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Experience in the heating industry since 1937!
Company History1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s
In 1937, when his employer, a furnace manufacturer, decided to move its engineering offices to the east coast from Elyria, Ohio, Reginald Beckett had to make a choice. His decision to follow his lifelong dream of starting his own company would play a major role in the development of the oil heating industry in North America.
Initially working from his home, Reg Beckett designed and built a technically-advanced residential oil burner that was introduced the following year at an industry trade show. The C.A. Olsen company, a new entry in the heating industry, placed the first order for 50 burners later that year.
The 1930s were an eventful decade for Reg and his wife, Jean. They were married, founded a new company, moved the company's operations twice, and became parents to their first son, John.
World War II brought major setbacks to many businesses in the United States, and Beckett was no exception. With fuel in tight supply and key components such as motors unavailable, burner production came to a halt. However, Reg found a way to keep the company's doors open and its workers employed by installed insulation in area homes. Fuel rationing had created a need to conserve energy, and the company survived by refocusing to a new, unrelated endeavor.
The war's end once again made burner production possible and brought a surge of interest in home construction and improvements. Oil burners were ideal for use with new automatic heating systems that provided continual and trouble-free comfort. Beckett was back in the burner business!
Reg Beckett's commitment to engineering and product quality, along with overall growth of the market, led to significant sales increases. As the demand for burners increased, so did the need for additional production facilities.
A new plant was built on land Reg had purchased during the depression -- land which had been used by employees and others for 'victory gardens' during the war. The office portion of the building was uniquely designed with a home-like appearance to help the new manufacturing plant fit more naturally into its rural residential surroundings.
Construction meant 'hands on' involvement by Reg. He did the surveying and was the general contractor, tending to most every detail, including the planting of a vibrant array of trees, shrubs, and flowers. The gardens around the plant are still enjoyed by company employees today.
Beckett became involved in some legal battles during the 1950s, including actions against competitors who had infringed its patents. These distractions combined with concerns about the steady encroachment of natural gas into traditional oil heat territory, delayed Beckett's introduction of new products. In hindsight, this delay undermined the company's position in the market and sales dropped. After substantial growth during the first half of the 1950s, sales and profitability were at critically low levels by the end of the decade.
Once he realized the need to update the company's core product, Reg Beckett vigorously undertook a new burner development. The result was the Model S -- a lighter, less costly burner. Introduced in 1961, the new burner began reviving the company's lagging sales.
After graduating from MIT in 1960, Reg's son, John, began working in the aerospace industry designing components for aircraft and missiles. In 1963, Reg asked John to join the R.W. Beckett Corporation. The idea of working with his dad was compelling and John gladly accepted.
For more than a year, the father and son team worked together -- Reg, the mentor, and John, the understudy. Then, on February 6, 1965, John received a fateful call from the Elyria Police Department. His father had been found slumped over the steering wheel of his car, the victim of a sudden heart attack. He was on his way to work!
Reg's untimely death forced John to make critical decisions about the future of the company. Offers came to buy the company. Would that be the best course? Ultimately, and with encouragement from his mother, John decided to continue the company as a Beckett family business.
John's focus in the mid-1960's was to recruit and develop the management team that would propel the company's future growth. Approximately three months after his father's death, John hired Robert Cook, an executive from Standard Oil of Ohio to head the company's marketing efforts. Bob's insights into the marketing and financial aspects of business were highly instrumental in the company's ensuing success. The two worked closely together for the following 37 years until Bob's passing in 2002.
Another key addition to the company was Myron Cooperrider. With a strong background in burner technology, Myron was able to design the Model A burner, a more efficient and cost-effective successor to the Model S.
With the introduction of the Model A burner in the late 60s, then the Model AF (flame retention) in the early 70s, sales increased dramatically. The company expanded its manufacturing facilities in 1973.
Just as the expansion was complete, however, war broke out in the Middle East. Immediately following were a series of dramatic worldwide dislocations in oil production and distribution, including the Arab oil embargo of October 1973. These events shook the entire oil industry and Beckett experienced declining sales for the first time since the early 1960s.
Though set back for awhile, Beckett was eventually able to expand sales and penetrate new markets. Remarkably, some of its best years came in the mid-70s as homeowners aggressively replaced older burners with new highly efficient units.
With its new-found leadership role in the oil industry, the company embarked on a number of new efforts to assist with education and the promotion of oil heat. The company produced an industry-standard training manual entitled "The Professional Serviceman's Guide to Oil Heat" and a number of statement stuffers aimed at helping oil dealers communicate the benefits of oil heating to their customers. Literally millions of these statement stuffers reached homeowners -- helping the industry sell oil heating -- and Beckett sell burners.
The effects of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979 and the resulting OPEC-induced oil shock hit the U.S. economy in the early '80s. Because of a run-up in fuel prices, the industry's sales of oil burner fell to half their earlier levels.
Though Beckett was in a better position to handle the crisis than many other burner companies, every effort was made to cut costs, short of laying off workers. The latter was especially significant to the local community, where unemployment during the period soared past 30%.
It was also time to seek divine wisdom. In early 1980, twenty-five Beckett employees gathered one evening after work to talk and pray together. John later recalled, "We affirmed our confidence that God was bigger than the Middle East crisis, and that we should take each day one at a time, with our trust firmly planted in Him."
Beckett personnel began to address influential trade gatherings in an attempt to rally support for the industry's future. Their theme was upbeat: the dislocations in oil price and supply would settle down, and this was a time to actively market, not sit back in desperation. New equipment provided much needed fuel savings to customers and far-sighted marketers began to promote their sale.
By the end of the 1980s, the company regained a strong footing, with growing sales and increased market share. Two new businesses, Beckett Air, Inc. and Beckett Gas, Inc., were begun in 1988 to manufacture a broadened range of offerings to the HVAC market.
The 1990s were years of continued growth for Beckett. Major themes focused on efficiency, quality and customer service. During the period, in 1990, Beckett Canada was established to facilitate more hands-on support for the substantial oil heat industry 'north of the border'.
In response to growing numbers of employees and increasing complexity, John and the management teams from the Beckett family of companies developed a set of core values designed to establish a solid foundation for the future. Integrity, Excellence, and Profound Respect for the Individual were adopted as the foundation of Beckett's corporate culture.
Specific policies and practices help make Beckett's core values tangible: the company offers a variety of educational, health and retirement benefits, including a fitness center. Short courses on a variety of subjects such as health, nutrition, and personal finance area offered during lunch breaks. These innovative programs helped Beckett win Cleveland's 'Employer of the Year' award from the Employer Resource Council in 1994
In 1997, John's eldest son, Kevin, joined R.W. Beckett after working for six years with Beckett Gas, Inc. Kevin's immediate mandate was to ensure that the company's products reflected the best technology available to the oil industry. In addition, a clear program of succession was set in place to assure a smooth transition to a third generation of family-based leadership.
At the onset of the new millennium and with growing concerns about energy costs and air quality, Beckett repositioned itself to provide ever higher levels of technology and innovation to the oil heat industry.
The company made significant improvements to the AFG burner, its staple for the previous two decades, including private-branded PSC motors, controls and pumps. Beckett began manufacturing its own electronic oil igniter to improve burner performance and reliability. Beckett also embarked on a new burner platform, the NX, providing higher static pressure and increased combustion efficiency.
In 2000 John's second son, Jonathan, joined the company as its commercial division manager. The company sees the commercial segment of the heating industry as an excellent growth opportunity and is applying the same commitment to product quality and excellent service to its commercial customers as it has the residential market. In 2007, Jonathan became Beckett's director of sales and marketing.
Beckett continues to make the transition to the next generation. Although John is still very active in the company as its chairman, in 2003 Kevin assumed the role of President and CEO.
In this new millennium, Beckett has the leadership, experienced work force, facilities, technology and commitment to continue as a leader in the oil heat industry. Beckett's owners see more than ever the need to continue to trust in God's goodness and provision, believing the future to be bright for Beckett and the industry it has been proud to serve.