At 24, he had an idea. Today he holds 50-pecent of the market for aluminum trailers
When he started his business building aluminum truck trailers at 24, Bud Reitnouer jokingly says he was young and dumb and didn’t know any better. He had this idea that he could make stronger trailers than welded flatbeds by bolting them together and using aluminum instead of steel. The heat from welding weakened the metal. That was 34 years ago and today Reitenouer, Inc., near Reading, employs between 250 and 300 people and has an incredible 50-percent share of the aluminum trailer market.
At age 14, Bud worked for his father’s tool and die shop where manufacturing parts were made. He even designed some of the dies. After graduating from college with a math degree and working for his dad for a few years, Bud decided to launch his own company. His father’s advice was to take it slow and steady and not take on too much too soon. So, for the first year he remained working right out of his dad’s machine shop and took on a few employees to build the trailers.
Bud wonders if he succeeded in selling his first few trailers because he had a trustworthy face and great enthusiasm. At the time aluminum flatbeds were much pricier than steel ones, around 17-thousand dollars versus 9-thousand. And he didn’t have a history in business or a guarantee he’d be around when replacement parts were needed. But in that first year after placing an ad in trucking magazines he sold about 6 to 8 trailers.
Bud says he has always led and didn’t follow. He focuses on his customers instead of on his competition. That emphasis on customer satisfaction and continually improving his product has paid off. For example, one client explained the trailer bed was slippery when the driver was on top of it. So Reitnouer made a design change to a textured deck. Sticking with the business philosophy that customers come first has been a winning formula.
Bud also took his dad’s advice by growing the company slowly, reinvesting in his business and remaining lean. Those are the various ways that Reitnouer, Inc. became the market behemouth it is today!