Wind boom fuels Gearbox Express CEO: Bruce Neumiller
When Bruce Neumiller started Gearbox Express LLC with Brian Halverson and Brian Hastings, they all thought the market had it wrong when it came to fixing gearboxes on wind turbines.
The three founded the company in 2011, a decision Neumiller believes involved more “stupidity rather than intelligence,” he said with a laugh. “You know, smart guys don’t quit their jobs, but we did.”
Based in Mukwonago, Gearbox Express provides a pool of exchange gearboxes rather than doing customer repairs on broken equipment. Its focus is more on remanufacturing.
Previously Neumiller, Gearbox’s chief executive officer, joined a company that made parts for wind turbines in 2008 — the day the financial services giant Lehman Bros., which had been one of the big financiers of wind farms, collapsed. Halverson and Hastings also worked for the same company.
Neumiller was tasked with writing a proposal for how the company could start repairing wind turbine gearboxes. But when the proposal was presented to his company’s CEO, Neumiller and his boss disagreed with how to go to market on the concept.
“But at that point we really understood the market and what the customer was looking for,” Neumiller said.
In 2010, the three men set out to raise $10 million. In the middle of the economic downturn, that proved to be a challenge. But it was one they were able to overcome.
“We got a lot of people to invest with us because they were dissatisfied with Wall Street at the time,” Neumiller said. “And they had money, but they didn’t want to give it to Wall Street where they had no control over it.
With us, they could touch, feel and see us.”
GROWING THE BUSINESS
Since Gearbox Express opened its doors in August 2012, it tripled the sales of business last year and is on track this year to double the business over 2013.
So what’s made the difference?
When the three formed the company, it was important that they be driven by “always doing the right thing.” For them, that meant treating their customers well, a sentiment Neumiller learned from his father.
While Bruce Neumiller was growing up in Delafied, his father, Paul Neumiller, taught his son to always do the right thing. And Bruce remembers, as a 12-year-old, washing a car for his dad.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to tell you that you did a good job when there are still bugs on it,’ which made perfect sense to me. So I got all of the bugs off of it and then he told me I did a good job,” Bruce Neumiller said.
So if Neumiller isn’t going to get a delivery out on time, he calls the customer.
“We have chartered planes to fly parts out to customers,” Neumiller said. “We’ve done all kinds of things that are over and above what most people would do and what most companies would do.”
Neumiller is someone who would give you the shirt off of his back, said Hastings, chief financial officer.
“Everything moves very quickly for him, but his personal relationships are what he covets the most and it’s of his biggest personal achievements. Our customers have become really good friends,” Hastings said.
The timing on the business — with more wind turbines being built now than any other time in history — is spot on as much of the country is going through a wind boom.
So what is Neumiller most proud of with the business?
“We created this … we created the brand,” Neumiller said. “We are doing things that didn’t exist before in the industry and we are saving our customers time and money.”