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Smooth(ie) operator Featured

1:09pm EDT June 22, 2004
Vita-Mix Corp. President and CEO John Barnard's blenders -- some of which cost $400 -- compete with other products that "look like blenders to the normal person, so we have to sell the difference," he says.

He says his product is difficult to duplicate "because most companies don't want to have to sell the product; they just want to put it out there and let people buy it. There are very subtle differences in our strategy, but they turn out to be very big differences in our success."

John Barnard, grandson of company founder W.G. Barnard Sr., has used his product development skills to help the 83-year-old company more than double in size in the past nine years. Although it is still focused on high-performance household equipment, Vita-Mix equipment can also be found in Starbuck's, McDonald's, Chili's and other commercial locations.

"We're specially made to order in 90 percent of our (commercial market) business so our parts become very flexible. ... (It's) one of the reasons we need to assemble in United States and preferably have suppliers that are very close to us so we have that kind of flexibility," he says.

Vita-Mix recently opened its new Olmsted Township building and installed a new software system. Sales increased 20 percent in 2003, and the company expects an additional 30 percent sales increase for 2004.

"We have so many changes going on ... but there's so many things we won't change -- the integrity, the way we treat our customers and the way we do business," he says. "There's a lot of good, really exciting stuff going on. ... Actually, the bigger you get, the more you have to get things right." How to reach: Vita-Mix Corp., (440) 235-4840 or www.vitamix.com