Thinking Big in a Small Business

From the time he started his small business to the point he said ‘yes’ to a larger buyer, LITE Technologies founder Jeff Denham found a committed partner in Bank of St. Francisville (BSF).

“No matter what happened, they were right there for me,” says Jeff. “Having that support helped me make some really good strategic decisions for the company.”

Jeff launched LITE Technologies in 2011 and earned a national reputation for his leading edge designs of amphibious track vehicles. LITE’s products, named Marsh Trackers, are used by natural resource agencies, utility companies and oil exploration companies to reach wet, marshy areas. LITE’s designs are smaller in size than many other amphibious track vehicles, allowing them to work in hard-to-navigate locations and provide support to larger vehicles.

Jeff’s history with BSF goes back to 2011 when the bank helped him finance LITE’s launch with a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. In 2014, Jeff also opened a line of credit with the bank to finance the capital-intensive manufacturing process, paying down the line as orders for vehicles were filled. 

While the company was successful, there was one thorny problem. Marsh Trackers are very expensive items to build, and for a small business to front so much capital before a buyer makes full payment had become a difficult juggle.

“A lot of time, materials and overhead goes into the manufacture of each vehicle, and any delay or setback can cause serious cash flow problems,” Jeff says.

Last fall, a new opportunity presented itself. Jeff was approached by the owners of Lafayette, Louisiana-based Wilco Manufacturing, a well-established company that produces a wide variety of amphibious vehicles and equipment. The company wanted to buy the rights to LITE’s amphibious vehicles and bring Jeff on board as a sales manager and designer.

Initially, Jeff sold Wilco one of his vehicle designs, but retained his operations. However, after a few months of thinking about it, he and Wilco’s owners regrouped and Jeff accepted their proposal. Wilco absorbed Jeff and his team as new employees and maintained LITE’s St. Francisville operation as a Wilco satellite site.

“It’s been great,” Jeff says. “And the bank was there with me every step of the way as I evaluated the arrangement.”

Jeff says that the partnership with Wilco feels like the best of both worlds.

“It really took the pressure off of the cash flow situation and allowed me to pay off debt,” he says. “And it let me get back to what I liked best about the work, supporting customers and designing the best possible vehicles for the industry. I’m very grateful.”

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