Task At Hand: Saving The Family Business

Story by Tom Kaiser
Powersports Business

Three years after founder’s passing, Rox Speed FX is expanding

After Rocky Cutsforth, the 42-year-old founder of Rox Speed FX, passed away in an ATV accident in May 2010, his family faced a difficult decision regarding the successful aftermarket business he had built throughout the previous decade. Rocky was the braintrust and namesake of Minnesota-based Rox Speed FX, and the family-run powersports company had earned a solid reputation for building high-quality steering risers for ATVs, snowmobiles and motorcycles, among other components.


With no second-in-command in the wings, Cutsforth’s wife, Lynn, shared a conversation she had with her late husband while working on their house a month before his passing. He told her that if something ever happened to him, his cousin and lifelong friend, Chris Olin, would be the guy to step in, learn the business and keep it going.

His recommendation was unfortunately prescient. In the days that followed, after carefully considering the offer with his family, Olin stepped into the role as president and immediately set out to learn the company’s products, personal relationships and the off-road business as a whole.

It’s been a sorrowful, hectic three years, but Rox Speed FX has grown quickly, post- ing 9 percent growth in the last year, on top of a 22-percent gain the previous year. As the company continues to look ahead, it is poised to sustain its aggressive growth trajectory and further strengthen the legacy started by its charismatic founder.

Building its niche

Moving beyond handlebar risers, which are the mainstay of the company’s product lineup, Rox Speed FX now offers a new range of Flex- Tec hand guards and running board traction kits, among other accessories, and is looking to add more part numbers to its roster in the coming years.

Currently, approximately 40 percent of its sales come from the snowmobile market, with 30 percent coming from adventure bikes, 25 percent from ATV and the remaining fraction from the street bike market.

A portion of the company’s growth has also come from snowmobile manufacturer partnerships for its handlebar risers at Polaris and Yamaha. With a new website, expanded head- quarters facility, a global distribution network and a mission to continue growing, Olin is looking to move Rox into the fast-growing side- by-side arena, as well as further expand within the adventure bike and street bike categories.

“We’re a specialty company, and I want to take us deeper into each of the motorsports markets,” Olin said. “One of my goals for this company is to have a broader lineup.”

When it comes to adding new products, Olin is taking a careful, measured approach that reflects the company’s slow but steady growth before he became its president.

“I want our name to be synonymous with stuff that makes sense and is high quality and has purpose,” he said. “I never want to be a company that makes stuff just to get a buck. I want to be a company that makes stuff that provides value and is the highest quality in the marketplace.”

A Difficult Job

Rox Speed FX has been on a roll, which is equally attributable to its successful product line and diligent work on the part of the family and its employees to manage the transition and implement its growth strategy.

It hasn’t been easy. A former manufacturing engineer at St. Cloud, Minn.-based Park Industries, Olin had to deal with the logistics of managing an international business, while also dealing with his own grief.

“There’s no preparation when a person is here one day and gone the next,” he said. “You basically step into a situation where you have to completely figure out where that person was with what they’re working on … who they are talking to [and] what was his thinking.”

Sitting at his cousin’s desk, looking at his pictures and being surrounded by his things made the first months particularly difficult, but Olin added that it wasn’t like anything faced by Cutsforth’s wife and two children.

Olin said his previous job — and several little things that happened along the way — prepared him to step in and take over. He added that the transition period was made easier thanks to the help of Cutsforth’s core group of friends who helped Olin quickly learn the basics of the business.

International Footprint

Distributed by Parts Unlimited, Western Power Sports and Marshall Distributing in the U.S., Kimpex in Canada, as well as distributors throughout Europe, Japan, Australia and South America, Rox Speed FX has become a multinational operation. Sales growth has been across the board, but the company sees its biggest opportunity in the adventure bike and dual sport markets throughout the world.

Expanding the company’s media outreach, Olin recently participated in an industry insider’s motorcycle ride with Rider magazine through South America’s Patagonia region. (Rider is a sister publication of Powersports Business.)

“We were in the middle of nowhere Patagonia, and a guy drove up on a [BMW] GS with the Rox risers on it, so that was pretty cool,” he said.

The company sells its products directly through its website, although its pricing is set up to encourage the bulk of its customers to go through its dealer and distribution network.

Following a healthy winter in the snowmobile industry, Rox Speed FX expects continued growth as the company expands its product offerings and international footprint.

As the company and its founding family marks the third anniversary of its Cutsforth’s passing, Olin said his team remains focused on continuing the legacy of his lifelong friend.

“I think everybody misses him,” he said. “He was a big part of everybody’s life, very smooth, quiet, assured [and] very confident.”

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