Interview: Meet Chris Taylor with Barnett Performance Products

For as long as I can remember the name Barnett has always stood out to me as being the premier clutch component brand. Until recently Barnett clutch components always seemed out of reach for me as a kid and most of my adult life. I recall how I use to glare at the Barnett ads, featuring those beautiful clutch baskets and pressure plates that seemed only available to factory riders. Well times have changed, my race team labeled Team Hammer Racing has been testing and using complete Barnett clutch components for the last several months with unprecedented results and we look forward to using their products into the 2013 race season. It seemed only appropriate to reach out to Barnett and see what kind of people are behind these beautiful clutch components so I arranged an interview with Chris Taylor the grandson of founders Afton & Charlie Barnett. So let’s dive right into the interview that I think you will find very interesting as Chris talks about the rich history of Barnett along with his racing background and career with Barnett. Visit Barnett Clutches & Cables today.

Q: Barnett has been around since 1948 and is a family owned business. Chris, what does it feel like to be part of such a successful family owned business with a rich history?

A: It’s really pretty cool being kind of an “all-American” story with how my Grandfather came to California from Oklahoma riding the trains with only a couple of bucks in his pocket and no formal education or training. He was riding/racing in the 1940’s and when the bikes needed parts, he decided he could make them better and that’s how he got started. He educated and taught himself through various jobs and then opened Barnett Tool & Engineering in 1948. I’m very fortunate to be a part of it.

President Mike Taylor (sitting) and to his left is Chris Taylor Advertising Coordinator for Barnett

Q: Being the grandson of the founders Afton & Charlie Barnett you must have been involved in the family business at an early age. Can you tell us at what age you started working in the family business and what types of jobs or position you have performed?

A: I started working summers as a kid- first trying to save enough money for a dirt bike then for my first car. I have to be honest- I didn’t enjoy it too much! I would package little cable fittings, spring sets, stamp “BTE” on clutch plates, and I worked in shipping. When I got older I stamped out clutch plate cores on the punch press. When I got out of high school in ‘86, I was more concerned with hot rods, girls, and partying than thinking of my future. I ended up having several different jobs mostly driving delivery trucks, but in hindsight it was probably a good thing because I experienced and learned a lot about the real world. Since coming back to BTE in 1999, my job duties are handling our website, the catalog, advertising, research new models, etc.. We all do a little bit of everything around here.

Barnett CNC department is very clean and features the latest equipment.

Q: Chris you are currently the Advertising Coordinator for Barnett. Tell us what your current day is like inside your Barnett office.

A: I’m very fortunate that my job duties allow me to work from my home office most of the time. Lately, much of my time has been spent working on our new website. We’ve been working on an all new and website that we hope to launch in Jan. 2013. Other than that, much of my day consists of working with our graphic artist on ads, the website, and catalog. With the 2013 models now coming out, I’ve been studying parts diagrams, ordering new OE parts if needed, and cross-referencing them with our parts to verify whether or not we need to start new parts in production. As soon as any new model information becomes available, I update our website right away. I’m a stickler about keeping our product applications current as so many companies do not. Basically, I spend a lot of time on the computer and Ipad!

Barnett Machine Screw Dept.

Q: Being part of such an icon brand like Barnett you must have been involved in racing or riding bikes. Tell everyone what type of riding or racing you have done over the years. Hey! Go ahead and mention a few of the machines while you’re at it.

A: Back in 1981, I lived, ate, and breathed dirt bikes! We had (and still have) a 1975 YZ80, but I quickly outgrew it and got a used 1977 RM125. I rode it for a while until it started breaking down and then I got a shiny new 1982 RM125 for Christmas! Talk about the coolest Christmas gift! After a couple of years I bought a new 1983 CR250R- I wish I still had that bike today! I used to ride and race at Saddleback Park and Indian Dunes. My first ever race was at Ascot Park. The problem was that I just wasn’t very fast and didn’t win a damn thing! I started roadracing in the early 90’s on a 600. I struggled a bit at first, but then I woke up and got my AMA Pro license in 1995 and started having some success at it. I rode a GSXR 750 and YZFR1 at Willow Springs and some national races until I hung up the leathers in 2001. I got to race at Daytona twice and what a humbling experience that was! Nothing quite like it!

Chris Taylor racing at Saddleback 1983

Q: I’m sure some readers might be interested in knowing a little more about the history behind Barnett. Can you provide a little history about Barnett and some current information like facility size, number of employees, and other details about the Barnett facility?

A: We’ve been at our current 43,000 sq. ft. facility in Ventura CA since 1999 and we have about 45-50 employees at this time. We manufacture almost everything ‘in-house’ at our facility. We have dedicated departments for the CNC machines, screw machines, tool & die, cable assembly, clutch plate production and R&D. The few items that we don’t produce are outsourced to local companies. Nothing is imported from overseas. Our products are truly American made.

Barnett O.E.M replacement & Custom Cables Dept.

Q: Barnett has been around 60 plus years. What do you see in the future for Barnett?

A: 2013 will mark our 65th year in business and I see us continuing on with the same values and morals that the company was founded on- top quality products at a fair price while providing the best possible customer service and product support. We’ll continue to seek out new methods and technology to produce new products and improve our current product line.

High quality Made In The USA clutch components from Barnett

Q: I’m sure you are just one of many family members that are directly involved in the business. Give us a little bit of information about the other family members and the role they play at Barnett.

A: My Grandfather had a stroke and became disabled in the early ‘70’s but he and my Grandmother stayed involved in the company and in the early 90’s my Mother and Father took over and they have run it to this day. They deserve all the credit for making the company what it is today. My niece and her husband are also an important part of our management team.

Chris Taylor at Willow Springs Raceway 1999 on his Barnett Equipped Suzuki GSXR750

Q: Chris what is the best part about your job that you enjoy most? We must ask, and what is the worst part about your job?

A: There’s been a lot to enjoy- just being around bikes is pretty cool in itself, but it’s allowed me to travel, go racing, and meet some good people. Plus, it’s kind of a ‘casual’ industry and I don’t have to worry about a dress code- I’ve never even owned a suit! On the downside, the strain it can put on family relationships is tough. I think anybody that works in their family business will say the same thing.

Chris Taylor racing at Laguna Serca 1995

Q: Before we get out of here and let you get back to work is there anything else that our readers might be interested in knowing about Chris Taylor and the Barnett business?

A: About me? Probably not! However, being a family owned business for over three generations we take a great deal of pride in what we do and we try to provide a level of quality and service that exceeds our competition. We are a bit old fashioned in some ways, but I think that it helps keep us grounded to where we came from and where we are going.

Barnett Control Cables

In closing I would like to say that I find it totally amazing that in today’s market we still have family owned and operated business like Barnett right here in the USA that produce high quality USA made products. My “Hats Off” to Barnett (Along with every family operated business) for their long history, great customer service, and innovated products. Thank You Chris Taylor and everyone at Barnett.

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