Richard Truckner and Gordon Walker are the minds behind the EZ Stairs system and were kind enough to share their thoughts on the journey they have been on as inventors and entrepreneurs. I thank them and hope you enjoy our conversation.
Q: Congratulations for having the tenacity and determination to take your idea and make it a reality! As an inventor myself I admire those qualities so much and every inventor has an intriguing story. Visitors to decksgo.com would love to know more about your EZ-Stairs system. Would you tell me about your background as an inventor or tradesman?
A: [Truckner] Architectural design, engineering / manufacturing and construction background. I have an extensive architectural and engineering background with experience in the building industry.
I also have over a decade of hands-on experience at the onsite project level of construction and holds a number of Australian, Canadian and US patents related to stair construction. As a partner in EZ Stairs, Inc., I direct all engineering and manufacturing operations.
Q: What kind of evolution occurred looking back at your first prototypes to the final version you have today?
A: [Truckner] We were able to determine the exact concept on the drawing board, however it was realized after the prototypes were developed that if we were to rotate the brackets in the opposite direction (opposite to normal stair construction) so that the brackets are located on the outside of the stringers, we have the world's first fully adjustable frame work for concrete stair construction.
Q: When and how did you start your company and decide to try to make success of your idea?
A: [Truckner] After rigorous testing, it was confirmed that we had an extremely simple system which required only minimal skill levels. The stair was much stronger than conventional construction, using only two stringers.
Testing showed that EZ Stairs was much faster to construct, eliminating around 100 cuts which would normally be required with conventional stairs. In 1999 the patent process was begun and shortly after the company was formed.
Q: What were the biggest challenges or worries you faced and how did you overcome them?
A: [Truckner] Penetrating the mind set of contractors resistant to change.
The system seemed too easy and was initially dismissed as a gimmick. After overcoming these challenges, EZ Stairs has been accepted as a more than viable alternative to conventional construction.
Our engineered stair building system has become popular as a 'green' product, vastly reducing the need for any interior stringers for stairs up to 7' exterior (decks/porch/etc.) and interior stairs as well up to 9' wide, saving very valuable and expensive time in construction and savings for all the material that would have been wasted for internal stringers (all the stringers between the "outside" stringers are classified as 'internal' for these purposes of illustration).
Q: Do you have any previous experience or knowledge of how the distribution business in the world of building products works? Did you get any help from anyone to plan your marketing strategy?
A: [Truckner] Our team included members who were well versed in the realities of distribution. EZ Stair's CEO, Gordon T. Walker, has worked with Procter & Gamble's healthcare and paper divisions - P & G's largest 2 divisions at the time - and his experience as an entrepreneur started before his formal training at Boston University's School of Management.
Walker's experience includes telecommunications working with MCI and ATT, as a partner in a very successful Nutritional Healthcare Company which was later sold as an acquisition. He also was VP of Sales & Marketing for California's largest dental healthcare.
Q: Where there any setbacks during your development of the product?
A: [Truckner] The development as first conceptualized proceeded through the development and manufacturing phase without a hitch.
Q: How did you finance all your engineering testing? A lot of entrepreneurs under estimate the cost and challenges that this presents?
A: [Truckner] My background prepared me for the steps which were required for full testing.
[Walker]: EZ Stairs, Inc. is privately held with its stock shares spread among a group of individuals - we have been very careful to handle our financing with a long term focus.
Since the beginning of our formation in 2002, particular focus has gone toward insuring adequate financing for all stages of our growth. Our reserves have continued to grow on our financial statements; substantial development costs have been required for the sheer volume of legal work necessary for the existing 7 patents that have been granted and the additional 3 patent applications that will soon become actual patents and assets for EZ Stairs.
All stages of financing have been critical to insure the best possible outcome for design, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, ICC code approval, advertising and the infrastructure required to be in place for warehousing, shipping processes, online site URL development & management, just to name some of the key operational areas for management of EZ Stairs.
Note that with the growth of our brand worldwide [particularly in North America / US] our company has received 2 offers for purchase to date. Our plan is to secure additional partners via private or acquisition based sale of stock for EZ Stairs, Inc.
Q: What are the physical limits of your product? Or what are the guidelines you give people to use your product properly and safely?
A: [Truckner] They must follow the instructions carefully and check their local building departments for any code variations. EZ Stairs will accommodate all variations of rise and run within the parameters of the IBC.
Q: Have you always been inventive in your life?
A: [Truckner]: It's my life's passion (working life)
Q: Where do hope to see your company and your product in the next five years?
A: [Walker] :Major national home builders are currently looking at EZ Stairs as a replacement for conventional construction. It will take time but we are getting there - this niche will open up a new market segment for EZ Stairs as currently this homebuilder is located in 26 states in the US.
At the same time we are experiencing steady growth in the 'exterior stair building market' with particular growth in the decking segment. We also have proven to be a ready solution for the worldwide DIY (Do It Your self) market who secures our product via our distributors or from our main: www.ez-stairs.com website that is 24/7 for everyone, despite time zones.
We ship same day for orders prior to 3 pm PST or if they come in during the night they go out first thing in the morning the next day.
Q: Where can people find your product for sale if they want to use it for one of their upcoming projects?
A: [Walker]: Our products are easy to buy from EZ Stairs direct at: www.ez-stairs.com* or calling toll free at 866-693-9570 where our technically trained customer service representatives can answer any questions concerning product and/or project proposed.
They are also available from WW Grainger, Home Depot Online and numerous LBM (Lumber Building Material) supply stores across the nation.
*This content was written a few years ago and www.ez-stairs.com is no longer available.
Q: Richard, Gordon, again I want to thank you so much for your time to do this interview. It is a great pleasure to talk to an inventor and the minds who had the drive and inspiration to bring an idea to reality. Reminds me of one of Calving Coolidge's quotes, "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence ." Is there anything else we have not mentioned that you would like to add?
A: [Walker]: Just to comment on the truth of the quote from Coolidge - it's been an 8 year process for our present day company with the level of engineering reports, code compliance approval for us, design and development of all the product SKUs & packaging, legal organization and filings for numerous patents all have come from hard work and innovative thinking.
It's all happened over a long period of time and it has required persistence to bring EZ Stairs, Inc. to this present level of operation. We are extremely optimistic about the future of EZ Stairs and the value of our Intellectual Property / patents all around the multiple applications for use of our stair building system.
Q:Good luck and I wish you continued success with your great product EZ-Stairs at ez-stairs.com.
A: Thank you.
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