Fourth generation takes over Sedalia family business

Monday, January 25, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

SEDALIA — R.J. Lindstrom is following in the footsteps of some pretty important people — his family.

Lindstrom, 27, has recently been promoted to the position of president at Zephyr Manufacturing in Sedalia and takes on the day-to-day operations of a family-run business started by his great-grandfather, Harry E. Lindstrom, in 1927.

"I'll be the fourth generation running the company," Lindstrom said.

From its early days in Kansas City when the company was known as the Acme Broom Company and the product line consisted solely of brooms, Zephyr Manufacturing has grown over the decades and today manufactures a wide range of cleaning tools.

Zephyr's extensive product line of mops, brooms, handles and brushes is targeted to institutional, industrial and food service markets and is distributed throughout North America.

"We sell to distributors or wholesalers," Lindstrom said. "The ultimate end users are building service companies."

It was in the early 1930s when the company moved to Sedalia.

The name change to Zephyr Manufacturing came in the mid-1940s when the business incorporated. The name comes from the company's popular Zephyr Streamline broom that was developed in the late 1930s.

Zephyr has a work force of about 40 people. It conducts manufacturing, distribution and corporate operations out of a 60,000 square-foot building.

Even though Lindstrom may seem young to be the president of a company, he notes that it's not something that just fell into his lap. He had to earn it.

After graduating from Truman State University with a degree in business management and psychology, Lindstrom went to work for Enterprise Rent-a-Car because his father, John Lindstrom, thought it would be good for his son to gain some insight by working for someone else first.

"My father felt it necessary to have business experience in another company," Lindstrom said.

John Lindstrom has worked in the company for more than 30 years and retains the positions of chief financial officer and chairman of the board.

Once the younger Lindstrom joined Zephyr, he was trained in all aspects of the company. From learning the ins and outs of manufacturing on the factory floor, to office work, sales and operations, Lindstrom was given a thorough education in preparation for the duties of president.

"It's exciting to be given the opportunity, but it wasn't just handed to me," he said.

Even though he and his wife of nearly four years, Lisa, don't have any children yet, Lindstrom has his eye toward the future and would be excited to hand the company over to a son or daughter.

"The likelihood of a company making it to the fourth generation is slim. I'd love to pass the company onto a fifth generation," he said.

And in an age when many family-run companies are either closing down or being sold away, Lindstrom takes comfort in the fact that his family's business has stood the test of time.

"I'm particularly proud of a company that makes it to the fourth generation. I'm proud that I have the opportunity to do that."

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Bill Gordon January 25, 2010 | 4:55 a.m.

Great family success story during these challenging economic times.

Perhaps one of their secrets is to do what they know best...not to diversify into areas of business they know little about, ala FedEx/Kinkos fiasco...and to hire men and women who are smarter than the owners (Sam Walton's business theory).

And remember that the guy on the loading dock is just as important to corporate success as anyone else in the company...because if shipments are lost or damaged, the work of all the others is for naught.

The business world today is a scary place...swimming with sharks, foreign knock-off products, increasing expenses for materials, marketing, advertising, staff, trade shows, employee benefits and so much more that must keep company execs "sleepless in Sedalia."

I will be looking to buy a Zephyr Streamliner Broom just to help keep Zephyr's sales and profits growing. I'm rooting for Mr. Lindstrom and his staff! Good work!

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