Klein Tools and Tenacious Holdings, the parent company of Ergodyne, announced in September a major deal in which Klein Tools acquired Ergodyne. The “Tenacious Nation” will remain tenacious, with Ergodyne operating as a separate business unit at its St. Paul, MN headquarters and Tom Votel (below, left) staying on as Ergodyne president.
“We identified PPE as an opportunity several years ago,” Klein Tools Co-President Tom Klein, Jr. (below, right) told For Distributors Only, “and we wanted to partner with someone – ultimately Ergodyne – that would be the best team to fuel the growth of both companies.”
“This change will be virtually invisible to people,” Votel told For Distributors Only. “Klein Tools has a history of creating strategic business units, and we’ll be a SBU with the independence to run our business as we have. I’m not going anywhere. We’re partnering with folks who know how to protect and grow our brand.”
Tom Klein sees little change as well. He says his company’s move to be a larger player in the PPE space “will not change our mission, which is helping our customers work safely. That’s always been important, going back six generations of Klein Tools. Whether it is working at heights, in the cold, in the heat, we’ll continue to fulfill that mission at the highest level.”
Klein Tools and Ergodyne are both family-run businesses, which created a comfort level to help the deal get done. Klein Tools, based in Lincolnshire, IL, was founded in 1857. Tom Votel founded Ergodyne 35 years ago, in 1983. Klein and Ergodyne plan to expand their well-known brands and leverage their industry know-how and years of experience to accelerate innovation in the safety products space.
“For distributors, the only real change they will see is a lot more innovative PPE products,” says Klein. “Looking at PPE from the end-user perspective, we see a lot of products in the space that haven’t changed much going back decades. There have been a lot of changes with technology that have not made it into PPE upgrades. Our customers are missing out. Only a few companies like Ergodyne are innovating in this space; otherwise, the PPE market is much the same as 30 years ago.”
The PPE cross-over play
Votel also sees opportunities. “The safety market is at an interesting place in time. The economy is robust. The Ergodyne brand has crossed-over to the business-to-consumer (B2C) space. There are a whole lot of people we call ‘prosumers’ – professional consumers. They are the small contractor, the single professional, and they are buying through different channels than a Fortune 1000 EHS department. These B2C end-users might also be hunters who want to wear that balaclava while hunting, or an oil and gas guy who wants to use some of our storage kits for their gym bag. There is the opportunity to have a relationship with customers that extends well beyond the traditional workplace relationship.”
Votel and Klein both see the PPE space evolving and expanding. The customer relationship starts in the workplace, but increasingly PPE products such as eyewear, hearing protection, gloves, footwear, skull caps and cooling and warming products are being used after work is done, off the job, on weekends, 24/7/365. And both executives see the Klein-Ergodyne combination feeding distributors with more products that take advantage of this cross-over trend.
Both companies have a long history selling through distributors, and believe the acquisition will fund innovation to feed distributors a constant flow of new products.