To grow, Sentry Equipment rebrands
Oconomowoc manufacturer focused on solving customers’ needs

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

Nov. 27, 2015

Brian Baker, president and CEO of Sentry Equipment, with some of the testing equipment the company produces.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC - While many manufacturers struggle to grow in an economy where the price of commodities and other factors hold them back, Sentry Equipment in Oconomowoc has launched a rebranding effort and created a growth strategy to help the company continue on an upward projection.

CEO and President Brian Baker said despite the 91-year-old company having a great legacy, reputation and engineering capability, its performance was being hindered by the flat markets in which it operates. Two-thirds of Sentry Equipment’s sales are in the power industry, where growth is mostly nonexistent.

“We want to continue to grow and in order to continue to grow we needed to reinvent ourselves,” Baker said.

Sentry Equipment hired Trefoil Group to help craft a strategy. Trefoil interviewed Sentry Equipment’s customers and that information was used to create a new brand identity.

When Baker started serving as president of the employee-owned company three years ago, it had a 10-year strategy, but Baker said it needed refreshing. The new strategy takes Sentry Equipment to 2024 and addresses how to grow a company in a flat market.

“The idea was to build on what we are really good at and expand from there,” Baker said. “Customers told us we are leaders in our industry.”

Sentry Equipment develops machines and technology that customers use to sample, monitor and measure their processes in various markets and applications internationally, including in chemical and food processing plants.

Baker said the survey conducted by Trefoil indicated Sentry Equipment’s customers look to the company to be innovative and to help solve their problems.

“We also wanted to build on how we are respected and well-known throughout the world,” Baker said.

“People all over the world look to us to solve their problems.”

Sentry Equipment exports to more than 50 countries in six continents. Thirty-five percent of Sentry Equipment’s sales are exports, Baker said. The company’s growth strategy includes increasing its presence in more international markets and to also grow domestically.

Additionally, Baker said, improving Sentry Equipment’s internal new product development is key to the growth it wants to see.

And while there are no acquisitions in the works at Sentry Equipment, Baker said he is looking for opportunities to buy other companies or product lines.

A third area that Sentry Equipment is focused on is organic growth by taking its existing product lines and growing them, as well as expanding lines. It’s all about finding new ways to solve customers’ problems, Baker said.

After going through its own rebranding, Baker said he recommends other companies to consider doing the same.

“I would say it’s important, especially if you haven’t done it in a long time,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to re-engage your customers. If you haven’t taken a look at how your brands are positioned, you are missing opportunities to engage customers.”

In order to better engage its customers, Baker said, Sentry Equipment revamped its marketing strategies, which had grown stale. He didn’t want people to view his company as old and outdated. As a result, Sentry Equipment hired a marketing strategist last year.

In addition to new marketing initiatives, Sentry Equipment is changing how it’s going to market by switching its focus from products to industries.