Reading time ( words)
At the SMTA show in Atlanta, I spoke with Rick Kincaid, founder of K&F Electronics, about his son Sean taking over the family business as well as the current uncertainty with trade tariffs.
Andy Shaughnessy: Rick, for anybody who’s not familiar with you or your company, can you give us some background?
Rick Kincaid: My father started K&F in 1972. Unfortunately, he passed away, and very young. My son, Sean, is now in the business and taking that over. We are a very diverse company, and the products we sell are single-sided, double-sided, and multilayers. We have in-house capabilities and ITAR. We’ve made a lot of changes since my son has taken over the business. He is stepping in more and more, and I like the changes that are going forward. For instance, we’ve just installed a new Miva Tek direct imaging machine that can go down to lines so small that we can’t even produce them today. We’re ready for the future.
Shaughnessy: I understand you made quite a few changes and that you’re ushering in some new people?
Kincaid: Yes. Since my son Sean has taken it over, the people who have been there for many years have left the company, and he has now recruited more young people that will definitely make this industry grow for a long time. People like Dan Beaulieu have been saying that we have to get the younger generation involved, and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Shaughnessy: How are you finding new, younger people?
Kincaid: It’s a network of my son’s friends who attract other people. If they find somebody that is out of a job because they work for the big automotive companies, and they get rid of them right away, there’s no seniority. We’re a more stable company, and if they want to grow with us, then they stick around. We reach out to a lot of local EDCs, and we have state grants now that have helped us in that area.
Shaughnessy: What do you mean by EDC?
Kincaid: Economic development companies. Every city has them. We have had our state grant for many years, and it has helped us to survive.
Shaughnessy: And has Sean been involved with you for a long time?
Kincaid: Yes. Sean has been working with me. He started with his first job, calling all of the accounts that I had messed up or had little issues with. Instead of training him in the back of the shop, learning the old-fashioned way, I tried something different with him. He would come to me and say, “Dad, what did we do wrong here?” I’d respond, “Talk with quality control and learn what we can do now. Call the customer back and tell them what we do.” He has done well and excelled with that learning curve. I tried a different approach. He’s very good with personnel and talking with customers.
Shaughnessy: Are you planning on retiring? What’s next for you?
Kincaid: I would like to do that, but in this industry, it seems like you can’t retire.
Shaughnessy: No one ever retires. Like that Al Pacino quote, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” (laughs).
Kincaid: Yes, it’s funny how that works. I’m looking for somebody to help fill my shoes, whether it’s a partnership or a new manager; whatever he needs in his business. I would love to stay in this industry for 10 more years. That’s a hope for everybody in this economy today, but Sean is definitely a good kid to have on your side whoever is going to be with him.
Shaughnessy: Are there any particular industry challenges that stick out for you right now?
Kincaid: I believe everybody is in limbo right now with the tariffs. With the tariffs situation, when it was announced that there was going to be a tax, we got busy. When things relaxed with all of the back and forth about negotiations, now, we’ve seen a lull in work again because people are buying back from offshore. That concerns me. Who’s monitoring this tariff situation? We still see brokers say they’re ITAR, but how does that even come in to play? You have to take a back seat right now, and be lean and mean.
Shaughnessy: The tail is wagging the dog sometimes.
Kincaid: Right, so until that’s all hashed out and we know who’s going to do what, that’s very concerning to me. We’ve seen some drop in business lately, but on the other side, we have good reviews from companies that have some prototypes that they’re doing. Now, they want us to run the production for them in-house, not offshore, and these are monthly releases, which we haven’t seen in a long time in the industry. It’s a great product for a smaller company like K&F Electronics.
Shaughnessy: Do you attend a lot of these tabletop events?
Kincaid: We do a lot of SMTA shows and networking events, and we usually come out with one or two accounts. We have to work them, not just sit behind the desk or chair. I’ve been doing these shows for, many years, and there’s always a benefit to them.
Shaughnessy: I came over here precisely because you were not checking your email like a lot of people were at this show.
Kincaid: I’ve been quite busy with a handful of people.
Shaughnessy: Sounds good, Rick. Thank you.
Kincaid: Thank you.