Founded in 1946, the business was floundering in the 1970s. Glenn Reid, Doug's father, was picked by Michigan General Co. to operate three companies that were losing money in 1976 and four years later he used an option to purchase the Flexible Products operation with a $35,000 down payment.
It proved to be a small investment that resulted in a big payoff.
After buying the firm in 1980, he immediately set out to turn the business around, his son said. He changed the customer base, repositioned the company and moved it into the automotive industry, Doug Reid said, and Flexible Products grew to become a significant supplier of injection molded rubber parts used by the Detroit 3 and other auto makers.
Doug Reid joined the firm in a part-time capacity while attending high school in 1976 and later during his college years. “That's how I put myself through school,” he said. He remained with the company in a full-time capacity after he graduated.
As Flexible Products grew, so did Doug Reid's responsibilities. He eventually replaced his father as president of the business.
Glenn Reid passed away in May 2013 at the age of 81. He had spent 65 years in the automotive industry.
During the last 20 years, “we've moved from being a shoot-to-ship company to a tight engineering, quick-to-respond company,” Reid said. “There's a lot more assembly and engineering now than there was in the past. We've become a smart product manufacturer.”
Customers keep returning to Flexible Products because “we're competitive, easy to work with and fast to react,” he said. “The whole quality thing is a given. ... You have to be a quality manufacturer anymore. And we are a high quality manufacturer.”
Reid decided to sell the company to AirBoss mostly because there wasn't another generation in the Reid family interested in running the business.
In addition, during the 2009-10 recession, two of the firm's largest customers declared bankruptcy, which had a dramatic negative impact on the company and the family wasn't prepared to take the business global. “And if you don't, you aren't growing,” he said.
“Customers aren't forcing you to be a global company, they're just telling you that's what they're doing and if you want to come along you can ... or they can find someone else,” he added.
AirBoss had been a supplier of specialty rubber compounds to Flexible for about 12 years and Reid knew the company well. “We did a cash deal and it's been a win-win for both of us.”
Reid elected to remain with AirBoss Flexible Products “because part of the deal was that I stay for at least three years. And, frankly, I don't know anything else but this business.”
Looking down the road, he anticipates AirBoss Flexible Products will expand its global footprint, its customer base and its product line.
That's how the company will get bigger and better, he said.