One need only visit the office of Mike Bosley, president of Beam's Seatbelts, to realize the manufacturing executive is a go-getter. Bosley has a standing desk.
Sitting weakens your muscles, burns far less fat and increases heart risks, the chief executive — who'd much rather stand than sit — tells anyone who'll listen. He's converted a few other executives around town, he said.
All that energy has paid off for Bosley's company, which makes seat belts for everything but cars or airplanes. The firm has 80 percent of the market for amusement parks worldwide, in addition to numerous clients in eight other industries from John Deere tractors and Caterpillar forklifts to military, emergency and postal vehicles. The company also refurbishes damaged car seat belts, which mostly have been chewed by dogs.
From its 77,000-square-foot plant, which is on 10 acres at 6420 S Air Depot, the company makes about 850,000 seat belts a year, using mostly polyester materials from West Virginia and Malaysia.
Bosley and partner Frank Smith about seven years ago bought Beam's, which offers a stock ownership plan to its 62 employees and pays 90 percent of workers' benefits.
Bosley, 40, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Can you tell us about your roots?
A: I grew up on a cattle farm outside Ardmore with three tough ol' ladies: my mom, great aunt and great-grandmother. My father was never in the picture. My mom — who worked 30 years for Uniroyal Tire before retiring to Guthrie — and I lived in a trailer home next to my grandmother's house, where a boy cousin a year younger than I also lived. The farmhouse only had a fireplace; no gas or electric heat. So if you wanted to stay warm in the winter, you cut wood in the summer.
Q: And school?
A: I went to Plainview High School where I was a “mathlete.” I was on the football and wrestling teams, and took third in state on our track team's two-mile relay. Of my class of 63, I graduated second, with one B in algebra. I won a president's scholarship to Oklahoma Christian University and, to help pay for college, enlisted after my freshman year in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and served six years.
Q: Were you ever called to duty?
A: I was called up for Desert Storm. I remember being speechless when I got the call in my dorm room at OC. It was scary, because we weren't sure if Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons. But as it turned out, I wasn't sent with my company, because I wasn't yet through with my training.
Q: You've worked with Beam's Seatbelts since interviewing on the OC campus for an engineering position. Did you ever consider leaving?
A: I was the first full-time engineer hired by the company. I developed our testing program to make sure our products met federal standards, including 6,000 pounds of strength, resistance to abrasion, UV light and dust corrosion. In the early days, I interviewed elsewhere a few times; mainly to see what was out there. But I knew I could grow old here and be happy. We have a great culture that feels like family. I know people's kids' names and they know mine.
Q: How are you faring with the recession? Do you think we're coming out of it?
A: The past few years have been tough. We enjoyed our largest sales month ever in October 2008 and by January 2009 we were half that. We did a good job cutting costs, but never slowed our sales efforts and never laid off anyone. We traded employees to others when they were busy and we weren't. Most have since come back. In the last year, we've doubled our profit from the previous year, though it was low that year. We have about 10 competitors worldwide; only a few are in the U.S.
Q: You have new applications for your seat belts. Can you tell us about some?
A: We have some 15 products to serve municipal fire departments nationwide. They sprung from a local request for a strap tough enough to help one fireman hold a higher-powered water line himself. More recently, we had a request from a nurse to develop straps for a rollable frame to move patients from hospital beds. Typically, we get a request to help solve a problem and then help invent a product. We assign the patented technology rights to clients, who agree we'll be their sole manufacturer.