Autac Inc has been leading the charge in the retractile cord industry since 1947, first as a distributor and then expanding into manufacturing in 1977. CEO Marie-Louise Burkle ruminates on what she calls the “perpetual re-evolution” of her families company. “When my Dad started out of his garage the sole focus was tractor trailer cords. He saw the potential for expansion in an industry on the cusp of major growth.” Autac rode the trend into the 70’s. “Dad saw the writing on the wall, the push for deregulation began long before it came to fruition. Not only did he greatly diversify the client base but with the advances in plastics which were more cost effective and simpler to process than rubber, he also expanded from distribution into manufacturing.”
Autac opened its factory in September of 1977, just weeks after Robert Burkle passed away suddenly. Marie-Louise was only 6 at the time but she says even then her path was clear. “I would see my Father’s vision through. Autac was not an entity, it was a family member, it was a living connection to my Dad. It still is.” Over the next 20 years the company struggled without its compass enduring poor management, economic downturns and a lack of leadership. Meanwhile Marie-Louise pursued every opportunity she could to prepare to run the company above and beyond her Father’s standards. “I took Distributive Education aka Business at a Vo-Tech High School, participated in DECA and chose to go to on to Johnson and Wales for a real hands on educational experience. My Dad was always looking ahead, looking to re-evaluate, renew, and regenerate himself and his business. I didn’t want this apple to roll too far from the tree” she laughs.
But when asked how the company fared during that time she turns solemn “There was no plan, no focus, no movement. Those tasked with the management of the company had no experience and alienated my Father’s carefully assembled team. One by one they quit, with some moving to newer competitors and taking our clients with them.” So the question we asked is how did you turn it around? “In 1999 when I finally got my chance I hit the ground running…backwards.” She smiles wryly “We sell Re-trak-tul™ cords. What is the definition of the prefix re? To go back again and again. And that’s exactly what we did. We re-turned to basics, re-visited our mission, re-evaluated the market. You have to know what business you are in to succeed. Our business is Customer Service. It doesn’t matter WHAT we’re selling, it’s HOW you benefit the customer. My motto is we sell Customer Service the client just happens to also acquire coiled cords in the process”
Marie-Louise chose a very different path than her competitors were pursuing at the time. She says Autac chose to be the anti-China, filling the niche no one else was willing to consider at the time; small quantity, custom, high quality retractile cords. It is an approach that 16 years later has become industry standard. So what now? “Listen, I’ve got wire in my blood” she chuckles “I’m only 44 and I already have 40 years of experience. Autac and I will continue to regenerate or re-evolve again and again. We will grow and change together as we have my whole life. Autac will develop and mature along with our clientele and we will continue to set the benchmark for the rest of the industry. I hope we can also serve as the measure of customer service in every industry.”
Autac Inc. is a premier manufacturer of coiled cords located in Branford, CT. As a “lean” facility they have over 400 parts available for same day delivery and can create custom cords from copper to coil most expediently. Call today for your quote 1-800-243-3161.
25 Thompson Road
Branford, CT 06405