Editor’s End Note

My part in the company As a toddler I was paid in cookies for modeling with the product. At age nine I worked in the shipping department pasting labels on crates and made $25 for a summer. Dad, Bud Onan, let me come to the shop after school whenever I wanted, and then go home […]

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13) The Future

While the Onan Company’s past success has been traced to capable people following a sound strategy of sticking to products they know about, what about the future direction of the company? On September 1, 1981, a new president and chief executive officer was appointed at Onan, and although S. A. “Tony” Johnson is a man […]

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12) Growing Product Line

Although Onan’s product line today is varied — it would take another book just to describe the different items available — nearly everything manufactured by the company falls into the category of energy conversion and control devices. It’s been that way almost from the very beginning.  The company was started, of course, as a producer […]

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11) Marketing Strategy

For more than a half century, it has been the people at Onan who made the company a success, but it was sound and innovative marketing that gave those people the strategy they needed. Of all the thousands of difficult marketing decisions made over the years by Onan executives, the one that finally evolved in […]

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10) Sale of the Company

One of the most unusual aspects in the history of the Onan Company is the fact that never once in the 60-plus years it has been in existence has it ever failed to produce an annual profit – a feat matched by very few U.S. businesses. Sometimes the profit was small, often it was less […]

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09) Onan’s Physical Facilities

Nothing demonstrates the dramatic growth of the Onan company more than the startling changes in its physical plants during the past 60 years. From D. W. Onan’s basement to a converted garage to a converted barn to a converted house to a sprawling hodge-podge of less – than-efficient industrial buildings used during World War II, […]

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08) A Big Happy Family

Probably the most distinctive thing about the Onan Company, going all the way back to the founding carried through to the present, is the unusual treatment of the workers and the resulting loyalty and high morale — even in the toughest times. Both  D.W. Onan and his son, Bud, who succeeded him as chief executive […]

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07) Post War Trauma

While Many Americans danced in the street: when World War II came to an end in 1945, D.W. Onan and his sons. Bud and Bob, celebrated the end of the longest and costliest war in U.S. history with mixed emotions. They, too, were elated over the long-awaited victory by the allied forces.  They as much […]

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06) World War II Boom

From the very beginning, D. W. Onan did not have ambitions to develop his business into a giant operation. It wasn’t that he had a grand scheme to grow to about 100 employees in one modern, spacious plant and then stay that size.  Onan’s long-range game plan was much more vague.  He wanted a business […]

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05) The Great Depression

History books call Oct. 24, 1929, “Black Thursday”. It was the beginning of the worst stock market crash ever experienced in the U.S.  It also was the beginning of the Great Depression, the country’s longest, deepest and darkest economic period – an upheaval that lasted more than 10 years, not officially ending until the United […]

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