In the words of Steve Jobs, “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” For The Shyft Group (TSG), the road to success reopened seven years ago when Daryl Adams joined the company with a thirst for innovation.
Adams, who now carries the company’s name as its president and chief executive officer (CEO), bore almost three decades of experience in the automotive space before entering the specialty vehicle sector.
At the time, then-known Spartan Motors was undergoing a turnaround and all three of its divisions (Delivery & Service, Specialty Vehicles, and Emergency Response) were not performing as Adams expected.
Instead of being discouraged, he saw the glass as half full.
“I saw the opportunity to improve. And so when I had the opportunity to join Spartan Motors at the time—now the Shyft Group—I was excited,” the company’s leader told Modern Campground in a Zoom interview.
While the divisions were retained, Daryl Adams brought in a new team of talents that can be considered a game changer for the company.
“So when I built a new team, I wanted to make sure that I was bringing in a different skill set than a skill set that was recognized in the industry. And I thought that that would allow us to leapfrog a lot of the current players and accelerate our turnaround faster,” he recounted.
Numbers couldn’t agree more. Comparing 2015 versus the prior year, the company’s revenue grew 8.6%, TSG’s annual report for 2015 showed.
Another factor that led to the company’s success is how the team brought automotive technologies that weren’t seen in the specialty vehicle industry into TSG’s chassis. In fact, The Shyft Group was the first company to bring a key fob into the Class A motorhome space, Adams shared.
The group’s hard work paid off. Awards came, and for this year, The Shyft Group ranked 10th on Crain’s Detroit “Fast 50” list of rapidly-growing businesses.
Adams also bagged some awards this year, including being named among the DBusiness “Detroit 500 list of influential business leaders, in both the automotive and manufacturing categories and winning an Ernst & Young LLP’s Entrepreneur Of The Year 2022 Michigan and Northwest Ohio Award.
“And I think all that hard work comes back to these awards or why are we receiving them is because of all the work we’ve done since 2015—bringing the company to where it is today,” the executive told Modern Campground.
Asked what it takes to be successful, Adams said that a company has to remain flexible, agile, nimble, proactive, and solution-based.
“Now, if we take on every challenge with those five things, I think you can move mountains,” he said.
Leaders, the CEO said, also have to drive a culture that lets the company be successful as a whole more than a person being successful, saying that business is a team sport. Adams added that it requires having the right people in the right positions in the company and allowing them to navigate through challenges and learn from them.
“Because each time you fail, you learn,” he said.
The Rough Road
Surely enough, Adams was speaking from experience, as the journey for The Shyft Group was not bump-free.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the RV industry supplier had to shut down its motorhome arm temporarily to focus on its two other divisions which were perceived as essential businesses.
Upon adjusting and learning the protocols, however, The Shyft Group’s motorhome chassis production resumed. At the end of the day, the credit goes to the team, said Adams.
“It’s difficult to find people, but the employees building the units, the employees that were hiring new people—trying to find new people—they all did a marvelous job because, [even] through COVID, we had some pretty good years,” he said.
However, supply chain issues and labor shortages still haunt the company even after the critical moments. Today, inflation is also coming into play.
“We had a really rough first half of the year,” Adams admitted. “We [inaudible] received 10% of the chassis that we expected to in March, in April.”
He went on to say that most companies are battling these roadblocks daily and that he doesn’t see the fight ending anytime soon.
“[S]uppliers still have to catch up to what they haven’t been doing for a number of years. So that’s going to take some time to work through it,” he said.
Still, The Shyft Group’s motorhome side has been performing, he said. Moreover, the company is being flexible when it comes to its suppliers to address shortages and minimize the impact on production. The team also continues to work hard to produce as many parts as possible, Adams said.
On Going the EV Route
Sticking to the innovative approach, The Shyft Group in March debuted Blue Arc EV Solutions, its new brand with a commercial-grade electric vehicle (EV) chassis.
Blue Arc is an all-electric Class 3 delivery walk-in van that the company created in response to demand from its customers and the EV movement. During the interview, Adams revealed that the company received its first order this month after deciding on a price and testing the range.
The president and CEO also said that there were inquiries from EV customers back in 2021 when it first announced the venture. Back then, he said their only answer was that Blue Arc is a Class 3 vehicle.
Now, the new brand is developing something for those interested in the Class 5 space.
Conversations with OEM motorhome companies are also underway, said Adams.
“We continue to have conversations with them into the recreational space and understanding what the range might need for them [to be] and how we can adapt that,” the CEO said.
Asked about what lies ahead for the company, Adams expressed enthusiasm for the future.
“We are, I think, more excited now than ever […] with the products we continue to bring out [and] the market share we continue to gain. Now, we have a possibility of putting some EV chassis into the RV space, which, I think would be exciting even if we partner with them on developing something,” Adams told Modern Campground.
In the words of Adams, “each time you fail, you learn.” With the slowdown due to economic uncertainties, stopping is not an option for The Shyft Group; there is nowhere to go but forward, and it seems that the company is only revving up for the road ahead.
“We’re excited about continuing to grow the business into that space. I think right now they’re in a little bit of a slowdown due to the economy. But I think if you look back, each time there’s a slowdown, there’s a positive increase on the other side of it. So that’s what we’re looking forward to,” Adams said.
Featured image courtesy of The Shyft Group.