louisville, into traveling homes for race crews and cars.

Hanusosky says one reason his company is successful is its commitment to delivering a quality product on time. “When we sell a trailer, we sell a delivery date,” he says. Yet he allows no corner cutting. The company has to decline four or five orders a year to avoid risking inferior quality or missed deadlines.

Hanusosky’s interior-design team works with each customer to select design features and materials down to the last detail-from polished hardwood floors and supple leather couches to custom cabinets, plush carpeting, and fully equipped offices.

The company’s reputation for elaborate interior design has prompted requests from companies outside the racing industry. One such request led to the construction of a medical trailer with five surgery tables.

High Tech Performance Trailers also produced a $600,000 trailer for NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, formerly the Lewis Research Center. The trailer is used to teach college students about space travel.

Besides the trailer division, the company has units that provide maintenance for race cars and manufacture awning extensions for trailers. Recently, Hanusosky added a custom-paint shop to the trailer division. “People go in circles in business,” he says. “I started out in custom painting. Thirty years later, I’m back at it.”

Hanusosky knows the hard work and hard knocks of entrepreneurship. ‘You’ve got to do a lot of legwork, a lot of research before starting a company,” he says. And you need financial savvy, he adds, because capital can be scarce. ‘You’ve got to save as much money as you can, and work your money, until the bank looks at you and sees that you’re profitable.”

The work has paid off. Hanusosky now pursues his dream of racing. He owns the No. 07 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Morgan Shepherd on the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division, a qualifying circuit for NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series. Together, Hanusosky and Shepherd travel the country to race. Hanusosky sees it at the very least as a great way to stay in touch with customers.

COPYRIGHT 1999 U.S. Chamber of Commerce

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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