Rekluse drives expansion with automatic clutch

Q1 sales rise 40 percent, and company wins national exporting award

Al Youngwerth, president of Rekluse Motor Sports, Inc., made all the right moves in 2011. Business at his Boise, Idaho-based clutch manufacturer was in dire need of an overhaul on the international side of its sales ledger.

He describes his former plight as “having the wrong distributors in the wrong countries.”

But because the export segment had become such an important revenue stream (26 percent of Rekluse’s clutches are exported), Youngwerth did more than simply drop one distributor and hope for the best with another in various locations. He hired an export manager, Alison Kelsey, who was put in charge of international distribution development.

“About a year ago, we recognized we had problems with exports, so we put a renewed focus in that area,” Youngwerth said. “It had become important enough business-wise that we decided to grow there.”

The result? A 52 percent increase in international sales in the first quarter of 2012.

“The bad news we overshot a little bit, and we just caught up [at the end of May],” Youngwerth said.

Rekluse has sold dealer direct in the U.S. since the company’s inception a decade ago. Distributors sell the product throughout other parts of the world.

“Because of product, our pricing and our cost model, we don’t have any competitors,” Youngwerth said. “There’s not this channel thing going on. With the nature of our product, there’s a lot of technical support, and we feel like it’s the best way to take care of our customers most effectively.”

Building a winner

The company has certainly done that. In fact, Rekluse was named the 2012 Small Business Administration National Exporter of the Year. Youngwerth enhanced his business first by attending a local exporting conference. That led him to sign up for an export training program administered by the Office of U.S. Commercial Service in Boise. The three-month program forced Youngwerth to devise an export plan, which eventually went head-to-head with other businesses in the program.

“It was a competition, and our plan won,” Youngwerth said. “We’ve been implementing the plan that we made for the competition and it’s been going well.”

Youngwerth later entered a statewide competition offered by the Small Business Administration. Alas, he came away a statewide winner before claiming the national crown. Kelsey and Joe DeGano, sales and marketing manager, joined Youngwerth to receive the award at an SBA Champions ceremony in Washington, D.C., this spring during National Small Business week.

It’s been quite a run for Youngwerth, who began riding off-road as an 8-year-old and opened the clutch business after a stint in the computer industry.

“Initially our market was the hardcore off-road enthusiast,” Youngwerth said. “People who like riding in extremely technical terrain. Our automatic clutch can take a 4-stroke motocross bike and turn it into an off-road weapon.”

Youngwerth noted that Rekluse introduced its automatic clutches to C-level riders, who, as the story goes, would use the clutch and work themselves up to the B level.

“Then B riders with our clutch were beating A riders, and A riders who used it were knocking on the doors of pros,” Youngwerth said.

The late Nathan Woods was among the first racers to adopt the automatic clutch technology on the WORCS circuit. The highly sought Rekluse Core Clutch with EXP Technology retails for $899.

“Then Endurocross came around and riders were looking for an advantage,” he said. “Now we have more than half of the pro Endurocross riders riding with our clutch.”

HRT Kawasaki’s Matt Lemoine is among the motocross riders who have turned to Rekluse’s fully automatic clutch.

In 2012, Rekluse entered the Supercross and Motocross circuits, testing with the HRT Racing and Munn Racing teams. Racers have been familiar with Rekluse line of manual clutches, but the automatic line raised some eyebrows.

“They could use whichever clutch they wanted, but we asked them to give the automatic clutch a try,” Youngwerth said. “Every rider and every mechanic was very skeptical and uncomfortable at first. But then Matt Lemoine posted the fastest lap time every at the test track, and that made them more comfortable. If you crash and the bike doesn’t stall, they see that as a benefit. They’re faster, more consistent and smoother, and they produce better starts and lap times. It also reduces rider fatigue and makes the ride smoother entering and exiting corners.”

Youngwerth figures that by dropping a second per lap, a rider won’t necessarily go from 20th place to the top of the pack.

“But it took a guy like Lemoine and took him from near 10th place to a lot near the top 5,” Youngwerth said.

Continued growth forced Rekluse to move into a larger facility in January, and it now has more than double the production capacity that it had a year ago.

Overall sales in the first quarter increased 40 percent over the year-ago quarter, and Rekluse has seen growth every year since 2008.

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