Family-run Millennium Technologies blossoms into multiple divisions
When father and son team Jim and Chris Hackl founded cylinder plating company Millennium Technologies in 1997, their goal was to sustain four employees. Sixteen years later, Jim is retired, and Chris is running the business, with the help of about 70 staffers.
“We both worked at other companies in the industry and decided to start our own. We wanted to do things the way we wanted to do them instead of working for someone else,” Chris recalled.
Chris’ grandfather passed away in 1997, leaving an inheritance that allowed Chris and Jim to start Millennium Technologies without incurring any debt.
“We had an advantage right out the gate because we didn’t have any loans or debt,” he said. “When we started it, we had a clean slate.”
The Hackls worked with the Wisconsin DNR to build its facility in Plymouth, Wis., making sure the plating waste was recycled rather than seeping into the ground. Next, the company worked to find high quality employees.
“Of the first five employees that we hired, they’re all working here 15 years later,” Hackl said.
The company specializes in Nickasil and carbide coatings inside engine cylinders. Though powersports is a specialty, the company has worked with engines of a variety of sizes from model airplanes to cars to actual airplanes.
“We’ve covered the whole gamut, and we’ve done everything in between 1-5-inch bore,” Hackl said.
Millennium also works with a variety of clients, providing cylinder services for anyone from an individual who sends in his own cylinders to race teams to OEMs. Millennium has agreements with Cobra and Cannondale, as well as the snowmobile arms of Polaris, Arctic Cat and Yamaha.
“When they’re working with models one to three years out, we’re plating their prototypes,” Hackl said.
Working with dealers
Though those individual, racing and OEM customers are important, 80 percent of Millennium’s business comes from dealerships. Millennium will work with any dealer and is always growing its network.
“We average probably 40 or 50 new dealers a month, and in our database there are about 12,000 dealers, people at some point in time we’ve touched on,” Hackl explained.
The benefit for dealers is Millennium can get plated cylinders back to the store in a short time, while replacement OEM parts may be on backorder. Also, cylinder repairs cost less than replacements.
“We’re allowing them to bring a less expensive repair to their customer,” Hackl said. “The dealers are saying ‘Hey, we’re trying to save you money with the repair.’”
The hope, then, is that customers will use their $400-$500 savings on other parts and services at the dealership.
“Customers are going to spend the same money that you would’ve with OEM parts, but they’re going to get some more things,” Hackl said.
Millennium’s Nickel Silicon Carbide coatings are designed to be harder, rounder and more wear-resistant than others on the market. The company also has a 5-axis CNC cylinder head machine, which reduces the time it takes to port and repair heads.
In addition to plating services, Millennium Technologies has also started offering Big Bore Kits, which add horsepower.
“That’s kind of our next growth area, is to really work with dealers and have dealers making money selling these performance kits,” Hackl explained.
He said the quality the company delivers, along with its customer service, brings dealers and other customers back time after time.
“I always say you’re judged by how you fix problems. Everyone forgets the hundreds and hundreds of good things you’ve done; it’s how you handle the bad things,” he said. “You can’t get everyone, but the people that you do deal with on a regular basis, you do treat right and give them a fair price.”
Because of Millennium’s positive reputation, the company has been able to flourish. The Big Bore Kits are just one example of Millennium’s growth over the past 16 years. The company has also branched out into other areas and added more businesses.
Revolution Performance is Millennium’s Harley-Davidson/Buell arm. It specializes in Big Bore Kits mostly for twin cams, but also develops kits for other Harleys and Buell sport bikes. Crankshaft services are also available.
Xport CNC Services LLC is a contract CNC cylinder head porting service, and Ballistic Performance Components has a line of lithium ferrous phosphate batteries available for powersports vehicles from 50cc-2,300cc.
With those expansions, Millennium’s business is changing. Because of the high percentage of snowmobile work Millennium completes, 40 percent of its business is typically done in January, February and March. However, with other segments demanding more time commitment, the usual off-season is becoming shorter.
“My employees have the added benefit that they work at a minimum five hours of overtime through the winter — sometimes more than that — and work half day Fridays in the summer, but as we level that out, that will probably be a thing of the past,” Hackl said.
The business grew each of its first 14 years, with its biggest sales month coming in January 2011. However, with the dry winter in 2011-12, year 15 saw a 1.5 percent contraction from the previous year. Fortunately, 2013 seems to be bouncing back, leading Hackl optimistic that the year will break 2011 numbers.
That news is positive for the man who wants to keep the company that he started with his father in the family.
“I have kids and I’m growing the business to pass it on to my kids, just like my dad and I started the business together and now he’s retired and enjoying being retired,” Hackl said. “I’ve built it that way instead of building a company to sell.”