Welcome to our new blog suitably titled Made in Minnesota where we will explore different Minnesota-based businesses and learn some helpful tips along the way! The blog format will be a Q&A, conversational style that allows you as the listener to lean in and get to know some great Minnesota business owners on a personal level. You will hear stories of big dreams turned reality, obstacles encountered and how they were overcome, things business owners would love to go back in time and change and fun little tidbits you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to! Sound like fun? Pull up a chair and get ready to meet Jim!
Today’s featured Minnesota business owner is Jim Becker, owner of Becker Arena Products in Shakopee, Minnesota.
Good morning, Jim! Thanks for joining us today.
Thanks for having me!
Jim, can you tell us a little bit about how Becker Arena Products got started?
I started the company in December of 1988 after I found out the company I had been working for was closing their U.S. offices and I would no longer have a job. At the time I had been selling the Olympia Ice Resurfacer and was offered the dealership for the western U.S. I took the opportunity, but that alone was not going to be enough to sustain a business.
I started selling hockey dasher boards for a local dasher board manufacturer and then slowly started building a rink supply/catalog division. As business grew so did our staff, our customer base, and our opportunities. In 1994, we decided to build our own hockey board systems and control our own destiny. We then had the privilege of providing the dasher system for the Olympic men’s hockey venue in Nagano, Japan in 1998. (our claim to fame)
Q: Were you destined to be in this business?
I think I was destined to be a business owner; I feel I have the entrepreneurial spirit and vision. My passion is seeing new ideas come to life as well as building and designing. I love the relationships – working with customers and vendors, and I also enjoy the sports industry culture. My experience working at a local ice rink as an assistant rink manager and Zamboni driver sparked the love for the culture and business-side of this industry. After 2-1/2 years at the ice rink I was recruited to go to work for an ice rink construction company where my passion and experience grew. I did play hockey when I was young and have always loved the sport of hockey.
Q: What do you find most challenging about the business you’re in?
Staying out of pricing wars with low-cost- providers can be challenging. We focus on building our reputation as a quality and responsible company, we don’t want to be picked just because we were the lowest price, we have more to offer. When necessary, we work with our customers on value engineering ideas to provide the best products for their project and find ways to do everything within their budget.
Q. What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome in your business and what did you learn from it?
Ice Rink Construction is seasonal and planning for the busy season (July – November) can be challenging. Everyone wants to be skating at about the same time, so making sure that we can accommodate all customers is a challenge. In the construction business, projects do not always stay on schedule so juggling manufacturing and installation schedules at times becomes very difficult. Planning the proper inventory, the correct workforce and making sure we can make our promised delivery dates is always our #1 priority. Making sure that we communicate with all parties involved is essential.
Q: If you could start over what would you do sooner ….
I would have adopted the EOS Operating system earlier instead of winging it for the first 20 years. The EOS focus is on Vison, People, Process, Data, Issues and Traction. I would recommend it for any new or growing business.
Q: Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of juggling… how do you stay focused or refocus when necessary?
Again, the EOS system has helped to keep the whole company focused including myself. Having an “Integrator” has allowed me to focus on things like product R & D, strategy and technical support for sales, which I find rewarding.
Q: What would you do with $500.00
I would invest in company brand-building and communicating to our customers what differentiates us from our competitors.
Q: Technology, apps software
I am really interested in the 3-D printing technology. I think I could use a 3-D printer to develop some new products I am working on.
Q: If you could start any business today what business would you open?
It would be something that would get me outdoors more. I really enjoy being outside year around. (Or, something I could do part-time as I look forward to retirement someday)
Q: Wrap up, what advice do you have for new business owners just starting out.
Do what you love and love what you do so it is fun…. and surround yourself with people smarter than you.
Thanks so much for spending some time with us this morning, Jim. It’s been fun to hear about how Becker Arena Products has grown through the years and all the wisdom you’ve gathered along the way. We wish you continued success in all your business endeavors!
If you‘d like to learn more about Becker Arena Products you can visit them online at: www.beckerarena.com