When Frank sold Reliable Construction Heaters, he did so with an eye on working with his kids.
Franklin, the chief operating officer, had been doing lucrative (but repetitive) work for companies such as Citigroup and Barclays in New York and Boston. He started working part-time for Dragon Seats in 2017 while getting his master’s from Columbia Business School, then headed back to Cleveland full-time in 2019. Franklin focuses primarily on business development across the NFL, the NCAA and the ski resort and lifestyle markets.
Frank’s daughter, Molly Floyd, came over from RCH in 2018 to serve as Dragon Seats’ director of operations, “which means I do whatever they tell me to do,” she said, laughing. She handles everything from proposals to invoices to accounts receivables to transportation inventory to graphic design, which allows Dragon Seats to put team logos and advertising on the benches.
“Which has been a total game-changer, by the way,” Franklin said.
To unlock the company’s full sponsorship potential, Frank turned to Jones, a longtime family friend who was hired in 2019 and focuses on both marketing and corporate relationships. Jones’ job is to help sell what the company calls “beachfront real estate” on the plain white benches.
In summer 2021, Dragon Seats finalized a deal with sports marketing giant Learfield, which represents more than 200 colleges and universities. That led to a major contract with DeWalt tools. Problem was, the DeWalt deal came so late, Dragon Seats had to build and deliver 100 benches in 60 days to ensure they were on the sidelines for college football’s opening weekend.
“We lost a lot of sleep,” Frank said. “It was monumental.”
In 2020, the company added a full-time service team to manage all the equipment during games and to service the equipment in the offseason and to help with delivery, installation and onboarding of all equipment. The company also invested in trucks and trailers to bring as much shipping in-house as possible. Around the same time, it added a ski resort/lifestyle team, building relationships with companies such as L.L. Bean and sites including Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming.
The pandemic actually boosted Dragon Seats’ ski business, since resorts were looking for ways to draw customers at a time when people are wary of spending too much time indoors with strangers.
“What ski resorts are selling is an outdoor experience,” Frank said. “Your choices were to get in a car or stay in a bar. Now you can plop down on one of those things and enjoy socializing. The ski resorts have to tell people to go home at night, that’s how comfortable they are. There’s no reason to leave. You can put a server there, or a bar, and it’s revenue generating.”
Many ski resorts have tightened their budgets due to COVID-19, spending most of their cash on snow-making or snow-moving machines. But once they can again focus on the customer experience, they’ll turn to Dragon Seats.
“It’s just a matter of time,” Frank said. “When the first one goes, the rest of them are going to fall. And that will happen in my lifetime.”
As for what’s next, well, some of that depends on customer demand. Frank’s business works like “Field of Dreams” in reverse: If you come, I will build it. You want a 12-foot bench? Fine. A 6-foot bench? Fine. A bench that looks like a zebra? Fine.
“I go back to Bobby Monica,” Frank said. “I say, ‘Tell me what you want,’ and he says, ‘I want a heating system players can sit on.’ A year later, I say, ‘Bobby, tell me what you want.’ He says, ‘I want a device to hang helmets on, so the bladders don’t freeze.’ I say, ‘OK, tell me what you want’ and he says, ‘How about not only a heated bench, but an air conditioned bench?’
“The underlying foundation of this business is: Tell us what you want and we will build it. That’s the fun part. You don’t have to go through a hierarchy with us. We’ll get it done.”